Jul 22, 2014

Health Benefits of Unripe or Green Papaya

Lusciously orange papaya may seem to be the most familiar sight but green papaya or unripe or raw papaya is probably more beneficial to health than its ripe version.
You will know if a papaya is unripe if its skin is green, firm to the touch and smells grassy and pungent. In contrast, ripe papaya has a skin which is orange, soft to the touch and smells of typical papaya aroma.
When you break open an unripe or green papaya, you will see that the flesh is light green in color and firm, with the seeds still white. As it ripens, the flesh becomes increasingly soft and the color intensifies in orange-ness.
The taste of green papaya is so unlike the ripened one. Raw or unripe papaya is bland and crunchy. Here in the Philippines, the only uses for unripe papaya are as an ingredient for chicken broth as well as green papaya pickle, the recipe of which I have elaborately detailed in this post.
Kalabanghan papaya -- or papaya that is midway between very unripe and ripe -- is being sold by sidewalk vendors raw. Slices of greenish to orange-y papaya are drizzled in coconut vinegar and a wee bit of salt and then packaged into 5-peso plastic pouches along sidewalk stalls. I don’t really recommend these streetfood items for obvious sanitary reasons but you can make it yourself at home.

Nutritional profile of green or unripe papaya

Green papaya packs vitamins, minerals, nutrients, antioxidants, enzymes and fiber. 
Vitamins -- The vitamins it abounds in are the beauty vitamins A, C and E as well as the B vitamins. We know that the ACE vitamins also serve as antioxidants.
Minerals -- The minerals it packs are the important ones -- potassium, calcium and magnesium. Potassium is needed for maintaining normal blood pressure levels. Other minerals it contains are choline, iron and phosphorous.
Antioxidants -- Cancer-fighting antioxidants also abound in green papaya. The long array of antioxidants include beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin and cryptoxanthin. Antioxidants donate their extra electron to free radicals, thereby stopping the cascade of harmful reactions brought about by unstable free radicals. Without antioxidants, free radicals that are inevitably produced as by-products of normal metabolism could lead to inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, heart disease and cancer.
Proteolytic Enzymes -- Green papaya also contains the protein-digesting enzymes papain, chymopapain and carpaine which turn proteins into amino acids and break down fats and carbohydrates as well. Here are some of the important roles these enzymes play:
  • Exfoliation -- The abundance of protein-digesting enzymes in green papaya explains why unripe papaya is being sneaked into exfoliative skin products such as facial soaps, scrubs, masks and creams. Enzymes work hard to break down dead skin cells to reveal the fairer, new skin underneath.
  • Digestion -- The amazing thing about papain is that it can break down 200 times its own weight in protein. It is a more efficient proteolytic (or protein-digesting) enzyme than our own stomach enzyme, pepsin. Papain is so powerful that it is even used commercially as a meat-tenderizer. As we age, our stomach enzymes inevitably get depleted so that intake of proteolytic enzymes such as those found in green papaya is of great help in breaking down food.
  • Antiseptic -- Another very important enzyme in green papaya is carpaine which has antiseptic activity against harmful bacteria in the colon while not harming the good bacteria. Carpaine is also able to dissolve pus and mucus in cases of colon ailments. Most important of all, carpaine can dissolve the hardened plaques along blood vessel walls -- a fact which could alleviate atherosclerosis. 

With all the amazing health benefits green papaya could give you, you may now be wondering how you could take in this little-known food. If so, you may want to check out a popular Filipino recipe I cooked which makes use of green papaya -- green papaya pickle.


Jul 20, 2014

Sweet-and-sour Chicken Recipe

sweet and sour chicken recipe
One of the hallmarks of Filipino cuisine is a fondness for a sweetish tinge on our main dishes. Take for instance our take on spaghetti (which most foreigners frown on) -- we add brown sugar or condensed milk, would you  believe that? Then there’s our humba which is pork simmered long in vinegar, soy sauce and herbs -- why, it, too is sweetish! Of course we have the escabeche which is sweet and sour fish.
The combination of savory, sweet, spicy and salty may seem confusing to non-Filipino tastebuds but I tell you, it will grow on you! Today I give you sweet and sour chicken recipe -- the kind which, according to my husband, will give Dimsum’s sweet and sour chicken a run for their money. (Well, but then my husband is biased towards my cooking to a fault, lol.)
As I’m wont to do, I like to break down a dish into its components and here they are:
Meat -- You can use any meat for this recipe -- pork, chicken, fish, rabbit and beef, I guess. I like to use fish but since I have an upcoming blog post on escabeche (or sweet and sour fish), I’d rather use chicken here in this post.
Chicken is a lot better than other pork or beef as it is lower in cholesterol and is  white meat. You may use native or free-roaming chicken, though you have to make sure it is still very young as those being sold in the market are generally older and a lot tougher to cook.
Herbs -- Use liberal amounts of herbs as these are dense storehouses of powerful antioxidants. I tend to use twice more herbs than the recipe calls for. More importantly, I eat the herbs and do not just set them aside in my plate. The herbs here are onions and red and green bell pepper, though I would add green peas and carrots if I would cook it next time. 
Pineapple chunks -- Canned pineapple is really the secret to the enticing sweety-sour flavor of this dish. You can’t quite achieve that taste with ordinary vinegar. I do have doubts about canned fruits because firstly,I am not so sure how pineapple acids react with metals in tin cans (tomato acids react with metals, you know) and secondly, I know most of the nutrients of fresh pineapples have been lost in the heating, processing and canning of canned pineapples. Fiber, though, is not heat-sensitive, which is a comfort.

Overall, this dish may not be superb in terms of nutrition, but it is not that bad. If you keep yourself to the appropriate serving -- matchbox-sized meat -- and eat more of the pineapples and red bell peppers, you’ll gain benefits from this recipe. Perhaps what may comfort you is the fact that the taste rocks and it is utterly kid-friendly. I suggest you reserve this dish for special occasions like parties and gatherings.

raw chicken meat
Marinate chicken meat in salt and pepper.

chicken meat dipped in beaten egg
Dip marinated chicken meat in beaten egg.

chicken meat coated in cornstarch
Coat chicken meat with cornstarch. You may also fill a ziploc bag with cornstarch, put the meat in there and shake the bag -- this gets the job done quicker.

ingredients for sweet and sour chicken recipe
Here are the rest of the ingredients -- onions, bell pepper, canned pineapple chunks, catsup and cornstarch.

Here's the recipe for the rest of the story:

Sweet and Sour Chicken Recipe

*Serves 4
Main ingredient:
  • ½ kilo chicken breasts

For the breading:
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • cornstarch
For the sauce:
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 large red bell pepper
  • 1 can pineapple chunks
  • 4 tbsp vinegar
  • 4 tbsp brown sugar
  • 4 tbsp catsup
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch in 4 tbsp water

  1. Dip chicken pieces in beaten egg and coat in cornstarch. Set aside for 15 minutes. Make use of this time for prepping other ingredients.
  2. Fry the chicken pieces in oil and drain on a plate lined with paper towels.
  3. In a pan, heat 2 tablespoons of oil and saute the onions and red bell pepper.
  4. Add in the pineapple chunks, vinegar, brown sugar and catsup. Simmer for about 3 minutes.
  5. Add in the fried chicken pieces and simmer for about 2 minutes.
  6. Pour in the corstarch mixture. That's it.

sweet and sour chicken recipe


Jul 19, 2014

Rice-chocolate Porridge or Champorado Recipe

Filipino Rice-Chocolate Porridge or Champorado
Cold, stormy weather calls for a cup or two of steaming-hot and creamy champorado. Actually rice-chocolate porridge if you really think about it, the word champorado is said to be a Filipinized term for the Mexican champurrado. While Mexican champurrado is made of chocolate and masa or corn flour, Filipino champorado is a thick porridge of chocolate and rice.
The recipe is said to have been brought by the Mexicans to the Philippines during the galleon trade.Through the years, however, Filipinos have thoroughly owned this recipe by using rice instead of corn flour.
Personally, I like champorado for a few good reasons. It is a one-pot cooking affair that’s a breeze to prepare. It packs carbohydrates from rice, proteins from cacao liquor (which also abound in flavonoid antioxidants) plus milk. If you don’t go overboard on the sugar, this dish is really healthful.

What is champorado?

Champorado is made by boiling rice or sticky rice in water along with chocolate. There are only 4 ingredients of champorado: rice, chocolate, sugar and milk.

  1. Rice -- The best rice to use is sticky rice (or glutinous rice) which generally costs more than ordinary rice. You can use any rice, actually, though sticky rice makes for a thicker, creamier consistency. You can also use the more exotic and healthier kinds of rice such as red rice, brown rice and black rice. In the end, though, all colors get masked by the chocolate brown hue of cacao liquor.
  2. Chocolate -- The best form of chocolate to use is tablia or raw cocoa liquor, the making of which I have carefully detailed (with many pictures) in this post. The high cocoa butter content of tablia makes for a champorado that has a comfortingly rich, chocolatey taste and an intensely deep chocolate aroma. If you don’t have time to make your own tablia, you can opt for the commercial tablias but they do lack the depth and richness of homemade cocoa liquor. You may also use cocoa powder.
  3. Sugar -- Healthier sugar alternatives would be muscovado sugar which is a less-refined form of sugarcane sugar and coco sugar which comes from the sap of coconut flower and is classed as a low-glycemic index sugar.
  4. Milk -- If you could have organic milk which comes from pasture-fed, free-roaming cows or carabaos, that would be the best. If not, you can use commercial milk -- either fresh, evaporated, condensed or powdered milk. I grew up putting powdered filled milk in our champorado because powdered milk thickens the porridge some more. Evaporated or liquid forms of milk thin out the consistency which is not very desirable.

How do you eat champorado?

We Filipinos generally eat champorado as a breakfast or snack. It is best eaten piping hot during rainy day afternoons, though my kids also like champorado that’s been chilled overnight

How do you cook champorado?

This recipe calls for a pot of about 10 mugs of champorado. This would serve 10 -- if each limits himself to a mug of champorado, that is.


  • 5 2-inch rounds of homemade cocoa liquor (also called chocolate tablets or tablia; use 10 if you’re using store-bought variety)
  • (If you’re using cocoa powder, you would need about 10 heaping tablespoons.)
  • 2 cups of rice (sticky rice is the best)
  • 10 tablespoons of sugar
  • Milk


  1. Pour 12 cups of water into a pot and add in 2 cups of rice.
  2. Drop in your tablia rounds or cocoa powder, stir it up a bit and bring the mixture to a boil.
  3. As soon as it boils, turn the heat to low and simmer for about 30 minutes. Stir it up every so often to prevent the porridge from boiling over and to thicken the consistency.
  4. Add in the sugar.
  5. Serve hot with the milk of your choice.
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