Day 107: Calamansi Juice

Calamansi Juice

Calamansi Juice

There’s a produce vendor at my local farmers market that I’ve become friendly with and one day I asked if he could get calamansi for me. None of the other vendors had it, but being a kababayan I had a feeling he’d be able to find some for me. He promised that he’d have some the following week and true to his word, he had a few pounds of freshly picked calamansi.

The calamansi is a small tart fruit that Filipinos use in many dishes. Healthy trees bear fruit all year long; it’s typically squeezed onto pancit or sisig, but it can be used in a variety of ways. It’s used in my favorite dessert these days, mango empanadas, and after I had made my latest batch, I had plenty of calamansi left over.

There was only one thing to do with all of that fruit, of course: juice it. My parents made this throughout my childhood, a cure for whatever illness my brothers or I had. My dad liked to serve it hot and it did seem to have magical healing powers, but I prefer the ice cold version. With the weather jumping back to the 80s, the juice on the rocks is my preferred way to keep cool.

For anyone who can find some of this delicious fruit, here’s a simple recipe for calamansi juice.


Day 84: Backcourt in the Front

History: Jordan Clarkson and Jeremy Lin

History: Jordan Clarkson and Jeremy Lin

I had just posted how happy I was to see more and more Filipino Americans and Asian Americans in the news, when history was made: my beloved Los Angeles Lakers starting backcourt was Jordan Clarkson and Jeremy Lin. Although these two will never be confused with Magic and Scott or Kobe and Fisher, it was A Moment due to the fact that they were the first Asian American starting backcourt in NBA history.

Lin is a Chinese American and well-known for Linsanity, the two weeks where he absolutely ruled New York and the sports world. It was the feel-good story of the year, not only for Asian Americans, but for sports geeks like myself.

Clarkson is a Filipino American who joined the Lakers this year and after stints in the Development League, made it to the big team.

Confession: I did not actually watch the game, something I could not have said just two years ago. Since the Lakers bungled the Dwight Howard signing, I’ve lost interest in my team, due to mismanagement (primarily in ownership; yes, that means Jim Buss) and a lack of talent. I support the team, obviously, but after watching a lifetime of games where the Lakers were contenders (if not for the title, then at least a solid playoff team), it’s tough to get excited about a team that has no shot of doing well in the postseason, let alone actually qualifying for it.

Still, the moment was not lost on me and it wasn’t lost on Lin, either. That’s his Instagram photo above, which he captioned with a note about the history he and Clarkson made. Here’s hoping they can somehow drag the Lakers back to respectability next year.

Day 82: Looking Back, Looking Forward

Manny Pacquiao training run

Manny Pacquiao training run

Coming of age during the 70s and 80s, I was aware of the news and happenings of the time, especially when it came to pop culture and sports. I remember the controversy of Three’s Company (a single man living with two single women *gasp*), the Lakers perpetually contending and winning NBA championships, and the revelation that Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker’s father (oops, spoiler alert). I know where I was when Reagan was shot (junior high), then later when the Challenger blew up (high school). I recall waking up one morning learning that John Lennon had been murdered.

What I don’t remember? Much of anything to do with Filipino Americans or Asian Americans. Sure, I remember when Marcos was  overthrown and the rise of People Power (and the tale of Imelda’s shoes), but it was more in the context of world news, as in the Other news that wasn’t mainstream, or didn’t really matter. Maybe I wasn’t looking hard enough then, or maybe I wasn’t as aware as I thought. I would only learn the name Vincent Chin when I was in college during the 90s.

Today, though, it’s not uncommon to see my social media feeds filled with stories of Manny Pacquiao or Jeremy Lin or Russell Peters or any other Filipino or Asian. For middle-aged Filipino Americans like myself, to be able to debate whether or not a Filipino is the greatest prizefighter of this generation is akin to seeing the yellow, blue, red, and white of the Filipino flag planted in Mars. It was absolutely unfathomable then.

And yet, here we are today and Manny is about to take part of the biggest fight of this generation. Last night, a Chinese American led the Lakers in scoring. This weekend, during the NCAA tournament, the hero of the Maryland-Valparaiso game was an Indian American. During my workout this morning, I listened to a podcast interview with one of the funniest comedians on the planet, Russell Peters, as he talked about some of the racism he encountered as an Anglo-Indian raised in Canada.

I love the fact that George Takei has had a career resurgence so late in life and that his Facebook posts are the most re-shared among my friends. I love that Filipinos are frequently seen on the music-contest reality shows, from Jessica Sanchez to the Filharmonic. I love that one of the top sitcoms on ABC is centered around an Asian American family. I love that the name of the sitcom is Fresh Off the Boat, with all of the baggage that comes with such a loaded phrase.

Most of all, I love that for every Takei, Pacquiao, Peters, Lin, Fresh Off the Boat, and more, there will be even more Fil-Ams and Asian-Ams doing similar things in the future. I’m looking forward to those days, but will always look back to remember how far we’ve come.

Day 77: Wordless Wednesday


I like the hashtag #WordlessWednesday on Google+. There are a lot of great photographers that share their pictures, which are always beautiful and inspiring.

For my #WordlessWednesday contribution tonight, I’m going with my mango empanadas. It’s the second time I’ve made them in a week, thanks again to Marvin Gapultos‘ wonderful The Adobo Road Cookbook. The photo might not be as beautiful or inspiring as others on Google+, but I’m sure it tastes better than the others.

Day 67: Seafood Sunday

Adobong Pusit

Adobong Pusit

I always use my mom’s recipe for adobo and it’s either chicken or pork. After a successful dinner last week from The Adobo Road Cookbook, though, I decided to try its recipe for adobong pusit. My wife and I love squid so cooking it adobo-style would fit right in during Seafood Sunday, which is what I decided to call today.

I’m happy to report that I’m now 2-for-2 in delicious dishes from the cookbook. Kudos to Marvin Gapultos for providing good eats that are easy to make. Although I felt there was a bit too much sauce (mom’s recipe is still the best, obviously, lest I be struck down by lightning), my wife and I were totally happy with the meal. Of course, the real test comes tomorrow, after the flavors have melded overnight. The best adobo always tastes better the next day, so I’m eagerly waiting round two of the meal.

Day 59: Pancit Molo

Pancit Molo

Pancit Molo

My first attempt at pancit molo (Filipino wonton soup) was a success, thanks my wife’s copy of The Adobo Road Cookbook by Marvin Gapultos. Hardcore food truck fans might recognize the author’s name: he was the founder of Southern California’s first Filipino food truck, The Manila Machine. For those lucky enough to have eaten there, The Manila Machine served wonderful versions of Filipino favorites like adobo, sisig, lumpia, and more. I’ll never forget their delicious sliders (on pan de sal, of course) and ube cupcakes.  Sadly, the truck is long gone, but this cookbook does have a few of its recipes; I can’t wait to make the sisig using pork belly, among dozens of others.

The recent rains put me in the mood for soup. I had planned on making sinigang na baboy, but we had it earlier in the week at one of our favorite Filipino eateries. I love my mother-in-law’s pancit molo and after a quick search in Gapultos’ cookbook, I found the recipe.

It wasn’t a difficult recipe to follow; it was labor-intensive yet strangely relaxing. In fact, I learned that making dozens and dozens of dumplings was a nice way to spend a rainy late afternoon. The soup and the dumplings were delicious and, more importantly, they passed the does-my-wife-like-it taste test. And since I used more shrimp, ginger, and patis than the recipe called for, I decided there was only one name for my version of pancit molo: Pancit YOLO.

Lots of labor required for the dumplings, but totally worth it.

Lots of labor required for the dumplings, but totally worth it.

Day 56: Healthy Hump Day

Fettucine Cauliflower Alfredo

Fettucine Cauliflower Alfredo

As much as I loved last night’s abundance of pork-based Filipino dishes, tonight my wife and I got back to our healthier eating. She made her excellent cauliflower alfredo sauce with fettucine and baked green beens. It’s a simple meal and I’ve been surprised how much I enjoy the cauliflower dishes she’s made (my other favorite being her mashed cauliflower “potatoes”). As for the greens beans, I’m a big fan of garlic and slivered almonds, which certainly weren’t lacking in this dish.

The only problem with tonight’s dinner? No leftovers.

Day 55: Family Celebration


Gaviola family favorite Salo-Salo Grill was the site of another celebration tonight. Whenever we get together here, we tend to order too much food. It’s consistently excellent Filipino food, served in abundant portions. I call it The Place Where Diets Go To Die.

Clarissa Wei, one of my favorite food bloggers, recently posted this guide to Filipino food in Los Angeles. There are  some great spots listed; I’ve been to a few of them and others were new to me. I would’ve loved to have seen Salo-Salo on there, but it’s still a solid list. Newbies to Filipino food should start with her article; better yet, I’d point them to one of the Filipino-American restaurant icons of L.A.: Bernie’s Teriyaki.

Bernie’s has been serving inexpensive plates of Filipino barbecue for decades in the same location. Yes, the name suggests Japanese food, but that taste is undeniably Filipino. In fact, I prefer Bernie’s over Grill City, which was one of the places in Wei’s article. Unlike Grill City, Bernie’s doesn’t overdo it with the barbecue sauce and glaze; it’s a more subtle taste and there’s less fat on their pork sticks, which sets them apart from most Filipino barbecue.

In my family, we’re on generation three of the Bernie’s fan club.  The menu isn’t as Filipino-heavy or authentic as Salo-Salo’s menu, but those barbecue plates are deeply satisfying and inexpensive to boot. The location is ideal during baseball season: you can pick up a plate to go before making the short trek to Dodger Stadium.

Day 28: When Manny Met Floyd


When Manny Met Floyd. Photo from

I saw the Manny Pacquiao documentary last week. Since I’m a huge Manny fan, I knew I would love the film. There was nothing in it that was new or relevatory for us diehards, but casual or non-fans will appreciate the boxer’s rags-to-riches story. It’s the classic underdog tale, with an extremely likable protagonist.

Of course, these days, you can’t say Pacquiao without mentioning Floyd Mayweather; there have been talks for years about a Pacquiao-Mayweather superfight. My brother said it when the idea was first floated by the media and it took me a while to agree with him: this fight will never happen. No matter what the terms of the fight are, Floyd seems to come up with another excuse: blood tests, purse splits, promotion companies … nothing is ever just right for Floyd.

In recent weeks, supposedly there have  been increased talks between the camps, which led to last night’s interesting moment at the Heat-Bucks game, pictured above. The two best fighters of this generation met at courtside and exchanged numbers.

Will they finally meet in the ring? Frankly, I no longer care. Both fighters are past their primes and the only thing either fighter gains are enormous paychecks. Yes, it’s the match that fans have wanted for years, but it won’t be anything like what it could’ve been five years ago. No matter who wins, it’ll always be, “Well, if they would’ve fought in their primes …”

Back then, Pacquiao would’ve destroyed Mayweather: Floyd has never fought anybody with Pacquiao’s devastating combination of speed and power. It’s the speed that generated Manny’s vicious punches: it’s those bombs that you can’t see that do the most damage.

If they fought now? I’ve got Floyd by a boring decision. He hasn’t sustained as much damage during his career and he’s perfected the win-without-risking-too-much style of boxing. As the years have passed, Manny has slowed down. He still has bursts of quickness, but nothing like what he showed against Ricky Hatton or Miguel Cotto. The wars and the devastating knockout against Juan Manuel Marquez certainly didn’t help his speed. Physically, I don’t think Manny could make Floyd fight his fight anymore. He’d probably try to box with Floyd, which is exactly what Mayweather wants. Pacquiao is at his best when things are chaotic in the ring, especially after he gets tagged and bangs his gloves together, as if to say, “Okay, now we’re fighting!”

It’s a shame, too, since anybody who loves fighting loves Manny. He’s a bit reckless in the ring, but that’s what appealed to so many boxing fans: he’s a throwback to guys who fought to win. It’s a big difference from boxing not to lose.