Have at you!

One of the topics my older brothers and I often discuss is food and nutrition. I’m far from being the healthiest eater in the world, but I consciously try to make sure I choose the better option when we dine out. One time when my brothers and I were chatting online (we no longer live in the same house), I told them that there was a stall in Robinson’s Magnolia’s food court which claims to serve healthy 300-calorie meals. I told them I’ll give it a try when I visit that mall and give them my opinion afterwards.

Last Tuesday, my parents and I had some free time and Dad said he’d like to re-visit Robinson’s Magnolia to relax from work. It was the perfect opportunity to try Zigla! since my parents didn’t have any particular place they wanted to dine at. I was surprised when my parents said that they’d try Zigla! too since I was expecting them to buy stuff from other food stalls. I was worried since my parents aren’t used to eating such meals, but they insisted.

ZIGLA photo 20140311_111131_zpscf5a251d.jpg

ZIGLA_buzzer photo 20140311_111409_zps27809870.jpgAfter you pay for the stuff you ordered, you’re given this buzzer.

ZIGLA_ photo 20140311_111820_zps9f866c74.jpgMy Dad went with a serving of the Mexican Beef Wrap (Php165.00). It was served like this…

ZIGLA_mexican beef wrap photo Zigla_MexicanBeefWrap_zps6316acf3.jpgand, once opened, this is what you’ll see. According to Zigla!’s menu, this is made of ground beef, romaine lettuce, tomato sauce and yogurt, all wrapped in olive oil tortilla. I’m no nutritionist, but they say this one is equal to 430 calories.

As expected, this wasn’t something that my Dad liked. He said that there was nothing special to it and that it tasted bland. I couldn’t verify his claims since I don’t eat beef, but I guess we should have asked for the staff to sprinkle a bit of salt since Zigla! doesn’t add salt to their proteins. It was a good thing that Dad has already eaten a bit of something before we left our store, or he would’ve been really annoyed with this dish.

ZIGLA_wrapping photo 20140311_111843_zpsfe8e7806.jpgMom and I got something different from Dad and both of our meals were served looking like this.

ZIGLA_meatball pasta photo 20140311_111859_zpse6bece86.jpgMom went with the Meatballs Pasta (Php185.00), which was supposed to be made of gluten-free spaghetti. I wasn’t sure if the meatballs were made from beef, so I didn’t ask to try some of it either. Mom said she didn’t like this one too much because it was just predominantly sweet. She was looking for some other flavor to balance the sweetness but couldn’t find it.

ZIGLA_chicken rice photo Zigla_ChickenRice_zpsc6785b9d.jpgMy chosen meal for lunch was this serving of Chicken Rice (Php199.00): Chunks of free range chicken breast, topped with barbecue sauce. This was served with black rice and was supposed to be at 300 calories.

Since it was served with barbecue sauce, I already knew that my dish was going to be on the sweeter side as well. I don’t mind eating stuff like this since I’m quite used to eating chicken breast and red/brown/black rice (thanks to my brother’s influence). I will, however, be honest and say that I didn’t think it was very delicious; it was just so-so.

ZIGLA_juices photo Zigla_juices_zps7384b6bd.jpgTheir Juice Blends, on the other hand, were fantastic. Everyone agreed that they tasted great, except for the green one (I was the only one who liked that). They have several different kinds available, but we just tried three. Here’s a breakdown of what each of the ones we tried had mixed inside:

Yellow (Php125.00): Pineapple + Apple + Celery + Lemon + Ginger. This was supposed to aid digestion and is at 100 calories per bottle. This was Mom’s favorite.

Green (Php199.00): Kale + Parsley + Apple + Celery + Lemon. This was supposed to boost your immune system and fight cancer. Again, it’s at 100 calories per bottle.

Orange (Php185.00): Orange + Carrots + Celery + Lemon. An antioxidant and anti-ageing drink; also at a 100 calories per bottle. This was my original drink before Dad traded his green one with the orange one.

ZIGLA_cookies photo 20140311_111446_zpsa7df066f.jpg

ZIGLA_cookies photo 20140311_111511_zps092d9a29.jpgFor those who are into cookies and want them a bit healthier, Zigla! has them too. We no longer bought some for our own consumption, but in case you’re interested, they have some free samples for you to try before you decide on buying some.

Overall, the food from Zigla! was just okay for us. If you’re experimental when it comes to food and/or are used to eating stuff categorized under “healthy”, then I don’t think you will have a problem appreciating their items. 300-450 calories meals are quite small, so for those who aren’t used to it (like my parents), you might find yourself wanting to eat something else. Among the three of us, I was the only one who felt that the meal I had already left me full, but not bloated. There was definitely space left to eat more, but I wasn’t craving for anything else afterwards.

Like most things labeled healthy in this world of ours, Zigla!’s prices are pretty high and may not fit the budget of most people. I honestly liked their fruit blends, but they’re quite costly at almost Php200 per bottle. I think the prices are close to those from juicing/detox diets which are so popular today.

If you’re interested to try their food, Zigla! is located at the Lower Ground Floor of Robinson’s Magnolia in New Manila, Q.C.

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I’m currently down with another cold and as the case being such, haven’t been in the mood to ask friends/family to eat out. I was craving for some pasta and decided to make some on my own instead. Since I wasn’t in the mood to slave over something too complicated in the kitchen, I thought I’d go with the very simple Spaghetti with Clams.

I didn’t follow a specific recipe for this since I’ve watched so many people cook pasta dishes before (both on TV and in person). The ingredients I used for this dish are quite basic too:

  • Olive oil
  • Cooking oil
  • Butter (I used the salted one from Elle & Vire)
  • Minced garlic
  • Salt
  • Spaghetti (you may use another type of pasta, if that’s what you want)
  • Flat leaf parsley (optional)
  • Water
  • Fresh clams

Pasta photo DSC_0753_zps5d4c912e.jpgFirst off, I put a bit of regular cooking oil and a pinch of salt into a pot of water and let it boil. Once it was ready, I placed my spaghetti into it and let it cook for a couple of minutes. When it was already al dente, I took the spaghetti out and set it aside. I reserved a small amount of the liquid for later.

Clams photo DSC_0754_zps94054f5d.jpgHaving a store inside the local wet market meant I get easy access to a wide array of seafood everyday. It also pays that we have already made friends with a lot of the vendors there, thus getting stuff at lower prices (yay!). My Dad got me just 1/4 kilo of the fresh clams since I was the only one who was going to eat them at home. Make sure to have these cleaned and cooked properly before eating. Discard any of those whose shell did not open during boiling/cooking. Afterwards, set them aside for the next step.

I had a heated pan ready with some olive oil and a knob of salted butter. I then tossed the minced garlic into the pan and waited for it to brown a bit (I love frying garlic since they smell terrific!). Once the garlic’s ready, I placed the clams back in the pan with the reserved liquid from the pasta.

Pasta with Clams photo DSC_0757_zps9bc7e9d8.jpgAfter a short while, I had the cooked spaghetti join the pan and added a couple of flat leaf parsley pieces. I tossed them around to have the spaghetti coated with the oil and butter mixture. At this point, you could try and taste a bit to check if the flavors are already acceptable to you. I found mine to be good, so I no longer added any salt or pepper to it.

Pasta with Clams finished product photo DSC_0758_zps06b57e63.jpgI left them in the pan for just a minute or two longer and then transferred it onto my plate. I had Dad try it out and he said that the flavors were good, although he preferred to have the pasta just a bit softer. Mom passed since she doesn’t like anything that has to do with seafood that much.

I was satisfied with my pasta that day and knew that it was going to be something I’ll cook numerous times in the future. I might add a bit of dried chili flakes to it too, if I feel like eating something with some spicy kick to it. 🙂

I haven’t been able to eat out as often as before, so I decided to get myself back in the kitchen and do some cooking for my parents and myself. Yesterday, I tried making my own japchae (Korean stir fried sweet potato noodles). Thankfully, the parents thought it was good enough. I was thinking of what else I could make with all the leftover vegetables I had and decided to try another Korean dish: the Bibimbap (비빔밥).

Bibimbap literally means “mixed rice” and is served with tons of different vegetables on top. A bit of meat and a raw or fried egg is also commonly added to a bowl of bibimbap, if the person feels like doing so. It’s one of the most famous Korean dishes and is loved by a lot of people around the globe. According to a poll conducted by CNN Travel in 2011, bibimbap is even part of the World’s 50 Best Foods!

I’ve read through several recipes online and combined them to make my own. What were the ingredients I used?

  • Sesame Oil
  • Sesame Seeds
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Light Soy Sauce
  • Garlic
  • Gochujang (Korean fermented hot pepper paste)
  • Water
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Vegetables (Carrots, Red Bell Peppers, Spinach, Beansprouts, Zucchini )
  • Dried Mushrooms
  • Chicken breast, thinly sliced
  • Brown Rice
  • Egg

veggies photo vegetables_zpsecabbe29.jpgHere’s a shot of some of the vegetables I decided to use for my version of the bibimbap: beansprouts, zucchini, red bell pepper and carrots. Note that most of the stuff used in this dish are julienned / sliced as thinly as possible.

spinach photo spinach_zps34d169ed.jpgThe photo above shows the spinach, already blanched, then mixed with a bit of sesame oil, a pinch of salt & pepper, and some sesame seeds. The same process goes for the beansprouts.

dried mushrooms photo driedmushrooms_zps12b913c7.jpgI didn’t have a lot of problems preparing this dish since most of the ingredients used are mainstays in our house’s pantry. A good example is the dried mushroom. These mushrooms were soaked in hot water for several hours before being sliced into thin strips. Make sure you squeeze the excess water from the mushrooms thoroughly before you start slicing / using them!

These mushrooms were mixed with a bit of sesame oil, light soy sauce, grated garlic, salt and pepper. Set them aside for stir frying later on. (I didn’t get to take a photo of that step, but rest assured that it was done!)

fried egg photo egg_zps0ded0268.jpgAfter all the slicing and blanching, I proceeded to the quick (stir) frying part, starting with the egg. Please excuse how oddly shaped that fried egg turned out to be. :p

carrots photo carrots_zps8bac0eed.jpgThen the julienned carrots hit the frying pan with a bit of vegetable oil and some salt.

red bell peppers photo redbellpeppers_zpsd959034a.jpgThe same process was done with my red bell pepper strips. The bell peppers are a lot faster to cook versus the carrots, so don’t leave them in the heat for too long. Your kitchen will smell really awesome when these are in the pan, I promise!

 photo zucchini_zpsa833a37f.jpgThe sliced zucchini pieces went in next, with just a pinch of salt. I removed them from the heat after just a few minutes in the pan.

chicken photo chicken_zps9ecbd3f2.jpgThe last one I cooked were the thinly sliced chicken breast fillets. Before starting with anything, I sliced then marinated the chicken in a mixture of light soy sauce, sesame oil, minced garlic, salt and pepper. I left it alone while I went ahead with the rest of the slicing and preparations.

I think bibimbap is often prepared using beef, but pork and chicken variations have been seen in different places as well. Since I don’t eat beef, the use of chicken breast was my best option.

bibimbap photo bibimbap_zpseecd08d4.jpgAfter all that cooking, it’s time for assembly! I tried to mimic the way they usually serve bibimbap in Korean restaurants, and hopefully, I did not disappoint. You can’t see it in the photo above, but I used brown rice as the base before arranging all the goodies on top and the egg yolk in the middle.

By the way, that dark red blob next to the egg yolk is the gochujang paste, which I mixed with a bit of coco sugar and some sesame seeds. It’s just sad that my Motorola’s camera didn’t get to capture the colors properly.

gochujang photo Gochujang_zpsdd4e1a39.jpg

Here’s the brand of gochujang I used for this dish. I thought I had another tub of gochujang (different brand) in the house, but it turned out that it was sent to our store and was used up for some of the dishes we served there. I found that other one to be spicier than the one above.

mixed photo mixed_zps53d6028a.jpgAfter placing the arranged bowl in front of my parents and getting their positive reactions, it was time to mix it all up. It no longer looked as appetizing once all those stuff are combined, but it was delicious! Mom enjoyed eating the bibimbap while it was still piping hot. Dad said it was good, but he couldn’t eat much of the rice once the gochujang was mixed in thoroughly because of the sweetness.

pork & lotus root soup photo lotussoup_zps10a023b0.jpgWhat complemented the bibimbap and made our dinner a lot more satisfying was Dad’s Pork Ribs and Lotus Root soup (排骨莲藕汤). I’ve always enjoyed munching on those lotus roots since they remain crunchy despite being soaked in the liquid for a long time. 

This soup has been prepared and eaten in our household since I was very, very young. It’s light, has a sweet/salty taste and is very nutritious. They say that the lotus roots are good for detoxifying our bodies and in helping those with respiratory problems.

Anyway, the verdict for the bibimbap? Definitely something that I’ll make for my family again. It does take a lot of time to prepare all the ingredients, but I thought that it was a rewarding experience. I might choose to use other vegetables when I cook this again, just to shake things up a bit. 🙂

The last time I set foot at Eat Fresh was in 2011, when my brother and I had a tendency to eat out after work since we were both too tired to think of what to cook for dinner (our parents were staying in L.A. back then). This time, I visited the restaurant with my parents. It was a first for both Mom and Dad and they weren’t sure which ones to pick from the menu. There was a pretty long list for them to go through, but it didn’t take them too long to decide since we were all pretty hungry. 🙂

EAT FRESH_apple carrot juice photo AppleCarrotJuice_zps1820ff58.jpgI remembered enjoying their Apple Carrot Juice before, so I made sure I ordered that for myself. It was still really good; something I would continue to recommend to everyone.

EAT FRESH_black & white gulaman photo blackandwhitegulaman_zps68af875b.jpgMom really liked their Black & White Gulaman (grass jelly). This drink is available in two sizes: Regular and 1 Liter. The photo above is the regular size.

EAT FRESH_2 kinds of sausages photo 2kindsofsausage_zps426ac4c8.jpgFor our mains, Dad went with the Two Kinds of Sausages Claypot Rice. The two kinds were the standard pork sausage (red ones) and the duck liver sausage (dark red, almost black, ones). We have our own stash of Chinese sausages at home to satisfy our cravings, but sometimes it’s nice to have it elsewhere.  This claypot rice was served with light soy sauce on the side.

EAT FRESH_chicken & sausage photo ChickenampSausageClaypotRice_zpse612b290.jpgSince Dad already chose the 2 kinds of sausages, I decided to go with the Chicken and Sausage Claypot Rice. It was served very hot, but the rice sticking at the bottom of the claypot wasn’t as toasted as I expected it to be. Again, similar to the time when my brother and I ate here, I found this dish to be quite ordinary but very filling. My claypot rice was also served with the light soy sauce on the side.

EAT FRESH_tausi spareribs photo TausiSpareribsClaypotRice_zps3091427d.jpgMom chose the Tausi Spareribs Claypot Rice and found it to be delicious. According to her, the only downside to it was that the meat was still a bit tough.

EAT FRESH_stuffed tofu photo stuffedtofu_zpscd3652d4.jpgThe three of us decided to order a couple of fried items to enjoy with our main meals. Dad initially wanted the fish cakes, but was informed that it was unavailable. He decided to go with the recommended Stuffed Tofu (Php50.00 for 2 pieces). This dish was supposed to be a small block of tofu with ground pork inside. Unfortunately, none of us enjoyed it since it didn’t have any flavor to it and Dad said that the tofu already had a tinge of sourness to them. We didn’t finish eating these.

 photo Friedwantonsandintestines_zpsf6f02376.jpgI, on the other hand, couldn’t pass up on the chance to order a personal favorite: Fried (Pork) Big Intestines (Php35.00/stick)! Just like what I used to do years ago, I enjoyed these morsels of chewy intestines with the sweet chili sauce provided. I’m glad Dad really liked eating this one too.

We also ordered a stick of Fried Wantons (Php35.00 for 5 pieces) to share among ourselves. Mom found them to be really good with the chili sauce.

***Eat Fresh is located at 100-A Maria Clara Street near Banawe in Quezon City. This branch is closed during Sundays, but is open from Mondays to Saturdays from 9am until midnight. They also have another branch in San Juan. You may visit their official Facebook page by clicking here.

Last Monday, my parents and I had some free time on our hands and we decided to have lunch at the mall. Dad wanted to eat at a place which we’ve never tried before. We had to go through a list of possible restaurants when I suddenly remembered an Instragram photo posted by one of my college friends a few weeks ago. It was a plate of gyoza which I found to be quite intriguing. Good thing the restaurant where she ate that was located inside Trinoma so off we went to try it out.

HANAMARUKEN_logo photo Hanamaruken_zps480b0862.jpgHanamaruken Ramen is said to be a food chain from Osaka, Japan. According to Dianne, our server for that afternoon, they started their operations in Trinoma on November of 2013. Why my parents and I were unable to dine there before is something we don’t quite understand.

HANAMARUKEN_interiors photo interiors_zps4db279e0.jpgWe really loved the restaurant’s interiors. It was uncluttered, peaceful and relaxing. Just the type of place we were looking for.

HANAMARUKEN_drinks photo drinks_zpsdfbd75de.jpgHot tea and cold water are served once we were seated. Mom enjoyed their tea very much.

HANAMARUKEN_ Gyoza photo gyoza_zpsf1b4e57f.jpgFor appetizers, we just had to go with a serving of their gyoza (Php150.00). A serving comprised of 8 pieces of pork gyoza, accompanied by a sweet soy dipping sauce and chili oil. These weren’t as big as I expected them to be, but they were very flavorful. I enjoyed eating them with the chili oil. My Dad also liked it so much that he ordered another serving even before we finished with the first one.

We also wanted to try their karaage, but was informed that it was unavailable during that time. We hope it’s going to be available by our next visit.

HANAMARUKEN_Drunken Man Rice Bowl photo DrunkenManRicebowl_zps922302db.jpgMom wasn’t in the mood for ramen, so she chose the Drunken Man Rice Bowl (approximately Php220.00). This was basically white rice topped with kakuni (braised pork), two fried eggs and spring onions. I was able to try a piece of the kakuni and thought that it was really good. Mom liked it too, but commented that the serving size was a little too small for her.

 photo SignatureHappinessRamen_zpsf4432797.jpgDad ordered Hanamaruken Ramen’s specialty: the Signature Happiness Ramen (Php480.00). Good thing that Dad was really satisfied with his ramen! He couldn’t stop raving about how flavorful the soup base was, the noodles’ texture and how soft the pork rib was. I was really glad to see how much he enjoyed this that he’s already thinking of revisiting the restaurant soon. 🙂

HANAMARUKEN_Chasyu Ramen photo ChasyuRamen_zpsb248ae15.jpg

I was initially thinking of ordering the Signature Happiness Ramen as well, but decided to try something else. I ended up ordering a serving of their Chasyu Ramen (approximately Php280.00), which was also pretty good! I found the tonkotsu shoyu broth to be very light, so it wasn’t difficult to go through one bowl on my own. The braised pork belly was also a treat. 🙂

Apart from the delicious and filling food, another great thing about Hanamaruken Ramen was their level of service. Service was quick and their wait staff were efficient. We’d like to applaud Dianne, who assisted us during our visit, since she was always smiling and obviously knew what she was doing. She answered all of our questions and made sure we were okay with everything throughout our stay. I hope Hanamaruken’s service levels and food quality will remain this high as the months go by. 🙂

**Want to try this place out? Hanamaruken Ramen is located at the 2nd floor garden restaurants of TriNoMa in Quezon City. Visit their official Facebook page here for more information.

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