Friday, 30 March 2012

Menus From Around The Globe

This is a picture of a very 'special menu' found in the landlocked South East Asian country of Laos.

Although none of the items mentioned are legal, many shopfronts and restaurants will present you with these menus once you're ushered inside away from preying eyes.

For those that order, you have a sneaking suspicion that you're being watched - even before the effects kick in. Police frequently collaborate with restaurant management and bar stuff, so if you've ordered something off the menu, consume it on the premises and don't take it home with you!

The vast majority of these 'outlets' are called TV bars, meaning they show one singular series in repeat, over and over again. Family Guy is there for those who want to laugh, while those whose ribs hurts from hysterical fits of laughter of explosive diarrhea due to rampant food poisoning, tend to watch Friends instead, where there is never any danger of anyone laughing.

Corner Tree Cafe


Vegetarians rejoice! 

Finally there is somewhere we can all go to enjoy a meat-free menu in Metro Manila =)

This simple and understated cafe in Makati city, has a definite European vibe. The waiting lounge for takeaway orders highlights the laid-back charm of the place, with comfy couches and magazines making you feel like you're at a friend's house. The clientele is, a 50/50 mix of Filipinos and Westerners, but more importantly - the food is delicious.

Everything is either vegetarian or vegan, so you don't have to bother asking about the stock used in soup or fish sauce in stir fried vegetables. The specials board is always a treat and changes regular, while the salads are more than just an afterthought and the desserts are known for being downright decadent. 

Although hard to pin down exactly, one would feel comfortable guessing that the cuisine is Mediterranean inspired, with more than a little Middle Eastern Fusion thrown in for good measure. It's all prepared fresh and the ingredients are only pure vegetables - no mock meat. The best sellers are the Baked Tofu Walnut Burger (290 PHP) that will make you believe in veggie burgers, and the oozing cheesy goodness of the Spinach & Mushroom Lasagna (three different cheese are used).

I opt to start out with a Silician Tomato Soup (90 PHP), which is without a doubt the best soup I have ever tasted in my life. Whole wheat bread is added to the soup, which adds texture and a depth of flavor. The vegan option contains no cream, but my dining companion opts for the vegetarian choice and informs me the result is fantastic.

The juicy roma tomatoes mix well with basil leaves and the soup leaves me more than satisfied, once again. I order some homemade sourdough rye to mop up the remnants of my soup bowl, but as the bread is so flaky and crusty, it's full of flavor itself and perfectly complimented by olive oil. 

For a main course, I decide to have the veggie burger for the umpteenth time as the staggering amount of choice on offer (something rare for vegetarians) can be somewhat bewildering. I decline cheese on top, but decide to splurge on an optional addition of crispy fried onions. The burger holds together perfectly well and each bite is perfectly balanced.

I always tell myself that I'll try something different each time I go to the same restaurant, but find myself defenseless against this burger. I decide to pig out instead and order an extra dish.

I usually expect hummus outside of a strictly Middle Eastern restaurant to be lousy, but this proves to be the exception. The White Bean Hummus has a lemony tang that is delicious rather than sour, and by excluding the chickpea and using borlotti beans instead - the result is a softer texture and creamier hummus. A standout in an already star studded field!

Althan, senior staff member, had a few thoughts on what makes Corner Tree Cafe stand out.
"We use only vegetables. We don't use old recipes with meat-free substitutions - that's boring," he says.

It works too. This hidden gem of a restaurant, does steady business in a meat lover's environment, winning awards along the way. In 2010, it was nominated for 'Best Specialty Restaurant' in Manila, and was added to the Miele Guide, which lists Asia's finest restaurants. It also made PETA Asia's list of the best vegetarian restaurants in the Philippines, ranking third.

Open for two years now and going storng, manager, Chiqui Mabanta, has thoughts of expansion for the future, with plans for a branch in Quezon City to be opened within the year. Check it out now before it becomes a household name, just don't drop by on Monday - as that's the only day it shuts.

Address: 150 Jupiter Street, Bel-Air Village, Makati, Metro Manila, Philippines
Phone: (0917) 848-1004

Mexican Bean Soup

This tangy twist on an Italian classic is an easy introduction into the realms of fusion cuisine. It’s easy to prepare (provided you have a blender) and one that’s quick to impress with dinner guests. Served piping hot with garlic bread and topped with Parmesan cheese, it can also become a hearty meal in itself.

Perfect for the winter months in the Northern Hemisphere or the rainy season in tropical countries – this soup can also be served cold in summer.


Tomatoes are a ‘low calorie’ snack, at just 18 calories for every 100 grams you consume!  In comparison, a Twinkie (42.5 grams) contains 150.


1 medium onion, chopped roughly.
3 plump tomatoes, seeds removed and chopped roughly.
3 garlic cloves, chopped finely.
1 small green capsicum, chopped finely.

500 ml of vegetable stock
1 can Mexican style refried beans
1 can of crushed tomatoes (420 grams)

2 - 3 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cracked black pepper
2 Tbsp cumin (powder)
1 Tbsp hot pepper flakes (optional)
1 - 2 Tbsp Tabasco (depending on your spice preference)
1 tsp coriander (powder)
1 tsp dried oregano
1 handful of fresh basil leaves, chopped roughly

(Simon and Garfunkel 'Herb' Mix)

1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried sage
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried thyme

Step 1 - Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a pan on medium. Add onion, chopped garlic and cook for 1 - 2 minutes. The onions should be translucent, but be careful not to let the garlic brown.

Step 2 - Add the can of crushed tomatoes, as well as half of the veggie stock. Once that has begun to boil, add the chopped fresh tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes.

Step 3 - Reduce the heat to a simmer, before adding the herb mix. Stir in the herbs before adding salt, pepper cumin, coriander and dried oregano. You can also add a splash of balsamic vinegar (optional). After adding the rest of the vegetable stock, let it simmer for 30 minutes before switching it off.

Step 4 - Once the soup has cooled off, transfer it to a blender, along with the Mexican refried beans. Depending on the size of your blender, you may have to do this in portions. Once the consistency is smooth, transfer the mixture from blender to serving bowl.

Makes 4 - 6 servings


Wild Mushroom Bruschetta

Almost any grocery store will have different varieties such as portabella, shitake, and oyster on offer - meaning you won't have to forage in the jungle for wild mushrooms and take your chances with those most poisonous (or delightful). 

Fungi fiends find that mushrooms, rather than tomatoes, lend your bruschetta a flavor that is out of this world. The dish is also perfect for those of you who don’t like tomatoes and feel left out during bruschetta conversations at the water cooler. These little treats are fun to snack on, easy to cook, and always a winner at dinner parties.

* Nutritional Mushroom Trivia

Vitamin C, B6 and B12 are all found in mushrooms and are responsible for boosting your body's immune system and keeping you healthy. They also help flush toxins out of your body.

Mushroom Bruschetta 

1 French baguette
2 Tbsp. olive oil
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 medium-sized mushrooms, finely diced
2 Tbsp. vinegar (white or balsamic)
Salt, to taste
Handful fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
  • Cut the baguette into 1-cm slices, place them on a tray, and toast in the oven at 180ÂșC for 5 to 7 minutes or until brown.
  • In a large frying pan set over medium heat, add the oil and garlic. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until the garlic is slightly blonde, but not yet brunette. Add the mushrooms and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Add the vinegar, then the salt and basil leaves. Once you’ve mixed everything together evenly, turn off the heat and let cool.
  • Remove the baguette slices from the oven and spoon the mushroom mixture onto each slice.
  • Serve hot and enjoy!
Makes 8 servings