Anatomy of a Recipe: Ginataang Halo Halo

I yam what I yam - everything tuber at Columbus's
Saraga International Market on Morse Road

Any typical Christmas, we would be in California with my relatives enjoying a number of treats, most of them of Filipino origin.  With the pandemic short-circuiting travel plans, we spent our first holiday together back here in the Buckeye State, where we figured we might as well use the opportunity to start a few new traditions.  Most of the food we had wasn't Filipino in origin, but we made sure to have a few things around (namely, Toblerone Chocolate Bars, which is considered a spendy sweet treat for the average family, and Polvoron Candies, produced here by local baker Uncle Giant) to remind us of California.

Even with that, I thought about what food item I'd be typically find at my family's meal gathering that 1) I couldn't get easily here and 2) whose taste I missed the most.  After much deliberation, I thought of Ginataang Halo Halo (something my family nicknamed Bol Bol), a sweet dessert stew of coconut milk and assorted tubers and fruit, glutinous rice balls, and sago pearls.  

But unlike the Pandesal I had made last, I did not have a written family recipe to lean on (all the recipe information is embedded in the minds of various relatives.)  Thus, I would need to do my research on the Interwebs and take a swing with one of the recipes I found.

(My nod to folks who just want to get the recipe: scroll to the end of the next few paragraphs to the "More" jump and you'll get to the directions directly.  However, like the pandesal, there were a few things I encountered that you might want to consider in making your own version of this dish.)

Glutinous Rice Flour Balls ready to boil, with
Ube, Langka, and Pandan extracts to add some color

In some ways, Filipino cuisine can be likened to one of those bowl places that are commonplace, where you start with a base and customize the way you want.  The big difference in this case is the customizing is based on what's available in the region - even Adobo (considered by many to the national dish), which has soy sauce, vinegar, bay leaves and peppercorns at its base, can be modified with a number of proteins (pork, chicken, squid, etc.), additional spices (Yellow Adobo involves the very tasty addition of turmeric, for example) or enhancements such as coconut milk.

As it turns out, Ginataang Halo Halo (also known as Ginataang Bilo Bilo and Binignit, among other names) is equally customizable, with a number of tubers (sweet potato or camote, taro, purple yam are common), bananas (typically saba bananas in the Philippines, but various other plantains will work too), jackfruit, and sago pearls as common ingredients. For this first attempt ever, I stayed local and traveled to Saraga International Market to up some purple yams, sweet potatoes, taro, and two different kinds of plantains. My spouse had helped me out earlier by picking up the other needed ingredients (coconut milk, langka, and sago pearls.)

Was going to go with the typical Horn Plantains, but I threw
in some Hawaiian Plantains to mix things up

As I learned on this first-time ever attempt, preparing and cooking this dessert is done in several distinct stages. The tubers and the fruit (save for the langka) were a simple matter of peeling and dicing into medium-sized cubes.  The dough making and then rolling the glutinous rice balls is also relatively simple, but might be the most lengthy process.  Preparing the sago pearls is also very simple, but as you'll find out, this segment offers up a good time to get in a short break before the grand finale.

After much debate, I decided on the Foxy Folksy version of Ginataang Bilo Bilo, but as you will see, I ended up deviating a bit based on the ingredients I bought.

The 614ortyPlatter: Make Your Way at the Holiday Buffet

The Columbus Commons decked out in Christmas lights

First off, I wish you and yours a safe and holiday season.  I think we, like most of you, are grateful that this year is on the way out.  Likewise, we hope like many of you that 2021 proves to be a hundred times better than this last year was for most.

Like Thanksgiving, the dinners centered around the December holidays (Christmas, Hannukah, etc.) will be different for many. Obviously, the (lack of) gathering of family and friends will prove to be the main difference, but for many, traditional meals might not be in the cards this year.

For us, the Filipino spread that my parents and siblings put out won't be an option, but we are making sure that some of the most beloved stuff (Polvoron Candies and Toblerone candy bars, for example) will be available for consumption.  But like Thanksgiving, we'll bring some new things into the mix that we may adopt for the holiday season in future years.

With that in mind, this week's playlist is also holiday-themed, with songs reflecting traditional foods from various celebrations, with an added twist or two in there to keep things festive (or, should I say, Festivus.)

Ten Is The Loneliest Number

The "Top 10 Instagram Accounts to Follow" proved to be
a little more complex than I figured initially

Recently, there was a "Top 10 Accounts You Should Follow" being shared among Instagram blogger accounts, mainly in their Stories feed.  I found I started this task numerous times (especially since some had shared my account on their personal lists) but I ended up stopping.

Mainly, I found myself stopping because, well, ten was just too few, too lonely enough a number to cover all the accounts I knew deserved attention.

This blogging bit has proven to be a longer-term hobby than I ever would've figured.  Since this started up in 2014, a lot of folks have appeared and disappeared from my various feeds - restaurants, bloggers, influencers, and just ordinary folks looking to seek out folks who knew a few things.  I've never been one who's actively sought out followers, so it's been a bit of a small miracle that gotten beyond the 2,000 follower level (and for all my followers, I thank you for tagging along with me - I do really appreciate it.)

There are similar bloggers out there who do this for fun, and there are those who make it at least part of their living.  There's no right or wrong way as long as it jibes with you.

So thus, after (I hope) a complete inventory of who I follow, here are the social feeds and blogs I really find helpful for navigating around Columbus and its food and drink scene.

The 614ortyPlatter: Time to Goetta On The Road

Cincinnati's Goettafest attracts thousands during a typical year

The combo of COVID and the winter months, when people tend to want to hunker up inside anyway, has many worried, if nothing else from the mental drag of feeling cooped up for what has been several months now for those who have been heeding the advice of experts the most. 

It's that aspect that inspired this week's playlist - admittedly, the focus for us in the next few months continues to be local in focus, but we can at least dream about traveling again. For us, one of the main treasures of travel to far off places resides in the cuisines and specialties of a particular city or region. 

Of course, Ohio has its own unique regional creations, from Buckeye candies to Cincinnati Chili to Ohio Valley Pizza.  Did any make our musical playlist this week?  Well, the photo might be a big clue to the answer, but you'll find we went well beyond the borders of this state to complete this week's musical culinary platter.

The 614ortyPlatter - Supporting The Locals


Take home food and cocktails, like this Fried Chicken and Fixings
from Ambrose & Eve, have been sources of joy for us this year

Like many others, we have been disappointed that our travels have been severely curtailed by the COVID pandemic. One small silver lining in that, however, is that the normal money we would've laid out during this time traveling for both the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays is money we can focus toward our favorite local businesses and eateries.  

Indeed, we have bought our share of local goods for both our own use and gifts for friends.  Of course, before the holiday season, we have done more than our share of takeout meals, with generous tipping and no use of any discounts or coupons - restrictions related to the pandemic have been incredibly tough on food establishments, bars and breweries, as well as the workers who have made that industry their living.  We also have arranged for pickup ourselves - the fees that many delivery services take from restaurants border on exorbitant at times.

A recently released report by the National Restaurant Association shows that over 110,000 restaurants and drinking establishments have closed their doors due to the pandemic, and that number is certain to increase with the winter months on the horizon.  I think many folks who have the financial means to help out already are doing their darndest to shop local as much as possible, so the question is ultimately will it be enough?  Sadly, I think it won't be for quite a few businesses we've come to grow and love, but we will continue to do our best to support when we can and as much as possible.

With that in mind, I wanted this week's playlist to be a tribute of sorts to the eateries who made this crappy year for most a lot more tolerable, and definitely a lot more tasty, and hope we get to see when things turn for the better.

The 614ortyPlatter: A Good Stiff Drink or Two

Granville's Three Tigers Brewing, one of the rare times we dined in this year

2020 has been one of those years where many have needed a good stiff drink or two to get through.  If the worst cast scenarios come to fruition in the during the holiday season (I'm personally hoping that isn't the case, but I have my serious doubts), a few more might be needed for some.

For adult-beverage imbibers in Ohio, this year has brought on a small improvement on your access to such in the laws allowing home shipment of beer by breweries and take-home cocktails by food establishments. Of course, missing from the equation is the large gathering aspect, but the opportunity to risk my own, or even more importantly, others' lives for the "privilege" of drinking a bucket full of cheap lagers is one that's easily declined by my household.

Of course, over-indulgence is not a good thing as well, and I imagine there is a little bit of that going on as well, especially with the isolation that this pandemic has brought on.  Thankfully, while this week's playlist may be about alcoholic beverages of all sorts, listening to them will only get you drunk with rhythmic vibes at most.

Anatomy of a Recipe: Pandesal

A small snippet of a family recipe

When I have put myself in front of an oven, I've generally been the baker more than the cook.  I can cook, but it's not natural for me (my parents did a lot of the cooking, and due to a big klutz gene I seem to have inherited, I don't do much of the cooking - my spouse isn't too keen on finding my fingertip bits in the spaghetti sauce...but I digress.) 

However, my first recent attempt at Pandesal bread rolls, essentially the national bread of The Philippines, showed me something I had never considered - my experience with baking bread was nil. Sure, I helped my parents roll the dough when I was a kid (and I snuck away with some for just playing around with until it got all dry and crumbly), but I never actually whipped up Pandesal rolls for myself.  For that matter, I had never whipped up any kind of bread ever, not even in the early days of the current pandemic when homemade sourdough was all the rage.

Now before I progress further, let this paragraph be a nod to one of my spouse's pet peeves.  She (along with many) who search for recipes online find it a big pain in the you know what on certain websites to get to the recipe itself. Wading through the backstories of bloggers like me is fine some of the time, but when you're trying to whip up a dish and you only got a short time to do it, all that is a time suck. So thus, my compromise - if you scroll down to the bottom of this post, you'll notice a jump break.  Hit that, and you'll get to the recipe post haste, and I completely understand that you doing that. 

If you do have some time however, I promise some at least mild amusement as I describe this first attempt at Pandesal.


According to Eater, Pandesal rolls are one of the many results of the period of colonial rule in The Philippines, created by the Spanish essentially as an answer to the French baguette.  Since wheat has to be imported from other places (the country has never nor currently grows its own wheat), bakers relied on a more affordable version to use in baking bread.  The roll itself really took off in popularity when the price of American wheat from the Northwest shot lower than rice.  With the emphasis on smaller meals throughout the day, Filipinos have adapted to the roll in a similar fashion, starting often with a plain roll at breakfast dipped in coffee or tea, to merienda (snack) periods where it can be eaten with a piece of protein or a slather of jam.

From my casual search of social media, I've seen creative variations throughout the world emerge, mixing popular flavors like pandan and ube (purple yam) amongst other interesting combos.

First batch of rolls pre-rise, and differently-sized


As it turned out, my review of my family recipes showed I had actually three Pandesal variations to choose from.  Since we have egg allergies to deal with, we chose the one that didn't need any egg in the recipe. The index cards also didn't include detailed preparation instructions either; a lot of that I figure was in-the-head knowledge that my Mom didn't need to put down on the card.

My inexperience with baking bread showed in my first attempt.  Worried about shortages I heard about regarding flour supplies, I was all focused in on making sure our all-purpose flour supply made it through okay, and I ended up mixing in a cup of bread flour to make sure we had enough regular flour for other things.  However, my focus was so wrapped up in the flour (and making sure the yeasties were nice and happy) that I forgot one (well, two) very important things in the recipe - the oil and the salt.  

That explained why the dough was awfully hard to knead the first time around, though we didn't know it at the time. My spouse was called from the sideline to try to diagnose the issue and that's when I remembered I had forgotten about those two very important ingredients. We figure then it was too late to rescue the existing batch of dough. 

(As a side note, the yeast that was in the first batch of dough didn't see the problems we did, happily munching away and expanding - we had to keep punching the dough down in the plastic bag we disposed the first batch into to keep the garbage bag we had placed the bag into from overflowing.)

The second batch of dough went pretty much as it should.  One interesting note is that the use of bread flour might have sucked out more moisture than using all AP Flour - we used about one less cup of flour than the recipe called for.  Also, my spouse made an audible and slightly lowered the amount of sugar to two-thirds of a cup. As it turned out, that alteration didn't seem to affect the end sweetness (the bread is supposed to be slightly sweet in the end.)

We let the dough sit for just over a half-hour underneath a clean towel and it rose no problem with the help of a warm stovetop that had already been used to cook some of our Thanksgiving day meal items, then punched it down to roll the rolls.

Traditionally, the dough is rolled out into a log and segments are cut from it; however, our family typically gathered in a group and rolled the dough into balls to be dipped into the bread crumbs.  It took awhile to get the proper sizing (my first ball, once risen, was more the size of a scone), but eventually we found that golf-ball sized balls seemed to work the best for the proper roll size.  Indeed, some of the larger rolls turned out to be, to use Great British Baking Show terminology, "just baked".

Since I was only involved in the rolling process during family baking sessions, I didn't know if a second rise was needed. My spouse hinted strongly that I should, and that turned out to be the right move. 

Risen and about to go into oven - this second batch sported
more even sizing through the rolling process


We did notice that these rolls were a little bit more lighter and airy than others I've had; I suspect it's the fact we used water instead of milk in the recipe.  If I had to do this recipe over again, I would definitely substitute milk. Both the other recipes and others on the Interwebs also throw in things like butter and eggs into the mix - I imagine if you don't have an issue with either of those, those recipes would be worth a shot for you. And maybe because of the lack of these other ingredients previously mentioned, the rolls turned out to be a little flatter post-bake than what I'm used to.

Still, though, we weren't disappointed in the result.  We consumed quite a few, freshly baked rolls during our Thanksgiving Day eating, and we had plenty of extras for freezing and future munching throughout the next several weeks.

The 614ortyPlatter: Thanksgiving Timbre

Buckeye Donuts has become a Thanksgiving tradition for us

This year of 2020 hasn't been a cornucopia year for things to be thankful for for many people, with the COVID pandemic and the often imperfect response to it by world leaders casting a huge shadow over this period.

Thanksgiving itself has recently seen new levels of examination ever since Abraham Lincoln declared it a holiday in 1863, and the subsequent levels of mythology that have been built up since. Like most things, the history is a lot more complex - this recently published USA Today article provides a nice in depth look at the events surrounding the gathering which inspired the holiday.    

And while we will not meet up with our family like we usually do due to the rise in COVID cases, this is still a day to express thanks, and I thought I'd do that a little bit of that here.

    - We are thankful that none of our immediate family members have had a brush with COVID.
    - We are thankful that those we know who have had a brush with COVID have recovered, with the further hope that they do not have any long-term complications.
    - We are thankful that, despite some tough moments, we have been able to get through our own pandemic-related struggles, and we have grown and are growing stronger because of it.
    - We are thankful for all the hard work people in the teaching, restaurant, hospitality, retail, medical and any other occupational fields who are facing these challenging and unprecedented times brought on by the pandemic.
    - We are thankful for all our human interactions this year, from a night around fire pit with family and friends, to a quick smile and hello from our neighbors, and even some unexpected friendships from places I never thought I would be and from folks I would've never pegged as such in the first place.
    - And we are thankful for you taking the time to check out this little piece of the vast World Wide Web with us.

And now, without further adieu, a little gift for your Thanksgiving festivities this week - a little holiday-themed playlist to accompany you during your meal prep.

The 614ortyPlatter: Puff Pastries and Playlists

The current cast of the Great British Bake Off

In a generally sucky year, "The Great British Bake Off" (GBBO to its fans) has proven to be a godsend for those who have taken the COVID pandemic seriously and stayed close to home.  In a nod to the times, the show had to take extraordinary measures (essentially creating a bubble for cast, crew, and participants, as detailed in this The Guardian article) to make the show look and feel like any of its previous seasons.

What made this UK-based show unique thankfully hasn't changed - the competitive without being cutthroat atmosphere, where contestants genuinely and actively expressed and gave support to each other, was a breath of fresh air compared to the reality shows that more or less borrowed from the Survivor format of backstabbing, secret alliances, and sniping about competitors behind closed doors.

With this current season soon to end (the quarterfinals airs today Friday), a themed musical playlist based on this show seemed like a incredibly scrumptious idea.

The 614orty Platter: The Breakfast Buffet is Open!

This week's 614ortyPlatter touches on a subject whose exploration by us has been curtailed by many things this year: breakfast and brunch.

The obvious obstacle has been the COVID-19 pandemic which has thrown all the world for a big loop.  Out of all the different meals of the day, breakfast and brunch has been our main go-out-and-dine-in time for us, and out of due caution, we've limited that type of dining in general this year.

Another limitation has been the discovery of some food allergies for us. Eggs, a staple for us, is no longer able for my better half, as well as oats. When you combine the number of dishes that use eggs and/or oats in their ingredient list together, that limits the meal options greatly no matter what meal of the day.  The limitations are especially felt during breakfast and brunch, with eggs and/or oats a main component of numerous favorites. 

But if we can't enjoy breakfast as much as we used to in terms of consuming dishes, we can sure enjoy the thought of dishes in our mind via music. My work-from-home status has uncovered the first of what I'm sure will be a number of musical breakfast buffets for you listening pleasure.

The 614ortyPlatter: Au Pair Culinaire

 Like many, I've put in my share of telework hours from home in this year of COVID.  One of the bonus aspects of this time has been the ample opportunities to listen to both a myriad of podcasts as well as music.  I debated whether to subscribe to Spotify for the longest time, but never have I been so happy to have made that decision as I have the past several months.

It struck me during one otherwise insignificant workday that, despite the lack of usual topics to blog about, there was an opportunity to expand on a topic that I have on occasion blogged about: music. But my mind on this day went one step further: why not intersect the two fields? There's plenty of music about food, and Spotify is as good a source to figure out what's out there.

So thus, the Weekly Musical Platters.  The theme of this third edition noshes on some natural food pairings we all know and (mostly) love, all with a thymely rhythm and a sage sense of soul.'''

The Weekly Music Platter: Halloween Edition

Like many, I've put in my share of telework hours from home in this year of COVID.  One of the bonus aspects of this time has been the ample opportunities to listen to both a myriad of podcasts as well as music.  I debated whether to subscribe to Spotify for the longest time, but never have I been so happy to have made that decision as I have the past several months.

It struck me during one otherwise insignificant workday that, despite the lack of usual topics to blog about, there was an opportunity to expand on a topic that I have on occasion blogged about: music. But my mind on this day went one step further: why not intersect the two fields? There's plenty of music about food, and Spotify is as good a source to figure out what's out there.

So thus, the Weekly Music Platter: random swaths of music about food that will be posted every or every other Friday for as long as I feel up to it.  And with Halloween right around the corner, music related to this annual ritual of feeding that sweet tooth via your neighbors' generosity seemed perfectly appropriate.  And reflecting that generosity, we threw in a couple extra treats for good measure.

The Weekly Music Platter: 10/23/2020

Like many, I've put in my share of telework hours from home in this year of COVID.  One of the bonus aspects of this time has been the ample opportunities to listen to both a myriad of podcasts as well as music.  I debated whether to subscribe to Spotify for the longest time, but never have I been so happy to have made that decision as I have the past several months.

It struck me during one otherwise insignificant workday that, despite the lack of usual topics to blog about, there was an opportunity to expand on a topic that I have on occasion blogged about: music. But my mind on this day went one step further: why not intersect the two fields? There's plenty of music about food, and Spotify is as good a source to figure out what's out there.

So thus, my first ever Weekly Music Platter: random swaths of music about food that will be posted every or every other Friday for as long as I feel up to it, a rhythmic way to pass away about 15-20 minutes of your time to explore both the wide world of food and music in easily digestible segments.

What's Been Good: 10/19/2020

Lazy Sunday...or Pandemic weekday? The past few months
have made it tough to tell

Hi there - you miss me?

Most likely, probably not - my Instagram feed has been going pretty strongly, and the blog...well, when the turmoil that has marked 2020 washed through, I admit I didn't feel much like writing.

There's a lot to say about the year that has been, and I thought about venturing into topics that were never the focus of this blog.  After much consideration, I decided it should stay that way.  There's more than enough places to get the back and forth regarding those subjects, and I've done my share of checking up on things at sources I trust and respect the past several months.

But, with this blog being a food- and travel-centric one, I will say something in relation to the food industry as it had been.  If it wasn't clear how much of a true bargain the old model was for many consumers, it should be apparent now.  The size of the industry somewhat shrouded the very imperfect model of long hours for low-profit margins for a vast majority of establishments, especially the mom-and-pop, locally oriented ones, but the pandemic has fully lifted that cover.

The crisis has also exposed the very much underappreciated and bonus benefits (such as free music entertainment, or the fact that a fairly modest investment (an extra cup of coffee or a dessert plate will give you and your buddies extends your ability to hangout at your brewery/restaurant/bar/cafe of choice for an extra hour or two)) the diner basically took for granted in local restaurants, cafes and breweries during pre-pandemic times. 

Considering those factors, as well as the fact that you essentially are relieved of almost all work related to the dining process when you do, in fact, dine out, I realize now how much of a bargain dining out really was for us the past several years in most cases. And like many in the restaurant industry have stated, the old model needs to be revamped to keep local restaurant scenes thriving post-pandemic.  I don't know about you, but I don't travel around from city to city to prove that a Starbucks Frappuccino tastes the same in Columbus and San Francisco.  

To keep with the comparison, I travel between the two cities to see how the coffees of One Line Coffee and Mission compare to those of Four Barrel and Ritual Roasters.  And, I for one, am willing to pay for that privilege in our future travels, no matter what city we may journey to, if it means thriving and eclectic dining scenes throughout the country.

Whether the public as a whole is willing to do so, well, only time will tell...

Day of Gluttony, Columbus Style - Part 2

(Note: This is Part 2 of a blog post proposing our 24 different dishes from 24 different venues inside of 24 hours quest within Columbus, Ohio, based on the Tastemade TV Show "Day of Gluttony".  For details on the challenge and the first 11 spots on this quest, please check out Part 1 at this link.)

1:15 PM - With our Las Maravillas tacos (stop 11) leaving us with a nice spicy feel in our mouths, we figure it was time to find some beverages to cool things off a bit. We head across the Olentangy River to the 5xNW neighborhood and stop at 12) Bonifacio, one of two Filipino restaurants in the area. This eatery from Krizzia Yanga has proven to be a successful trailblazer of sorts, introducing the public to their combo of modern and traditional takes on the cuisine. This includes some very delicious fancy cocktails, so we grab an Oooh Bae! (featuring plenty of Ube/Purple Yam) and a Lychee Martini for some pleasurable sipping.

2:00 PM - Creeping into the Northwest neighborhood, we decided to up the spice level back up again by stopping at one of the numerous Indian restaurants in the South Indian/vegetarian-oriented 13) Dosa Corner.  By now, we've actually earned back some space in our stomachs, so we go for a double-appetizer of the Mirchi Bajji (spicy green peppers stuffed with masala) and Dahi Wada, deep fried lentil doughnuts dipped in yogurt & cilantro.

Day of Gluttony, Columbus Style (Part 1)

If nothing else, cutting the cable cord and going to streaming has increased our viewing options several dozen times over.  At times, the sheer number of options overwhelms, but at other times, something unexpected gets us both intrigued enough to invest our viewing time, or when we have an unexpected bunch of time to burn on the couch (such as recently, when the cold bug hit us both.)

Admittedly, both of us are well past our prime food gluttony years (our waistlines still seem to think we're being pretty gluttonous, but that's a whole another future blog post.) Thus, a food show like "Day of Gluttony", originally produced by Tastemade and currently showing on Hulu, didn't hold much promise when we clicked it on a couple weeks ago, but it turned out to be a more fun way to blow an hour than we ever figured.

Bruce Aguirre and Harry Yuan, hosts of Tastemade's "Day of Gluttony",
is available for viewing on the Hulu streaming service
First, the hosts were Asian (Harry Yuan and Bruce Aguirre, of Chinese and Filipino descent, respectively) something that I just don't see all that often.  Second, the first episode was shot in a place I know pretty well in San Francisco, where I worked and lived for a number of years before moving to Ohio. Also, the show's concept was pretty simple - finish 24 dishes at 24 different venues in a span of 24 hours or less.

We dove in and found ourselves entertained, with great chemistry between the hosts, rapid-fire coverage of places visited, efforts (intentional? perhaps...) of various venues to derail the hosts with extra dishes, and liberal use of old-school arcade graphics, enough so to put it on our current rotation to get through its ten-episode run (we found no indication of a season two as of now.)

Loafing Around Encouraged: The Whitney House

The humble meatloaf has graced numerous household dinner tables
around the world in one form or another
Many dishes come to mind when it comes to American classics: hamburgers, apple pie, chocolate chip cookies, and so forth. Often times, these dishes are adaptations or variants on more traditional dishes, like American spaghetti or Tex-Mex creations like Fajitas or Chile con Carne.

A dish that in many ways reflects the melting pot that is this country lies in meatloaf. While meatloaf has competing origin stories, its concept is pretty clear cut - a collection of culinary odds and ends combined into something not necessarily elegant, but assuredly comforting.

And indeed it was; my parents’ rendition was fairly standard (ground beef, onions, stale bread, eggs, and seasoning) but one my favorite things to eat with ketchup and rice. In addition, many parties hosted by relatives, friends, and family allowed me the chance to eat another favorite variation in the Embutido, a Filipino take which mixes a variety of meats with somewhat unique ingredients such as raisins, carrots, bell peppers, and hard-boiled eggs.

Ambassador Magma, Sulu, and a Damn Good Bowl of Ramen

Figurines from various Japanese Tokusatsu serials, as displayed at
the San Francisco International Airport in December, 2014
Like many who qualify for the description, "Asian-American" has always been a little been problematic for me. Firstly and mainly, Asia is a huge and diverse continent, covering 48 countries and 17+ million square miles. And in the larger and/or more geographically spread out countries (for example, China and India for the former, the Philippines and Indonesia the latter), the cultural differences can be quite distinct.  However, this categorization, whether wanted or not, led me to dive into other Asian cultures, especially when my family moved to San Francisco.

Our time in this city brought us two initial "Asian-American" centers of activity - one was Daly City, which still may be the most Filipino-centric city in the Bay Area, and San Francisco's Chinatown, which was frequently visited whenever my grandparents would take us into the city. Although I knew of San Francisco's Japantown, I never ventured there until well after my college years.

My experience with things Japanese in life came throughout life in bits and morsels of food, pop-culture and sports. Early examples include the 1976 Summer Olympics, where I marveled that Shun Fujimoto finished two routines with a broken knee (including the rings) to clinch the gold medal for the Japanese Men's Gymnastics Team.

One of my favorite diversions lay in Tokusatsu TV serial productions like Godzilla, Ultraman, and Ambassador Magma (released in the states as Space Giants), and later anime series like Star Blazers and Battle of The Planets. The original Star Trek, with Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu played by Japanese-American George Takei. Also, the Yellow Magic Orchestra's debut album, whose "Computer Games/Firecracker" was played heavily on the local R&B/Soul station and earned them an appearance on Don Cornelius' "Soul Train"(!) TV Show.