Balinsasayaw / Nido Vegetable Chicken Soup

Flu, colds, and sore throat aside, this chilly weather and the food it brings is L-O-V-E. I just adore this wintry  weather. I hope, we have this kind of weather all year round so I could wear my cardigans and put layers on my wintry fashion more often. The crisp thin air of the morning also means snuggling and cuddling close to our love under the warmth of our big blanket after the long and blissful sleeping hours... a cup of coffee or steaming hot chocolate in bed on lazy mornings... a good time of year to stay indoors... or maybe outdoors, to do chores without getting sweat. Above all, it's about warm dishes and big elaborate meals (and delicious leftovers) are what I liked most.

Feeling feverish, I woke up late last Saturday, so I thought of simmering chicken soup. When I opened my grocery box to gather ingredients, the neglected Balinsasayaw (edible-nest swiftlet) wrapped in a small plastic bag caught my attention. So I decided to cook Balinsasayaw / Nido Vegetable Chicken Soup instead. I bought it in Coron last year when I travelled solo for a short vacation to see Kayangan Lake. I came accross a Tagbanua native inhabiting in one of the islands selling the rare ingredient at a very cheap price.

Balinsasayaw or edible bird's nest, regarded as the “Caviar of the East”, is a highly-priced delicacy in Asian cuisine. According to World Wildlife Fund, a kilogram of the processed (first class) white nest can cost as much as US$3,000 to $4,000 per kilo.  Tagbanua natives inhabiting the protected area harvest the edible-nest Swiftlet made of swiftlet saliva. Believe it or not, the nest is the solidified saliva of the edible nest swiflet locally called "Balinsasayaw".

A bit of history about the consumption of Balinsasayaw can be traced back to China nearly 1,500 years ago during the Tang Dynasty period (A.D. 618-907). It is believed that during that era, only the family of the Emperor and his court officials has the privilege of consuming the highly priced bird’s nest. Balinsasayaw soup, often times called “The Emperor's Soup” or “Longevity Soup” have high levels of calcium, iron, potassium, and magnesium. It is claimed, according to Chinese medical tradition, to provide health benefits such as; improving the voice, easing digestion, cure asthma and other respiratory ailments such as bronchitis and sinusitis.  Consuming this very rare delicacy prevents colds and strengthens the immune system as well. It's an aphrodisiac, which makes them a much sought-after property. According to National Geographic, however, analysis of bird-nest soup, has not revealed any special medicinal value.

Balinsasayaw's texture when cooked was kinda gummy, sort of sotanghon noodles (bean thread noodles) aka cellophane noodles. I should've soaked the bird's nest in cold water overnight before cooking but I didn't know.   It's tasted plain so I mixed it with chicken, spices, vegetables and other flavors. Fortunately, it didn't take too long to make this soup.

Here's the complete list of ingredients;

15-18 grams Balinsasayaw / Nido / Edible bird's nest
2 tablespoon cooking oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium red onion, chopped
2 eggs
1 medium cabbage
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 medium chayote, chopped
2 medium chicken breast
2 knorr chicken cubes
1/2 cup sweet corn kernels
5 cups chicken stock
Green spring onions, chopped
Ground black pepper to taste

In a stock pot, boil the chicken breast in 5 cups of water for 30 minutes to produce a homemade chicken broth. Separate and disassemble the chicken: Pull as much meat off of the chicken bones that you can, set aside. Throw away all of the bones and large pieces of fat.

While the chicken breasts are in the pot, heat the cooking oil over medium high heat in a wok. Add the mirepoix and sauté for about 4 minutes, until the onion has softened.

After the onion has softened, add the chicken stock, Balinsasayaw, black pepper, garlic and 2 knorr chicken cubes. Bring back to a simmer over medium heat and simmer for 5-6 minutes.

Add in the chicken meat and eggs. Stir and simmer for about 10 minutes until a light foam forms. Skim this foam with a spoon.

Have a taste and add salt or pepper to your liking. Pour in a bowl and sprinkle with spring onions.

Serve hot with Boling bread.

Recipe Notes:  Add evaporated milk if you want a creamy soup.

Glimpsed: One Direction

On Rome's gest to utopia, often times, he found himself in the middle of crossroads. With wide range of destinations in his mind, deciding one road to take is tricky knowing that there's no turning back. Luckily though, all  his destinations are pointing at one direction!

This is a teaser post of his next destination: Grand Villa

Food Bites: Start a Food Business

With the country's economy getting better and better, don't you think it’s now time to engage yourself investing and or start a business of your own?  What kind of investment or business would it be?

From my point of view, the most reliable and lucrative business is food. Why? Because it’s the basic need of everybody. No matter how many food carts, franchises, and restaurants would open in the future, the food business will remain strong. As long as human population grows, there’s always a profitable market for food, you could never go wrong with that.

In my opinion, the things that matter most for food business to succeed are vast. A few of which are; quality of food, value for money, and trend. Food really is trending. Nowadays, frozen yogurt is trending across all types of food market – young, adult, professional, etc.

In starting up a food business, I didn’t say purchase a McDonald’s franchise but will you? That’s a bold move if you are just starting. Well, if you have the desired capital, then by all means, go ahead. There are other kind food businesses to engage on. Think pizza, or start a frozen yogurt business. Independent business is a great start rather than jumping over the large scale business. Big-businesses started small, think about that.

Halston 1-12, Tommy Hilfiger, and Chocolates

This is a thank you post to my cousin, Ate Elena, for the chocolates, cologne and wallet she brought from the US last holiday season especially for me.       How did she know that my sexy Carolina Herrera 212 for men was empty? I was planning to buy a new one before the holidays but I completely forgot. Thank you Ate Elena for a very scented gift.  Halston 1-12 Natural Spray Cologne is what I'm wearing today. It has a subtle smell and I really liked it!

The package handed to me by her sister, Ate Juliet, includes a branded and a genuine leather folder by Tommy Hilfiger. The premium smell of authentic leather when I opened the box was hmmmm, happiness! Now that I have a very handsome wallet, I thought, its an omen to save some more and I will.

To you Ate who I misses so dearly, although we never seen each other last December, I am very grateful for these gifts and I hope I could give you something in return someday. May God bless you and your wonderful family. Thank you so much for your thoughtfulness and sweetness! xoxo

Pilgrimage to Kamay ni Hesus Healing Center, Lucban, Quezon Province.

There's a sense of wonderment and something life-changing about their trip to Lucban that's half-holiday, half-pilgrimage as Rome found when he went to a retreat in Kamay ni Hesus Healing Center with his cousins and nieces early on their last day in Lucban. The healing center is just right across Batis Aramin where they stayed for two nights.

As they approach the main gate, Vio Dolorosa Grotto is seen from afar. The 5 hectares Kamay ni Hesus Healing Center is a religious complex complete with Grotto of the Ascending Christ, Rosary Hill , Gallery of saints,  Garden of Eden, Healing Church, Retreat center, Cliff Houses, and Shopping Centers/Souvenir Shops. The religious complex and healing centetr is under the initiative of Father Joseph "Joey" Ayala Faller, a gifted and well-known healing priest who also conducts regular healing masses for physical, emotional and spiritual healing on the following days;

Wednesday and Saturday - 9:30 AM Healing Mass
Sunday Mass
7:30 AM - 9:30 AM
10:30 AM - 11:30 AM
4:00 PM
Anticipated Saturday Mass Every saturday - 5 PM

They began at the Garden of Eden where statutes of Adam and Eve depicting the creation, the temptation, and the fall are scattered in the tropical version of the garden. There were million of queries registered on the kiddos’ faces upon seeing the nude statutes. 

Rome heard his cousins telling familiar story to his nieces – The Story of Creation. They were listening wholeheartedly but distracted when they saw a playground and fun rides attached to the animal statutes near Noah’s Ark.  Anney let them play in one condition – they need to pose with one of the statutes, and they willingly obliged. The garden is definitely not a theme park but a fascinating educational and visionary gallery for kids.

Due to limited time, they weren’t able to climb the hill where Risen Christ statue is situated.  Well, they tried but gave up when they reached almost 50 of more than 300 steps. A healing mass was being held when they went down the hill.  Rome silently prayed for a short while and promised to come back to reflect and retreat.  

Struggling how to conclude this post about Rome's unfinished pilgrimage, let me end it  with Paulo Coelho’s quote for us to reflect on: "Pilgrimage is not a destination but a lifetime's journey".

Kitchen Gadget: American Home Coffee Maker

Hello foodies! 

What is up? What did you do last weekend? Does it seem short because you were pressured to catch up on the chores that piled up during your manic working week? Or you just rest and relax for two fabulous days?

Whatever it was, I hope y'all had a very good time and everything's great.

As for me, my weekend was very productive. I made the long overdue portable photo studio at home,...ugh, finally! I made it from illustration board and blank canvass bought at the National Bookstore. I used this American Home Coffee Maker as my medium to check out where I could get good lighting, ahm yes, I am using natural light. This coffee maker was a gift from Peachy of The Peach Kitchen last Christmas whom I share love affair with coffees. Thank you Ate Peachy! 

It was early in the morning when I shot the above picture so its kinda blue-ish. Now that my studio is ready, as I've promised couple of years ago, you could expect more recipes to be posted this year. Oh, I made Balinsasayaw soup yesterday and will be posted on Thursday :-)

Y'all gonna love it, promise. Stay tuned :-)

Very Tea at Teaberi

MBBCF - Matcha Black Beans Cheese Froth, Php 120.00

Comfort Drink.

That's what I need after the not so good experience with my bacon cheeseburger. So I went down my office building to try some tea drink at the newly opened tea house inside 7/11 store.

Staring at the menu, I asked the crew, "Hello, anong masarap bukod sa akin?"
(Hello, aside to me, what's yummy?)

Broad smiles and sincerest "how may I help you?" response were what I've received. I felt so good. That's how I usually ask to communicate, somehow, build connection with any restaurant's crew. Trust me, it works majority of time. She offered me to try their bestseller, winter melon tea. I am not a fan of winter melon but relieved when I saw their special fix, there was matcha green tea! 

The leafy taste of green tea never failed to put a molar-to-molar smiles to my face and I'm sure, to you too. Well, apart maybe to my cousin Anney, who describes green tea as "lasang halaman" (grassy taste). I was told that Teaberi's tea leaves were imported from the best tea-growing regions of Taiwan. Matcha with Black Beans and Cheese Froth was indeed a different and refreshing brew. There was a hint of the leafy taste and bits of black beans. The cheese froth complemented very well with the tea's sweetness.

Ask me if Teaberi's tea is yummy like me.

Very tea!

Heaven in My Eyes: Malcolm's Wagyu Cheese Burger with Bacon

I think I heard that it's an anniversary promo when Malcolm's branch near my office in Salcedo Village Makati City held their annual "buy one take one" promotion last Friday. There was an everyday countdown on their counter prior to that day making sure we customers won't miss the mouth watering promotion.  And just like last year, my colleagues and I were looking forward to that day to experience this once-a-year-offering again. At Php 140.00 I ordered Malcolm's Wagyu Cheese Burger with Bacon which I was about to share with Donna.

At first glance, the burger's patty looks tender, juicy and tasty. There were cheese, lettuce, 2 slices tomato and 2 onion rings. Tomato ketchup and a dressing were put in a separate containers - it was all good in my eyes. The only missing though was the drooling smell of Wagyu beef that I used to crave every time. 
I didn't complain and brought it to my office nearby to chow it down. The burger buns were though and aged. I was disappointed. I closed my eyes and searched for the high degree of marbling – or finely veined tender meat slash fat-that-melts-in-my-mouth but to my utmost regret, the patty was dry. My guess was, it's not Wagyu beef that Malcolm's claimed of their specialty. Veggies were crisp and fresh though.

Well, here's another culinary lesson, learned.

Visita Iglesia: Church of Saint Louis, Bishop of Toulouse in Lucban, Quezon Province

The Philippines apart from East Timor, is predominantly a catholic country in Asia. Colonized by Spain for more than 300 years, the Philippines' early citizens were converted to Christianity by the Spanish missionaries either voluntarily or forcefully. They removed all marks of other religions that the Filipinos formerly patronized before their arrival. They burned down churches and idols so that the only religion that the Philippines will recognize is Catholicism.

Since then, churches became the focal point of communities all over the country. They can often be enormous, ornate buildings which so domineering over their surrounding landscapes.

Perched on the center in the humble town of Lucban in Quezon Province, surrounded by gardens, grottos and stone walls called quince-quince, the Church of Saint Louis, Bishop of Toulouse was initially created in 1595 but destroyed in 1629.

According to the facts on the tablet hanged on the wall the second church was constructed between 1630 and 1640, gutted by fire in 1733 and reconstructed in 1738. The adjacent convent was added and completed in 1743. The church was partly destroyed during the World War II in 1945 and renovated by the Philippine Historical Commission in 1966.

The church’s ancient bell tower stands to the right, rising three tapering levels, topped with a weathervane. Old and dingy, the grayish and dusty color shows that it has existed for a very long time. The facade and the bellower are finished with lime and cement.

It was a real good experience visiting old churches. Rome had a moment of silence for his prayers. For him, visiting this religious attraction was mentally stimulating somehow uplifting.

Pastry Princess: Good Morning Cupcake!

Oh, hello there princesses, good morning!

How about a cup of cof...err cup of cake to start your day?

These cupcakes were from Pastry Princess and I am craving for their moist and delicious Red Velvet Cupcake with Cream Cheese Frosting and their Salted Caramel Cupcake at this early and foggy morning.

Would you like some?

Of course, I know you would.

Good thing, I kept their phone number when I met them at the Foodgasm event last August.

Here it is 09285990189 / 3994986. Call 'em if you feel like ya want to start a very sweet and beautiful day!

Pahiyas Festival, Lucban, Quezon Province

Pahiyas Festival - It's an idea that has really illuminated.

What began in 1500's as a form of thanksgiving to the "Anitos" (god/idols) for the good harvest of farm products such as palay, vegetables, fruits, and fish has became the most celebrated ode to illuminate colors in the Philippines. Ever since its inception, the quaint municipality of Lucban in Quezon province has hosted an annual festival “Pahiyas” held every 15th of the merry month of May.  It falls on the feast day of San Isidro Labrador, the patron saint of farmers to show gratitude for a good and bountiful and abundant harvest.

Before the day of San Isidro Pahiyas Festival, residents of Lucban adorned their houses with their bountiful produce such as chayote, radish, pepper, beans, tomato, ginger, chili, grains of rice, and or any agricultural harvests that the home owner’s source of living represents.

Residents engaging in other forms of livelihood display their products too on the most glowing Thanksgiving Day. The handicraft manufacturer house was decked with colorful buri hats, bags, placemats and others while the poultry supplier colored the egg shells to decorate the front of his house. 

The most traditional and certainly the most attractive decor comes of course in the form of "KIPING" which are adorn and strung together to form all sorts of shapes, from chandelier called "ARANGYA" to huge flowers. Kiping is made from ground rice flour, shaped using "cabal" leaves or other leaf forms and colored in radiant red, fuschia, yellow, green and other bright shades.

Each household tries to outdo each other in friendly competition as they vie for honor of recognizing their creativity.  Prizes were given to the winning pahiyas based on a given criteria. The route of the Pahiyas Festival changes every year to give other houses their chance to decorate aside from the fact that expenses for the kiping and other ornaments will drain one's savings. 

In the morning of the Pahiyas Festival, the procession of the image of San Isidro will pass along this route, to bless the families for bountiful harvest on the upcoming planting season. 

It was early in the morning when Rome and his relatives departed Batis Armin to watch the Pahiyas decoration. They weren't able to witness the procession though.  Early morning is the best time to capture radiant and colorful images as there are very few people watching and roaming the Pahiyas route and you can see the houses in full view. Intricately brilliant - this house below left no detail out and was Rome favorite during last year's Pahiyas festival.

Every participating house here had made such a delicate, tiny structure, and colorful kipings much to the delight of thousands local and foreign tourists flocking to the charming municipality every May to gasp at the displays.

What Rome thought was highly commendable is the dedication of each community member to do all the work together to create the multi colored display, who by the way, do not profit from the colorful display. 

Pahiyas for him, is the display of camaraderie  and solidarity of this small populated town who makes huge efforts in bringing the brightest fiesta colors of the Filipino summer to the world.

Parts of this post were sourced from:

Foodiscovery: Tupig and Kahel

At one of the bus' stopover, I had a culinary encounter with “Tupig” last year when I went to Baler Aurora for a short vacation. Tupig is an Ilocano delicacy - rice cake with glutinous rice as its base, wrapped in banana leaves and freshly roasted on a charcoal-fired oven. Tupig is seasoned with butter or margarine, molasses and garnished with grated coconut and sesame seeds.

I partnered it with kahel or dalandan (Philippine orange).

Your tastebuds are weird, my travel companions said. Well...

Memories of Batis Aramin

Rolling hills, green meadows, and country roads… these, with chilly air breeze and good times, are, the stunning Batis Aramin Resort & Hotel, a beautiful northern destination brought to my memory. I wrote three blog posts about the whole experience of our three days and two nights’ holiday getaway in Batis Aramin and was posted on my travel blog, Gest to Utopia.  Our happy moments were captured in stills in such a charming provincial setting. I hope I was able to capture our happy moments in video but I don’t have experience in video editing. Maybe on my future travels, I would be able to share high definition and quality videos. Well then, I should be able to acquire my first video camera first.

Located in lush forest at the foot of Mount Banahaw, tucked down a quiet private road five minutes away from the center of the second class municipality of Lucban is Batis Aramin Resort and Hotel. Its numerous pools and adventure camp offer not just a relaxing vacation but also of an action packed getaway. My cousins and I tried rappelling, zip line riding, and wall climbing. Defying gravity was indeed, a whole new experience that I won’t be able to do every time. I regret that I didn’t capture our experiences in video. So I made a promise to myself to seriously learn to capture each happy moments in motion.

Glimpsed: A Traveller's Shadow

From luxurious to craziest travel experiences we’ve seen shades on our roads and strolled the colors of life. A true blue traveller would agree that his/her shadow isn't gray. 

This post is a teaser of Rome's first experience of Pahiyas in Lucban, Quezon province.

Must Try in Greenbelt: Bizu Patisserie’s 10-Hour Roast Beef and Mixed Ravioli

10-Hour Roast Beef, Php 655.00 net

Tired of the same old fast food fried flavors after a shopping spree?

If you happen to be in Greenbelt and your French palate desires for sophisticated, French restaurant that serves classic, tender and slow roast beef, try Bizu Patisserie’s award winning slow-roasted US beef belly. This slow-roasting method enhances the natural tenderness of the meat. Don’t worry, you don’t need to wait 10 hour before you could taste it. It was roasted in advance and served at room temperature when my friend Carlo and I dined here last December. It was served with grilled, succulent vegetables such as horseradish, potato gratin, and mushroom espagnole sauce. I paired it with available red wine but I forgot to take a pic.

Mixed Ravioli, Php 395

While waiting for me to arrive, Carl ordered Le Soleil, a combination of Mango, passionfruit, yogurt and honey. He partnered it with Mixed Ravioli - Duo of handmade spinach and cheese ravioli and mushroom ravioli, pomodoro, crumbled Feta cheese, and fresh basil chiffonade. 

Legal Highs in Batis Aramin Adventure Camp

Batis Aramin resort and Hotel offers not just a relaxing vacation but also of an action packed getaway. The resort have bike trail, 50 feet repelling descend, 150 meter zip line, and a 50 feet wall climbing tower at an open field area at back of the hotel. At the rate of Php 150.00 or Php 250 (unlimited trip) per person, the camp offers a unique experience for anyone interested in vertigo inducing experiences and extreme fun. 

Rome, his cousins, and CIL registered and signed a waiver at the front office before proceeding at the camp site. It's his first time to experience these kind of activities and he tought of backing out when he saw the tower. Without any sign of hesitation, his cousins in full army attire and trainers seemed very much ready for the extreme activities though. Quietly, he mumbled his last prayer and decided to try everything once. 

He was strapped into a safety harness and suspended from the wire which spands 150 meters in length from the tower. The 5-10 seconds route was short but the experience of seeing his death was horrifying. With the help of trained crew he had a smooth landing realizing a whole new perspective in life - it is about reaching for the sky, taking opportunities and embracing challenges. He conquered his fears and took the risks that people take to be successful in an ever-changing world. It was indeed an enjoyable ride!

He had another zip line ride before trying rapell. It was not an actual rappeling because they did not control their own descent. They were pulled-up and lowered by the crew. If that would be an actual rapell, no one from their group could reach the top of the tower considering that all of them are overweight, lol! Rome was a little bit scared knowing that it was controlled manually so he chose to rappel face up. 


Their last activity was an in-contrast wall climbing. It was controlled with secured ropes. Although the height was quite low for the pro, it's much safer introduction to the sport for the first timers like them.  Anney and Peachy had hard time going further up the wall and eventually gave up after few tries but Rome managed to touch the top. The experience gave him an overwhelming feeling of exposure as it brought him full understanding of safety measures and risk assessement. 

That the long and short of life is like travelling up. It is a process that requires us to pull ourselves together to constantly make the move upward.

That there are moment of doubts and fears...and you need to pause for sometime until you recover your strength.

That climbing-up is defying gravity and requires a serious commitment and strong focus.

That you have to keep on going no matter what.

That climbing downwards is not something that you usually do when.... travel upwards.

KBOB: Korean Food and KTV

 KBOB Restaurant and Family KTV 
232 P. Tuazon Blvd. corner 13Th Ave, Cubao, Quezon City, Philippines
(02) 709 0941

The company we're working in had a separate and bigger celebration of the highly anticipated Christmas party last year so we opted to have our own holiday party exclusively for our team. Our team's holiday party was held at K-bob restaurant and Family KTV a week before Christmas last year with KOrean Food and KAraoke, it was regarded as KKK (our common term for "pot luck") holiday party because we shared the expenses.

KBOB Restaurant opens at 11:00AM to 10:00PM but the KTV rooms are up 24/7 open. There's no entrance fee but they are charging per room - ranging from Php 500 / hour to 1,500 / hour. The KBOB Korean buffet hour has been changed. From 11 AM last year, it's now starts at 5:00 PM until 10:00 PM and the price was also raised from Php 350 per person December of last year to Php 400.00. Set meals and ala cart dishes are available though.

We came in around 9 AM and immediately accommodated by the polite crew. My colleagues grouped themselves and decided to order Filipino favorites (a la carte) dishes such as Beef Caldereta, Pork Sisig, Lomi and steamed rice. I sipped my ice-cold beer and munch on chicken wings and undercooked potato fries while patiently waiting until 11 AM to try their Korean buffet. The Caldereta was ok as well the Lomi but the Sisig was super spicy.

If you want to avail their Korean buffet, you need to take it in the restaurant downstairs. The food I've took was not allowed to be brought upstairs to avoid sharing. Although I missed Austin and Ert's Gangnam style performance and Gemma's belter voice, I made sure not to miss every single dish this Korean buffet had offered...

I started my brunch at the Kimchi station. Showcasing a variety of interesting Korean national dishes, I  tried a small portion of everything. Every dish has an interesting and strong unfamiliar flavors and I didn't hesitate to swallow it all, eyes closed! But my only concern was remembering each name.

It was eleven in the morning and the staff were unoccupied so I bug them with questions. One crew wrote down the name and translated every dish name for me but I never verified if it's correct. Here's what she wrote on a piece of paper I've found on my camera bag earlier today; Ojing Oche (Squid), Mannel Jong (Garlic Stem) Water Crest, Korean wood Myeok Jogi (Seaweeds), O'jin O Buggeum (grilled squid), Gamja Jorim (Baby Potato), Jang Jorim (beef like adobo), Gochu Samgyupsal (Grilled Pork), Black Kong (Black beans), Dak Tori tang (Chicken Spicy Sauce), Dweji Galbi Jjim (Pork), So Galbi Jjim - Pork,Jeyuk Buggeum (Pork Guisado).

The buffet also includes dishes that we all know and love. From the soup section, kimbap, bibimbap to samgyupsal, everything looks fresh, clean and yummy.

For dessert, they offered fresh tropical fruits, buko-pandan salad and macaroni but I had no more room for dessert so I just took some pictures.

I would say that our experience in KBOB is average and is recommended. If you are looking for a post holiday party venue with good, affordable food and great sound system KTV rooms, hold your party in KBOB Restaurant and Family KTV located at the heart of Cubao.