It’s the penultimate night of our Come Dine With Me competition and we have gathered ourselves at Nelson’s English Pub at the Media Rotana in Tecom. Our hostess tonight, MCK, having just returned from a trip to the UK, is running a little late so the rest of us have decided to grab a few drinks to give her more time to prepare.
However, after an hour of drinking and hoping that MCK was ready (or not), it was time to leave the pub and head across the street to her apartment for some smoke-free air and some home-cooked Filipino food.
Upon entering the apartment, RM (our competitor from Day 3) immediately pulled out and presented a bottle of white wine to our hostess but something wasn’t right… Could it be that the bottle of wine was almost half empty?
Head down in shame, RM conjectured that perhaps her husband had grabbed that particular bottle by mistake. Uh-huh. No conjecture about it – he definitely grabbed the wrong bottle. And they say there’s no such thing as “daddy-brain?”
Not to worry – we’re all friends so it was quite a funny incident which RM reenacted for those of us who missed it the first time and so we could take incriminating photos.
Starter – Kilawin
A popular dish throughout the Philippines, Kilawin is similar to SV’s Mexican ceviche from Come Dine With Me – Day 2, but instead of using limes to “cook” the fish, vinegar is used. With the addition of ginger and thai chillis, the Kilawin had a warming spiciness to it and didn’t taste too vinegary at all. No squeamishness from anyone tonight at the thought of uncooked fish as we were veterans after SV’s ceviche.
Main Course – Chicken Adobo
A national dish of the Philippines, adobo can be made with chicken, pork, or seafood braised in vinegar, soy sauce, a ton of garlic, bay leaves, and peppercorns. It is one of those classic dishes where every home cook and Filipino grandmother has his or her preferred and perfected version.
Here’s what Sam Sifton of the New York Times has to say of adobo:
It is the national dish, many Filipinos say: protein braised in vinegar until pungent and rich, sweet and sour and salty at once, sometimes crisped at the edges in high heat, always served with the remaining sauce. Its excellence derives from the balance of its flavors, in the alchemy of the process. Cooking softens the acidity of the vinegar, which then combines with the flavor of the meat to enhance it. Whether consumed in Manila’s heat or on the edge of a New York winter, adobo holds the power to change moods and alter dining habits.
Adobo is simple home cooking at its best. I felt honored to have eaten MCK’s tender and tasty chicken adobo – her time-honored version has warmed the hearts and stomachs of her non-Filipino husband and parents-in-law. She has promised to cook me a pork belly version which I’m sure will be even better than the chicken.
Dessert – Fruit Salad with Nata de Coco and Kaong
I hope you’re admiring the fruit salad and not the silly arrangement of napkin holders behind it. Nothing like a few glasses of fizzy and white wine to make my brain think that lining up flowered napkin holders behind a plate actually looks photogenic to the sober eye. A case of beer-goggles with food instead of people.
I love fresh fruit and the sight of MCK’s dessert with strawberries, grapes, and green apples made me very happy. Many would say that fresh fruit and cream go well together and I would not disagree (although I would prefer sabayon). But there was something off-balance and bitter about the cream that night. Perhaps it had to do with the mystery fruits that came out of tin cans?
Having never had nata de coco nor kaong before, at first I thought they were lychees and grapes, respectively. Nata de coco is made from the fermentation of coconut water with bacterial cultures. It is a product of the Philippines and is often sweetened for use in desserts. It had a firm jelly-like texture and tasted like an very sweet lychee. I rather liked it.
Kaong, also known as sugar palm fruit, is the fruit of the sugar palm tree which has been boiled in sugar syrup. It is normally the same white color as nata de coco but can be dyed – green in our case. The sugar palm is native of the Philippines and kaong, as with the nata de coco, is a popular ingredient in Filipino desserts.
MCK showed us the tin can that it came out of and said that it can be found in the canned fruit aisle of grocery stores. The texture of the kaong was like chewy grainy gelatin. I wasn’t particularly fond of the kaong but kept chewing one after another of the green grape-sized gel-bits to try to put my finger on what flavor it reminded me of. Finally it came to me. Banana! It tasted like ripe banana. And therein lies my problem. I don’t like the taste nor texture of ripe bananas. I can only eat them when they are under-ripe and green.
Dessert aside, the meal that MCK made for us was excellent and I can’t wait to try her kilawin and adobo recipes at home.
So, five dinners down and that leaves us with only one more to go where this culinary and hosting competition will draw to a close and where we’ll also find out the big winner of the 600 dhs prize!
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Recipe for Kilawin
500 grams (1 lb) white fish fillets (such as cream dorie, red snapper, sea bass, tilapia, etc) or tuna or kingfish
1 small brown onion, finely chopped
250 ml (8.5 oz) distilled white vinegar
2 tablespoons ginger, finely sliced
2 red or green chillis, finely sliced
salt and pepper, to taste
Serves 4 appetizer portions.
Cut fish into 2 cm (1-inch) cubes and salt and pepper to your liking. Mix all remaining ingredients together in a non-reactive bowl and refrigerate for 2 hours minimum or overnight for best results. Drain, transfer to serving bowls, and serve cold.
Recipe courtesy of MCK
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More Come Dine With Me Dubai:
The Culinary Battleground is Set!
Come Dine With Me – Day 1 – A Risotto Disaster?
Come Dine with Me – Day 2 – Ceviche, Ceviche!
Come Dine With Me – Day 3 – A Grand Feast
Come Dine With Me – Day 4 – A Taste of Sweden with No Meatballs
Come Dine With Me – Day 5 – Kilawin, Kilawin!
Come Dine With Me – Day 6 – The Winner is Announced