Jessy’s Journeys.. in Cooking


cooking6If you’ve been following my blog long enough, you’ll already know how much I love food. Like, I REALLY love food. And I mentioned previously that I am just starting to learn how to cook. Well, not really, my mom taught me a few Filipino dishes before she passed away, and I do know bits here and there from helping her and watching her be an amazing cook. Unfortunately, I was so young and stubborn that I didn’t really care to learn from her. But nowadays, I try a little bit here and there. In Dubai, one of the biggest conveniences (but inconvenient to your health!) is that everywhere delivers. And Alan has tried to get me to be healthier, so I’ve dipped into what used to be No Man’s Land for me – the world of cooking.

Now, for the average person, cooking is probably something that is just second nature. Especially in the US, eating out is either too expensive or too bad for your health if you opt for the cheap fast food. So since Alan and I have moved in together last year, we’ve slowly been learning how to cook (he has a bit more knowledge than I do). To me, cooking, recipes and ingredients are quite like another language – I usually ask my sister or friends on the minor details usually left out of the generic recipe. I once asked a friend, “Do I need to put oil in the pan before I put the chicken in?” Yes, it’s true. Nowadays, I’m a bit better, thanks to Google, Pinterest, Youtube, and whatever I can stream from Netflix.

Christmas after my mother passed away, my sister sent me a really lovely gift – a recipe book with a few of my mom’s recipes. She usually hand wrote her recipes and kept it in a little box, and I had asked my sister to send me some recipes. I was quite surprised when she sent over this little gem:





I’m considering sharing some of my mom’s recipes, but not sure I want to yet, for now I’ll just share what I have done so far. I had already been very familiar with her signature chicken adobo, and had made it for her a few times, even when I went back home to visit while she was having chemotherapy.

My mom would make cucumber slices in a vinegar/water/sugar mix to go along with the salty soy sauce taste

My mom would make cucumber slices in a vinegar/water/sugar mix to go along with the salty soy sauce taste

So I had already been quite confident in making it for Alan and my friend, Natalie. Because my lovely Brit and Irish don’t fancy meat on the bone, I made this with all boneless chicken, although my mom ensures that the real flavor comes from the bone, which is why I feel the flavor was slightly lacking, but still good. The next Filipino dish I attempted was a fairly easy one, it just took some time – bistek (translated to beef steak), which are thin slices of beef marinated in soy sauce and calamansi juice – tiny lime like fruits. Unfortunately, at the time I didn’t have any calamansi so I had to substitute it with lemon. I remember watching my mom slave over the stove for what seemed like hours frying the individual pieces of slim beef, and I’d always come over and steal one or two before she covered it in gravy. I actually preferred the beef without the gravy so when I made mine, I went without:

I used the marinade as the sauce, and cooked the onions in it after the beef

I used the marinade as the sauce, and cooked the onions in it after the beef

The next recipe I tried from my mom’s cookbook is a typical Asian style dish, lemon chicken. She did is a bit different by breading the chicken first, and I added onto it with vegetables. Alan, being a personal trainer, is a bit finicky when it comes to food. A lot of popular Filipino dishes lack vegetables and boast rice – because that’s how it was. So in order for him to enjoy it, I added extra vegetables to my mom’s signature lemon chicken.



Now, being an Asian of course, I should know how to make fried rice. I wish I had the recipes I could link you, but it’s been a while since I cooked this up. I googled a few different recipes as well as asked my fellow Asians on Facebook and came up with this:


While it was tasty, it was a bit too salty (too much soy sauce) and I haven’t really had the chance to make it again, since like I said, Alan wouldn’t eat just this as a meal and would have to supplement a main dish.

I looked through the rest of my mom’s recipes and decided they were to try later when I had a special event/more practice/the right ingredients. Food in Dubai is actually not that great. Most of what you find in the grocery stores are imported and previously frozen, so the taste is not always there. There are a few farmer’s markets but honestly Alan and I are quite lazy to go farther than our local shop, and also because we don’t have a car it’s not always convenient to just hop in a cab to go to the co-op. I have been exploring the grocery stores on my layovers more and more, and learning from the local crew from each area what is best to buy. I was recently in Capetown, when beef is king, and meats are good and cheap in general:



And so, I’ve started developing a theme when cooking: Alan must always have a protein and lots of vegetables, and the starch is usually optional (mandatory for me!) so when I do cook I try and think of these three basic elements. What I have been cooking lately has been more “western” style and less Asian inspired, but don’t worry, I will get back to that someday soon.


Salmon in mustard honey glaze (recipe found from the Big Oven app) and sweet potato mash

Salmon in mustard honey glaze (recipe found from the Big Oven app) and sweet potato mash

Bolognese (with a jar of Arrabiata sauce and extra tomato sauce) loaded up on vegetables

Bolognese (with a jar of Arrabiata sauce and extra tomato sauce) loaded up on vegetables

Tacos!!! (Don't really need to know how to cook to make tacos)

Fajitas!!! (Don’t really need to know how to cook to make fajitas)

Many people have been keeping a Pinterest of various boards, and I keep one for cooking, and actually have tried a few of the recipes I found there. Here’s one really yummy salmon one that turned out really well:


I used this recipe I found on Pinterest, which called for mixed spices for the salmon coating and salsa. The salsa I made fresh from a different recipe found here, which I make quite often now. I love having fresh salsa to use for snacks and for breakfast. The rice was a simple cilantro lime rice (which I need to improve on) I found somewhere on google that I used in my rice cooker.

This is the latest cooking adventure using preseasoned lamb chops I purchased in South Africa, and making carrot and potato mash, and vegetables cooked in butter and covered in thick layers of lemon pepper. Yum!


I have to say that cooking is actually quite easy.. to be fair, I haven’t been too adventurous and I’m still learning how all these flavors mix together, but it does feel good to eat something you made yourself and know what was put into it. I’ll be posting more about cooking as the journeys keep coming and hope to gain knowledge about different ingredients and recipes from all the places I visit in the world.

Have a signature recipe to share? Let’s have it! 🙂




9 responses »

  1. Easiest marinade for salmon, shrimp, or portbello mushrooms: equal parts miso paste plus maple syrup and a little bit of olive oil. Let it sit in the marinade for at least a half hour then stick in a 425 degree oven. Salmon (17 minutes), shrimp (13-15 minutes), or mushroom (15-20).

      • Also, I only started cooking nine years ago. Surprisingly, one of the best starter cookbooks is The Barefoot Contessa’s and Nigella Lawson’s. The latter, in particular, describes what to look for, instead of saying only “cook for nine or so minutes.” Online, look up Gordon Ramsey’s express lessons. You’ll be amazing in little time. Good luck! From one former kitchen rookie — I’m so excited for you!

  2. Glad to see you cooking! That bistek looks positively delicious, you are definitely making that the next time you are in town!

  3. Your mum’s cook book is amazing. What a beautiful keepsake you can pass on to future generations 🙂 Jess, if i wasn’t veg i would totally request you to make the bistek for me (that was my fav dish of my mum’s from way back)!

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