Catfish Hunter

catfish4
One of my favorite foods of all time is battered and deep fried catfish. Served with enriched hominy grits, deep fried hush puppies and Cole slaw, it just doesn’t get any better than that on my dinner plate! We can get all the ingredients needed in the Philippines to prepare my favorite, complete with the side dishes. My wife has long been opposed to preparing catfish in the Philippines unless she knows exactly where the catfish were cultured. She told me that some people culture catfish in canals, which are full of human waste! No, I will not be eating any catfish from there. I do not like the salt water catfish in the Philippines or from anywhere else for that matter. For one thing, they are too large and the taste is not very good. And I know catfish!

I Know A Place

After talking to a number of Filipinos about fishing, I discovered exactly where to get the best catfish in this area of Negros Occidental. It is not in a fish pond. It is not in an aquarium. It is certainly not in one of those poop infested canals! It is in a rice field! Near La Carlota, south of Bacolod about 30 km or so, there is a rice farmer who cultures catfish and eel right in his rice paddy. Nice and clean fish! Catfish and eel are so plentiful, no need for a rod and reel, as all you need is a hand net. If you don’t have a hand net, don’t be alarmed because the rice farmer has one just for you, with your name on it! If you want a couple kilos of catfish or eel, no problem and you can even get a couple kilos of each if you like. It is up to you and you pay so much per kilo. Very cheepa!

Andy’s Cajun Fish Breading

Andy's Cajun
One of the best commercial breading for catfish is Andy’s Cajun Style. It is available at Rustan’s Supermarkets and the cost is around P100 per package.

I will warn you, Andy’s Cajun Fish Breading is zesty. Actually, it is hot!

You can also use Andy’s Cajun Fish Breading when breading and deep frying butterfly shrimp.

Hush Puppies

hush-puppies6
Catfish is not complete without hush puppies! It is amazing how many people do not realize that I am not referring to Hush Puppies shoes. Now way, Jose! I am referring to the southern dish in which I enjoy. Hush Puppies can be traced back as an original Native American staple. It is made with cornmeal, flour and chopped onion. During today’s time, you can kick up your hush puppies by adding milk or even better, buttermilk! I have also had hush puppies that included corn kernels and Jalapeno Peppers. I refer to this style as Mexican Hush Puppies!

Kiss My Grits!

Grits2
That term was made famous by Flo on her TV series in the USA way back a long time ago. Long ago and far away. Kiss my grits! I enjoy grits very much and they are made from enriched alkali treated white corn. I do not make commercial instant grits but use the coarse white corn and boil it until ready to eat. I prefer thick grits that are not thin and watery. Once again, this is a famous Southern dish but it can be traced back as a Native American staple.

I don’t know about you but I am ready for deep fried catfish, grits, hush puppies and Cole Slaw. I think you already know what Cole slaw is, di ba? Max’s Restaurant-The House That Fried Chicken Built has Cole slaw on their menu and I think most Filipinos know Max’s Restaurant!

I hope to see you one day, somewhere…all around Bacolod.

Your Amigo,

~ Gary ~

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Campuestohon Highland Resort

Are you ready for a spectacular view of Negros Occidental, the sea and Panay Island? You can see all the beauty from Campuestohan Highland Resort, which is about 40 minutes from the downtown area, located on the border of Bacolod City and Talisay City. Pass through Barangay Granada in Bacolod City and follow the signs. It is an uphill ride to Campuestohan Highland Resort. Admission is P150 per head and includes use of the swimming pool. A cottage rental for the day starts at P600, which includes a BBQ grill. Campuestohan Highland Resort is such a wonderful place to spend the day during a family outing. Our visit was part of our Thanksgiving Weekend Celebration last week.

Entrance

We are Fam-i-ly!

Children’s Playground

Pool Area

Mountain View

Nipa House in Background

Many people live on the mountain where Campuestohan is located. On the road, along the way, a ten hectare farm was pointed out that is owned by world famous boxer Manny Pacquiao. 

Jun Jun Making Pineapple Boats

Pineapple Boat

Empty Pineapple Boat!

Yep, we finished off the pineapple. These were Dole Pineapples, grown in Mindanao.

Dolphins

Log Cabin

Inside the log cabin are hotel rooms for overnight. We brought our own food to have a picnic and we also grilled fish beside the day cottage. However, we were told that Sinugba Restaurant is or will be located at the resort.

Day Cottage

We enjoyed Campuestohan Highland Resort so much that we are already planning a trip again in the near future! It was about ten degrees cooler at Campuestohan than in the city of Bacolod. Around 530pm, it was really nice, cool weather. Campuestohan is one of the newest resorts in the area and they are adding more fun things to do in the near future, such as a zipline adventure. We look forward to our next visit!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chicken Charlie

The long wait for the opening of Chicken Charlie in SM Mall Bacolod is over! Chicken Charlie opened in October in the north wing of SM, in the old Bigby’s location.

October 25 was my birthday and we had an evening BBQ planned at our home with invited guests, so for brunch, we turned to Chicken Charlie since we had to buy a few last minute items at SM before my birthday party.

Never heard of Chicken Charlie? Bacolod City has one of the newest branches, which are also in Quezon City, Manila, Davao, Cagayan de Oro and in Cebu.

The specialty of Chicken Charlie is chicken, using the double frying technique. They have a signature soy garlic sauce and hot sweet sauce, of your choice. Drumsticks and wings are the two available choices. Chicken Charlie also has fish strips and chips. Among the side dishes include Charlie’s Greens, which is an Asian style salad, fries, potato wedges, pickled relish and my favorite, Cheesestick Dynamite.

Cheesestick Dynamite!

Green chili peppers with cheese, battered and deep fried. We called them “Poppers” in Florida, my home State in America. Yes, I had these for brunch on my Birthday. First meal of the day. I’ve been known to eat chili con carne with lots of hot sauce and Buffalo Wings for breakfast! The Cheesestick Dynamite are not overpowering but they are a little spicy.

Fish Strips and Chips

I know chicken is the specialty at Chicken Charlie but I went with the fish strips and chips for my Birthday Brunch. In the near future, I will post about the chicken at Chicken Charlie!

Chicken Charlie is a fast food restaurant but nothing is cooked in advance. The short wait is well worth it since your order is cooked fresh as you order it. No prefab grabbing some chicken to put in your meal basket, which was cooked an hour ago and has not sold yet! Your order is prepared as you order it at the counter, which is the best way. You know your food is fresh!

The next time you are in SM and want to try some good food, give Chicken Charlie a try. I don’t think you will be disappointed!

 

 

 

More Food in the Philippines

I love and enjoy everyday in the Philippines. Everyday continues to unfold a new adventure for me.

Weekends are a common time for family and friends to get together, just like anywhere in the world. When that happens, you can be assured of lots of good food to eat! Last Sunday was no exception.

Grilled Bangus Fish

Sun cooked on top and charcoal cooked on the bottom. Hey, this is the Philippines, so you know there is going to be fish.

Nice Grill Marks

Bangus, aka, Milkfish, is a staple in the Bacolod Area.

Bicol Express

Bicol Express is Super Hot! This particular Bicol Express was made with pork liver, heart, lungs and intestines, with many hot chili peppers and coconut milk. It will really get your motor running! Just make sure you have something cold to drink when eating Bicol Express.

Bopis

This Bopis was made with thinly sliced pork, hot chili peppers and coconut milk. A slight variation, as we switched up the recipes on purpose. Bopis is usually made with pork liver, heart, lungs and/or intestines but we decided to make this one lady friendly with the better cuts of meat and with less hot chili peppers, since there were more ladies around than men. We did the Bicol Express with what is normally used to make Bopis. We added sauteed garlic and onions to both dishes. It all worked out! Everyone ate a lot of both and everyone raved! The recipes were asked for, due to the slight variations on the original recipes.

Where's the Beef?

Joke only! I really enjoyed the native food. However, we don’t eat Bopis and Bicol Express everyday or even every week. We do eat a lot of fish and other seafood, a lot of chicken and pork without so much fat.

Philippine Cuisine is diverse and the very same dish can be prepared many different ways, as it differs from region to region and even from family to family in the same region. Check it out the first chance you have.

 


 

 


 

 

Green Shell Mussels

Mussels have long been one of my favorite seafood even before I ever came to the Philippines. I am blessed here in that you can buy a kilo, or 2.2 pounds, of mussels in Bacolod City for less than $2 USD. P50-P70 is the going price at the public market where we shop, depending on what you can bargain them for. Many local people in the Bacolod Area refer to mussels as “Green Shells.”

When steamed or boiled, the green shell mussels have a nice, natural red color.

Green Shell Mussels

These mussels were prepared by boiling them in salt water, taking off the top shell, garnishing them with fried slivers of garlic and grated cheese, and then baking until the cheese melted.

WoW! Now, we are talking. I really enjoyed these mussels, as always.

Mussels and Fries

I don’t  eat much rice on a daily basis, so my wife prepared fries instead. The ketchup with the fries is mixed with wasabi, to kick them up a notch. I also like wasabi as a dip with the mussels. My lovely wife studied Culinary Science in Singapore and she also knows the gadgets to use. She has a cutter to turn out the crinkle cut or waffle style potatoes when doing the French Fries. All this was done in our home, as you just can’t get food this good in a restaurant! My wife also taught me about cooking, although, I must say that I was not a novice before. I have improved!

Mussels are very healthy, so no need to be concerned. Mussels are grittier and chewier than oysters but they are still very good  for you and they make your tum, tum, tummy very happy!

Mussels are actually low in calories and low in fat but rich in protein. Believe It… Or Not? It is true, you can believe it!

Mussels are loaded with vitamins and minerals. Vitamins B, Vitamin C, folate, iron, manganese, potassium, zinc, phosphorus and selenium. Vitamin B-12, especially! Mussels are sounding better all the time.

There are many ways to prepare mussels and you can use them to create many dishes. For me, I like them on the half shell. If I am preparing mussels only for myself, I like to steam them in beer. Beer steamed mussels. Don’t worry, the alcohol in the beer is not in the mussels. Beer is not only for drinking but good to use in steaming seafood. Beer steamed crabs also rock!

Green Shell Mussels are available very cheaply in every area of the Philippines that I have ever visited or where I have lived. Mussels are really an incredible seafood! Great taste, healthy and packed full of nutrients.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Food in the Philippines

Philippine Cuisine is diverse and I could write a book about it based on my experience in the country. But, I am not going to do that here!

When I first visited the Philippines and lived here as an academic in 1986-1987, I had read and was told that the Philippine food was Chinese, Spanish and Malay influenced. There was a Shakey’s Pizza on Roxas Blvd that I enjoyed very much. It had pizza, spaghetti, draft San Miguel Beer and live rock bands at night. Not exactly Chinese, Spanish and Malay! 

Ma Mon Luk in Quezon City was my favorite Chinese Restaurant. The Aristocrat Restaurant on Roxas Blvd was one of my favorite Filipino restaurants in Manila back in those days. Back to the Future!

I moved to the Bacolod area 3 years ago and the Filipino food here is a little different from the fare in Manila but it is still food. Nowadays, we have Mexican, Thai, Korean, Middle Eastern, German, American style, Italian, Mediterranean and many other locally owned cuisine restaurants. We don’t have a Chili’s Bar and Grill or a Taco Bell or a Burger King. There is McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and KFC.

My wife and I enjoy preparing food at home but we still go out to restaurants several times a week. We thank all those Boyz from Bacolod Food Hunters for telling us about new places to go and eat when dining out. Way to go guys! Two thumbs Up!

I enjoy Japanese food but some of the Japanese restaurants leave a lot to be desired in our area, however, I have not tried them all.

This past week, I took a simple can of Century Tuna in oil and turned it into a nice delight!

I put the canned Century Tuna in the freezer for about 40 minutes to chill . In the mean time, I whipped up a Japanese style Mayonnaise. I used the non-sweet mayonnaise, about two tablespoons. I added one half tablespoon of wasabi paste from the tube, one tablespoon of soy sauce and one half tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce. I mixed all together and put in the ref for about 30 minutes to chill. Japanese Mayonnaise.

I don’t really like boiled eggs in tuna salad but you can do that if you like. I opened the can of chilled Century Tuna and drained it especially well in a strainer, as I don’t want oil or much liquid in the tuna when making the tuna salad since it really becomes watery. The less oil left in the tuna, the better!

Tuna Bowl

I like to do things right and be authentic as possible.

One portion of tuna

Japanese Mayonnaise

Waiting to be mixed! The Japanese Mayonnaise and the tuna. I had this last night and munched on Skyflake saltine crackers, as I enjoyed eating the tuna salad. Will this work served over rice? You betcha! If you want to go that route. It will also work on a bed of lettuce and you can add mango slices, too. Now, that is a tropical delight right from the Philippines!

Food in the Philippines can be kicked up a few notches for creative flavor and your meal is only limited by your imagination.

 

 


 

El Taco

I can’t say that I am a Taco Man from Macho Land but tacos are one of my favorite foods. I can buy the Old El Paso brand taco shells at SM and my wife and I can turn out some very good tacos at home. Yes, we even have our own jalapeno peppers to kick it up a notch. I prefer a beef taco and I also like a chicken taco but I never cared much for a fish taco. I can tolerate a Century Corned Tuna Taco in the place of chicken and beef.

Since Fat Boys was closed last Sunday at lunch time, we hit Trey’s Restaurant instead in Bacolod City. It is located right across the street from the newest and very large Shakey’s on Lacson Street. Crave Burger is also across the street.

Trey’s is pretty famous in Bacolod among expats for their chicken fried steak, which is actually beef and I think they refer to it as country fried beef steak on the menu. Same thing as chicken fried steak, which is not chicken at all but only beef that is fried like chicken. It is battered beef, deep fried and topped with gravy, served with mashed potatoes with the skin still on. The price is P270 at Trey’s.

Not because I am cheap but I decided to try the steak taco at Trey’s last Sunday for a change of pace. Only P99. I was not disappointed. Lots of steak strips and very little lettuce and tomato as filler. The salsa is homemade and not hot and spicy. Ask for some Tabasco Sauce to kick it up a notch if you like it hot! Trey’s steak taco has nice melted cheese on top. It is served with a small portion of nachos and homemade salsa.

El Taco

Looks great, doesn’t it? It is not a perfect taco but one of the best I’ve had in Bacolod.

I am not sure how well a taco wagon would work in Bacolod but it would be nice if there was one. A different kind of food cart. A taco wagon.

Now, I can stand the heat of the kitchen and I know how to cook and prepare food. You gotta have a good, hard taco shell to make tacos. I use Old El Paso brand, which is available at SM Supermarket, most of the time, as is ALL the ingredients needed to make a very good taco. My tacos include ground beef and shredded chicken. McCormick Taco Seasoning added to the beef and chicken when cooking.

But first, saute some chopped onions and bell peppers, too, if you like. Add the ground beef and shredded chicken and cook all together until no red juices are evident. To save time, have a jar of Old El Paso Taco Sauce or Salsa on hand. Pace Salsa will work, too.

To load the taco, I put the beef and chicken first, together with the sauteed onions and  peppers, then I add the taco sauce or salsa Good shredded cheese is required on top but it does not have to be pre-melted. An original taco is like an original sandwich in that you can add what you like. I also like sour cream or cream cheese on my tacos. I also like jalapeno peppers. I don’t like lettuce and certainly not shredded cabbage on my tacos but I can tolerate a few chopped tomatoes. A slather of refried beans is also good on your taco but hard to find in Bacolod. Old El Paso makes canned refried beans and I have bought them at SM but not available year round.

Some other restaurants try to copy Taco Bell but their product is more like Taco Hell! The taco falls apart in your hands when trying to eat it. Not fun. I really think making your own tacos at home is more fun. However, for sure, Trey’s Steak Taco is a good one if you want tacos out.


Sun Cooked Fish

I think most people are looking for something new and unique to eat. At least among those who enjoy eating!

No matter where you live, proper food handling is important and even more so in tropical climates, such as in the Philippines. Florida, my home State, counts, too. During my 26 year history with the Philippines, I have been ill very few times due to the food. 

I enjoy fish but I don’t enjoy bony fish. Just to keep things simple, I use boneless bangus for my sun cooked fish. The boneless bangus, aka milk fish, is butterflied already when you buy it, so it is perfect for marinating. Most everyone has their own marinating favorites. For me, I use soy sauce, vinegar, lemon or lime juice, a little brown sugar, smashed garlic cloves and grated ginger. Adding Worcestershire sauce adds to the flavor. Some like it hot, so adding peppers of choice is fine and I sometimes do. Even some of the local bell peppers in the Philippines are a little on the hot and spicy side. 

Lemon and lime, as we know it in America, is not cheap in the Philippines, so I use kalamansi, the local lime which works out perfectly well. Kalamansi is not expensive and costs less than $1 for a kilo. It is P30 per kilo in Bacolod.

After marinating the fish for one hour, it is time to let the sun do its work. Place the fish outdoors on a plate, without the marinade, where it will have direct contact with the sun for about one hour. Please make sure there are not any cats or dogs or other critters around to run off with the fish! Once the sun has done its work, it is time to deep fry the fish. It doesn’t take long because the fish is already cooked to some degree from the citrus lemon, lime or kalamansi, the vinegar and the sun. Deep fry the fish until golden brown. Now you have yourself something good to eat!

In the Philippines, most everything goes with rice. But if you want something different as a side dish, the usual favorites I learned in Florida are good, too. French fries, Cole slaw, baked beans, potato salad, are all fine. As is garlic bread or hush puppies. I never dip sun cooked fish in tartar sauce or cocktail sauce since it is not needed but if you want to try it, go ahead. Different strokes for different folks!

If you like deep fried fish with a different twist and fish that has been kicked up a notch, try the sun cooked fish. I think you will like it.