Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Sweet chili shrimp

How do you explain to someone who doesn't cook, or who can cook only with a recipe, what goes on through your mind when you're deciding on what to whip up?

Take this dish, for example. I had one kilo of shelled, deveined shrimp thawing in the refrigerator. I had moisturizing gunk on my hair and scalp and wanted to keep it on the whole day so I didn't want to have to go out to buy ingredients. So I was running through both the refrigerator and the pantry in my mind (I was reading blogs at the time and didn't want to get up to check). When my mind got to the bottle of sweet chili sauce, it stopped. Ah ha! Okay, shrimp sautéed in sweet chili sauce. But a kilo of shrimp isn't a lot—what can I use to extend it? Ooh, I still have a pack of fish tofu in the freezer. So I get up, take it out of the freezer and put it in the refrigerator to thaw. And as I do that, I see the carton of quail eggs—that'll do. Better boil those now so they'll have plenty of time to cool—I hate peeling hot hard-boiled eggs and scorching my fingertips. Much later, when the eggs have been boiled, cooled and peeled and it was almost dinner—I expected the cooking time to be less than 30 minutes—I bring out the shrimp, tofu and sweet chili sauce from the refrigerator. My eye gets caught by another bottle of sauce, chili garlic this time. Ooh, that'll add a little more kick to the dish—the sweet chili sauce hardly has any. So there, ingredients complete and all I have to do now is cook everything.

I think almost everyone here can follow the thought process, but I don't think I'll ever be able to describe how I know that one ingredient will taste good with another. Will "You have to imagine how they'll taste like together" help?

Anyway, let's cook the dish now.

Since the tofu pieces were pretty big, I cut each piece into quarters. I also cooked it first because it's not pure tofu and is actually a little starchy so I figured it would need to be cooked longer than the shrimp. In a wok, heat a teaspoon of sesame oil, add a teaspoon of chili garlic sauce, stir until mixed well. Add the tofu and sauté until the pale sides are a bit brown, adding a tablespoon of sweet chili sauce sometime during the sautéing. Set aside.

Add more sesame oil and chili garlic sauce to the wok and sauté the shrimp, with one and a half teaspoons of salt. Add sweet chili sauce during the sautéing. When the shrimp's more than halfway done (that is, it's losing its transparency), add the tofu and continue sautéing. When the shrimp's cooked, add the quail eggs. Toss—lightly, so the eggs won't break—to mix the three main ingredients well and to coat the eggs in the chili sauce (add more chili sauce if necessary).

Sunday, September 28, 2008

August 2008: Happy elsewhere

Noli at Fili: Dekada 2000 (Dos Mil)
Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA)
Written by Nicanor G. Tiongson • Directed by Soxie Topacio

Otelo: Ang Moro ng Venecia
Tanghalang Ateneo
Written by William Shakespeare • Translated by Rogelio Sicat and Luna Sicat-Cleto • Directed by Dr. Ricardo G. Abad

The Golden Child
Tanghalang Pilipino
Written by David Henry Hwang • Directed by Loy Arcenas

August was also the month we spent a long weekend in Baguio City, which calls itself the Philippines' summer capital because of its cooler climate. I posted some pictures in my other blog and if you'd care to see them, click here.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Dracula meets Sweet Valley High

Twilight by Stephenie MeyerI just got suckered into reading Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight." Blame two of my college girlfriends. One has a grade school-age daughter whose friends were all so into it, my friend decided to read it just to find out what it was about. And got hooked. The other one has a more convoluted story involving her older sister, the sister's colleague from a large Philippine corporation, and the colleague's daughter. Anyway, she got hooked too. And so did all the moms who read the book their young daughters were reading. In my case, my friends told me about the book series on Sunday and the first said she'll lend me her daughter's copy if she and her girlfriends were done with it. And the very next day, she came by the office to drop it off!

My regular reading fare is science fiction, fantasy, history and historical fiction, with a smattering of contemporary fiction, the classics and all other genres. I also happen to like young adult fiction. About the only thing not included in my reading list is romance. "Twilight" is young adult, fantasy and romance. Two out of three. So I read it. And in the middle of reading another novel too—something I rarely do, but this is a borrowed book and I wanted to be able to return it quickly in case any of the young girls still haven't read it.

I really hate to say this, but I thoroughly enjoyed the book! I wasn't kidding about the title of this post. "Twilight" really is Bram Stoker's "Dracula" meets Sweet Valley High. (I was actually a little too old for the latter when it came out, but my younger sister had a few and I read a couple.) In Tagalog, we have a word for what I felt while reading it: kilig. I have no idea how to translate it to English. But you know the nice little shivers which run up your spine during romantic scenes in movies and books? That's it.

It was fun feeling like a high school kid again. But I think I'll quit while I'm ahead. There are three other books in the series and my friend said she'll lend them to me one by one. Thanks, Ces, but I think I'll pass on the offer. I might end up feeling like I did after I read Dan Brown's other books—I should have stopped after "The Da Vinci Code." Well, except maybe for the last book. I would like to know if Edward gives Bella what she's asking for and how.

Looking for an image of the book's front cover (which I found in Stephenie Meyer's website), I discovered that it's being made into a movie. None of the cast is familiar to me, and I've never heard of the director or producers either. But I think I'll brave the hordes of giggly pre-teens who are sure to watch it. It's coming out this November. I doubt very much if my husband will watch it with me, so Ces, Beng: it's a date?