Words Alex Arellano
There’s a saying in Japan that Tokyoites like to overspend on fine shoes, Kyoto natives love to blow it all on fine clothes, and Osakans live to splurge on food. Osakans have a word for it: kuidaore.
Kuidaore | 食い倒れ | “kwee-da-o-re” | eat yourself into bankruptcy; eat till you drop; eat till your gut explodes.
When travel restrictions ease, when sitting for hours in a cramped tube with a hundred-plus other strangers inhaling and exhaling the same recycled air is no longer a death-defying act, when the COVID horror show comes to its much-awaited conclusion, I’ve got a list of happy places I intend to visit again to test my capacity for kuidaore.
Kuromon Market, Osaka
Respect for nature is the foundation of Japanese customs regarding food. It leads to respect for the ingredients nature is generous enough to provide, extends to respect between host and guest, and dictates that cooks respect their craft. The time and effort put into the artful presentation of food and the careful consideration of serving vessels are also manifestations of the Japanese reverence for nature and its bounty. It’s why a bad meal in Japan is as rare as a Bongbong Marcos speech with an element of truth.
My wife, daughter, and I were walking along one bank of the Dotomborigawa River. Standing next to the door of a bar was a guy in a full bunny costume brandishing a hollow plastic baseball bat. Supplicants in various stages of inebriation would approach him, bow, turn, and bend over. The guy in the bunny costume then did his best imitation of Sadaharu Oh, Japan’s home run king, and walloped each proffered behind like he was trying to send its owner flying across the river. The newly spanked nonchalantly straightened up, winced a bit, and continued drinking, occasionally talking with the guy in the bunny costume and bat as he waited for new spankees. You gotta love New Year’s Eve in Japan.
Kani Dōraku, Dotonbori, Osaka
We started our dinner with just one order of the grilled king crab, but the aroma of the impeccably grilled claws and the irresistible semi-sweetness of the crab seduced us into ordering three more. We also had boiled crab and tempura snow crab, which were pretty good, but the grilled crab was unforgettable. Think of a Mustang and a Camaro versus a Ferrari.
Wanchai, Hong Kong
First, let me apologize for not being able to tell you the name of the restaurant where my family and I had the best meal of our Hong Kong trip. We were looking for a highly-touted roast goose place in Wanchai but after a futile search up and down Hennessy Road, we gave up and went to another joint we’d passed along the way. The rich, brown, lacquer-like finish of the roasted goods in the display window beckoned to us and promised untold pleasures. Another good sign—the locals who filled the place all seemed happy with what was on their plates.
After every bite of the roast goose or roast pork, I wanted to get down on my knees and say a prayer of gratitude to the generations of Cantonese cooks who’d developed and mastered the techniques needed to achieve the Holy Grail of tender, flavor-drenched meat and crispy skin.
If I may suggest, next time, try skipping the plum sauce that’s usually served with the roasts. Have the goose and pork as is or with a little sprinkle of salt.
Taqueria el Tapatio, Burbank
My sister-in-law, a longtime Burbank resident, says finding a good Mexican restaurant in California is as easy as 1-2-3.
- Stay away from big chains. They’re run by black-souled, cold-hearted wretches whose only joy is seeing an uptick in the bottom line. Instead, look for single outlets or small chains. They’re run by folks who want to do right by their culinary heritage and are happy to share it with other people.
- Is the place overrun by Karens? Do what Donald Trump did when his supporters attacked the Capitol in Washington DC—stay away.
- Check out the accents of the staff. If they’re thicker than the pachydermal face of Harry Roque, you’re in a good place. Mexican Top 40 music playing in the background? Muy bien.
Señor Fish, Pasadena
- Think of all the best Mexican comfort food but using fish, shrimp, and scallops.
- Battered and deep-fried fish tacos;
- Scallop and shrimp tacos;
- Scallop, shrimp, and deep-fried fish tacos
Owned by brother and sister Enrique and Alicia Ramirez, Señor Fish is a Southern California institution known for its fish tacos and shrimp and scallop burritos. What kept me coming back was Siete Mares, a seafood stew that’ll have you dreaming of carefree days by the seashore where the biggest issue you must resolve is, “Do I put grouper or sea bass in my caldo de mariscos?”
All authentic recipes of Siete Mares or caldo de mariscos require ingredients like epazote, chili de arbol, or chipotle, that aren’t readily available in the Philippines. Not to worry. Try the recipe of Chef Tatung’s mother, Juliana, or Joji, for Sopa de Mariscos—it’s like a love letter to seafood. Also included below is a recipe for garlic bread that Chef Tatung likes to have with his stew.
Yes, there’s a long list of ingredients. Don’t let it deter you from pursuing nirvana via seafood. It’s a fairly straightforward recipe and you only need two pots. Once you finish prepping the ingredients, it’s a simple matter of adding them in the correct sequence.
Sopa de Mariscos
By Chef Tatung Sarthou and his mother, Joji
- SET A (Seafood stock)
- 1 piece onion, quartered
- Leaves of 1 celery stalk
- Peelings of 1 carrot
- 2 pieces laurel
- 5 cups water
- SET B
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 carrot, peeled, diced
- 1 red bell pepper, seeds and core removed, diced.
- 1 stalk celery, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 can of tomatoes, puree in a blender
- 1 tablespoon chili flakes, diced
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 1/2 kilo fresh halaan
- 1/2 kilo fresh mussels
- 1 piece lumot (squid), around 300 grams
- 1 piece fresh white fish (Chef Tatung uses talakitok in the recipe but any firm, white fleshed fish will do – grouper (lapu-lapu), snapper (maya-maya), or sea bass (apahap)
- 1/2 kilo fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1 piece crab
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
- White pepper
- White wine about ¼ cup
- GARLIC BREAD
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 8 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon parsley, chopped
- 4 tablespoons parmesan cheese
- 2 baguettes bread
Fish. Have your fish dealer clean and fillet the fish for you. Be sure to ask for the head and bones and tail—you’ll need them for the fish stock. Or why not learn a new skill, take the fish home (or have them delivered) and fillet them yourself. Simply visit the biggest and most complete skill learning center of the pandemic era—YouTube.
Mussels & Clams. Under running water, using a spoon, scrape off any dirt from the shells of the clams and mussels. Get two bowls, fill each with water and add salt. Soak the clams in one bowl, the mussels in the other, 20 to 30 minutes. This will make them spit out any sand.
Shrimp. Remove the heads and shells of the shrimp. Save the heads and shells for the seafood stock. Remove the vein at the back of the shrimp.
Squid. Clean the squid well under running water. Remove the hard quill that looks like plastic. If your squid’s really fresh, Chef Tatung says there’s no need to remove the skin. Slice the body and tentacles into bite-size pieces. What to do with the ink sac? You could throw it away but if you hate discarding anything perfectly edible, put the ink sac in a container and freeze for future use.
Crab. If your crab is alive, kill it first by blanching in boiling water for a minute. Dunk it in an ice bath to stop the cooking. Remove the abdomen, the shell, the gills, and guts. Set aside.
The stock. In a pot, put the fish head, bones, tail, shrimp head, and shells, and the SET A ingredients—quartered onion, leaves of the celery stalk, carrot peelings, laurel leaves, water. Bring to a boil, then lower heat, and simmer for thirty minutes.
Strain the stock and reserve.
The stew. Get another pot, put it on medium heat. Add olive oil. Put in the garlic. Chef Tatung says he adds the garlic first when the oil isn’t too hot to let the garlic flavor infuse into the oil and to prevent the garlic from getting burned and turning bitter.
Add onions, allow them to soften, then add carrots, celery, and bell peppers. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Add paprika. Pour in the white wine.
Add the tomatoes, then the cumin. Mix well. Pour in the reserved seafood stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer until the carrots have softened.
Add the clams and mussels. Then add the crabs, shrimp, and fish. When the shrimp changes color and the fish turns opaque, add squid and season with salt and pepper. Stir. Stew for 3 to 4 more minutes. Add cilantro and chili flakes. And you’re done. (Note: Discard any mussels or clams that don’t open up after cooking.)
Slice the baguettes in half. Put the garlic, parsley, parmesan cheese, and butter in a bowl and mix well. Spread generously on the baguette halves. Cook the baguettes for 10 minutes in an oven that’s at 200oC.
Got excess garlic butter? Chef Tatung suggests you sauté it and toss in some cooked pasta and add more parmesan cheese.
Got any happy places you plan to visit when the world becomes travel-friendly again? Share your fly-out and dine-in kuidaore dreams with kanto.com.ph.
For more recipes by Chef Tatung, visit his YouTube. Channel, SIMPOL.