Chicken Adobo: Baguio Beckoning


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As we were hunched over the stove, embroiled in some recent kitchen experiment, my Singapore family’s maid Erlinda noted in passing that it’d been almost two years since she’d eaten her own home-made adobo.

Two years? This seemed like an interminably long time for a Filipina not to be enjoying her national dish, cooked by her own hand.

My mother doesn’t stock vinegar in the kitchen, she explained, which instantly makes brewing a pot of the vinegary pork or chicken stew impossible. And the soy sauce that we Chinese use happens to be just a little too sweet for real adobo, it turns out. 

Now, being a massive lover of the stuff, I immediately decided that Erlinda’s adobo drought needed to end. (This had nothing to do, of course, with the fact that my mouth often starts to water the moment I hear the word “adobo.”)

So, with some instructions from Erlinda on what she needed for her adobo, off we went.

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Top 10: The Memorable Eats Of 2009


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You know it’s been a good year when you are able to say this: 2009 was when I began to eat for a living.

I’d always been a devotee of affairs of the stomach. I may have written about fashion and other lifestyle areas for a living but baking, braising, trying new recipes, eating out — those were what consumed me when weekends rolled around. 

Luck has its ways of finding you, however. Now, on the precipice of 2010, I’m beginning to close out a lunar calendar year of cooking and eating with my family in Singapore as research for my book, “A Tiger In The Kitchen.” 

My journey so far has taken me many places — France, where I had the loveliest gingery champagne cocktail with friends old and dear; China, where my father and I went in search of my great-grandfather’s footprints in the village of his birth. And, of course, Singapore, where my aunties and maternal grandmother have been plying me with meals, recipes and much, much love along the way.

With all that I’ve packed into 2009, it’s hard to decide what the highlights have been. But, inspired by some stellar Top 10 gastronomic lists out there (definitely check out Sam Sifton’s list of Top 11 dishes in New York in the New York Times), I decided to give it a go.

Here, in no particular order, are my 10 memorable eats of 2009. 

Enjoy, buon appetito and listen, let’s do this again in 2010 …

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Leftover Turkey Hash Brown Quiche: Dieters Beware


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As much as I love Thanksgiving, I may adore the days after the holiday even more.

One word: Leftovers.

Sure turkey dinners with stuffing and corn pudding that have been doused in so much gravy that you have a thick, glistening brown moat on your plate are unbeatable. But this is also a great time to rev up your creativity in the kitchen.

What to do with your mounds of leftover turkey? Our Let’s Lunch bunch — a group of far-flung home cooks who have a monthly lunch date on Twitter — decided to tackle this question for December.

My answer? A garlicky turkey hash brown quiche.

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Apple-Cornmeal Cake: A Reason To Celebrate


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A dear friend recently asked me what my ideal birthday cake would be.

My immediate answer was a pure pipe dream (in the U.S. anyhow) — a durian cream cake in which the sliver of cream wedged between two layers of pound cake is flecked with hefty chunks of creamy durian, a pungent, Southeast Asian fruit that’s hard to find in New York.

Now, if I can’t have durian cake, my second choice would be a vanilla cake coated with a creamy guava or passionfruit icing.

I know, I know.

I have been told I can be hard to please.

Having no durians, passionfruit or guava at hand, however, I set about making myself one of my absolute favorite fall cakes — an apple-cornmeal upside down cake that is so simple and can be assembled so quickly that I’ve set it out for more Thanksgiving and autumn meals than I can count. 

In fact, it’s what first came to mind when my Let’s Lunch group, a bunch of intrepid cooks around the world who have a standing monthly lunch date, decided to do a fall dessert for November.

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Broccoli-Slaw Salad: One Tasty Memento


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Every relationship has its souvenirs — a card, a necklace, letters from afar.

I’ve discarded more than I can recall over the years but there’s one that I hold so precious and pull out so often that it’s riddled with the marks of a well-worn life: oil splatters, vinegar stains, bits of grainy powder now glued to its surface for all eternity.

It’s a recipe for broccoli slaw salad — lovingly shared by the very sweet mother of an old boyfriend. I first received it in the 1990s when I was just starting to cook and this was one of just three things I knew how to make.

Years later, my culinary repertoire has expanded, yet I still return to this recipe time and again. It’s incredibly easy to assemble for weeknight dinners and last-minute summer cookouts — and tasty, to boot. And because its ingredients include nuts and seeds, it also makes for an especially lovely fall salad. (Yes, it goes well with turkey, too.)

So, when my Let’s Lunch group, a gang of intrepid cooks spread out from San Diego to Paris who have a virtual lunchdate once a month, decided to do fall salads for October, once again, out came Mrs. Nak’s recipe.

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