The Halloween Burger, also known as the Jack-o’-Lantern Burger by Brother’s Burgers (@brothersburgers on Facebook and Instagram), begins with their famous ⅓-pound grilled Angus patty, topped with American cheese, grilled carrots, grilled onions and grilled tomatoes marinated in pesto. A soft, sweetish, buttery pumpkin bun sprinkled with black sesame and pumpkin seeds binds this festive creation together.
Ginseng, the curious-looking root, is one of the most precious medicinal herbs. Wild mountain ginseng is now available in Manila (tel. 0917-5080678).
According to Korean food expert Lily Min, the practice of growing ginseng in mountains, allowing it to germinate naturally and grow and be picked only years after, has long been encouraged. Mountain ginseng is said to be more potent and worth more than the artificially grown type.
Aside from giving an energy boost, the benefits of ginseng roots are many. It strengthens the immune system and lung function and may even aid in controlling diabetes and high blood pressure. It stimulates blood circulation and blood production. The skin glows and is nourished by ginseng. It is even said to be good for cancer prevention. Chef Lily said that ginseng has a healing effect on the whole body. Incorporate it into your diet by making samgyetang (chicken stew with ginseng) or add it to galbijjim (while the beef is simmering) for flavor and general wellness.
Here are two of my latest chili sauce finds. First is Korean Capsaicin Super Hot and Spicy Sauce (tel. 0917-5080678). I tricked my macho friends who claim to love their spice with this. With just a dot, they shrieked in agony!
This Korean super spicy chili sauce, as translated by Lily Min, is made from Indian peppers, to which jamong juice (corn syrup) is added. Add a small amount of this to your spaghetti sauce, ramen, tteokbokki, fried chicken, stir-fried pork or to whatever dish for an extra kick.
Next is Almuranas (tel. 0927-9918639). Yup, that’s the name! Thanks to my friend Sen Javellana for this discovery. Almuranas is a seasoned hot sauce that is actually rounded and has a host of flavors apart from just being spicy. The multipurpose condiment was inspired by the Portuguese peri-peri sauce. It is rich, garlicky and aromatic. Some have detected hints of crab fat in the sauce, though there isn’t any.
For fanciers of spice, Almuranas is a treat.
Mutti Italian Tomato Ketchup (@orientalmerchantsph on Instagram) is a treat by all means and the best bottled ketchup I’ve tried. Mutti is my preferred brand of tomato in all forms: paste, puréed and whole. Mutti makes my tomato-based dishes taste so good. With it, my food is layered in flavor—naturally sweet, with just a gentle tartness, intrinsic to the fruit.
In all its forms, Mutti products are not acidic and leave no metallic aftertaste.
The ketchup is no exception. It is so, so good! It is made from 100-percent sun-ripened Italian tomatoes, Mediterranean sea salt, wine vinegar and secret spices, without preservatives or firming agents.
MooMoochang by Pepitas (tel. 0917-8660662; @lechon_diva on Instagram) is the cousin of the machang but a giant. In the words of its maker, Dedet de la Fuente, MooMoochang tastes “super bongga!” Imagine an overly stuffed machang with hefty chunks of blood sausage!
Aside from MooMoochang, Pepita’s is offering her once-a-year dinuguan rice-stuffed lechon for Halloween!
Doggie cakes and Halloween cookies
The caramel cake pioneer, Estrel’s Bakeshop (estrels.com), has a cake that pays tribute to the season. The iconic sponge cake, robed in shimmering caramel icing, is this time dressed in autumn-colored blooms with an inscription that reads: Let’s “Fall” In Love! Give your dog a treat that looks good enough for humans to eat! Barkin’ Blends (@barkinblends on Instagram; barkinblends.com) started as a dog café in 2014 where humans were free to dine with their “best friends.”
It has now evolved into a bakeshop that creates fancy dog treats like dognuts (donuts), dog burgers and dog birthday cakes. Their creations are made with organic wheat-free and grain-free flour, vegetable frosting, chicken liver, cream cheese, eggs, carob, honey and natural colors. All ingredients are, of course, safe for your dogs. Kat Alcantara put the cookie kit and bento box set together, with her daughter Maddie as her inspiration. The cookie kit comes with shortbread, icing and sprinkles. The Halloween Kiddie Bento box (tel. 0917-8023900; @mesclunkids on Instagram) is filled with spaghetti, pumpkin “orange,” broomstick with cheese and pretzel, “spider” crackers and egg. Given the pandemic, this is Kat’s way of still letting kids enjoy Halloween.
Pumpkins for carving and assorted gourds for a splash of autumn color in your home are now available at Dizon Farms (@dizonfarms, @freshbidaph on Facebook and Instagram).
Follow @iamreggieaspiras on on Facebook and Instagram; visit reggieaspiras.com.