The making of mountain feasts (Part 2)

Sorry this took a while!

This is part 2 of the mountain cooking series first published here—written and co-developed with Hadjie Tecson and Dekz Macapagal. Bear with me because this is going to be a very long discussion. Ha!

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Pre-cooking meat

So you’ve done your meal plan, done the groceries, and you’re ready to pack. Wait, not yet—you really can’t throw that raw sirloin in your bag and expect it to smell good after 6 hours in the bus and 12 hours of walking. Gross.

There’s a ritual called pre-cooking and you have to do it to extend the life of your meats. I’ve seen many friends pre-cook and their methods differ in little ways. Here’s a simple way of doing it:

  • Cut your meat up to serving pieces and wash it thoroughly
  • Put it in a pot with salt and pepper (sometimes vinegar and all the seasonings you want in, including an old sock if it works for you lol) and a bit of water. Fire up the stove, let it boil, and let all the water evaporate
  • Let it cool for a bit, then pack it in a plastic bag
  • Freeze the damn thing
  • Once you take it out of the freezer, wrap it in old newspapers or brown paper bags

See! Easy enough to follow even for a kitchen idiot like me. Now this is as far as it goes, because the only person who can eat what I cook is, well, me. Yay to self-sufficiency!

Packing

Dry foods like rice, pasta, and instant mixes like Quaker oats, Nesvita, and Crab & Corn soups are so easy to load. Food from scratch—a bit trickier.

  • Rice. Don’t let one person carry the 2-kg load, please. When we buy rice, we usually ask the store attendant to split it into 500-gram packs. This is so we can distribute it among the members of the group.
  • Meats. See up.
  • Vegetables. I think it’s important to note that you shouldn’t refrigerate vegetables, because once you do so, they have to stay refrigerated. Mesh bags have always worked for me in terms of keeping the moisture out, but it does leave a weird vegetable-smell in my pack. Bahaha!
  • Eggs. Sometimes, not all of them get to the campsite in one piece. If they break, they also cause one big heck of a mess, so I still put them in a plastic before dumping them to the egg holder or before burying them in rice. That 6-pc egg-holder, I got from Daiso at less than a hundred.

  • Alcohol. I implore you, don’t carry that big ass bottle of empoy. Invest in an aluminum bottle, drink light, and drink happy.

Stoves

There’s a stove for every occasion—and a stove for every mountaineer for that matter. Because my friend Hadjie is a gourmet-type mountaineer (please, forgive the Tokyo Ghoul reference hahaha), he prefers liquid multi-fuel stoves that enable good flame control and the option for simmering. Samples are MSR WhisperLite, XGK, Kovea Booster Dual Max, etc.

Good, high-output stoves, of course, come with a price. They’re big and heavy—and they are also really pricey. Haha! So, some / most of us would rather buy those that run on butane (like our other AMCI friend, Cecile Morella, who’s a fan of Kovea Spider) and top mount stoves like the MSR Pocket Rocket.

Finally, if you really plan on cooking big meals, please drop the alcohol stove and your solid fuel stove. They are only good for boiling water.

We can discuss this all day long (I sat in AMCI’s 6-hour BMC lecture and practicals on stoves last year. This was a lecture on stove operations ALONE. Six hours. Tried all of the damn fire-making machines, while trying not to burn my hair. So far, okay naman, I lived to tell the tale). HAHAHA!

Special thanks to Derek Sta. Ana for the photos. That’s his collection–because he is an adik like that.

Practice Cooking!!!

Okay. This is it. When Hadjie asked what recipes I wanted to share here, he just had to qualify: may sabaw, sauce, or dry? Dry is easy because frying should be easy. Right? Right? Haha. So he gave sabaw and sauce recipes to practice on:

Tinolang Manok

Ingredients

  • Chicken (without bones, pre-cooked)
  • Sayote/Papaya
  • Dahon ng sili
  • Ginger
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Salt/patis
  • Pepper to taste

Procedure:

  1. Sauté ginger, garlic and onion
  2. Add sayote/papaya and water, bring to boil.
  3. Add pre-cooked chicken, continue simmering for at least 2-3 minutes, until sayote/papaya is tender.
  4. Add dahon ng sili, salt, pepper, to taste. You can use chicken cubes if you want.
  5. Remove from heat. And serve hot.

Kalderetang Baka

Ingredients:

  • Beef (Kalitiran)
  • Potato
  • Carrot
  • Bell Pepper
  • Tomato Sauce
  • Liver Spread
  • Coconut Milk
  • Tomato Onion Garlic
  • Salt/Pepper to taste

Procedure:

  1. Sauté garlic, onion, tomato
  2. add pre-cooked beef, potato, and carrots.
  3. Add tomato sauce, and pour in water, bring to boil.
  4. Add liver spread and continue simmering until vegetables are tender and the sauce is reduced and thicker.
  5. Add bell pepper, coconut milk, salt, and pepper, simmer for another 2 minutes.
  6. Remove from heat and serve hot!

Ready na? Whoooo p*t**na that was mahaba! Good luck mountain gourmets! And send me photos of your mountain feasts, please!

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How do you eat in Taipei? In reckless abandon

The Taipei holiday is now over and we’d soon be back to work, so it’s time for some due diligence! All in all, 2015 has been a great year for travel and capping it off with a visit to our neighbour up north turned out to be the sweetest, juiciest mango on top of the shaved ice–yeah, sorry for forcing the metaphor.

Now TWT has always blogged about hiking and mountains and how to basically f*ck your body up with extreme physical stress, but this one’s going to be different. In a span of six days, I may have eaten twice my body weight and burned the food down just as fast (the Apple tracker says I made at least 16,127 steps, peaking at 25,492 with a max distance of 21.81 kilometres a day, just walking).

How do you eat in Taipei? Three words: in reckless abandon.

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#help

There are a lot of great food guides online including one from Taiwanvore, which did a recap of Bourdain’s Layover Taiwan episode. It mentions some of the staples like the gua-bao, milk tea, noodle soup, shaved ice, stinky tofu, so on and so forth. For everything else, scroll down.

Hot Star at Ximending

Taiwan is the birthplace of Hot Star Large Fried Chicken (and no, they don’t serve it with rice). This branch at the Ximending area is always full of people, so have the patience to line up. Side note: the reason why we impulsively booked a flight to Taiwan in the first place is because of lunch at the Eastwood branch.

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To all the seafood lovers out there, this city is for you. You will find squid, oysters, conch, prawns in virtually every night market with prices that are dirt cheap.

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Grilled mushrooms! This, to me, is an instant hit! They cut it up in small pieces and flavour it with chili, lemon and pepper, and even barbecue powder. Mushrooms tend to have a really weird texture, so they’re not for everyone. Haha!

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These sugar-coated tomatoes are oddly delicious, precisely because of the sweet-sour contrast and whoever thought of this is a genius. Taipei night markets actually offer a lot of sugar-coated things like pears and strawberries. And if  I sugar-coat my heart and display it at Shilin or Rou He, then maybe some love-god could finally send a Filipino-German beauty queen to take it home. HAHAHA. Fucker. This is worse than toilet humor.

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Minced pork, scallions, and pepper. Do not miss the pepper buns. Don’t.

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Chinese / pork sausage on a sticky bun with your condiment/s of choice. This is what your wet, calorie-stuffed dreams are made of. Look again. You need to eat right now.

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Have fresh fruits for dessert and wash the sin away with bottles of beer. You can apologize to your liver much later on in life.

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My bit of advise: do not make dinner reservations–instead, spend your nights going around the city, eating out in markets and small alleys. From my POV, Taipei is so much more interesting in the evening regardless which area you’re in (Ximending, Tam Sui, Banquiao, whatever). Lunch is the time to check out the restaurants with rave reviews.

Din Tai Fung  (No. 194 Sec. 2, Xinyi Road, Taipei City)

House of the legendary xiao long bao that has already traveled the world through a franchise. We ate at the Taipei 101 branch, but I figured, a visit to the original one near the Dongmen station is still worth the MRT ride.

Din Tai Fung Xinyi

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James Kitchen (No. 65, Lane 31, Yongkang St, Da’an District, Taipei City)

There are some things that only locals can confirm, for example, the claim that James Kitchen is the go-to place for the best of Taiwanese home-cooking (with Japanese ballads playing at the background!). This small, inconspicuous restaurant is also found near the Dongmen Station. What we tried: garlic friend bread and oysters, bean curd mushroom rolls, onion lard rice, some chicken dish (I forget the name). Clams for the appetizer. Hahaha!

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And now for the bomb!

Tian Wai Tian (2F., No.76, Kunming Street, Wanhua District, Taipei)

Sweet baby Jeezusss. Tian Wai Tian is the mother of unlimited hot pot places (or maybe not because there’s another barbecue and hot pot place in Ximending called Rakuya haha). Two hours of my last day in Taipei were appropriately spent stuffing myself out in this food paradise. It has a very good selection of meats (duck, lamb, and more duck), seafood (like four different kinds of crabs), and vegetables, unlimited Haagen-Dazs, tea-coffee-juices-yakult-soda.

The challenge: you have to find it because there is no English name plate. Just look for a glaring red sign across Just Sleep Hostel.

Tian Wai Tian

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Trust me on this. The above photo does not give justice to the glutton’s gateway to hell. There are a lot of other places that we had to forego because of lack of time and space (newsflash: your stomach can only expand four times its size).

Still, about half of my travel money went to food. Just food. Just walking around or sitting down, attacking what freaking looks edible. If you ask me if a second or a third visit to Taipei would be worth it, I’d say yes because of the food. If somebody would give me a plane ticket now, I’d gladly take it and eat again, until the Philippine embassy is forced to ship me back home in a box or on a stretcher.

I regret nothing.

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