Chicken Sopas

Chicken Sopas

Hello Everyone! I am now in the Sunshine State of Queensland where I spent the weekend at a family friend’s farm in the countryside of Cedar Vale, near Jimboomba. They have a lovely country home with about 4 acres of land, and an alpaca(!), a donkey, three goats, and six chickens. Today, my family and I caught the bus to the city of Brisbane where we will be staying for 2 nights before heading back to the country and then to the Gold Coast for a day. Anyway, it’s actually already late here, I mean past 11pm isn’t late, but I need to go to bed and start early tomorrow as we are spending the day at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary! Finally after 5 years in Australia, I get to cuddle a koala and feed kangaroos! So I’ll keep tonight’s post short so I can get as much z’s as I can.

Chicken Sopas Ingredients

Tonight’s recipe is a Filipino classic; a soup dish made of shredded boneless chicken, macaroni noodles, a bit of milk, and some vegetables to flavour the dish. This dish is actually common for breakfast or a snack time treat during cold and rainy seasons. The difference between a regular chicken soup and a chicken sopas is the use of milk, either fresh or evaporated for a richer flavour. Other meats besides chicken can be added to the dish, such as diced hotdogs or luncheon meat in some recipes, and also chicken liver. I think my Mom has made a sopas dish with chicken liver before; didn’t fancy it. Play with the ingredients if you wish – the pasta and vegetables may also vary so feel free to use the appropriate ingredients in which you desire!

Note: If anywhere you see ‘soaps’ instead of ‘sopas’, it’s not a typo, it’s autocorrect and I’m a bit tired to go through and change them if you see any beyond this point – it’s happened to the first two above and I managed to go back and change those; but otherwise Chicken Soaps sounds like an intriguing dish! Also, on the ingredients photograph, you will notice the chicken wings. We actually used chicken spare ribs in this recipe but my Mom was insistent on photographing the wings because it looked ‘prettier’ than the ribs.

Chicken Sopas Ingredients



  • 500g chicken spare ribs, washed and cleaned
  • 250g tri-colour shells
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup fresh milk
  • 3 small red onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
  • 1 small carrot, julienned
  • Half head cabbage, roughly chopped
  • Ground salt and pepper to taste


  1. Heat oil in a large pot and sauté the garlic until golden brown. Add in the onions and cook until soft, about 2 minutes. Add in the chicken ribs, seasoning with salt and pepper. Give it a good mix and then let it cook for about 10 minutes, checking and mixing regularly to avoid the chicken meat sticking to the bottom of the pot.
  2. Add in the water and bring it back to a boil. Once boiling, add in the shells and cook according to packet instructions, mine took about 10 minutes.
  3. About 5-6 minutes into the 10, add the carrots and cabbage. Continue cooking until pasta is tender. Add in the milk and turn the heat off.
  4. Serve hot and enjoy!

Chicken Sopas


– Ally xx

Ube Halaya (Purple Yam Jam)

Ube Halaya (Purple Yam Jam)


Hello Everyone! Today’s recipe is a dessert that is made from grated and boiled purple yam which is locally known as ‘Ube’ in the Philippines. Besides the purple yam jam (Ube Halaya), many different desserts such and pastries such as ice cream, tarts, and cakes make use of this root crop. Halaya (en español: jalea), directly translates to jelly or jam, but it is hardly a traditional jelly or jam.

Ube Root

I know I basically say this is every post that I upload, but let’s face it, if it not one of my favourites then I wouldn’t be posting the recipe online! Anyway, this is also one of my favourite Filipino desserts besides Leche Flan. Here in Brunei, you can find this root crop in the local markets known as ubi belayar ranging from $3.00 to $5.00, and sometimes even $7.00 per kilo especially if it has been newly harvested (you just have to shop around to find the stall that sells for much cheaper). We managed to buy some from an old man selling them for $3.00/kg and the root still looked fresh.

Ube Halaya (Purple Yam Jam) Process

Ube Halaya (Purple Yam Jam) Process

I am not sure of how readily available the purple yam is in various countries, but I am aware that you can buy ready-made boiled and grated purple yam in Asian stores. Having a prepared product such as this definitely saves time in the kitchen, but if it’s definitely available raw from the markets, I definitely recommend making it from scratch and burn some calories in the kitchen with this dish! In the past, I have found that by just grating and pounding the flesh, you still get lumps of the yam in your end result, and therefore not as smooth. We therefore pass the flesh through a sieve as well to get rid of any remaining lumps. A lot of work, but a stellar end result; smooth and creamy lump-free halaya!

Ube Halaya (Purple Yam Jam) Ingredients



  • 2.5kg purple yam, skin on, thoroughly washed and scrubbed
  • 1 can (395g) condensed milk
  • 125g unsalted butter, chilled


  1. Submerge the purple yam in a very large pot (the largest you have!) of hot water. Bring the water to a boil and cook the purple yam for 30-45 minutes or until the yam is soft and tender. If you don’t have a pot big enough to fit the yam, you may cut it on half (or quarters if needed).
  2. Once tender, remove from the pot and set aside to cool down before peeling the skin off.
  3. Working it batches, finely grate the purple yam. Once you’ve done that, get out your mortar and pestle and get pounding! Once you’re done with the pounding, get you sieve out and press the mashed purple yam through the sieve. This ensures that your ‘jam’ is smooth and there are no lumps in your mixture. This is probably the most labour-intensive part of the recipe!
  4. Next, heat a large cooking pot on low and add in the butter to melt.
  5. Once the butter has completely melted, add in the condensed milk and stir well. Add the purple yam in and stir occasionally so that the mixture does not stick to the bottom of the pot. Cook until the texture or the mixture becomes really thick (about 20-25 minutes). When cooked, turn the heat off and let it sit in the cooking pot for another half hour before transferring them into moulds/containers.
  6. Refrigerate for at least two hours, then serve and enjoy with family and/or friends!

Ube Halaya (Purple Yam Jam)

PS: It was very hard as to not resist the temptation to wrap this yam jam in spring roll wrappers as an experiment to see if they would work just as well as wrapping leche flan. Guess what? It was successful! There’s this phrase in Tagalog that you would use when you have too much of something that you get fed up, but it’s quite the opposite when you have it wrapped in spring roll pastry; it becomes “hindi nakakasuya”. Anyway, basically add about a teaspoon or two of purple yam jam on top of a spring roll wrapper together with a few strips of fresh coconut; then fold, locking the wrapper on each side. Freeze it overnight before frying and viola! Crispy Fried Ube Halaya. You’re welcome.

Cripsy Fried Ube Halaya (Purple Yam Jam)


– Ally xx

Crispy Fried Leche Flan

Hello Everyone! Firstly, I would just like to say to you all that I am back in Sydney! Currently staying at a friends place while waiting for my Mom and two younger sisters to arrive in Sydney on Saturday morning before we start our Australian tour!I’ll be showing them around Sydney, and then we will be off to Melbourne, Brisbane, and then back again for my graduation ceremony in mid-June! Now because of all our travels, I will momentarily cease Review Sundays, only because I don’t have any places in my folders to write about, and also because there is a possibility that I won’t have the time (or most likely won’t be bothered) to write reviews on places I’ve visited on this trip, during the trip. Once I’ve settled back down from my 1-month vacation, then I will get back into Review Sundays; but don’t fret, I will still be uploading recipes twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays as I’ve cooked up a whole lot of dishes while I was in Brunei to prepare for this vacation period of mine.

Crispy Fried Leche Flan Process

Anyway, today’s recipe is a little twist on what I have been making for a while now – mainly for lunch/dinner parties, or during Christmas and New Year celebrations. Or sometimes, I make it upon the request of my friends for their birthdays (Jialing especially) or just whenever they want me to make it for them when I invite them over to my place. During my recent trip to the Philippines, I encountered ‘Crispy Fried Leche Flan’ on two different menus. I thought long and hard about the possibility and HOW they are able to deep-fry a soft, smooth, and silky custard – at one point I thought, battered flan? Anyway, weird techniques were going through my mind and it killed me not knowing how it was possible – until I ordered it that is. I did not expect it to be wrapped spring roll style; such a clever idea! The first time I had these babies was at Catalino’s Restaurant (Villa Javierto) in Lucena City. I was so amazed by the lovely golden brown, crispy spring roll pastry complimented by an oozy, smooth flan filling with a side of soft caramel dip. It was like love at first bite with these I tell you. Never have a ever heard of crispy fried flan until this very day at Catalino’s; and I was even more excited to see it on Mesa’s menu in the city! However, as I probably mentioned in that blog review, Mesa’s crispy flans did not live up to the hype of my first experience. To quote my blog review, I said that theirs were “small, not so crispy rolls of flan that didn’t quite taste like flan in my opinion and more like steamed egg”.

Ever since my trip to the Philippines and encountering these beautiful rolls of delight, I knew I had to take it to my kitchen and whip up a batch of these. At first I was unsure of how it was they managed to handle and wrap soft flan; I thought that they needed to go into the freezer first and once frozen you could handle them easily. My mother showed me otherwise; she handled the slices of flan with great care, and was very gentle with them when wrapping them. The trick to get them nice and crispy is basically the same with the plantain rolls I posted roughly a month back; by freezing them overnight and frying them straight away with no defrosting required.

Leche Flan Ingredients

Crispy Fried Leche Flan Ingredients

PS: Before I start with the recipe, I just want to point out that I showed these images to one of my friends prior to writing this post because I told her about how I made crispy leche flan. She wanted to know how it was possible and so I showed her how it was done. Her first reaction to the side of caramel dip – “IS THAT FISH SAUCE?” I seriously could not stop laughing.


  • 1 recipe Leche Flan (Crème Caramel)
    • 6 egg yolks, at room temperature
    • 1 can (395g) condensed milk, at room temperature
    • 1 cup milk, at room temperature
    • 6 tsp caster sugar
    • 1 & 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Large springroll wrappers


  1. Make a batch of leche flan prior to starting this recipe. Make sure that you refrigerate them for at least 6 hours before working with them. You can find the recipe linked above in the ingredient list. Instead of using small round moulds, I suggest you use square moulds (or in my case I used oval because that’s what I had) and cut them into thick rectangular strips. Do not discard the caramel sauce, instead pour it into a sauce dish and serve alongside the crispy fried leche flan rolls.
  2. Place the slice of flan on top of a spring roll wrapper and fold, locking the wrapper on each side. then place in a container and repeat until all the slices of flan have been wrapped. Freeze overnight.
  3. In a small (or medium, depending on how many you’re going to fry) pan, heat the oil over medium-high. Make sure it is quite hot before adding the wrapped flans in. Fry until the wrapper turns golden brown.
  4. Serve hot during dessert or meryenda, with ice cream on the side if you wish. Enjoy!

Crispy Fried Leche Flan


– Ally xx

Kamayan sa Palaisdaan

Kamayan sa Palaisdaan

Hello Everyone and welcome back to an all new Review Sunday! Most of the food that you’ll see here have either already been touched on in previous reviews, and/or recipes, so I may not write much about the food only because it’s nothing quite so special. Kamayan sa Palaisdaan has both a Hotel & Resort, as well as a restaurant, both carrying the same menu but differ in ambience. It is the ambience of the restaurant just down the road from the Hotel & Resort that made me want to write a review and share this place with you – floating bahay kubos on bamboo rafts!

Kamayan sa Palaisdaan

Other than the ambience, I couldn’t really pick out anything special from their menu that really made me want to say, “I’m coming back here for this particular dish!” Though they say it’s an ideal getaway restaurant for seafood lovers, the seafood did not really impress – well I mean, we barely ordered any seafood to be honest.

I don’t know why I am so negative when it comes to reviewing Filipino food. The only reason I can think of is that most of the food that you get dining out, you can easily cook it up yourself at home and it tastes exactly the same. From the dishes that you will see below, I can definitely cook up all the dishes. I guess it’s because I know how to cook these dishes, that I comment the way I do. I’m not saying that these are terrible dishes; if anything, they are my favourite dishes to have when eating at home. It’s just that when I dine out, I want to eat something that I can’t cook myself (or I guess in my case, haven’t attempted to cook yet).

Kamayan sa Palaisdaan - SINIGANG atbp: Sinigang na Sugpo
SINIGANG atbp: Sinigang na Sugpo (₱320.00)

Sugpo, as you can already tell from the photograph above is prawn (or shrimp if you’re from that part of the world that calls them that despite being huge-ass prawns). Sinigang is a soup that is characterised by its sour and savoury taste that is most often associated with tamarind. This is a dish that my mom would make a few times a month, varying between different meats such as beef and pork, and seafood like prawns and fish, accompanied by all sorts of vegetables from daikon, water spinach, okra, taro corms, etc. This is a dish I love especially when the weather is quite chilly.

Kamayan sa Palaisdaan - SINIGANG atbp: Tinolang Manok
SINIGANG atbp: Tinolang Manok (₱255.00)

This is another dish that my mom would always make, and also great for cold and rainy days. Tinola is a ginger and onion based soup with manok (chicken) as the usual main ingredient, best complimented with green papaya wedges (an alternative is chayote/chokos) and chili leaves. Again, a dish that I love, but very close to the way that I’d make it at home.

Kamayan sa Palaisdaan - SIZZLERS: Sisig Pork
SIZZLERS: Sisig Pork (₱205.00)

Of course, a meal in the Philippines would not be complete without sisig! I was actually quite disappointed with this sisig dish though – it came to the table, not only without a freshly cracked egg on top of it, but it also wasn’t sizzling and was very dry.

Kamayan sa Palaisdaan - IHAW: Inihaw na Spareribs
IHAW: Inihaw na Spareribs (₱310.00)

I love ihaw, and I love spareribs. Sadly, these ribs were dry and weren’t very tender.

Kamayan sa Palaisdaan - IHAW: Inihaw na Pork Chop
IHAW: Inihaw na Pork Chop (₱320.00)

The pork chop option was much better than the spareribs; juicy, tender, and full of that lovely char-grilled flavour.

Kamayan sa Palaisdaan - VEGETABLES: Chopsuey Chicken
VEGETABLES: Chopsuey Chicken (₱185.00)

Whenever we dine out, we try to avoid dishes like chopsuey, but because we couldn’t decide on any other vegetable dishes (I know there’s chicken in it but it was somehow placed under the ‘vegetables’ section on the menu). Why we try to avoid this dish is simply because it’s basically just stir-fried vegetables and nothing more exciting to that.

Kamayan sa Palaisdaan - PRITO: Daing na Bangus
PRITO: Daing na Bangus (₱160.00)

Bangus (milkfish) is the national fish of the Philippines and can be prepared and cooked in various ways. ‘Daing’ refers to dried fish from the Philippines. Fish prepared as daing is usually split open, gutted, salted liberally, and then sun and air-dried. I love eating fried bangus with a bit of pickled green papaya on the side with plain rice. But honestly speaking though, why order fried fish at a restaurant? In my case, because I love it and I couldn’t find anything else in the menu that attracted me to it.

Kamayan sa Palaisdaan - SALADS: Ensaladang Pako
SALADS: Ensaladang Pako (₱125.00)

Quite possibly the worst dish from this place based on my taste buds and opinion. For starters, the taste of what seemed to be raw pako (an edible Fiddlehead fern) did not sit too well with me; it tasted bitter. What made it worse for me were the raw onions and the obvious canned sardines in tomato sauce. Why did I order this? Well I didn’t, my uncle did. I don’t think I even touched this dish after a small bite of just the pako.

Kamayan sa Palaisdaan - JUICES: Buko FreshJUICES: Buko Fresh (₱60.00)

Fresh coconut juice straight from the shell, need I say more?

Overall, as I have already mentioned above, the menu is pretty average and can honestly be found in many other restaurants (and homes no matter rich or poor) across the Philippines. I guess it’s safe to say that if you are going to the restaurant for the food, it’s not worth the trip to this place seeing as it is also quite hard to find. However, if you want to dine in a bamboo hut on a bamboo raft floating over water, then you may want to make the trip here just for that experience. Dining at the Hotel & Resort isn’t bad as well as it provides a lot more recreational activities that you can enjoy aside from dining, and it also overlooks Mount Banahaw. So ambience and dining experience is a sure 10 for me. Service probably an 8 as even though there were quite a few staff members, it was pretty hard to flag one down whenever we needed something. Food – probably a 5; 6 if I’m feeling generous, but nothing more.

Kamayan sa Palaisdaan

Barangay. Dapdap
Tayabas, Quezon

– Ally xx

Mesa Filipino Moderne - FRESH CATCH: Tilapia

Mesa Filipino Moderne

Hello Everyone and welcome back to an all new Review Sunday! I’ve got three more places from the Philippines that I want to touch on before I start reviewing a couple of places here in Brunei. I’ve actually visited quite a number of places in the Philippines, but I feel like I haven’t had the full dining experience yet in terms of what their menu has to offer. Then there are some other places that I was thinking of writing about, but when I look back at their food, it was all too similar and nothing special really.

Anyway, what I realised when dining out in the Philippines, food is always the same no matter where I go. For example, dishes like sisig, crispy pata, kare-kare, sinigang, laing, buko pandan, leche flan, and many other classic and famous Filipino dishes, though I imagine cooked slightly different to separate themselves from others, all taste quite similar no matter where we have it. In tagalog, I would normally say “nakakasawa”, if you eat the same food over and over you will say or have that feeling nakakasawa, but maybe its because I’ve been eating in the wrong places.

Mesa caught my eye as I was roaming around SM North Edsa with my sisters while my Mom was somewhere along Quezon Avenue doing medical checkups. We were looking for new places to eat, and when a saw ‘new’ I just mean nothing like Barrio Fiesta or Gerry’s Grill – not places that we have been to over and over again every time we visit the Philippines. I had never heard or encountered Mesa in my pervious trips, and what intrigued me was the modernity and interpretation of classic traditional Filipino dishes. I was definitely intrigued when I saw Ostrich on their menu even though I didn’t have any.

Mesa Filipino Moderne - SISIG: Sisig in a pouch
SISIG: Sisig in a pouch
Savoury pork sisig wrapped in a pouch (₱190.00)

As mentioned probably in a previous review, sisig is a dish that I never fail to have whenever I visit the Philippines. I was attracted to this dish because I’ve never had sisig this way before. It was a perfect way to start out our lunch at Mesa; the pouches had a very nice golden brown finish to them, and it gave each bite a nice crunch to the sisig filling inside. It was paired nicely with a side of spicy vinegar as well.

Mesa Filipino Moderne - SOUP: Sinigang na baboy in guava and pineapple
SOUP: Sinigang na baboy in guava and pineapple
Pork simmered in broth with guava and fresh pineapple; serves 4-5 (₱290.00)

What caught my eye with this dish as I was browsing the menu was the guava and pineapple part. I’ve never had sinigang with these two fruits before so I was indeed very intrigued to know how the strong flavours would blend together. It actually worked quite well to an extent. I say ‘extent’ because there was one time I had a whole heap of guava flavour in my spoon of soup and the taste overkilled. Nevertheless, an enjoyable dish.

Mesa Filipino Moderne - FRESH CATCH: Hito
Crispy boneless with mangga salad (₱340.00)

The only thing that concerned me about this dish was where’s the mango salad? If you’re going to make mention “with” mango salad, I expect it to be of reasonable portioning as a side dish and not just “topped” over the fried fish. Slightly disappointing.

Mesa Filipino Moderne - FRESH CATCH: Tilapia
Crispy boneless served with four sauces (₱340.00)

Well, just like the crispy boneless hito, nothing quite special about the four sauces that went with fried fish that in my opinion had not much flavour in the flesh itself. Verging on being overcooked? Quite possibly.

Mesa Filipino Moderne - VEGETABLES: Laing 2 ways
VEGETABLES: Laing 2 ways
Taro leaves, pork, shrimp paste, and coconut cream topped with adobo flakes, served original and crispy (₱170.00)

The taro, or also known as gabi in the Philippines, is low in saturated fat, sodium, and cholesterol, and in contrast, high in dietary fibre, vitamin E, vitamin B6, potassium, and manganese. The leaves, stems, and corms are all consumed and form part of the local cuisine, a dish known as Laing. Laing originated from the Bicol region, and no matter where you have it at, and no matter the way it is cooked, it always ends up looking like a pile of… 🙂 I’ve had my fair share from many eateries, and even home-cooked laing, and it always looks like this. But I assure you that it tastes so much better than it looks. I like how Mesa served this dish two ways – basically one with sauce and the other without. Both tasted pretty good and the adobo flakes on top added that extra flavour and crunch to the dish.

Mesa Filipino Moderne - MEAT: Pinatayong Manok
MEAT: Pinatayong Manok
“Standing” whole chicken carved right at your table (₱415.00)

Quite possibly one of the reasons why I stopped in front of the restaurant and had a look at their menu; I saw a picture of this dish and I immediately knew I wanted to eat that. It was basically a whole roasted chicken that didn’t particularly have any special taste to it in my opinion, but what I enjoyed was the way it was served to us. It was brought to our table “standing” and carved for us at our table. The chicken was cooked well and was very tender.

Mesa Filipino Moderne - MEAT: Pork Binagoongan
MEAT: Pork Binagoongan
Pan fried pork belly sautéed in shrimp paste (₱190.00)

This dish I enjoyed because I love the pairing of a well-cooked pork belly, shrimp paste, and grilled eggplant. This dish did not disappoint at all unlike the others.

Mesa Filipino Moderne - DESSERT: Pandan Macapuno Rumble
DESSERT: Pandan Macapuno Rumble (₱75.00)

I was intrigued to know what modern twist they would put on a classic buko pandan dessert. Nothing special to be honest except the fact that the coconut meat was set with the jelly? That’s all that I could point out that seemed different to the classic ones I’ve had multiple times. Other than that, flavour was good.

Mesa Filipino Moderne - DESSERT: Crispy Leche Flan
DESSERT: Crispy Leche Flan (₱70.00)

This was the dessert that I was most looking forward to only to be disappointed in the end – small, not so crispy rolls of flan that didn’t quite taste like flan in my opinion and more like steamed egg. I was disappointed only because I had a much better first experience with crispy leche flan when I was travelling the city of Lucena just a couple of days before I visited Mesa again.

Mesa Filipino Moderne is definitely a place to visit if you want to experience modern Filipino cooking at an affordable price. I say that it is affordable because the pricing of their dishes are quite reasonable for the portions you get, so definitely a good value for money indeed. But as I have mentioned in another review before, these prices are not very affordable for the average Filipino, so I guess the value for money on a more general scale wouldn’t be so good. The food I would rate no more than a 6 to be honest – at first glance I was very excited to experience modern Filipino cuisine, but after having dined and looked back at the dishes that I’ve had, I can’t say I was left excited to go back for more. The only dish that I really enjoyed was the pork sisig in a pouch. Everything else was mediocre. Service 8 out of 10; it was exceptional nor was it bad, and the ambience is a sure 10 for me.

Now that I look back at all the dishes that I’ve had and my small disappointments with each of the dishes I ordered, I wonder how they were able to achieve the Best Food Retailer award. I may be jumping into conclusions a bit early as I’ve only tried probably an eighth of the dishes they have on offer, but if I am off to a non-promising start with their menu, I can’t be sure on how the rest will unfold if I visited a few more times and trying other dishes. Anyway, my opinion is my opinion; it may be biased, it may be not. You may agree with me, you may not, that is, if you’ve dined at Mesa.

I’m not sure if there are other restaurants that are much better at modern Filipino cuisine, but this is the first step of my journey to finding out how far we can modernise classic dishes. There is one place I have yet to visit, but have been closely following their Instagram page, and it’s called Sarsá Kitchen+Bar. I must say that their Sinigang Fried Chicken looks very enticing. Maybe on my next adventure to the Philippines I’ll be able to drag some family members over to have some eats.

Mesa Filipino Moderne
3/F SM City North EDSA, Main Building
EDSA corner North Avenue
Quezon City, Metro Manila

– Ally xx

BR Nina's Itikan & Restaurant - SPECIALITIES: Kalderitik

BR Nina’s Itikan & Restaurant

Hello Everyone and welcome back to an all new Review Sunday! Today’s post is on a restaurant that can be found along the Sta. Clara Bypass Road in Sta. Maria, Bulacan. My cousin first introduced me to this place when we were visiting the Philippines last month. I told her that I wanted to dine at local eateries that are natively special to Bulacan and this is where she took my family and I. If I am not mistaken, itik is quite popular in Bulacan as there are also many balut hatcheries in the area. For those of you who do not know what a balut is, it is basically a developing duck embryo (fertilised duck egg) that is boiled and eaten in the shell.

Anyway, I could not appreciate the atmosphere at the time that we went with my cousin for it was during dinner and although the place was well lit, it felt dark to me. So my mother, my two sisters, and myself decided to come back to this place for lunch and the ambience had a bigger impact on me than it did the first night we dined at BR Nina’s Itikan. I think the fact that we were the only table there as well made a difference for it was less noisy (I mean, excluding the traffic along the bypass) and we had the whole place to ourselves. The place is an outdoor restaurant with a main dining area upon entering, and a few bahay kubos at the back where you could also dine. A bahay cubo is known as the national shelter, native house of the Philippines and is made from using indigenous building materials like bamboo and nipa. Its name is said to have originated from the Spanish word, cubo, which means “cube” because of the bahay kubo‘s rectangular/cubic shape. Nowadays you’ll see many eateries adapting the bahay kubo into small, private eating huts, big enough to seat between 4-8 people.

BR Nina's Itikan & Restaurant - BR NINA’S FIESTA: Crispy Kare-Kare Liempo
BR NINA’S FIESTA: Crispy Kare-Kare Liempo (₱250.00)

When I first had dinner at this place, I was very much intrigued by the ‘crispy’ part of the name of this dish, only because I’ve never had kare-kare before with crispy meat. The sauce, even though for me it felt like it was straying away from a traditional kare-kare, was nice and flavourful. The sauce tasted like it had coconut milk in it and didn’t taste so much like the peanut buttery goodness that I love; it was still creamy though. The vegetables were cooked to perfection, as in it wasn’t overcooked, and though some of the cuts of pork meat was cooked well, some were a bit hard and overdone.

BR Nina's Itikan & Restaurant - SPECIALITIES: Fried Itik
SPECIALITIES: Fried Itik (₱160.00)

The first time we came here we had the fried itik as recommended by my cousin. For me it was just okay, nothing much special to it other than the fact that it’s an itik and that it definitely tastes different than any normal fried chicken. The meat was quite dry and because there was no sauce to go with it either, besides the very basic condiment of soy sauce and calamansi, the overall dish was very dry. If we didn’t have the bulalo soup to pair with it, it would’ve been a very dry meal.

BR Nina's Itikan & Restaurant - SPECIALITIES: Kalderitik
SPECIALITIES: Kalderitik (₱170.00)

Since itik is their speciality here in this restaurant, we decided to order at least more than just one on their specials menu and experience itik cooked in many different ways. The itik was really tender and flavourful. It was so tender that it was fall-off-the-bone perfection. It also had a little bit of spice to it as well. This dish is one that I very much like from their specials, even though it doesn’t look very well presented – but this is pretty much home-style cooking.

BR Nina's Itikan & Restaurant - SPECIALITIES: Adobong Itik
SPECIALITIES: Adobong Itik (₱170.00)

Though it doesn’t look as appetising (let’s face it, pretty much everything you’ll see here doesn’t look appetising), it tastes better than it looks. However, compared to the kalderitik, this dish was quite dry. The sauce came as a side with the dish, but because the itik was deep fried, it was quite dry. Also, I felt that there was a little bit too much garlic on the dish. It did have that adobo flavour to the itik though!

BR Nina's Itikan & Restaurant - SPECIALITIES: Sisig Itik
SPECIALITIES: Sisig Itik (₱170.00)

Sisig is a Filipino dish traditionally made from parts of a pig’s head and liver, seasoned with calamansi and chilli peppers. I love me a good sisig dish. I never fail to have a flavourful sizzling plate of sisig whenever I visit the Philippines. I was drawn to this dish only because I’ve never had itik sisig before, I’ve always and only have ever had pork sisig. This sisg dish is by far my favourite of all sisigs I’ve ever had in the past. The flavour was on point and the addition of fresh chillies on top added that extra kick of heat that the dish, in my opinion, needed.

BR Nina's Itikan & Restaurant - FRIED: Crispy Tawilis with Salted Egg
FRIED: Crispy Tawilis with Salted Egg (₱150.00)

Sardinella tawilis, or known by Filipinos as just tawilis for short, is a small freshwater sardine, reaching up to 15cm and weighing less than 30g. On its own, it doesn’t actually have much flavour to it. But all your really need is the salted egg and tomatoes on the side to go with it and you have a match made it heaven. Even with just a little bit of achara to go with the crispy fried tawilis and you’re pretty much hooked on it. You can eat the fish whole as well, yes, including its head, tail, and bones!

SOUPS: Bulalo (₱220.00)

Besides their specialities, this bulalo soup is by far the tastiest of all bulalo soups I’ve had in the past. The broth is harboured all the flavours from the meat, and what’s good about it also is that the broth doesn’t have a lot of oil in it and isn’t very fatty at all. The meat was very tender and the vegetables still had a bit of crunch to them. It was definitely much better in terms of flavour than the bulalo soup that I cooked myself.

BR Nina’s Itikan have quite a lot to offer on their menu beside their specialities of various itik dishes; many also praise their crispy kare-kares from Facebook comments and reviews that I’ve have seen. Overall, I thought that the food that we’ve had at this place were generally quite good. I haven’t had any major issues with any of the dishes only that the fried itik and the adobong itik itself are quite dry, but other than that, everything else were pretty much on point for me. I love love love their duck sisig, and for that I’d say that their food is a sure 7 out of 10 for me. Ambience 8 out of 10 and service is variable between 7 to 9 out of 10. I say this because there are only two waiters running the floor and serving probably a total of 10 tables. So when the place is packed, it’s quite hard to flag down a waiter when you’re ready to order or wanting to request for more water or tissue for your table – that’s the downside. Otherwise, they’re friendly and always quick on their feet. You’ll see then running around trying to get to every table and fulfilling every customer’s requests. It’s also relatively cheap so therefore a good value for money, where their specialities of itik only costs about AUD$5.00 – a whole duck for just $5.00? Quite impossible ain’t it? That is, if it were sold in Australia.

BR Nina’s Itikan & Restaurant
Bypass Road Sta. Clara
Sta. Maria, Bulacan
Philippines, 3022

– Ally xx

Turón Plátanos (Banana Spring Rolls)

Turón Plátanos (Banana Spring Rolls)

Hello Everyone! Today’s recipe is one that my mother has been making for a while now and is loved not just by my sisters and myself, but also by my high school friends who have had the lucky chance to indulge in these simple but delicious banana fritters, or also known as Turón Plátanos. For short, it is known in the Philippines as Turón and is a very popular street food snack/meryenda. It is made up of thinly sliced bananas (preferably saba or plantains) and a slice of jackfruit, dusted with brown sugar, rolled in a spring roll wrapper and fried. Since I am not a huge fan of jackfruit, we skipped that ingredient so that I could have some to eat! You can classify it as a dessert as well as others call it a caramel banana spring roll and serve it with ice cream on the side.

Turón Plátanos (Banana Spring Rolls)

Turón Plátanos (Banana Spring Rolls)

One day, I’m guessing probably 5 or 6 years ago, my mom fried these up for breakfast/afternoon tea(?), I actually cannot remember for what meal of the day, and I wanted to dip these spring rolls into something so I took a bottle of ketchup and poured it into a small plate. I then dipped a spring roll into the ketchup, bit into it, and was surprised to find out that it wasn’t a savoury spring roll (because during that time she also made spring rolls that had minced pork filling). The taste was unbearable, as in the pairing of tomato ketchup and banana was just not a good one. I told my mom and sisters about it and they could not stop laughing, and even to this day they would still ask me if I would like some ketchup with my turón.

Here’s a tip that you might want to follow: what my mom does is that she makes a whole bunch of turóns, 40 to be exact, as there are 40 sheets in a pack of spring roll wrappers. Once they have been wrapped, she puts them into a container and freezes them overnight and fries them the next day, straight from the freezer, no defrosting required. She says that this way the rolls are crispier when fried. Also, making them in big batches and freezing them allows you to fry them over a few days/weeks instead of having to make just a few each time  you feel like having some.

Turón Plátanos (Banana Spring Rolls) Ingredients

Turón Plátanos (Banana Spring Rolls)


*This includes setting aside the rolls in the freezer overnight before frying.


  • 10 ripe plantains, cut into 4 lengthwise
  • 1 pack (40 sheets) large spring roll wrappers
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • Cooking oil, for frying


  1. Add the brown sugar to a small plate so that you can roll the plantains over it and coat them with enough sugar. Then place the sugar coated plantain on top of a spring roll wrapper and fold, locking the wrapper on each side.
  2. Place in a container and repeat until all the plantains have been sugar coated and wrapped. Freeze overnight.
  3. In a small (or medium, depending on how many you’re going to fry) pan, heat the oil over medium-high. Make sure it is quite hot before adding the wrapped plantains in. Fry until the wrapper turns golden brown.
  4. Drizzle with caramelised sugar (optional) and serve hot for dessert or meryenda – with ice cream on the side if you wish. Enjoy!

Turón Plátanos (Banana Spring Rolls)


– Ally xx

Arabela, Camello's Bakehaus & Coffee Shop - DESSERTS: RED VELVET

Arabela, Camello’s Bakehaus & Coffee Shop

Hello Everyone! Finally we are back on track with Review Sundays! It’s been a while hasn’t it? Anyway today’s review will be on a popular Italian Restaurant on the little streets of Liliw, well known as the shoe and flipflop capital of the province and the Southern Luzon area. The first time I visited Liliw was back in 2010 if I am not mistaken. My cousin introduced this place to me while my family and I were visiting his place in Lucena. I don’t remember how many pairs of shoes I bought for myself, but I’m guessing that we had at least 3 or 4 pairs of shoes/flipflops each between the 4 of us for under ₱1,500 (approx. AUD$44)! After shoe shopping, we’d head on over to Arabela for lunch. This has since become a must do every time we come down to Lucena to visit my cousin and my family; in 2010, 2012, and our recent March 2015 trip. Since our last visit in 2012, Arabela changed the look and colours of their interior from, if I’m not mistaken, pastel green to orange. They still kept their low ceiling which is what I love about this place – it makes me feel tall! People who are just a tad bit taller than me would have to bend over while walking around the restaurant, and be cautious when standing up from their table if they have forgotten how low the ceiling is.

Arabela, Camello's Bakehaus & Coffee Shop
Just for a reference, my sister who is standing up straight is about 5’2″

But before I begin, here’s a little history on Arabela:

Bobby and Antonette Camello, husband and wife, owners of Arabela, named after their two daughters: Ara & Bela, started in 2002 with literally two tables. Back then, the two tables were not intended to be used by customers, but instead used for selling pasta dishes & pastries to buyers within the neighbourhood. The couple were then inspired to set up a formal food business as they gained an increasing number of customers that keep on coming back. The business, transformed into a coffee shop/restaurant, opened in October 23, 2003 with 5 tables, a seating capacity of 15 persons, and a capital of ₱100,000. From there it grew beyond the owner’s expectations, and today Arabella can accommodate up to 40 persons with an array of dishes to choose from – steaks, pizza, pasta, pastries, coffee, blended drinks, and more. Arabela has earned its publicity through word of mouth and personal blogs on the internet which were all unsolicited. To date, they have been able to maintain their character and uniqueness – the ambience and of course the good food.


An array of fresh fruit shakes, smoothies, and drinks to choose from on their menu; I went for the ripe mango fresh fruit shake and it was very refreshing even though it was a rainy day.

Arabela, Camello's Bakehaus & Coffee Shop - FRESH SALAD: CEASAR SALAD
Romaine leaves with bacon (₱200.00)

This was also a starter dish that we shared amongst ourselves alongside the four cheese pizza. A good dish, but again nothing too special – nothing quite stood out to me to really praise the dish for it great flavour.

Arabela, Camello's Bakehaus & Coffee Shop - PIZZA: FOUR CHEESE XL
Mozarella, red cheddar, romano & parmesan (₱325.00)

A great dish to kick off our feast at Arabela, but in my opinion there wasn’t anything special about the taste, I mean it’s just a four-cheese pizza.

Arabela, Camello's Bakehaus & Coffee Shop - PASTA (PASTA IN WHITE SAUCE): FETTUCCINE WITH HAM & MUSHROOM

This was a dish that my cousin ordered, and when it came to her, she showed the plate to me and gave me a sad look – I understood her pain. It was a massive deep dish, that made the pasta look tiny and underwhelming. I’m not sure if it filled her up, but it certainly wouldn’t have filled me up! Even though I didn’t taste this dish, it looked quite plain.

Arabela, Camello's Bakehaus & Coffee Shop - HOUSE SPECIALS (OLIVE OIL): FISH IN WHITE WINE
Dory fish fillet cooked in white wine sauce serve with pasta (₱220.00)

From the menu, my mom wanted a pasta dish, and knowing her preferences, I ordered this for her. She prefers olive oil-based dishes as well as fish – so this was the perfect pick for her. At first glance, it almost looks like they overdid the garlic just a bit too much; garlic slices tossed through the pasta and minced garlic on top of the fish? Yeap, that’s quite a bit! Other than that, the fish was cooked well, still moist on the inside, but again nothing quite special.

Arabela, Camello's Bakehaus & Coffee Shop - HOUSE SPECIALS (OLIVE OIL): VONGOLE
Clam in olive oil with garlic (₱230.00)

This was the dish thAT I had, and at first I didn’t want to order this dish because I can make a good vongole myself; but nothing else in the menu stood out to me. Vongole for roughly AUS$6.00? That’s value for money there as the dish had a generous amount of baby clams! Taste was good, but again nothing too special for me.

Arabela, Camello's Bakehaus & Coffee Shop - HOUSE SPECIALS (TOMATO BASED): SHRIMP POMODORO
Pieces of shrimp with pomodoro sauce (₱230.00)

This dish I only got to taste a bit of, and I can’t remember what it tasted like so I asked my sister. She said that it was a bit salty for her liking (she finds everything she eats salty anyway so it’s hard to trust what she says), and that she didn’t like the biscotti because it was too thick for her liking (I liked it).

Arabela, Camello's Bakehaus & Coffee Shop - HOUSE SPECIALS (CREAM BASED): SIRLOIN FETTUCCINE
Strips of sirloin in fettuccine sauce (₱210.00)

I ordered this dish for my other sister because I’ve never heard of sirloin fettuccine before. I imagined a nice char-grilled sirloin steak, striped and tossed through a classic fettuccine in creamy white sauce – but no, it looked like boiled(?) strips of sirloin garnished on top of an ordinary plate of fettuccine.

Arabela, Camello's Bakehaus & Coffee Shop - HOUSE SPECIALS (BABY BACK RIBS): BABY BACK PORK 2PCS
Served with mixed vegetables and mashed potato or rice (₱200.00)

Arabela, Camello's Bakehaus & Coffee Shop - HOUSE SPECIALS (BABY BACK RIBS): BABY BACK BEEF 2PCS
Served with mixed vegetables and mashed potato or rice (₱230.00)

Arabela, Camello's Bakehaus & Coffee Shop - HOUSE SPECIALS (ANGUS BEEF): MESS OF SIRLOIN
Served with rice and mixed vegetables (₱200.00)

The three dishes that you just saw above I cannot comment on the taste just because my uncle and my cousins had these dishes. I saw the disappointment in my cousin’s face when his food arrived to the table – two tiny pieces of ribs for a person who could probably eat a whole rack of ribs for a meal. He had to order another rib dish to feel satisfied enough. But just by looking at the three dishes above, they don’t really look that appetising to me.

Arabela, Camello's Bakehaus & Coffee Shop - DESSERTS: CHOCO LAVA

Probably my favourite out of the two desserts we shared – the cake was definitely molten and very rich in chocolate goodness.

Arabela, Camello's Bakehaus & Coffee Shop - DESSERTS: RED VELVET

I am a huge fan of red velvet; I even made this cake for my birthday last year and it’s not that I’m being cocky or anything, but mine was definitely better. This cake was a bit dry and crumbly for my liking and the taste was average. The thing that was appealing about this was the design on the plate that surrounded the cake, or as my mom referred to it “the placemat.”

Most of the pasta (and even meat dishes) portion sizes were really small; maybe I’m just used to seeing bigger portions of food having lived and dined in and about Sydney for the past 4 years. Then I look at the price and I thought, yes, it makes sense now why the portions are relatively small – think approximately $3.00-$6.00 Australian dollars on average per meal from this restaurant.

You may have also realised that I’ve said for many of the dishes above that they weren’t anything special in terms of overall flavour; I don’t want this post to appear biased and end up being a comparison between Arabela’s menu to others that I’ve had in Sydney because in my eyes, Arabela cannot compare. So I’ve asked my sisters and my mom to give a fair and honest rating for the food, and they gave an average score of 4.6 out of 10. My mom said: “[the food is] very simple, nothing special, but for local Filipino’s, it’s probably something special for them because Arabela is the only of its kind within the area.” Which is very true because from what my cousin has said, a lot of the foreigners come to dine at Arabela, and every time we’ve been, we’ve had to queue up for a table. Ambience though is a sure 8/9 out of 10; like I mentioned above I find the low-ceiling concept quite a unique dining experience. Service: 8/9 out of 10 as well. Value for money is arguable in terms that for us it is affordable, but for an average Filipino on an average/below average income, this place is probably too fancy for them.

Arabela, Camello’s Bakehaus & Coffee Shop
503 Rizal Street
Liliw, Laguna
Philippines, 4004

– Ally xx

Bulalo (Beef Bone Marrow Soup)

Bulalo (Beef Bone Marrow Soup)

Hello Everyone! So today’s dish is also a classic and most favourite Filipino main dish that can be found on, if not all, most menus across the Philippines. Bulalo, as stated in the title above, is a beef bone marrow soup that is light in colour and as the name states, uses beef shanks and marrow bones paired with various vegetables such as bok choy, corn cobs, green beans, etc. Because of the popularity of this dish, many restaurants and eateries across the Philippines specialise in Bulalo. Some of the most famous “Bulalohan” can be found in Tagaytay City (Cavite) and Santo Tomas (Batangas).

It is not a very hard dish to prepare – simple ingredients and simple cooking is all it really takes. In fact, all your really need for this dish is time and patience. The key to preparing this dish though is to choose the appropriate meat, shanks to be specific, and to make it as tender as possible. To achieve this is to simmering the beef for longer periods of time; it also releases all of its flavour. For me, the best tasting bulalo I’ve had to date was at Nina’s Itikan in Santa Clara, Bulacan. Even though they specialise in itik (duck), their bulalo was very rich in flavour. Even my dish that I am going to share with you today cannot match to its flavour!

Bulalo (Beef Bone Marrow Soup) Ingredients



  • 1kg beef shank
  • 2L water
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 corn on a cob, cut into 4 equal parts
  • 1 large potato, cut into chunks
  • 1 long red chilli
  • 1 medium sized onion, quartered
  • 1 small bunch bok choy
  • 1 small bunch green beans, trimmed
  • 1 stalk lemon grass, halved and bruised
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp whole black peppercorns


  1. Pour water into a large cooking pot together with the salt, peppercorns, and lemongrass. Bring the water to a boil. Once boiling, add the beef shanks in and simmer for about 1 and a half hours; if you are using a pressure cooker then 30 minutes should do the trick.
  2. Then add in the chilli, garlic, and onions, and simmer for a further 30 minutes until the meat is tender. Add in the corn, green beans, and potatoes, and simmer for another 10 minutes, then followed by the bok choy. If broth needs a bit more salt, then add in a few teaspoons of fish sauce to season to taste.
  3. Serve hot with steamed rice and enjoy! A great dish to share during cold, rainy day/night to warm up your insides!

Bulalo (Beef Bone Marrow Soup)


– Ally xx

Crispy Pata (Deep-fried Pork Leg)

Crispy Pata (Deep-fried Pork Leg)

Hello Everyone! After spending the past month in the Philippines, I thought that it’d be a good idea to share some of the foods that I came across and ate along the way. A classic dish that I will be sharing with you is the very famous Crispy Pata, or Deep-fried Pork Leg. Crispy Pata can be found in most eating places in the Philippines; one place that we dined at while staying Lucena City specialises in this dish and is even called Bubbles Crispy Pata & Restaurant. I remember the first time I came here with my cousins from the Barrientos side, my cousin JR joked about ordering a crispy para dish EACH. I think we ended up ordering one between two people, which, looking back, in my opinion is still quite a lot to eat between two; but just like me, he loves him some crispy pata. What I love about this very simple dish, is the crispy skin and of course the very tender meat beneath that layer of crispy goodness.

Crispy Pata (Deep-fried Pork Leg) Ingredients

As you probably would’ve already figured out from my description above, and the photographs, Crispy Pata is a famous Filipino pork dish that uses a whole pig’s leg. The leg (or pata) is made tender by simmering in water along with other spices, mainly peppercorns and bay leaves. It is then deep-fried until the texture becomes very crunchy. The dish is then served with various dipping sauces, the main being a soy-vingear sauce with chopped onions, or along with some pickled green papaya known as atchara, served as either a main dish with steamed rice, or as beer food known as pulutan.

Crispy Pata is definitely an easy dish to cook, but be cautious as the process does involve dangerous steps. Deep frying a whole leg can cause the hot oil to be uncontrollable. It is a must to slightly (not fully, as the cover can pop-up due to pressure) cover the cooking pot while frying. What my mom does is that instead of submerging the whole leg in scalding hot oil, she adds enough oil to submerge at least half of the leg and fries it for about 15 minutes or until golden brown. She then cautiously turns the leg and fries the other side for the same amount of time in medium heat until it becomes crispy. This is quite possibly one of the reasons why I only ever have crispy pata at a restaurant or when I’m home and my mom is there to do it for me – I don’t like the frying process!

Crispy Pata (Deep-fried Pork Leg) Ingredients


*Includes setting aside the boiled pork leg in the fridge overnight to draw out the moisture before deep-frying.


  • 1 whole pig’s leg (about 2 or 2.5kg)
  • 12 to 15 cups water
  • 8 to 12 cups cooking oil
  • 6 pcs dried bay leaves
  • 2 tbsp whole black peppercorns
  • 1 & 1/2 tsp salt

For the soy dipping sauce

  • 1/3 cup dark soy sauce
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 1 small tomato, diced
  • Juice of two calamansi**

For the vinegar dipping sauce

  • 1/3 cup white vinegar
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 red bird’s eye chillies, halved
  • Whole peppercorns

**Calamansi (or calamondin), is a hybrid between a mandarin orange and a kumquat. It is widely cultivated in the Philippines and primarily used in cooking to flavour foods and drinks. If calamansi isn’t available, you may substitute it with lemon or lime, but the taste will not be the same. I can’t say exactly what the difference in taste is, but I think calamansi is a tad more sour than a lemon/lime, and has a slight orange taste to it.


  1. Pour water into a large cooking pot along with the bay leaves and peppercorns. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, add in the whole pork leg and simmer under mediumm-high heat until the leg becomes tender (about 1.5 to 2 hours).
  2. Remove the tender leg from the cooking pot, transfer to a plate large enough to fit it and set aside until the temperature goes down. Once it has cooled down, place a clean cloth above the leg and refrigerate overnight. Remove from the fridge a few hours before cooking to bring it back to room temperature. Some recipes I’ve seen don’t require you to refrigerate the meat, I do it so that it draws out excess moisture from the leg.
  3. At this point you may want to rub on some different spices such as garlic powder, ground black pepper, and salt onto the skin. If you do, let it stand for 15 minutes for the leg to absorb the rub. If you don’t want to season it any further, which is what I did, then you can move onto frying.
  4. Heat a clean large cooking pot (preferably with cover), over high heat and pour the cooking oil in. When the oil becomes hot, turn the heat down to medium high. Carefully lower the leg into the hot oil and deep fry. Cook until one side becomes brown and crispy, about 10 to 15 minutes, and then cautiously flip the leg to brown and crisp the other side. Be extra careful in doing this procedure.
  5. Turn the heat off and remove the crispy pork leg. Transfer it to a wide serving plate.
  6. Combine all the ingredients together for the separate dipping sauces dance serve together with the crispy pata!

Crispy Pata (Deep-fried Pork Leg)


– Ally xx