Xin Tian Di - Dimsum Buffet

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Yesterday, Tapioca and I celebrated Valentines, Chinese New Year and his birthday (all-in-one celebration) at Crowne Plaza's Cantonese restaurant called Xin Tian Di. It's never too late to celebrate, ya know. When Tapioca was finally allowed to go out of the house and do some walking, we took the chance and decided it's time to use the vouchers before they expire. I got them from Deal Grocer, one of my favorite Groupon sites in the country.

I made reservations the day before and as early as 11am we were already outside Xin Tian Di waiting for it to open.

 . . . Xin Tian Di's entrance

 Photo op from our lovely booth . . .

. . . chic and elegant

the table setting . . .

Just look at the table setting. Social. Intimidating. I feel like I don't belong. Is this really a Chinese Dimsum place? Yes, it is. A high-end Chinese Dimsum place.

. . . the condiments

Tapioca loved the sauce holders.

hot towel . . .

We asked for green tea and they served us . . .

. . . morning blossom - pearl tea

The tea smelled so nice. I checked the pot and saw this huge flower swimming inside. However, this tea did not taste nor smell like a flower (I hate teas that smell like flowers. It's like drinking perfume). It was something else which we enjoyed a lot.

By the way, I thought pearl tea = bubble tea (tea with Tapioca pearls). I made some research online and found out that pearl teas are the same as gunpowder tea - a type of green tea. The dried leaves of pearl tea resemble to blackpowder grains and that's how it got it's name. However, in Chinese, gunpowder tea is called zhū chá or literally means "pearl tea or bead tea". (source:Wikipedia) That's tea 101 for you and me!

And then we found out they have a tea menu pala . . .

the tea menu . . .

Omg, the morning blossom tea was the most expensive of them all! Anyway, I think the price is still reasonable. We kept asking for refills and I'd lost count on how much tea we drank that day. Sulit ang bayad :-)

 . . . the menu

The menu consists of dimsum (steam, fried & vegetarian), noodles, congee and dessert. All items are made fresh upon order. They strictly implements a no leftover policy. You can order the dimsum per piece to avoid uneaten portions and pay additional charges.

To order, just tick the boxes of the items you like and specify how many pieces. These are the items we consumed. Warning: photo overload!

salmon taro puff . . .

Tapioca liked this. Deep fried salmon and taro paste. I think it's gross. Tasted fishy and not pleasant to the palate. Obviously, I did not like it.

. . . steamed seafood dumplings in superior stock

This we both liked. The dumpling was huge! And it's filled with shrimps and everything seafood. My only complaint is the skin breaks easily. I loved the superior stock the most.

stone fish dumplings . . .

Tastes like paper.

. . . bird's eye dumplings

Tastes like the stone fish dumpling.

abalone mushroom vegetable dumplings . . .

Another bland item.

. . . crispy spring roll

This is indeed crispy. Perfectly wrapped, super crispy and meaty on the inside. No sauce needed.

steamed glutinous rice dumplings stuffed with duck meat, mushrooms and egg yolk in lotus leaf . . .

This tasted like dessert because of the glutinous rice. Not bad but not good either.

. . . double-boiled congee with dried scallops

We loved it. Too bad we can't eat too much or we won't be able to try other items on the menu.

steamed crystal prawns or hakao . . .

My favorite dumpling. Xin Tian Di's hakao was just okay. I wish I ordered more of these instead of stuffing myself with bland tasting dumplings.

. . . taro puffs

I thought without the salmon and fishy taste I would come to like this. Still it tasted yucky for me. I'm sorry.

steamed xiao long pao - shanghai style . . .

I am always on the look out for xiao long bao/pao whenever we go to a Chinese resto. However their shanghai style failed to impress. Again, it's tasteless. Even the dipping sauce didn't help.

. . . steamed chicken feet in XO sauce

Tapioca doesn't like chicken feet so I had these. It was super soft and tender however I'm not so fond of the XO sauce. There was about 5 pieces of them and on my 3rd piece, I felt like I was being tortured. Afraid to pay extra charges so I finished them. If this was cooked adobo-style, I'd probably finished them in no time or perhaps order a second serving.

deep-fried buns with condense milk . . .

Finally. Something to cleanse my taste buds after the struggle with the chicken feet. The buns were toasty and crispy on the outside and then soft and moist on the inside. The condense milk was perfect to dip the buns to. Yummy!

. . . glutinous pork puffs

These were okay. A little oily, though. At this point, I surrendered. I'm done. I'm moving on to desserts. Tapioca still had room for more.

steamed sio mai - japanese style . . .

. . . steamed minced beef balls with beancurd skin

steamed BBQ pork buns . . .

. . . pork buns innards

wanton noodle soup with roast duck . . .

The noodle soup took a long time to arrive. More than 30 minutes. As in ang tagal! I would give the service a perfect score na sana if this didn't happen. Buti na lang Tapioca enjoyed the soup. They probably had to order this from the 7 Corners downstairs kaya natagalan LOL!

Here's my dessert:

. . . sesame buchi & coffee pudding

The buchi was just okay.  The coffee pudding was amazing. I took a bite and I thought it's just an ordinary gelatin. Then the coffee flavor exploded inside my mouth. It was so good!

sweet egg custard . . .

. . . sweet egg custard's innards

 Okay lang.

chocolate mantao . . .

This tasted like the deep-fried buns except it has chocolate filling inside. I still preferred the deep-fried buns with condense milk.

. . . Jellybean & Tapioca

We're stuffed but not totally satisfied. Tapioca's game plan (order the dimsum that we've never tried before) failed because most of the dimsum tasted bleh. I still wanted to go back here but next time I know what to order. I'll make sure to keep away from the items I didn't like.


Pinoy Food for Tapioca's Birthday

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

I know it sounds weird to be cooking Pinoy food on Chinese New Year but I did. Chinese cooking is not really my forte (as if I have any forte in cooking, LOLZ!!!). Anyway, this is about Tapioca's favorite Pinoy food and I found an easy to follow recipe courtesy of Mama Sita. I thought I'm gonna cook all three dishes by myself but my brother came up to our house, much to our surprise. Good thing cause he became my assistant the whole time I was cooking.

This post is an account of my cooking experience. I'm making a blog post on this to help me remember. Let me tell you one thing. It was the first time I tried cooking all three dishes. The cookbook was a HUGE help. But before I followed everything on the cookbook, I tried to cross-reference the recipes from some reliable cooking blogs to check if there's something I can tweak on the recipe like add an ingredient or two or try a different approach or techniques.

First dish - Caldereta.

I cooked the Caldereta first. It was super easy. I followed everything on the book from the ingredients to the procedures. The recipe uses the Mama Sita Caldereta mix therefore it did not require you to add any garlic, onions or tomatoes. However, Connie from Casa Veneracion mentioned that a good Caldereta uses a good amount of these stuff and I believe her. Also, Tapioca loves onions. So I sauted a whole bunch of garlic and half a kilo of onions together with the browned  beef. As I was simmering the meat and waiting for it to become tender, I worried about the onions. There's just too much. It's like I'm making French Onion Soup. When the meat was tender, I put the sauce mix in, the potatoes, carrots, bell pepper and olives. While mixing everything up, I realized the onions suddenly vanished - like magic! Tapioca tried it and said it was perfect. He loved it! The sauce tasted like authentic Caldereta. We hardly notice it came from an instant mix.

Second dish - Fresh Lumpia.

For the recipe, it only requires Mama Sita ginisa mix for the veggies. The grocery sold ginisa mix for a whole pack and we never use those in our kitchen. Since I'm out of onions (I used them all for the Caldereta) I went to the nearby sari-sari store and bought the Ajinomoto ginisa mix (they didn't have the Mama Sita brand). Anyway, when I sauted all the veggies, they turned out all right. I added some fish sauce for more flavor and it came out fine. The sauce was very simple and easy to make. The recipe asked for 6 tablespoons of cornstarch. I thought it was too much and also I'm out of cornstarch. I still needed them for the wrapper. While I was boiling the sauce I thought it was not thick enough and that I should have followed the recipe. When the sauce cooled down, it turned into a really thick like paste. Tapioca did not like it. I made a second batch using 2 tablespoon of cornstarch and the consistency was much better.

The wrapper was quite a challenge for me. Making the batter was easy-peasy. Cooking them was not. We only have 2 pans. Big and small. First I used the big one and I couldn't make a round wrapper. Until I have no choice I asked Tapioca to help out. He used the small pan and it worked out right. The problem was it's hard to wrap the veggies in a smaller wrapper. It breaks easily. Tapioca found a solution. He cooked the wrapper a little longer and it helped that he made it a little more thick, too. Sort of like a crepe kind of thickness. The wrapper didn't break but I was still having such a hard time wrapping it.The filling spills out from the lettuce leaf. When we're out of lettuce it became more easy to wrap them. Though having a lettuce leaf makes the lumpia more presentable.

Third dish - Pancit Palabok.

This was the last dish I've prepared. The Palabok I would say was easy, too. Except it requires a lot of ingredients that needs to be prepared separately such as:

- Cook the noodles.
- Boil the pork.
- Boil the shrimps.
- Boil some eggs for the toppings.
- Use the pork stock to make the sauce.
- Grind the chicharon (good thing I already bought a ready made tinapa toppings or else it would it eat up my time picking up the bones.)

Yes the procedure was really easy. Just boil everything. But prep was such a hassle. Sobrang busisi! And it did not help that we only have 2 pots and pans (big and small). So what to do? No choice but wait until one of them is done cooking so I can use the pots.

Now I understand why on every fiesta or celebrations where there's a big handaan they require so many pots and pans because it's necessary to cook things faster. Did I also mention, time is key? Yes it is. Because people are waiting so they can eat because hello they are hungry and lunch time is lunch time. Because I'm being a Martha Stewart wanna be, nastress out ako ng bongga! Hahaha!

Here I am trying the best that I can to wrap the veggies as neat as possible. Promise ang hirap pala lalo na with the lettuce. My kitchen was a mess. Told ya, I was stressed!

Here's the spread . . .

That's the best I can with those lumpia. Then there's the brown sauce for the lumpia. the palabok sauce and the bowl with cover, that's the Caldereta.

In fairness, konti na lang natira. Or because ang tagal kong nagluto nagutom na mga bisita. Lol!!!

This was the cake I bought from Goldilocks . . .

. . .  and the cake innards

This one was given by Dirk . . .

Super moist choco cake with caramel! This cake was super yum! We always pass by Cake 2 Go on our way to work but I can't believe we never tried their products until now.

 The birthday boy with his cake and the leaning brown-out candle. Hahaha!

It was a simple fare with a few friends who came to celebrate with us. Though, it was not what how I would like it to be, what's important is we were together on his special day and he is recovering well.


Kung Hei Fat Choi & Tapioca's Birthday

Saturday, February 9, 2013

I don't know if it's luck or what. Tapioca's birthday fell on a Chinese New Year. The year of the water snake.

Our year didn't really  start out good. Nanay and Tapioca got sick. We've been going in and out of the hospital for the whole month of January. Kulang na lang tumira na kami dun. Then, February came and Tapioca went under the knife. He had bilateral hernia which can only be fixed thru surgery.

After all we've been though, you can just imagine how he was not really in the mood to celebrate. But you know me, I love birthdays. And it's a milestone for him. It's his 30th Birthday! I thought it's not right to just let the day pass without something to remember his special day. It's also a thanksgiving for surviving all the storms and trials that went our way. Eh ayaw talaga. I bargained to buy him a cake. A tiny one therefore not something fabulous. His only request is for me to get his fave flavor -an ube cake. And . . .  tikoy. Yes! At least pumayag.

I went to Cubao earlier today and bought the cake and the tikoy. It felt kinda weird not buying stuff like pasta or something. Eh ayaw nya so I really didn't buy anything anymore. Then evening came, I got in touch with Nanay to check how she was doing. Our conversation ended up to food (we love and live to eat tee hee!) and she mentioned having Caldereta for dinner because my second cousin celebrated his birthday too. Tapioca overheard the conversation and said "I want Caldereta too!"

And the idea sparked. I know I have to make his day really special. I recently bought this cookbook from National Book Store. It is basically like an advert for Mama Sita as every dish requires you to use a Mama Sita product. But the thing I liked about it is how easy, simple  and no frills are the recipes. It's the perfect recipe book for people who don't have the luxury of the time to do laborious cooking.

As I was browsing the book for the Caldereta recipe, I came up with the menu for tomorrow.

- Caldereta
- Pancit Palabok
- Fresh Lumpia

Pinoy fare lang ang peg. Just a few of Tapioca's favorite Pinoy dishes. Looking at the recipes, they're so easy to follow and I knew I can do it. I have been cooking everyday since we got home from the hospital without any assistance from Tapioca. I am so proud of my self. I'm taking my domestic goddess into the next level tomorrow. Hope I can pull it off.


At Home With Recuperating Tapioca

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

After undergoing surgery, Tapioca is now staying at home with me like ALL THE TIME. He's having difficulty moving so I'm like his personal nurse. I help him get out of bed and bathe. He is not allowed to do anything exhausting nor physically demanding nor go out of the house. So now I take care of everything. From being his personal nurse, cleaning the house, cooking our meals, washing the dishes and more.

But you know what? I love it! I love that I get to spend the entire day with Tapioca.  We're going to be like this for a couple more weeks. Right now we have a routine.

In the morning, I prepare breakfast. We eat breakfast together while watching TV. After breakfast I heat up water so he can take a bath. I bathe him. Yah, I'm like taking care of a big baby LOL! Then we clean his wounds. Then I clean the house. By 10am I prepare lunch. You know I'm not really a good cook like him but I'm trying. It takes me two hours to prepare our meal. That long because I'm just a neophyte okay?

By 12nn we will have lunch while watching movies or TV series. Afterwards I wash the dishes, do some more cleaning and take a bath. Then we'll have our afternoon tea (this is my favorite part). After tea time we have our me time. During me time he either plays PC games or continues to watch movies. My me time is to blog / blog hop / browse whatever.

I love that we get to have tea time now. I'm no longer working in a office and so I don't need any extra caffeine. We don't drink tea in the morning because its hot. I would rather have coke or iced tea. I think I have mentioned before that we are tea drinkers. We don't have coffee in our pantry to the disappointment of our house guests. Well, actually I'm considering stocking up on some instant coffee for guests who prefer coffee. But anyway. it was great to know that some of our friends are turning into tea drinkers as well.

our teapot and cups . . .

Vanjee gave me some tea from China which we are currently enjoying for our afternoon tea. We just needed a new tea pot cos right now our teapot is leaking therefore a saucer underneath it. Did I tell you it's more fun drinking from these cups than drinking straight from a mug? If we drink from a mug we just ended up consuming one serving. But drinking from these cups, we can drink a potfull plus a couple of refills.

What about you? Tea or coffee?


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