Mar 4, 2018

Tasty Filipino Food In Hawaii

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The Philippine archipelago comprises about 7,641 islands, of which only about 2,000 are inhabited. They are clustered into the three major island groups of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.

Filipinos are now the fastest growing ethnic minority in Hawaii. Taken together, Filipinos and part-Filipinos constitute 275,728 or nearly 23 percent of the state population, slightly more than the Hawaiian and part-Hawaiian population. About 70 percent of the Filipino population live on the island of Oahu.

Fortunately for us, they have influenced Hawaii's cuisine over the years. Dishes like pork adobo, Pinakbet, pork, cooked with pumpkin, Chinese long beans, cabbage, and bitter melon, or tom yum, a sour tamarind soup. All so different and oh so good, and there are so many more.

One of my favorite Filipino recipes is grilled Chicken Inasal, a classic dish that is also enjoyed here in Hawaii. It tastes wonderful not only because it is grilled, but because of the zesty marinade. One of the marinade ingredients is 7up, yep I kid you not. It turns out that the carbonation and citric acid in 7up helps to tenderize meat, while the added sugar promotes caramelization during cooking. Try not to substitute any of the ingredients if possible. Also you want to be sure not to overcook the chicken, it should be moist and full of flavor.

Chicken Inasal is traditionally served with 'Java Rice' that is gently mixed with spices and formed in a tea cup, then turned over on the plate and sprinkled with chopped scallions. Also, pickled green papaya called 'Achara' is usually served as a side dish. For dessert, how about 'Bibinka', a unique soft, sweet, and gelatinous cake (recipes below).

Looking for more delicious Filipino recipes? click here.

Filipino Grilled Chicken Inasal

2 cornish game hens cut in half or 4 chicken leg quarters, with the skin side scored 3 times

Calamansi from Moloka'i farmers market.
It is widely cultivated in the Philippines and in Hawaii.
Your best chance of finding it on Moloka'i is at our
Saturday Farmer's Market where Filipino vendors sell it.
Marinade Ingredients:
2 tablespoons ginger, minced
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
1 cup white vinegar or coconut vinegar
1/2 cup calamansi or lime juice
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup lemongrass, chopped
1 cup 7up
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Basting Sauce Ingredients:
(see note below)
3 tablespoons annatto oil
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon calamansi juice, or lime juice

Combine the marinade ingredients, mix well. Set aside.

Arrange the scored chicken in a large resealable bag. Pour the marinade over the chicken pieces. Gently push the air out of the bag and then seal. Refrigerate for 3 hours, turning the bag several times so the chicken is well coated.

Combine the basting sauce ingredients in a small bowl.

Heat-up the grill to 360˚F. Remove the chicken from the marinade and wipe down stray aromatics. Arrange the marinated chicken leg quarters over the grates of the grill, skin side up, so that the chicken gets indirect heat. Turn the chicken every 5 minutes for about 30 to 45 minutes brushing with the basting sauce. The key is to grill over indirect heat until the chicken gets fully cooked and the internal temperature reaches 160˚F, do not overcook, you want the chicken to be moist. Transfer to a serving plate, cover and allow to rest for about 3 to 5 minutes before serving.

Serve chicken with Java Rice (see recipe below), sprinkled with chopped scallions on top, and some pickled green papaya on the side (see recipe below) (this is also known as papaya achara). If you can't find calacansi, use fresh lime juice instead.

Makes 4 servings.

Note: I like to use cornish game hens for this dish because half of a hen is a perfect serving for one person, and they are so tender and look nicer on a plate. I use kitchen sheers to cut them in half, or a good sharp knife will do. They are a dollar cheaper at Friendly Market than Misaki's Market... it pays to shop around.

I couldn't find annatto oil here on the small Hawaiian island of Moloka'i, so I used annatto powder, which I found in a small packet in the Asian section of Friendly Market. I heated 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a small pan, not very hot, certainly not smoking. Then I mixed in about 1 teaspoon of the annatto powder. The powder should settle to the bottom, allowing you to pour off most of the oil without the powder making it cloudy. You could also put it through a coffee filter, which will remove all of the powder residue. Then you mix in the rest of the basting ingredients. You will notice that a the Java Rice recipe below calls for annatto powder.

Java Rice
This rice recipe is typically served with Chicken Inasal. It is basically pre-cooked white short grain rice that is reheated and gently mixed with various spices. The end result is a seasoned golden rice.

4 cups cold pre-cooked white rice
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon annatto powder
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 tablespoon soy sauce
salt and pepper to taste
2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped for garnish

In a bowl, break rice to separate grains.

Heat a wok or large skillet over medium heat, combine butter and oil. Heat until butter is melted. Add  garlic and bell pepper. Cook, stirring 2 or 3. Add annatto powder and turmeric powder. Continue to cook, stirring for about 1 minute.

Add rice and gently toss to fully coat. Spread the rice on entire cooking surface of the pan for about 45 seconds or until grains start to sizzle and then toss again to redistribute.

Add soy sauce and season with salt and pepper to taste. Continue to cook, tossing gently, for about 1 to 2 minutes or until rice grains are heated through and evenly colored. Serve hot garnished with finely chopped shallots.

Makes 4 servings.

Pickled Green Papaya
This wonderful Filipino pickled green papaya recipe is called 'Achara' and is usually served as a side dish for barbecued meat or fried fish. Green papaya is underripe papaya that is green and firm. Look for it in Asian markets.

Ingredients for brine:
1 cup white vinegar or coconut vinegar
2 tablespoon white sugar
2 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder

4 cups julienned green papaya (available at Kumu Farms or Moloka'i farmer's market)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup water
1 small red bell pepper, julienned
1 medium size carrot, julienned
1 small red onion, sliced thin
4 cloves garlic, sliced thin
1 thumb size ginger, peeled and sliced thin
1 teaspoon whole peppercorn

Using a non reactive saucepan combine coconut vinegar and sugar. Bring to a quick boil and remove from heat. Add turmeric powder and stir. Set aside and allow to cool.

Peel the green papaya and discard the seeds. Julienne the papaya into a medium size mixing bowl. Sprinkle with sea salt and toss well. Pour in 1 cup of water and squeeze out the juice from the papaya. Add the pepper corn, bell pepper, ginger, onion, garlic, carrots and papaya. Toss well. 

Pour vinegar mixture over the vegetables. Toss well, cover and let it sit, refrigerated, overnight before serving. Best when served cold.

Makes about 6 cups.

Note: Look for green (completely green and unripe) papaya. I prefer to julienne the ingredients (green papaya, red bell pepper and carrots, rather than grate them because it just looks better. 

To find out more about the health benefits of coconut vinegar, click here.

Filipino Coconut Pineapple "Bibingka"
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This cake is considered a delicacy in the Philippines. I have a friend who lives there, Ann Supan who recently had a birthday. She asked if I had ever heard of "Bibingka", and that she only has this special cake during the Christmas season. I researched it and came up with this recipe. It is a sticky cake, very different from other dryer American cakes, because of the glutinous sweet rice flour, which makes it have a unique soft, sweet, and gelatinous consistency, sort of like the Japanese Mochi. There are many different Filipino versions of the Bibingka, including a version that my Filipino friend Estella Ramos likes that uses cooked sticky rice instead of rice flour and only light brown sugar, not white sugar, plus a little less coconut cream. This dessert is a winner Ann, Happy Birthday!

Ingredients for cake:
1 8-ounce package cream cheese
2 cups white granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 pound (3 1/2 cups) Mochiko brand sweet rice flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 stick (1/2 cup) melted butter
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 15-ounce can sweetened cream of coconut, not coconut milk
1 cup whole milk
1 8-oz. can crushed pineapple, drained of the juice
1 tablespoon Crisco brand shortening
9 x 13 inch metal sheet pan, or glass Pyrex pan

Ingredients for topping:
1 1/2 cups flaked coconut
5 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In a large bowl, cream together the cream cheese and sugar. Stir in the eggs, one at a time. Mix in the remaining ingredients and stir, until smooth. Pour into a greased 13x9 pan. Combine the topping ingredients; sprinkle over batter. Place in oven on middle rack and bake in a 350˚F oven for approximately 60 minutes. After 30 minutes of baking, cover the cake lightly with a sheet of foil to keep the coconut from getting too brown, then continue baking for 30 minutes more. Turn off heat and allow the cake to rest in the oven for an additional 20 minutes before removing. Now remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool to room temperature, about 1 hour, then cut into small pieces. Store in an airtight container and refrigerate.

Note: The cooking time may vary depending on your oven, and the pan you cook in. For example I cooked this cake in a glass Pyrex baking pan and had to increase the time by 30 minutes. If the cake center jiggles when you give it a shake, continue cooking, and check again every 5 minutes. The cake is done when the top springs back to the touch.

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