Sunday, August 03, 2008

Food foraging

Food friends find Manila a frustrating place to live, because of the difficulty in finding consistent purveyors of ingredients. You may end up going to what seems like a million places just to put together a meal. Supermarkets, farmers' markets, specialized delis, and, if you're lucky to know them, importers bringing in the high end goods. There's been a growing interest in exotic food (exotic to the Filipino palate), but if you like something and have marked down a store as a source, there's no guarantee that they'll have it again a few months down the road.

An acquaintance complained that she couldn't find refried beans anymore, and even in places that I know used to stock the items, I couldn't find them. Same with when I had a hankering for edamame, I had to go to three stores to find myself a half kilo of the legumes. And don't get me started on sourcing vanilla extract or vanilla beans.

At a recent visit to the Healthy Options store in Shangri-la Plaza, I did see two things that might interest those friends who share a joy in discovering a new item available in the local market. HO is a higher end store, targetting the growing population of Filipinos and residents who need access to gluten free, sugar free, lactose free and other foods created for health conscious demands. Organic, free range, high fiber.... It's the closest thing to a Whole Foods, in a very small scale.

First find was dried buttermilk powder (Bob's Red Mill label), which you can mix with water for recipes requiring buttermilk. Since I've made replacement buttermilk by adding a bit of vinegar to regular milk, I don't know if I need a pouch of dried buttermilk in my pantry. But hey, I can now make a pancake mix with the dried buttermilk, give it away for gifts.

The other find was at the milk substitute wall. Along with the soy milks, rice milks, almond milks, I came across a small supply of horchata! A rice/almond based drink with a strong milky consistency and cinnamony flavor, it's very popular in Mexican taquerias in LA, plus friend J said she loved them in Spain. All the online references to horchata seem to source it to Spanish conquistadors bringing it over in the heyday of Spain's colonial period in North America. It does seem to have become popular in Mexican society, and it's definitely a favorite and refreshing drink when eating spicy, salsa laden tex-mex munchies. I had my first horchata in LA late last December; finding a box of the drink in a local health food store was exciting (in a food forager fun way).


Food finds at the market can go both ways - heading out early in the morning expecting a fried cruller only to be told they don't cook when it's raining (what???); having lunch with a feast of coffee barbecue ribs, bacalao, and waray adobo over paella (I mostly wanted the tutong, toasted rice bits at the base of the paella) with friends. I coerced a friend to taste the homemade buko-lychee sherbet, and we also tried the japanese pancakes cooked hot and fresh near the roasted calf. So many more inspirational tidbits, and it's always one favorite way to spend a Saturday morning.


Katrina said...

Yeah, if you can just mix vinegar with milk, why buy the artificial powdered kind? I'd rather buy the real thing that Pia Lim sells.

I want the Horchata, though! I've been curious about it since Joey blogged about it. I'm not sure how authentic it is, but I saw horchata on Fish Out of Water's menu and ordered it -- and enjoyed it! If the real thing's anything like that, or better, then I want more. :-P

corali_lopez said...

Hi Everyone,
Horchata is very easy to make on your own.
- Soak one cup of uncooked rice and one cinnamon stick in 2 cups of water overnight (or at least a few hours)
- Add to blender with 3 more cups of water, blend until smooth (may take a few minutes)
- Add sugar (to taste) and blend again
- Pour some into a tall glass full of ice

Authentic horchata is a bit grainy but still very delicious!

mtan said...

Hi Katrina, thanks for the tip, I'll check out Fish Out of Water's horchata, and you can try the Healthy Options version.

Thanks for the recipe Corali_Lopez! I found a recipe that included ground almonds with the rice too.

ChichaJo said...

I love Saturday mornings at the market :) Especially when a good snack and a good chat is involved :)

I like Healthy Options for it's great grains selection :)

Horchata in Spain is made of chufa, some kind of nut which I don't know the English word for...but I'm sure google will :) I love it! They used to sell some in Terry's -- it came in a tetrapak but was not even close to the fresh ones in Spain...siiigh.

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