MILLIE: I must admit that I haven’t gone out of the house for over eight months, literally since the start of the quarantine due to the pandemic. But I have found comfort in sampling new culinary discoveries sent by friends and foodies. Karla and I feel they are too yummy not to share.
For my birthday, I received a sushi bake from Koku. It was a salmon and kani aburi made with a creamy umami aburi sauce. It came with two packs of nori or seaweed, which we used to enclose a scoop of the mouthwatering sushi bake.
My sister Dorcie and her family were drooling with excitement, as it was a perfect accompaniment to the Japanese dinner Karla cooked up that evening. Our meal consisted of shrimp tempura, beef sukiyaki and chicken teppan with yasai itame — all my favorites!
Koku has other flavors of the sushi bake, and I can’t wait to try their Spicy Salmon Crunch sushi bake.
My friend Lizette sent me specialties from Sambar PH, owned by her son Nicco Santos of Hey Handsome fame. Sambar PH is a home-based kitchen by Nicco and Quenee Vilar offering special set of dishes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, featuring Malacca Chicken Rice Balls and Thai Style Chicken Rice.
The rice balls were made with sticky rice eaten with a special sauce called ketjap manis. The Thai-style chicken dish was very well presented — a stylized version of Hainanese chicken rice. Thailand’s version uses a different sambal made with pounded chili and fermented soybeans.
KARLA: On Saturdays, SambarPH offers a totally different menu: Nasi Lemak sets and a Nasi Lemak Burger. I ordered the traditional chicken Nasi Lemak with Otak Otak. I first tried otak otak in Singapore last year and helped myself to seconds.
I absolutely loved SambarPH’s version of the salmon otak otak and wouldn’t mind ordering it alone and just eating it with coconut rice. It’s basically a fish blended with curry powder, turmeric, lemongrass, chilies and other ingredients made into a paste and wrapped in banana leaves. It is cooked on the grill or steamed.
The nasi lemak burger is an ingenious way of presenting nasi lemak, served with a chicken cutlet in a coconut brioche bun with cucumbers and curry mayo.
Nicco and Quenee also started bottling and selling their sauces. Ketjap manis is a sweet and savory soy sauce cooked with local palm sugar, usually used as the sauce for chicken rice.
Sambal trassi is sambal made from locally sourced long and short red chilies, trassi, palm sugar, and mushroom XO, which is gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan-friendly.
For Thai food, we keep coming back to Feed Me Pepe by Pepe Samson. The pad kra pao with basil and chilies will leave you guilty of devouring a mountain of rice. You may even choose your protein: chicken, beef, pork or tofu.
A nice surprise, though, was the dry tom yum with shrimps, mushrooms and spices. Flavors were concentrated, bold but well balanced without the soup; we also ate this dish with a mountain of rice.
Pepe Samson is actually a blogger and Latin dancer. It’s safe to say that food, dancing and travel are his passions. Every time he leaves on another adventure, he always makes sure to learn a recipe or two. He not only travels to take beautiful photos, but also manages to immerse himself in the country’s culture and, of course, gastronomy. Check out more of his adventures on www.pepesamson.com.
ByrdTubs by Angelo Comsti and chef Jorge Mendez offers a variety of chicken rice tubs to share, ranging from Hainanese chicken rice and soy chicken to Indian butter chicken and our very own chicken inasal.
They recently launched a new variant, char siu chicken with lap cheong egg fried rice in collaboration with chef Decker Gokioco. Mom and I have ordered every single one of these from the start, especially on my “days off.”
MILLIE: The melange of interesting new flavors keeps our cravings satisfied, since we don't go out and we work from home. We look forward to trying new culinary creations and flavors.
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For orders and inquiries, contact Koku at 7625-5197 or 0917-878-6144 and @kokuph on Instagram; SambarPH @sambarph on Instagram; Feed Me Pepe by Pepe Samson @pepesamson on Instagram; and ByrdTubs @byrdtubs on Instagram.
Banner caption: Bake off: Salmon Kani Aburi and Spicy Salmon Crunch sushi bakes by KokuPH . Photo by Hans Fausto