Is it possible that heart health will start in the kitchen?
Cardiologists believe that. The Philippine Heart Association (PHA) recently featured restaurateur and celebrity chef Myke “Tatung” Sarthou in the recent “Usapang Puso sa Puso” forum with the holiday theme, “Paskong Busog, Paskong Lagot.”
“That is really very important,” Sarthou stressed. That’s why we really want to teach people how to cook so they can make healthier choices.
“Especially if you cook your own food, your mindfulness in the ingredients that you choose and the manner of cooking that you apply to your ingredients really has a big impact on your own health.
“If you always eat food prepared by other people, sometimes you don’t know. You only look for something that’s delicious. Once you are involved in the process of cooking, you begin to ask certain questions.
What ingredients are there? Saan nanggaling ang ingredients mo? Maganda ba itong food na ‘to? You break down what you eat, as well as what you cook. So you are more aware. That’s why there’s that simple and when you eat healthy food, it’s not just the delicious dishes, but healthy ingredients.”
Sarthou shared his own versions of three, all-time favorite stars of the noche buena table. For one, he prepared Ilonggo-style arroz a la Valenciana.
The rice was soaked in turmeric for nearly three hours with luyang dilaw. Then, prepare the chicken fillet seasoned with salt and pepper, chorizo Macau, liver, with oil, onions, garlic, paprika, salt and Cayenne pepper.
You can add tomato sauce and tomato paste, green peas, lime with banana leaves, raisins, egg and the malagkit on top. Cook everything in slow fire so that there will be a crust or tutong at the bottom.
“The rice is nice and savory,” Sarthou emphasized. “Such a festive dish that’s very complex.”
The chef suggested that ingredients can even be modified. For instance, the rice in arroz a la Valenciano can be replaced with a healthier adlai. Tone down the seasoning and substitute the chorizo macau with shitake mushrooms.
“Find other means of adding flavor to your dish,” Sarthou insisted. Use mushrooms or add herbs and spices. Also very good to our body.”
The second dish was Sarthou’s version of lumpiang sariwa. It started with a combination of flour and corn starch, add sugar and half a teaspoon of salt, four eggs, one cup of fresh milk and combine to the flour mixture. Strain it again.
Use a non-stick pan and add very little amount of oil. A drop will do. Heat is low. Then transfer it to a plate.
Use ubod, the heart of the coconut, for filling. Boil and strain. Add pork giniling or you can also use chicken giniling, chopped shrimp meat that resembles giniling in texture. Season with patis and black pepper and let it simmer until the juice is reduced.
“Kahit sino kayang magluto basta simple,” Sarthou said.
“During Christmas, there is always an overflowing amount of food we don’t eat because it’s enjoyable. Pinipilit natin ang lahat ng tao kumain para hindi masayang ang food.
We have the burden to eat the food so it will not get wasted. That’s impractical. We have to be mindful not to waste food. We can only consume so much. Let’s be mindful in celebrating.”
For his third holiday dish, Sarthou advised to personalize the dishes on the noche buena table by cooking food yourself to make the guests feel special, too.
Honey garlic roast chicken entailed the marinated soy sauce (lemon, calamansi or pineapple) with lots of minced garlic and a bit of dry herbs and black pepper. Add any form of sugar – white or brown – to make the chicken meat brown easily.
Add a little bit of paprika. Brush the chicken with honey to make the meat sticky but juicy. For the side dish, prepare a bed of vegetables – carrots, potatoes, squash, zucchini, bell pepper and onions for more flavour.
Season with a bit of salt, pepper and toss it to the chicken. Add six cloves of garlic to the roasting pan and the other six, stuff it inside the chicken. Tie the chicken legs to each other and wrap with aluminum foil.
Roast the chicken to 180 degrees for around 45 minutes. Add black pepper, honey and marinade mixed together, then brush the chicken to make the skin very sticky. Then put fresh parsley.
“It’s really a struggle to live healthier,” Sarthou stressed. But there are ways to change your lifestyle little by little by making good choices. I make sure I drink a lot of water even if what I’m eating is generally unhealthy.
“I also make it a point that I have my serving of vegetables all the time. Try to have the required [eight] hours of sleep every day. For me, that’s important. Changing our lifestyle little by little and be very mindful of what we’re feeling.”