Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Japanese-style Adobo and Other Delicious Things You Can Cook in a Microwave Oven

Japanese-style spicy adobo of Machiko Chiba
What piqued the interest of the Filipino audience most during the cooking demonstration of chef and inventor Machiko Chiba was her adobo. Aside from being the favorite Filipino dish, it was prepared spicy, Japanese-Korean-style, and cooked just using the microwave oven. Most of the audience don’t really use the microwave oven for cooking dishes, but Chiba showed that many dishes, even traditional ones, can cooked using the modern appliance, which has become almost ubiquitous in home kitchens.
Chiba was brought in by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan (MAFF), which is responsible for promoting Japanese agricultural, forestry and fisheries products, among many other functions, for the culinary event “Taste of Japan in Manila” at Restaurant 9501 in Quezon City on January 21, 2016. The multi-awarded chef works with MAFF in promoting Japanese cuisine in different parts of the world.
Winner of several cooking competitions, Chiba has been conducting cooking demos and has written cookbooks such as Japanese Dishes for Wine Lovers (Kodansha International), Cook-Zen Kandou Recipes (Nikkei BP Planning), Denshi Range de Raku Raku Okashi Tsukuri (Sekai Bunka Publications) and Taberu Classic (Gentousha Publications). She’s also known for her kitchen inventions such as the Cook-Zen microwave pot and the Kikurage Essence.
Her Cook-Zen microwave pot became indispensible during her “Taste of Japan” cooking demo, where all dishes were cooked in it. Unfortunately, the polypropylene pot is not currently available locally but it can be purchased online in such sites as Amazon.com.
Chiba’s cooking methods might have surprised many because the Japanese is known for favoring and taking pride in their culinary traditions. Japan, though, is also known for advances in technology.
Chiba herself said she initially disliked using the microwave oven. She studied traditional Japanese cooking under famous chefs of Tokyo and Kyoto. The common thing about traditional cooking, she noticed, is that the preparations of these dishes are time-consuming. She had always thought of ways of making traditional dishes easier to prepare. When she went to the University of Pittsburgh to study and then to New York, she changed her mind about the microwave oven. The oven was popular there. She began using the oven and invented ways to combine tradition and innovation. Eventually, she came up with the Cook-Zen pot, a result of 10 years of experimentation.
You just put everything inside the pot and put on the lid, which has a control system. Like a pressure cooker, the Cook-Zen pot traps the steam, which helps in cooking the dish and prevents it from becoming dry. Cooking time takes about four to 10 minutes. 
Aside from the convenience, microwave cooking is also healthy, said Chiba who is now based in New York and Tokyo. One uses less oil with it and the nutrients are not washed away or destroyed as much as in traditional way of cooking over fire.
You can cook almost anything with the microwave oven, as Chiba demonstrated—from vegetables to meats to desserts. Yes, even adobo. Chiba expressed fondness for the garlic-and-soy-sauce based dish, which she was introduced to by a Filipino friend of a friend in Hong Kong several years. She created a version that is sour and spicy, but still has an unmistakable adobo flavor, perfect on top of steaming rice.
The cooking demo concluded with a simple dessert, the baked apple, which also amazed. The fruit became almost translucent slices of yumminess, chewy and zesty.
Find the recipes of her adobo and baked apple, as well as of other dishes, below:

Green beans and fried tofu
150 grams green beans or string beans
1 sheet fried tofu (50 grams)
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons dashi stock or water
1 ½ tablespoon sugar
Directions: Wash string beans and cut into five-centimeter lengths. Cut fried tofu in half and julienne them into five-millimeter slices. Place beans, fried tofu and all remaining ingredients in the Cook-Zen pot. Mix well, cover and cook in microwave oven on medium-high for four to five minutes, with the steam holes set to “close.”



Simmered eggplant and chili
3 Japanese eggplants
2 fresh Japanese green chilies
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 ½ teaspoons soy sauce
1 ½ teaspoon sugar
Directions: Wash eggplants and cut them in bite-size pieces. Cut chilies in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Put all ingredients in Cook-Zen pot and mix well. Cover and heat in microwave oven on medium-high for five to six minutes, with the steam holes set to “close.”




Japanese clams steamed with sake and garlic
400 grams Japanese clams
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 clove of garlic, minced
¼ cup sake or white wine
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon chopped parsley
Directions: Place clams in a bowl and rinse under cool, running water. Drain well. Place olive oil and garlic in the Cook-Zen pot. Heat on medium-high, uncovered, for 40 seconds. Add clams, sake and soy sauce. Cover and cook in microwave oven on medium-high for six minutes with the steam holes set to “close.” Sprinkle with parsley and mix before serving.

Special spicy pork adobo
300 grams pork shoulder
3 cloves garlic, minced
¾ cup rice vinegar
6 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon chili pepper (red crushed chili)
1 tablespoon Yanninjan (Korean hot paste)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Directions: Cut pork shoulder into cubes. Put all ingredients in the Cook-Zen pot and mix well. Cover and heat on medium-high for 10 minutes with the steam holes set to “close.” Remove and serve over rice.

Spareribs
4 teaspoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, sliced
¾ pounds pork ribs (about eight single ribs)
4 tablespoons ketchup (with small vegetable pieces)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
Directions: Place olive oil and garlic slices in the Cook-Zen pot. Heat on medium-high for one minute without the lid. Add the pork ribs, ketchup, soy sauce and sugar. Mix well. Cover and cook in microwave oven on medium-high for 10 minutes with the steam holes set to “close.”



Japanese roast beef
300 to 400 grams beef round
3 cloves garlic, sliced
80 cc soy sauce
80 cc rice vinegar
Directions: Put beef, fat-side up, inside the Cokk-Zen pot. Add garlic, soy sauce and vinegar. Cover and heat in microwave oven on medium-high for four minutes (for rare) or five minutes (for medium rare) with the steam holes set to “close.” Immediately remove the beef from the Cook-Zen pot so it does not continue to get cooked. Slice and serve.

Baked apple
1 apple, medium
2 teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon lemon juice

Directions: Wash and quarter apple, leaving the skin intact. Remove core by making V shaped incision with knife. Cut apple into one to two millimeter slices and place them in the Cook-Zen pot. Sprinkle them with sugar and lemon juice. Cover and heat in microwave oven on medium-high for one and half minutes with the steam holes set to “close.”


Machiko Chiba with daughter Akiko, a pianist who loves to cook




Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Searching for Identity, Seeking Tourists: Mimaropa Holds First Regional Festival

The Bila-Bila Festival performing delegation from Marinduque participates in the first Mimaropa Festival in Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro, in November 2015 
At the northwest part of the Philippines, southwest of its largest island Luzon, a cluster of islands and provinces—Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan, grouped together and given the portmanteau name Mimaropa— is trying to construct a singular identity. This, however, can be a tricky and elusive effort.
Unlike some of country’s other regions with a single ethnic make-up such as the Ilocano Ilocos region and the Cebuano Central Visayas, or groupings of related cultures such as Western Visayas and the Cordilleras, Mimaropa’s culture is not easily distinguishable. It is predominantly Tagalog, thus sharing cultural characteristics with nearby regions such as Central Luzon, the National Capital Region and the Southern Tagalog Region. Its other indigenous cultures—such as the Mangyan in Mindoro, the Rombloanon of Romblon and the Palawan groups including the Cuyunon, Palaw-an, Tagbanua, Jama Mapun and Batac—as well as its distinct folk traditions, such as the Lenten Moriones practice of Marinduque, can be rich sources in crafting a regional cultural identity but they are very identifiable to the provinces of their origins and are not common to the whole Mimaropa.     
Being the first ever mounting, this problem naturally cropped up during the Mimaropa Festival, which was held from November 9 to 14, 2015, in Calapan City, the capital of Oriental Mindoro and the hub of the region.
“This is the first-ever festival where we will showcasing not only the products but also the festivals, the warmth of the people, the destinations…Mimaropa is a place so rich and so blessed with a lot of beautiful natural attractions. Not only that, it is rich in culture, history and heritage. Of course, we take pride in the warmth of the people. Everywhere you go, you see people smiling. This is what we should showcase to the world,” explained Department of Tourism (DoT) Mimaropa regional director Minerva Aldaba Morada, whose office is supporting the effort.
According to Oriental Mindoro governor Alfonso V. Umali Jr., the idea for the region-wide festival sprang up during a meeting of the Regional Development Council, and it was agreed that a festival will be held annually with the venue rotating among the five provinces. However, the plan, intended for the summer, floated about and did not immediately come to fruition.
When Oriental Mindoro was preparing to celebrate its 65th foundation anniversary on November 15, 2015, Umali thought of enjoining the whole Mimaropa Region and thus finally jumpstarting the holding of the festival, which he believes to be the first festival in the country in the regional level.
The festival was attended by officials, representatives and guests from the region’s five provinces and its two cities, Calapan City and Puerto Princesa City in Palawan, despite the region being geographically fragmented by seas and straits, making going around the region challenging. But, according to Oriental Mindoro officials, the festival enjoyed strong support. There is a strong collaboration with other provinces and there is solidarity, especially among politicians here, Umali said.
Primarily to showcase the different festivals of the Mimaropa provinces, the Mimaropa Festival was composed of three major events, the de-rigueur components of Philippine festivals—the agriculture, tourism and trade fair at the provincial capitol where a cluster of booths showcased the products of different towns; the street dancing competition; and a festival queen pageant, where Palawan’s Sharla Santillan from Busuanga was crowned winner with Marielle Sarmiento of Oriental Mindoro as first runner-up and Princess Ahne Noche of Marinduque as second runner-up.
The street dancing parade and competition, like in all Philippine festivals, was the highlight of the festivities, held on November 14. A parade went through the main street of J.P. Rizal and ended at the Oriental Mindoro National High School grounds, where the groups entertained the crowds in a showdown competition.
Hailed as champion was the Baragatan sa Palawan Festival group from Palawan. The Baragatan sa Palawan Festival is celebrated every June to commemorate the establishment of Palawan as a province in 1905. The name comes from the Cuyunon word bagat, which means “to gather for festivity.” The Palawan contingent consisted of students from the town of Quezon, and their dance depicted the everyday lives of Palawan peoples as well as their cultures-farming, fishing, the Manunggul jar discovered inside the Tabon Cave System in Quezon and the Muslim groups-as well as the aspiration for progress.
The first runner-up was the colorful Bila-Bila Festival group from Marinduque. Bila-Bila Festival is a celebration of Marinduque’s capital, Boac, held during its town fiesta on December 8 and it highlights the butterfly and the province’s emerging industry of butterfly breeding. The Mimaropa Festival dance of the Bila-Bila Festival group centered around a local belief, said to be old Tagalog: If you have a wish, capture a butterfly, whisper your wish to it and set it free. In exchange for its freedom, the butterfly will carry your wish to heaven and it will be granted. The dance also depicted the folklore of the forbidden relationship of Marin and Gat Duke, from whom the province is said to acquire its name, and showed elements of local culture such as the use of the bamboo instrument kalutang, the devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Help and the practice of putong.
Romblon’s Biniray Festival contingent was bestowed second runner-up prize for their lively performance. Intended to honor the province’s patron, Santo Niño during his feast day in the second week of January, the performance was similar to Aklan’s Ati-Atihan Festival and Cebu’s Sinulog Festival, Visayas’ prominent Santo Niño celebrations, with rousing drumbeats, tribal costumes and frenetic steps.
The remaining contingents were homegrown—the Dabalistihit Festival group of Naujan representing Oriental Mindoro, and Calapan City’s Kalap Festival group. The Dabalistihit Festival group was the winner of Oriental Mindoro’s Sandugo Festival cultural dance competition, which had fourteen municipalities participating and showcasing the culture of the Mangyan, an indigenous people of Mindoro Island, as well as the their relationship with the damuongs, non-Mangyan peoples. Dabalistihit is portmanteau for dalag, banak, banglis, tilapia and hito, freshwater fishes found in Naujan and the focus of its festival. On the other hand, the Kalap Festival is inspired by the origin of Calapan’s name, the Tagalog word kalap, “to forage for food.” Festival performers try to tell a history of Calapan, from people in searching for food and the formation of a settlement to the invasion of Muslim pirates and the triumph of the Catholic faith. 
The street dance parade, featuring groups judged as the best by the provinces through their own province-wide festivals, provided a glimpse of the different stories and traditions as well as the similarities of the Mimaropa provinces.
A distinctive identity of the festival as well as of the region may take time to emerge. Whether the festival has a fixed date is still being thought about. Organizers are still learning from the experience in mounting the first regional festival and have high hopes for it. What is foremost, aside from being an avenue where the region’s provinces come together and celebrate, is to promote the different attractions of the region as the festival is primarily aimed at boosting tourism in the area, attracting more visitors and investor and advancing the region’s new tourism slogan, “Naturally, the Destination of Choice.”
“Tourism has assumed a new face,” said Morada. “Before it used to be promotions, marketing. Our law says more than that. It says that tourism should be used as engine for social and economic development, that it should be used to uplift the lives of the people.”

She mentioned the myriad “economic benefits” when tourists arrive. About 1.2 million tourists arrived in Mimaropa in 2014, she said, generating about Php13 billion in tourist receipts, which is a “big contribution in the regional economy.” Officials are hoping to surpass that number in the following years.

The Kalap Festival performing delegation from Calapan City
The Kalap Festival performing delegation from Calapan City


The Kalap Festival performing delegation from Calapan City




The Kalap Festival performing delegation from Calapan City




The Kalap Festival performing delegation from Calapan City
The Kalap Festival performing delegation from Calapan City


  


The Bila-Bila Festival performing delegation from Marinduque
The Bila-Bila Festival performing delegation from Marinduque
The Bila-Bila Festival Queen from Marinduque
The Bila-Bila Festival performing delegation from Marinduque


The Bila-Bila Festival performing delegation from Marinduque





The Baragatan Festival performing delegation from Palawan


The Baragatan Festival performing delegation from Palawan



The Baragatan Festival performing delegation from Palawan


The Baragatan Festival performing delegation from Palawan
The Baragatan Festival performing delegation from Palawan
The Baragatan Festival performing delegation from Palawan







The Baragatan Festival performing delegation from Palawan
The Biniray Festival performing delegation from Romblon




The Biniray Festival performing delegation from Romblon
The Biniray Festival performing delegation from Romblon


The Biniray Festival performing delegation from Romblon
The Biniray Festival performing delegation from Romblon



The Biniray Festival performing delegation from Romblon




The Dabalastihit Festival performing delegation from Naujan, representing Oriental Mindoro


The Dabalastihit Festival performing delegation from Naujan, representing Oriental Mindoro
The Dabalastihit Festival performing delegation from Naujan, representing Oriental Mindoro
Mangyan craftsmen at the trade fair

Provincial capitol grounds
Photos by Roel Hoang Manipon