Cooking in exile

Some people were born with an instinct for cooking, like my Tita Gigi who can cook just about anything and make it taste SO GOOD (hotdogs! kare-kare! sinigang!), my Auntie Nita with her delightful Hokkien meals (i.e. fried lumpias, sweet & sour pork, and the like), or Turtle, for whom baking is a birthright (we're a fan of her scones, Shepherd's pies, brownies).

Unlike them, I wasn't born clasping a spatula in my hand. In the kitchen, I've always had to exert a little more effort and practice a bit more caution. But I can't be kept away: cooking is everyday magic- you mix different ingredients of various compositions over low/medium/high heat, and, voila, those things fuse and become a plate of something! These days, post-Sem2 deadlines, I find myself poring over cooking blogs like my favorite, Casa Veneracion, and selecting recipes to try. The things I'm planning to make will be nothing fancy. Just simple, healthy stuff.

Sem 2 Meals
One of the best gifts of leaving home and living on my own is that it forced me to cook. No more just imagining how to make recipes work; living alone forced me to move beyond epic cooking failures (the horror of charcoal-ed kropeks) and just try again. This sem, my kitchen experiences have involved figuring out ways to vary cooking a specific ingredient, how to incorporate cupboard items to not let them go to waste, and how to appropriate local products/ choose substitutes.

In the spirit of documenting some cooking milestones of the sem, I made...

1. Chicken adobo -- nothing that will change anyone's world by any means, but edible! Edible and decent enough to tide me through bouts of homesickness.
2. Sinigang -- let me emphasize that Filipino dishes are very intimidating. I remember trying out sinigang in Japan and it was just too bland! Since I didn't want to waste the mixes I brought in KL, I decided to give it another try. It wasn't as hard as I thought, whew. Being able to produce not bad bowls of sinigang and adobo amounts to personal feats to me.
3. Ginataang tilapia w/ chili -- memorable because it taught me the how tos of cooking with gata and chili

4. Curry Chicken, Malaysian-style -- what I will make in the Philippines when I start missing Malaysia (it's bound to happen, it is)
5. Steamed fish, resto-style-- the most important part being, I learned how to make a steamer work. It sounds dumb that I had no clue how to steamer work so thankgod, I learned. Cooking steamed fish is like hitting two goals in one: learning to steam and finding healthier ways of preparing food.
6. Korean pea sprouts-- cooking for one is indeed an approach and pea sprouts are especially appropriate for this purpose.

Cooking is tiring. At some point (the whole of May), I released myself from the burden of prepping meals to have time to read for and write my papers. Now that I'm relatively deadline-free, it's back to the kitchen, folks.

I probably save half the amount I spend when I buy, so that's great for my limited budget. But the most important reason to cook is so I end up like a Murakami character (kidding! haha! his protagonists always cook); the most important thing is that cooking lets me eat healthier. One can only eat the same hawker-plied foods (or fastfoods) a few times in one month.

On to more cooking adventures and going after those kitchen aspirations! =)