Welcome to adobo-down-under!

Musings. Family. Food. Stories. Cooking. Recipes. Eating. A recipe journal. From simple Filipino dishes to challenging recipes and exciting gastronomical failures. This is for my girls to look back on for comfort, memories, laughs, love and lots of food!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Black sticky rice revisited

My muscles are recovering from yesterday’s Bridge Run, which was approximately 10k from Milsons Point ending at the Government House along Macquarie Street.  Unlike last year’s experience, this year brought more sore muscles and pain in my butt, thighs and legs. As I ran, jogged and walked the route in light rain, I kept thinking of Murakami’s book which reminded me of his experience in the many marathons that he runs around the world – how he prepares for each mentally and physically.  I constantly had to remind myself to concentrate on the breathe and focus on the path ahead, one step at a time.  This kept me focus for the whole 1 hour and 32 minutes.  The weather wasn’t as glorious as it could have been, but the view always gets to me - passing under the magnificent Harbour Bridge, the spectacular harbour and the iconic Sydney Opera House. I can never get tired of these Sydney wonders!   

Soaking in the light drizzle, my head was soaked from a combination of rain and sweat.  My work colleagues who joined me have dispersed into the distance as we approached the bridge, and I could only whisper in between breathes, “hey, wait up!” , each of them already zooming around other runners as they satisfy their own fitness goals.  There were moments of doubt when my thoughts turned to stopping and giving up and cheating by taking off my bib and going through the Domain and ducking in with the crowds at the finish line. The medal was not something aimed for anyway.   But there was that nagging thought inside me, pushing me to go take that extra step, take that next kilometre in stride and it’s all going to be fine.    

Running alone amidst a crowd of thousands (does that sound weird?), it was so easy to get distracted by the noise from the spectators, music from sponsor stalls along the route, the cheers from the volunteers as they hand cup after cup to the runners. Breathing in and out, slowly pacing myself, I see older men and women triumphantly passing me with their slow calculated pace and that kept me inspired.  Oooh, oooh, oooh.... inhale, ooh ooh ooh ooh, inhale.  I calculated my breaths as if I was breathing through flows in my Vinyasa yoga practice.  Although it is not a marathon by any standard, the run/job/walk was something I did not prepare for.  Except for my 2x yoga sessions and intermittent 30-minute walk around the block a week, there were no special trainings that went with the decision to do another Bridge Run this year.  It was another whim decided amongst office colleagues.  Albeit the sore muscles, I felt it was one of the most exhilarating runs I’ve ever done, as well as the longest.    

As I turn onto Macquarie Street, the running crowd from the opposite lane approaching the finish line is always an inspiring sight.  As I slowly ran my way following the course, I can’t help but get distracted and amazed at each of runner sprinting their way towards the finish line.  Their faces expressing varying degrees of intent, focus and determination. Some huffing and puffing but still eyes set forward to the finish line. Some sweating so much, red faced by eyes glued straight ahead. 

Although this is my 3rd Bridge Run experience, this year has given me a strong sense of belief in myself – where usually doubt sits comfortably.  I felt energized after the run and had so much energy even until late last night, when the muscles started tightening and soreness creeping slowly into each muscle tissue.   I went to my yoga practice with slightly stiff legs today, but as always, I come out feeling taller and calmer. 

And after a day of strenuous activity, there’s nothing that I would love more than to indulge in comfort food.  So we’re revisiting an old post with new photos! (It’s actually just an excuse to give life and new photos to posts from the archives!) Black sticky rice with coconut cream and toasted sesame seeds!  I tell you.  This one cuddles you in all the right places.  Sore muscles or not.


3 cups black glutinous rice
3 pandan leaves, tied in a knot

1 tsp salt 
375g palm sugar. grated
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup toasted sesame seeds
500ml coconut cream (use Kara brand in tetra pack)

Wash and rinse the rice until water is almost clear.  The water will still be a little bit dark but clean.  (This took about 5-6 wash-and-rinse)

Place the washed rice in a 6L or 8L pressure cooker.  
Add water to cover the rice, 6cm above the rice level.

Add salt and pandan leaves.  
Close pressure cooker lid tightly and bring to boil on high heat, approximately 5 minutes.

Once boiling (pressure cooker hissing loudly), reduce heat to low (hissing gently) and simmer for 15 minutes.

Remove from heat and let cool/decompress for another 15 minutes. 

While rice is resting/cooling/decompressing, toast the sesame seeds - using a non stick pan.  
 On medium heat, fry the sesame seeds until golden.  No oil needed.  
Transfer into a small bowl and let cool.

Using a sauce pan, dissolve the grated palm sugar in the 1/2 cup water.
Remove pressure cooker lid and remove pandan leaves.  Stir in dissolved palm sugar. 

Serve warm in bowls drizzled with coconut cream and toasted sesame seeds.

Tips and tricks
* Use Kara brand for the coconut cream.  I find that this brand is creamier than those that come in tins/cans.
* Be extra careful when using pressure cookers, as they can cause burns if opened while still hissing.
* Remember that pressure cookers once lid has been locked, should not be opened at any time, unless the hissing has completely stopped and the safety red button (differs in various brands and models) has completely sunk.


The real prize for running the 10K Bridge Run for me, was not really the medal. It's winning against all the self doubts inside and pushing through to the finish line regardless of the time.  And this year, I actually beat my last year's record by 17 minutes.  So that's a bonus.  The half marathon next year doesn't seem too far after all.


Friday, August 28, 2015

Lemon and sour cream cake with raspberries

I found a new hobby.  Colouring books!  If you haven’t already noticed, adult colouring books is the trend at the moment and publishing companies are selling them by the millions.  Marketed as therapeutic and anti-stress, colouring books for adults have become hip thanks to social media.  People who are into colouring books posts their creations on social media and it just creates the pull which is making the publishers very happy.

A standard page would take me from an hour to 3 hours, glued to the page instead of watching some TV series on Netflix or browsing on Facebook and Instagram.  While it may be my own form of digital detox, it does deliver its own spell of mindfulness and calmness claims.  Indulging in a new hobby, engrossed with colour pencils sliding across the page, sticking to the lines, mix matching colours onto patterns somehow gives me a sense of fulfillment as I create something visual and beautiful.  I started borrowing colour pencils from the girls, but now that I have my own set, I can colour to my heart’s content.

Although this does not replace my love for cooking, baking and writing, it does give me something to do while waiting for dinner to cook, or the cake to be warm and the cookies to cool.

How about you?  Have you started a new hobby lately?

Now to this cake that is a revisit from the archives.  A lemon yoghurt cake dressed with raspberries.  This is my go to cake recipe when I'm asked to bring a cake.  Why?  Because it's easy as A-B-C, 1-2-3.  No need for a mixer.  Just good ol' fork and little bit of elbow grease.


1 and 3/4 cups sugar

2 eggs

1/2 teaspoon salt

2-3 teaspoon lemon juice

grated rind of 2 lemons

3/4 cup light olive oil

1 cup sour cream

2 cups self-raising flour

1 cup (or more) fresh or frozen raspberries

Icing sugar for dusting (optional)


Preheat oven to 180*C.  Line a round 20cm cake tin with baking paper.

In a mixing bowl, mix rind, oil, eggs and sugar with a fork.

Add remaining ingredients and combine well.

Add the raspberries and stir to distribute around the pan and some to sprinkle on top of the batter.
Pour into cake pans and bake at 180 degrees C for 30 minutes.

Leave to cool on a cooling rack, then turn out onto a plate.  

Dust with icing sugar (if using).

* You can use natural yoghurt or buttermilk as substitute for sour cream and the result will be the same.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Bottle gourd stir fry

Filipino cuisine is making waves around the globe which makes me proud.  Just recently, I wrote a post about a pop-up afternoon stand up event in Sydney delighted the palates of the locals with the introduction of classic savoury and sweet Filipino dishes. There's quite a few of these Filipino restaurants now in Sydney and it's getting a good following from locals, not just fellow Filos or Pinoys as we usually called ourselves. 

The well known amongst the community is La Mesa along Goulbourn Street, Haymarket.  It has been around since 2002 and previously located in Dee Why.  In 2012 they moved to Haymarket and have since created a good following of locals and tourists.  The decor is reminiscent of an old fashioned Filipino home - a mix of contemporary and classic Filipiniana decor.  The serving platters are all home-grown Filipino vessels flown from the Philippines. Sizzling Fillo in Lidcombe boasts of authentic Filipino dishes served in big portions enough to share amongst 3-4 people. The place invites locals and those who will travel a few kilometres to partake of the generous servings and Saturday night karaoke.  Eating and singing - two of Filipinos favourite things to do.  Sizzling Fillo also boasts of a regular "boodle feast"- a buffet of selected classics served on "your" table on a bed of banana leaves.

My favourite is Cafe Manila in Kirribilli - a small cozy cafe serving traditional Filipino dishes suited to the western palate - leaning away from traditional starchy dishes and the portions are just right. The interior is very minimalist and the tables are quite small creating an intimate experience for the diners. Chef Ricky Ocampo is always in the house serving up dishes with a smile as if you are a guest at his home. The menu is lean and the food is well presented on the plate.  Chef Ricky is one of local Filipino featured in the SBS Food Safari Filpino Food.

Another one in north shore is Pamana Cafe and Filipino Restaurant in Chatswood.  The place is cafe style with tables for two, up to ten.  The menu is more extensive with a range dishes from breakfast to dinner, entree to desserts -  a variety of traditional Filipino dishes both savoury and sweet.  They also offer "boodle feast" on select days. Although the location is quite away from pedestrian traffic, it has since opening in 2013 gathered a local following.

Now this dish is not something you'd see in any of the menus from these restaurants.  This is a super simple dish that's not worthy of a restaurant feature but definitely worth the 30 minutes that you spend to cook it. The thing with Filipino dishes is, if its easy enough to cook at home, you won't find it at restaurants.  We (Filipinos) when at these restaurants, usually order dishes we seldom cook at home, or not at all.

Bottle gourd is an indigenous vegetable in the East Asian region.  It is commonly called "upo" in the Philippines or calabash in some western countries.  The bottle gourd has a lot of health benefits and in some countries, they juice is used to encourage weight loss.

I love the simplicity of this dish.  Almost pedestrian.  You only need 5 basic ingredients.  And can even make it vegetarian by omitting the pork.

Here goes.


250-300 grams pork, cut into cubes

1 piece bottle gourd, sliced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 onion, sliced

2 tomatoes, sliced

1 cup water

1 tablespoon cooking oil

salt and pepper to taste

fish sauce (optional)


In a medium sized skillet, heat the oil and cook the pork pieces until crispy.  Set aside.

In the same pan, saute the onions and garlic and cook until fragrant, not burned.

Add the tomatoes and stir until soft.

Add the bottle gourd slices and water and bring to boil.

Season with salt and pepper, or fish sauce is using. Season to your taste.

Turn down heat and simmer until the goured is soft and cooked.

Add the crispy pork slices on top.

Disclaimer: The feature on the mentioned restaurants is a simple feedback from the writer's experience dining at these establishments.  Dining at the restaurants were to the writer's own expense.  This is not a paid feature.  The feature is written to assist locals and tourists who may be looking for Filipino restaurants within Sydney metropolitan. 


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