5 Kitchen secrets I learned from 2nd Avenue

Tuesday, September 26, 2017 Stef dela Cruz, MD 0 Comments

Yes, I can cook. I mean, frying bacon is cooking, right? Alright, you got me, I’m a dud in the kitchen!

I do, however, love to eat. Nom.

bloggers cooking classWait, is that really me? And  am I actually learning to cook food with fellow bloggers?!?

So when 2nd Avenue asked me to come to 25 Mushrooms Kitchen (which I knew as this fancy-shmancy venue for cooking classes from a previous event I attended) for some much-needed cooking lessons with other members of traditional and new media, I immediately said yes!


Cooking at home: the healthier option

In just a couple of hours, I learned to cook California rolls, tempura, Japanese fried rice, and Teriyaki chicken. I also found out why ebi (shrimp) tempura stays straight (instead of curling up the way shrimp normally does when it’s cooked). And did you know that you can make shrimps look an inch or two longer?

But I’m getting ahead of myself, so I’ll let the photos tell a more complete story.

25 Mushrooms 2nd Avenue

25 Mushrooms Kitchen cooking class  Japanese fried rice

25 Mushrooms Kitchen

2nd Avenue cooking class

That’s fellow blogger Marj beside me, in case you were wondering.

My mom is a great cook and my brother is an actual chef, but I know very little when it comes to cooking! I know that cooking at home – instead of ordering out all the time – can help me make better, healthier decisions about food, so it’s a good thing that I can now make sushi rice. (In case you were wondering, it’s one of the things that sets good maki apart from the bland-tasting ones you buy for cheap.)


5 things I learned that day

While some of the things I learned that day are hard to explain in a blog post, here are five things I can easily share with you.


1. There’s a trick to keep ebi tempura straight

bento boxLook at that ebi tempura. So straight, so yummy!

No, they don’t use special prawns that miraculously stay straight after frying. You actually have to make multiple cuts on the underside of the shrimp so that even when the flesh is exposed to heat, it stays perfectly flat!


2. Perfectly-seasoned sushi rice is the secret to good maki

California rollsHave you ever wondered why some maki taste meh? The secret is in the rice.

Whenever I ate at a Japanese restaurant for the first time, I would order maki so that I could tell how good the food would be. Bland-tasting rolls were a red flag: The rest of the food was usually just as bad as the basic maki.

However, I never knew why good maki tasted the way it did. It was only after the cooking lessons that I found out why: The rice used in maki should be doused with a special mixture of vinegar, sugar, and salt!

Many stalls selling maki in bulk trays usually skip that step, which explains the lack of flavor.


3. The secret to crispy tempura is ice

ebi tempura

Dipping the shrimp in cold batter ensures maximum crisp post-frying. The temperature difference between the cold batter and the hot oil causes the tempura to become really crispy after it cooks, very much like how obsidian is brittle because it cools quicker than other volcanic rocks. (Erm, I know, nerd alert!)

Make sure you have some ice cubes in your bowl of batter while you dip your prawns. That’s a trade secret you can use with other recipes, don’t you think?


4. Pretty maki requires really sharp knives

California maki

I tried to replicate the maki at home. It tasted the same – yummy! – but it didn’t look as pretty during our cooking class.

The reason? I didn’t have sharp knives!

Before you make maki at home, make sure you have a sharp knife. While there are those made specifically to cut sushi, they can be rather costly. A sharp, ordinary kitchen knife will do, unless you don’t mind the splurge.


5. Knife Fight and Hell’s Kitchen are coming to local television

2nd Avenue and 25 MushroomsDo you have 2nd Avenue via cable?

You can now binge-watch Knife Fight and Hell’s Kitchen all I want!

In case you haven’t seen Knife Fight: Different chefs fight for the top spot using surprise ingredients that they must include in their recipes.

And I bet you already know Hell’s Kitchen! If you don’t, may I ask which rock you’ve been living under? For the uninitiated in all things Chef Ramsay, Hell’s Kitchen is another cooking contest where different chefs battle it out to  be the best one in the kitchen. Ramsay makes things interesting with his explosive temper and cussing. If hell had a kitchen, it would probably look like the one in this show!

Catch both shows on 2nd Avenue, available on both free and cable TV! Oh, and check out 25 Mushrooms Kitchen – they have really good cooking classes, in case you want to eat your way towards better health.

Stef dela CruzAbout the blogger
Stef dela Cruz is a vegan doctor and writer. She received the 2013 Award for Health Media from the Department of Health. She is the editor of The Manila Bulletin's Animal Scene Magazine. Get in touch if you want to invite her as a speaker!