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Friday, September 12, 2014

Adventures in Filipino Cooking with Pulo Atsuete Shrimp Tacos and Kare Kare Bola Bola




Oddly enough, Filipino food is quite new to me. Just when I thought I was pretty familiar with every sort of Asian or Southeast Asian food that's out there, I got my first real taste of Filipino food this year and I am on a mission ever since. Because it's a mix of Malaysian, Chinese, Spanish and Indian you would think that I would have come to this party a lot sooner, but better late than never, right? Crispy Pata now runs neck and neck with Chinese roast pork when I need my fix of crispy pork skin and I could take a bath in a big bowl of Arroz Caldo if I could find one big enough.

Because of my new found love of Filipino food, I jumped at the chance to snag a box of sauces and marinades from Pulo , hoping that I could come up with some fresh recipes built around them.


I know, I know, you think that I don't generally use bottled sauces and marinades but that is not true. If the product is not full of preservatives and other things that make my dark little heart sad, I am a fan but I don't often write about them. I am a condiment addict and barely have room in my fridge for food because it is full to the brim with all manner of sauces, hot sauces, mustards, fishy asian things and pastes. These things can be a great introduction to the flavours of unfamiliar cuisines and make life a lot easier when you are running around like a chicken with your head cut off but you still want to make something tasty for dinner.

Pulo sauces and marinades contain no artificial flavours, colours or preservatives and are made in small batches right here in Canada. It's like having a Filipino grandma to make them for me because, clearly, I do not have one of those. All of the marinades work great on their own as a straight ahead marinade but my job is to take it a step farther than that.


After tasting all of the marinades, there was something very familiar about this Lemongrass Atsuete and upon further investigation, I discovered that Atsuete is Annatto which is Achiote! Achiote is a very popular ingredient in Yucatecan cooking, the basis of my cochinita pibil and something that I am very familiar with. Now I had a place to start. I love the fact that most cuisines have overlapping herbs and ingredients and it makes fusing them together more fun. It's like the seven degrees of Kevin Bacon with food, which really is the seven degrees of Kevin Bacon since I have groomed him a couple of times in the past. 

Kevin Bacon. Bacon. Atsuete. Achiote. TACOS!

I groomed him here for TIFF years ago



Tacos made total sense. This mild marinade has a  citrusy, peppery thing going on and the familiar twang of lemongrass just peeks out from underneath. The sweetness of the pineapple goes beautifully with it and the whole thing comes together with the addition of a smooth but spicy avocado cream - cool and hot all at the same time. My main objective was to use these sauces in ways that would be familiar to everyone and to merge them into dishes that most people already eat. These shrimp tacos are the first of two recipes that I loved the best after trying out a number of different things. The second recipe is for Kare Kare Bola Bola which sounds like it could also be a fun dance move instead of a delicious spin on a classic, peanut based stew swimming with delicious little pork meatballs. 

First up, the tacos:


Atsuete Shrimp Tacos

calamansi is a cross between a lemon, a lime and a pineapple and the cans of juice can be found at most asian grocery stores. If you can't find it, use lime juice mixed with 1 tbls of sugar




shrimp
340 g shrimp, thawed if frozen, cleaned and peeled
about 1/2 cup Cebu Island Lemongrass Atsuete Marinade


slaw
1 cup shredded red cabbage
1 cup shredded green cabbage
1 scallion, sliced
1/4 cup calamansi juice drink
2 tbls vinegar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp sesame oil



avocado cream
1 large avocado
/14 cup diced pineapple
1/2 to 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
1 clove garlic, grated
3 tbls calamansi juice drink
small bunch cilantro

To assemble:
corn or flour tortillas, scallions, chopped dry roasted peanuts, bamboo skewers, 1/2 cup extra pineapple chunks


Make your slaw first by throwing the cabbages, and the scallion in a medium sized bowl. Whisk together the calamansi, vinegar, salt, soy sauce and sesame oil in a small bowl, pour over the cabbage, stir well and set aside.

peel and clean your shrimp and put into a bowl with the Lemongrass Atsuete Marinade, stir well and set aside.

To make the avocado cream, put all of the ingredients into the small mini food processor or blender. Pulse and until its smooth and creamy, scrape into a small bowl and set aside.


By this time, your shrimp have been marinating for about 1/2 an hour and that is long enough. Thread the skewers with alternating shrimps and chunks of pineapple - about 4 or 5 shrimps and one or two chunks of pineapple per skewer is good.

Right before you start to cook your shrimp, heat a big frying pan over med heat and start to warm up your tortillas in the hot pan, letting them sit for about 30 seconds per side. Put a clean tea towel down and as each tortilla is heated up, wrap it in the tea towel until they you have a stack of tortillas wrapped up. This will keep them soft.

Heat a grill pan over med high heat (you can also grill them on the bbq or broil them), spray it with cooking oil and cook the skewers for a few minutes. How long they take depends on the size of the shrimp but they are very easy to overcook so keep an eye. When you can see the bottom of the shrimp has turned pinky white and opaque, carefully flip them and cook them another minute or two more, until they are just white and opaque everywhere and then remove them to a platter.

To assemble the tacos, lay down a tortilla, smear some avocado cream down the centre, lay a skewer worth of shrimp and pineapple on top, scatter a handful of slaw and then top with some sliced scallion and chopped peanuts.



The second recipe is:

Kare Kare Bola Bola



My inspiration for this stew like dish was Swedish Meatballs. I imagined sitting at the Ikea in Manila, enjoying a bowl of the thick, peanuty Kare Kare sauce served with plump little meatballs over a bed of rice while agonizing over the choice between the Ivar or the Kallax shelves.

Kare Kare is a popular stew characterized by a creamy peanut sauce that is thickened with toasted, ground rice. It might be made with oxtail, or pork hocks or stewing beef and it is must have whenever there is a celebration of any kind. A traditional Kare Kare is served with a little mound of bagoong, a pungent, fermented fried shrimp paste, on the side but I think a better way to incorporate that flavour into the dish, for those of us who are not used to it, is to put it in the meatballs. That way, you still get a hint of it but it is more subtle and more of a background supporter than right up front as a stand alone condiment.

In the Philippines, they love meatballs, calling them bola bola, mostly served in as sweet and sour bola bola, in spaghetti or meatball based soups. My bola bola are more highly seasoned than a traditional version and because of that, they also stand alone so would be great on their own as an appetizer or in a wrap.

This Kare Kare sauce is not only delicious and vegan (all the sauces are vegan) , but it's the only gluten free product in the Pulo line. Legend has it that this popular sauce was the result of the British sepoy's attempt at replicating an Indian curry and although I would say they failed at making a curry, they certainly scored at coming up with a delicious, new dish. It's really nutty, kind of like a Thai peanut sauce but there is a really nice vinegar tang to it that balances out the richness of the peanut. I really love it.

The boys INHALED this one and I am already thinking about other ways to incorporate this peanut sauce into other dishes.

Kare Kare Bola-Bola


makes approx 27 golf ball sized meatballs and serves 4 to 6 over rice

Bola-Bola
1 lb ground pork
1 scallion
2 cloves garlic
1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp kosher salt
*1 tbls Bagoong
2 tbls Pulo Mango Marinade
1/2 to 1 tsp hot chili flakes, sriracha or hot chili paste or to taste
1/4 cup panko

put the scallion and the garlic in the bowl of a mini chop if you have one and pulse until minced or hand mince as finely as possible.
Throw all of the meatball ingredients into a bowl and mix well with your hand. Fry a tiny pinch of the mixture to taste and adjust seasonings if needed.
Put the bowl of meat into the fridge for at least 30 minutes to firm up.

from the upper left: eggplant, dry roasted peanuts, bola bola before going in the sauce, chinese long beans

For the stew
2-3 tbls veg oil
a handful chinese long beans or green beans
1 small eggplant, chopped into 1" chunks
1 clove garlic, sliced
1 jar Kare Kare sauce

garnish: sliced scallion, finely chopped dry roasted peanuts, steamed rice




Roll the meatballs into little 1 1/2" inch golf balls, heat up a braising pan or a sauce pan with a tbls or so of vegetable oil. Cook the meatballs, in batches, rolling around until they are well browned and remove to a paper towel lined plate.

Give the pan a wipe with a paper towel and add another tbls of oil. Add the garlic to the pan and after about 30 seconds, throw in the eggplant and stir around, cooking until it starts to take on a bit of colour. Now, return the meatballs to the pan, add the green beans, cover with a jar of Kare Kare sauce, lower to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes.

Spoon over steamed rice and sprinkle some scallion and dry roasted peanuts over the top.

*bagoon is a Filipino fermented shrimp paste that can be found at most asian grocery stores or online. If you can't find it, sub in a couple of tsp of fish sauce. Sometimes it is called sauteed shrimp paste