Growing up, I was always surrounded by the aroma of food cooking in our kitchen. My family loved hosting parties.
My dad would come up with any opportunity to throw a party and celebrate any occasion—even the blooming of the Tan Hua flower. He would invite his friends over and my mom would cook up a feast with the help of our trusted Yaya Julieta, whom she had trained for years. The food would always be home-cooked, never store-bought.
My mom is a great cook, and fond memories of her cooking in our kitchen will always be ingrained in my mind. Cooking is her love language, and she doesn’t mind how long it takes to buy the freshest ingredients and create the perfect meal.
I often went with her to the wet market. I learned a lot, from watching her haggle with vendors to the proper cleaning of live fishes and crabs to the many ways to cook them. Little did I know that those lessons would come in handy for me one day.
Last March, as the pandemic forced a lockdown, I started dabbling in the kitchen again since it was the perfect opportunity to experiment on new dishes and recall what I had learned from my mom. In recent years, I also found myself watching cooking shows.
A staple in our family’s menu is Hong Kong-style beef tendon. This dish requires a six-hour cooking process that renders the beef tendon so tender that it melts in your mouth. The sauce is perfect over a steaming bowl of rice or topped on hearty beef noodle soup.
It was a crowd favorite among family and friends that I thought of offering it to our neighbors. Our village, with the help of a few selfless and hardworking mommies, created a Viber group to share access to basic necessities and home-cooked meals during the lockdown. The first time I offered the dish, I was pleasantly overwhelmed by the response. Soon after, neighbors recommended it to friends and family and orders poured in from as far as the Visayas and Mindanao. Thus, I Heart Tendon was born.
I suddenly found myself managing a home-based business, which I absolutely love and enjoy doing. It is rewarding to receive encouragement and, as a bonus, I formed new friendships.
I’m sharing two dishes that my son, Nicco, deems his absolute favorites next to the beef tendon.
Chicken, Cashew, Mushroom and Sausage Stir-fry
4 pc chicken leg quarters, deboned and cut into
4 pc dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in water
4 pc Chinese sausage
100 g cashew nuts
1 clove garlic, chopped
⅓ c soy sauce
⅓ c oyster sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp Chef Reggie’s cooking wine
Pepper to taste
Marinate chicken with soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, cooking wine and pepper for about 2 hours.
Slice Chinese sausage.
Sauté garlic and Chinese sausage in 2 Tbsp cooking oil until fragrant.
Add the marinated chicken and stir for about 15 minutes, and add in the cashews. Continue to stir until chicken and cashew nuts are cooked.
Serve hot in a clay pot. Serves 3-4.
5 pc pork steak
5 pc egg
1 whole onion
8 Tbsp soy sauce
8 Tbsp mirin
8 Tbsp water
8 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp dashi
Slice small cuts at the center of pork steak (both sides). Coat pork steak with flour.
Beat 2 eggs and add 2 tsp water.
Dip pork steak coated with flour in the egg mixture. Coat pork steak with bread crumbs. Put a pinch of salt and pepper on pork steak and deep-fry in hot oil for 5 minutes.
For the sauce, mix mirin, sake, soy sauce, dashi and water. Bring mixture to a boil and add onion. Cook until soft.
Add fried pork steak and cook for 3-5 minutes. Lower heat. Pour 3 slightly beaten eggs. Wait until eggs are half-cooked then serve. Serves 4-6 pax. —CONTRIBUTED INQ
The author is a happy wife to Nick and mommy to Nicco. I Heart Tendon, tel. 0917-8738736; @i_heart_tendon on Facebook and Instagram.
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