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Sunday, May 11, 2014

10 Filipino foods that define the Philippines

Filipino food may not be as famous as that of its Thai and Vietnamese neighbors. But with more than 7,000 islands and a colorful history, this archipelago has some delicious dishes of its own.

Blessed with an abundance of seafood, tropical fruits and creative cooks, there’s more to Filipino food than the mind-boggling balut (duck embryo).

You just have to know where to find them and how to eat them.

1. Adobo

No list of Filipino food would be complete without adobo.

A ubiquitous dish in every household in the Philippines, it's Mexican in origin, but Filipinos found that cooking meat (often chicken and pork) in vinegar, salt, garlic, pepper, soy sauce and other spices, was a practical way to preserve meat without refrigeration.

This cooking style can be applied to different meats or even seafood. Sample it in a Filipino home or the garlicky version of the lamb adobo at Abe.

2. Lechon

The lechon is the most invited party guest in the Philippines. The entire pig is spit-roasted over coals, with the crisp, golden-brown skin served with liver sauce, the most coveted part.

In Cebu, the stomach of the pig is stuffed with star anise, pepper, spring onions, laurel leaves and lemongrass resulting in an extremely tasty lechon, which needs no sauce.

In Manila, get your piggy from Elar's Lechon, while in Cebu, the best is CnT Lechon.

3. Sisig

Nothing goes to waste in Filipino food. In the culinary capital of Pampanga, they turn the pork’s cheeks, head and liver into a sizzling dish called Sisig.

The crunchy and chewy texture of this appetizer is a perfect match for an cold beer. Serve with hot sauce and Knorr seasoning to suit the preference of you and your buddies.

Credit goes to Aling Lucing who invented this dish at a humble stall along the train railways in Angeles City, Pampanga. While Sisig can be found in many restaurants, try the original version at Aling Lucing Sisig.

4. Crispy pata

Not for the easily spooked, this pork knuckle is simmered, drained and deep fried until crisp. The meat is tender and juicy inside, with a crisp, crackling exterior.

Served with vinegar, soy sauce and chili. If you have a craving for this at any time, Aristocrat is open 24 hours.

5. Chicken inasal

Yes, it's grilled chicken. But in Bacolod, this is no ordinary grilled chicken.

The meat is marinated in lemongrass, calamansi, salt, pepper and garlic and brushed with achuete (annatto seeds) oil.

Every part of the chicken is grilled here from the paa (drumstick), pecho (breast), baticulon (gizzard), atay (liver), pakpak (wings) and corazon (heart). It must be eaten with a generous serving of garlic rice, with some of the orange oil used to marinade the chicken poured over the rice.

6. Taba ng talangka

The fat of a small variety of crabs are pressed and sautéed in garlic. This cholesterol-laden Filipino food is often used as a sauce for prawns or eaten with fried fish and rice.

The best taba ng talangka comes from the provinces of Pampanga, Tarlac and Bulacan. Buy a bottle or two from the markets there, or pasalubong shops like Bulacan Sweets.

7. Pancit Palabok

When Filipinos have guests, they don't skimp. The pancit palabok served on most birthday parties is oozing with flavor and textures.

The noodle dish is layered with rice noodles, a rich orange sauce made from shrimp broth, pork, hard boiled eggs, shrimps, chicharon (pork rinds) and sometimes oysters and squid. Enjoy the rich sauce of Perfect Loaf Bakery and Café.

8. Bulalo

Despite the perennial heat, Filipinos often enjoy sipping piping hot bulalo soup made with from freshly slaughtered Batangas beef.

The broth is rich with flavors seeped from the beef after boiling for hours. The bones are big, meaning more bone marrow to enjoy.

In Santo Tomas, Batangas, there's a row of restaurants along the highway serving bulalo. But the best one stands out further away in nearby Tagaytay city, called Diner Café.

9. Arroz Caldo

While chicken soup soothes sick Westerners, Filipinos turn to arroz caldo, a thick chicken rice porridge.

Cooked with ginger and sometimes garnished with a hard-boiled egg, toasted garlic and green onions, this Filipino food is sold in street-side stalls.

If dining al fresco doesn’t suit you, try it at the Via Mare outlets around Manila.

10. Fish tinola

The freshness of Cebu's rich marine life can be tasted in its fish tinola, a simple sour broth flavored with onions, tomatoes and sambag (tamarind) and cooked over coco-lumber firewood for hours.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Does spicy food really cause ulcers?

Suppose that one day you discover a great love of Indian cuisine. You try to eat it at least once a week, sometimes more, and enjoy a big spread of curries and chutneys. But after six months or so of your Indian eating extravaganza, you run into a problem. A few hours after dinner, you get a burning pain in your stomach. When you discuss this problem with a friend, she suggests that all of that spicy food may have given you an ulcer.

For decades, doctors believed that ulcers, or peptic ulcer disease (PUD), were caused by eating lots of spicy or highly acidic foods (along with smoking, drinking alcohol, poor eating habits and stress). People who developed ulcers were put on strict, bland diets. Boring food, however, didn't seem to cure the pain.

In the early 1980s, researchers discovered that none of these factors cause ulcers, although they can irritate existing ones. Your burning stomach pain could be an ulcer, but not because you started eating Indian food. It's also possible that you're simply allergic or sensitive to something in the curry, or that you have heartburn or acid reflux.

Gastric ulcers are essentially sores in the sensitive mucosal lining of the stomach. Ulcers can also occur in the lining of the first section of the small intestine, called the duodenum (duodenal ulcer), or in the esophagus (esophageal ulcer). A small number of people have a congenital defect in their small intestine called Meckel's diverticulum, which causes a small bulge, and ulcers can form there, too. People can have more than one ulcer at a time and in more than one place.

Ulcers are incredibly painful. In addition to causing burning stomach pain, they can also cause cramps, nausea, vomiting and weight loss. Sometimes the pain is worse after eating, while other times it gets better, depending on the food and how the ulcer reacts to it. Ulcers can bleed and cause people to vomit blood or pass it in their stool. Severe ones can even lead to perforations in the lining that require an operation to repair the hole.

While you can rest assured that your love of spicy food won't cause an ulcer, the actual cause might surprise you.

H. pylori, the True Cause of Ulcers

The vast majority of ulcers are caused by a spiral-shaped bacterium called Helicobacter pylori. H. pylorimakes its home in the stomach and duodenum, secreting an enzyme that protects it from the onslaught of stomach acid, and then burrows into the mucosal lining. The immune system sends white blood cells and other agents to fight the bacterium, but they have a difficult time getting into the lining. Nutrients sent to help the white blood cells actually end up feeding the bacteria. A flourishing crop of H. pylori bacteria can eventually cause ulcers.

You may have H. pylori bacteria living in your stomach or duodenum right now and not realize it. According to the National Institutes of Health, about 20 percent of American adults under the age of 40 and 50 percent of adults over the age of 60 have it [source: NIH]. In total, about 3 million people worldwide are infected [source: Helicobacter Foundation]. For most people, it doesn't cause any outward problems. But for some, H. pylori causes peptic ulcers or even stomach cancer if the patient goes decades with a constant infection.

Doctors don't know exactly why some H. pylori carriers develop problems and others don't. They don't know exactly how it's spread, either, although it seems to be through food, water and person-to-person contact, such as kissing. In developing countries with crowded, unsanitary conditions, there is a greater incidence of infection. Some researchers believe that H. pylori is hereditary.

The good news is that H. pylori is treatable, and both infection and reinfection aren't common in developed countries. One you've tested positive, treatment usually involves two weeks of antibiotics to get rid of the infection, a proton pump inhibitor (PPI) such as Prilosec to lower the amount of stomach acid, and abismuth drug such as Pepto-Bismol to coat the stomach lining. H. pylori can be difficult to get rid of and require a few different types of antibiotics to clear up the infection.

H. pylori is the main cause of ulcers, but not the only cause. NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as naproxen, ibuprofen or aspirin can also irritate the mucosal lining. The risk is greatest in people who take high doses for long periods of time, and your doctor may prescribe a PPI to counteract the effects.

If you're worried that you have an ulcer -- or if you have any of the symptoms -- you should definitely see your doctor, but keep in mind that your love of spicy food isn't to blame.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Top 6 Exotic Foods You Must Try Once in Your Life

When it comes to yummy exotic food, we think of the classics: eating a poutine in a Montreal restaurant, chowing down on green curry in Thailand, butter chicken in India and so on. But international cuisine is full of delicious dishes that you might not know about yet. ES guest Caroline Simpson joins us for a look at the top 6 exotic foods you must try once in your life.

1. Aligot, France

Granted, this may not be the finest of French dishes. But in the “comfort food” category, aligot scores major points. Those who dig cheese are going to love this one: Melted fresh “Tomme” cheese (some kind of super fresh cheddar), potatoes, cream, butter, garlic… this thick and gooey cheese paste is simply delicious. (Photo: Tavallai)

2. Kobe Beef, Japan

This world famous Japanese delicacy is a definite must-try… if you can afford it! A portion of this fancy treat can cost up to $300,00. Kobe beef is made from Tajima cattle, raised in very strict and meticulous conditions in the Hyogo prefecture in Japan. The sophisticated lifestyle of these animals includes a diet of apples and beer, regular massages as well as sake-infused brushing sessions. All of this care result in an incomparable buttery and tender meat. (Photo: Maarten1979)

3. Rendang, Indonesia

This Indonesian dish might not look very good, but do not be fooled: It might just be the most delicious, juicy, tender, tasty and yummy slow-cooked beef dish you’ll ever try. Fine pieces of beef cooked in a mix of coconut milk, lemongrass, chilies, garlic, shallots, turmeric leaves and more for hours on end… The result? Meet that’ll melt in your mouth and an explosion of flavors. (Photo:Goodiesfirst)

4. Tumbarranchos, Venezuela

This messy looking Venezuelan dish is some kind of variation of a hamburger. Mortadella, cheese, vegetables, various spicy sauces squeezed between two fried arepas, a.k.a Venezuelan corn breads. Yum.

5. Deep-Fried Mars Bar, Scotland

People with high cholesterol should stay away from this one. Invented in the fish and chips shops of northern Scotland, a deep-fried Mars bar is exactly as its name suggests: A Mars chocolate bar dipped in batter and deep-fried until crispy on the outside, soft and melting on the inside. Needless to say, this isn’t a healthy dish… But, my gosh, is it ever delicious! (Photo: Christian Cable)

6. Fugu, Japan

Japanese cuisine made it twice in this top 6, and it deserves it. Fugu is equally famous as Kobe beef, but not for the same reason. This fish has a deadly reputation: When not prepared properly, it can kill the one who eats it in seconds. Fugu fish contains poisonous tetrodotoxin in its organs and has to be sliced in a very precise way. But apparently, the risk is worth taking, for the fish’s flesh is indescribably delicious. (Photo: Zordor)

Caroline Simpson is a writer, a translator and a travel addict who’s always looking for ways to make life easier. She works as a freelance blogger for Tourism Montreal.

5 fatty foods that will help you stay healthy

Always choosing low-fat foods? Don't fall for the fat-free trap. Instead, choose these sources of healthy fat to feed your body and stay satiated, too..

Fat isn't the bad guy. Although we associate dietary fat with weight gain and heart disease, some types of fat are good for us. The key is choosing the right fat and eschewing the bad. Here's the lowdown on "good" versus "bad" fats—and five great sources of healthy fats everyone should include in his/her daily diet.

"Good" fats vs. "bad" fats

According to the Harvard School of Public Health, when it comes to weight gain or disease, the type of fat you consume is more important than the amount of fat you consume.

"Bad" fats such as trans fat and saturated fat (found in processed food, and, in smaller amounts, red meat and whole-milk dairy) increase your risk of certain diseases like obesity, stroke and heart disease.

"Good" monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats have the opposite effect. They provide energy, reduce inflammation, improve blood cholesterol levels, stabilize heart rhythms, and play a role in the production of estrogen, testosterone, vitamin D and other important compounds your body needs.

Good fats are also a dieter's friend because they can help you feel satiated after meals and maintain steady blood sugar levels for longer between meals, says Dr. Melissa Hershberg , author of The Rebel Diet: Break The Rules, Lose The Weight.

Five sources of "good" fats

1. Oily fish like mackerel, salmon and sardines

Rich in omega-3 fatty acids (a polyunsaturated fat), these fish are delicious as well as healthy. They have full-flavoured flesh and need just a dash of lemon and sea salt if grilled. Canned versions provide an extra boost of calcium if you eat the soft bones.

2. Seeds and tree nuts

Flax, hemp and salba seeds are high in omega-3s, while almonds and walnuts boast monounsaturated fat. All are easy to add to meals and snacks. Stir a spoonful of seeds into your smoothie, yogurt or cereal or incorporate them into baking recipes. Almonds and walnuts can be tossed into any salad. Almonds cook well too, and adding a handful is a delicious way to beef up vegetarian dishes like stir-fries.

3. Olive oil

Olive oil is a great source of monounsaturated fat. A bottle (choose extra-virgin for the best quality and flavour) should be in every cupboard—use it to make homemade salad dressings and to flavour steamed veggies.

4. Avocado

This fruit is another great source of monounsaturated fat. Mash it with lime juice, salt and pepper to taste, and you've got guacamole (add diced onion, chopped tomatoes, and garnish with cilantro and jalapeño for added oomph). Or add sliced avocado to a salad or sandwich.

5. Dark green veggies like broccoli, spinach and kale

Eaten regularly, these veggies provide plenty of omega-3 fatty acids. They're great lightly sautéed with olive oil and garlic, or can be added to soups and casseroles.

"Good" fat in good portions is a dieter's best friend

Although good fats are beneficial, you can definitely get too much of a good thing—at least if weight control is a concern, says Hershberg.

"Although fats like the ones mentioned above are healthy, it's important to watch portion sizes," she says. "This is because fat has more than double the calories of carbs or protein, gram for gram." Hersheberg notes that while there are nine calories in a gram of fat, a gram of carbs or protein contains only four calories, so you get much more volume for the same amount of energy.

"It's important to watch nuts," Hershberg adds. "Fifteen almonds is a good portion size for a snack, totaling 100 calories and nine grams of fat."

The upshot: include healthy fats in your diet. But as with anything, don't go overboard. When it comes to healthy eating, moderation is always key.


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