March came and went, but not before it brought us another cooking challenge and a new featured blogger. The challenge was to create a dish using edible flowers, shallots and a meat (lamb, pork, beef). After much deliberation by my readers’, that means you, Kitchen Masochist’s dish reigned supreme and was selected as the favorite.
That means this post is all about her. In order to have an opportunity to get to know her a little better, I asked her a few questions to help us all have a full picture of the goodness that happens in her little corner of the Philippines. And now, here’s the in-depth interview by Anamaris TheNoseyOne:
We all want to know, why did you call your blog Kitchen Masochist?I was raised by a mother who loved to cook. She was raised the old way in that everything was made from scratch. My mom hated all the instant stuff, TV dinners, Campbell soup cans. She made everything from scratch, from gravy to spring roll and wonton wrappers, mac and cheese, etc. The only things she didn’t make from scratch were noodles, pasta, tomato and oyster sauce. My siblings and I still don’t know what any of those TV dinners or Campbell soup cans taste like to this day. When I moved out and went off to college, I soon learned how fussy I was when it came to food and couldn’t eat any of the instant stuff so common to college students. They just tasted really foul to me, since I was accustomed to well-prepared, good quality food. I make most of the stuff I cook from scratch and use very few instant, commercially prepared ingredients, just like my mom did. Hence, the name, The Kitchen Masochist, because making everything from scratch is pretty masochist, if you ask me.
You’ve lived in so many wonderful places, how have each of them influenced your cooking style?I spent the first 12 years of my life in the Middle East, Iran and Kuwait, specifically. I use a lot of herbs and spices, chicken, beef, and fish and grains in my cooking. Since both of these countries are Muslim countries, pork meat is not available, as it’s forbidden for Muslims to eat it. I didn’t start eating pork until we moved back to California. I try to make myself use pork more often, but it rarely makes a blip in my culinary radar since it was just not available during my formative years.Since I’m now living here in Southeast Asia, I use a lot of chilies, tofu and aromatic Asian herbs such as lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, laksa and pandan leaves, etc.
If you were stranded in a deserted island and could only do one thing, what would it be?That’s easy, I’d draw or paint. I have always loved to draw. With drawing, you don’t need any fancy materials. You can use burnt wood and draw on leaves or rocks, just like the early cavemen did.
What is the greatest cooking challenge you face in the Philippines?The greatest challenge would be finding the ingredients when I’m craving stuff from home such as Mexican or Tex-Mex food. Those Mexican or Southwestern chilies like chipotle or ancho chilies are simply not available here, so it’s pointless trying to recreate these dishes. Cooking Western food is quite challenging here. Ingredients are either unavailable or very expensive if they are available.
Why do you blog?I started my blog on Thanksgiving Day of 2009 and realized that I’ve now been living as an expat in the Philippines for 9 years. I couldn’t help but think about how frustrating it was that I couldn’t cook the foods I grew up with, or was accustomed to because I didn’t know where to get the ingredients during my early days. As exciting and interesting as it is to try different kinds of ‘exotic’ dishes, you always go back ‘home’ to mac and cheese or whatever is considered comfort food in your culture. I figured I’d help out new expats here in the Philippines and point them in the right direction by giving them tips on where to shop and what substitutions to use. When you’re in a totally new and unfamiliar environment, the most familiar things in your life would be your family and the food you prepare. When you’re a new expat, the only control you have is how you run your home which includes the food you prepare.
What exciting things will we see in your blog in the coming months?For this month, I’ll be featuring a series I call Culinary Cosmetic Surgery where I take a traditional dish and give it a new appearance. The ingredients won’t be changed, just the shape and presentation.
It’s your turn to be the boss, which 3 ingredients will you pick for the next challenge?Tofu – firm or soft ( also known as ‘silken tofu’) Seafood of your choice – fish, shrimp, mussels or clams Lemongrass Shopping tips: -Buy your tofu from your local Asian markets instead of those fancy or trendy health food stores like Whole Foods. You’ll pay much less. -Soft or silken tofu is generally used in desserts and firm tofu in savory dishes. -The scent of fresh lemongrass dissipates the longer its exposed to air, so chop your lemongrass just right when you’re about to use it.
Thanks for sharing, KM! Please be sure to stop by The Masochist’s blog, I promise you will enjoy her approach to cooking. As for the next challenge, since I had scheduling complications, I will need to reconfigure the dates, I will keep you posted with the details.