Claiming Carlos and Filipino Food

Why I like Filipino Food and more.

Filipino food is special because it is fusion of native Austronesian cuisine with Malay, Spanish, Chinese, Mexican, and even American influences. Rice is a staple and soy sauce is used, but so are chili peppers, coconuts, and noodles. Filipinos even have their own version of American ketchup in the form of banana ketchup. And don’t forget Filipino spaghetti which add sliced hotdogs and shredded cheddar cheese to the mix.

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In my book, Claiming Carlos, we follow the fortunes of a Filipino restaurant, Barrio XO and its traditional roots. Choco’s parents started the restaurant and head chef, Carlos López, adapts the recipes based on knowing his customers, what region they’re from.

“That’s because I customize it to the customer.” Carlos tipped his chin at Choco. “She tells me who’s out there and what she thinks they’re like. With my regular customers, I know what region they’re from: Bicol, Visaya, Cebu, Palawan, Cagayan, Tsinoy.”

Unfortunately, when restaurant consultant, Johnny Dee, appears on the scene, he wants Carlos to create recipe cost cards and standardize all the ingredients including their amounts. He also tries to introduce non-Filipino dishes to the menu, as well as hybrid dishes containing Filipino ingredients with those from other cuisines.

Carlos resists and Choco goes along with the changes. But what finally matters is how a dish tastes, not where the ingredients come from.

I’ll leave you to read Claiming Carlos and tell me what you think. Meanwhile, I’ve been modifying Filipino recipes to suit my family’s taste buds. We like it spicy and not as sour, so although these dishes are not authentic, they taste great and show how Filipino food continues to evolve and reinvent itself. [Don’t scream, Carlos!]

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Ham and Chinese Eggplant Pancit

1/2 pound sliced cooked ham; cut into 1 inch pieces

1 long Chinese Eggplant; cut into small chunks

1 summer squash; cut into small chunks

1 cup chopped spinach

4 stalks scallions; chopped

6 cloves garlic; minced

1 3.5 oz package dried shrimp (soaked in boiled water)

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 8 oz package Pancit Bihon; thin rice noodles

1 Tbsp dark soy sauce

1 Tbsp fish sauce (optional)

1 Tbsp banana ketchup

2 Tbsp Lime Juice

1 tsp Tabasco sauce

1 tsp bagoong

1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

black pepper; to taste

  1. Heat oil in a wok. Stir in all the vegetables and cook until tender.
  2. Add ham and soaked dried shrip and stir. Sprinkle pepper to taste. Add soy sauce, fish sauce, lime juice, banana ketchup, Tabasco sauce, bagoong, Worcestershire sauce and stir.
  3. Boil water while cooking above.
  4. Immerse rice sticks in boiling water for about a minute, pull out and fold into the wok with the meat and vegetable mix. Let most of the liquid be absorbed by the rice sticks and serve.
  5. Garnish with lemon slices, cilantro. Lately, I’ve been squirting Sriracha chili sauce on my servings.

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Matcha Calamansi or Lime Muffins

1/2 cup butter; softened

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1-1/2 cup all purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 Tbsp organic matcha powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 cup milk

1/4 cup freshly squeezed calamansi juice; or lime juice

Original recipe makes 12 Servings

  1. Mix milk and calamansi together. Don’t worry if it curdles. Set aside.
  2. Sift dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, matcha powder, salt) together
  3. Cream butter and sugar for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after every addition.
  5. Add milk mixture and flour mixture into the creamed butter mix.
  6. Mix until well blended, taking care not to overmix.
  7. Spoon into a nonstick muffin pan (the 12 cup kind).
  8. Bake in a preheated 375-degree oven for 20-23 minutes or until muffins test done.

Note: If you want more intense matcha taste, don’t hesitate to add 2 Tbsp of matcha powder.

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Chia Seed Champorado

Ingredients:

Serves: 2, Yield: 1 cup

6 teaspoons chia seeds

1 teaspoon honey

2/3 cup chocolate almond milk (or regular unsweetened almond milk)

2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder

Fresh fruit or nuts

Directions:

  1. Mix all ingredients in storage container and put in refrigerator overnight so the chia seeds gel up.
  2. Top with fresh raspberries.

I hope you enjoy these modified recipes. As Carlos runs screaming from the kitchen and Choco chases after him, I thank you for picking up a copy of Claiming Carlos.

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