If you’ve been following along for a while you know, I love learning how to cook local food! Philippines is the 9th country in Southeast Asia where I’ve taken a class, and I fell on it by happenstance. I had planned to find a cooking school in Cebu City. When I arrived at the small diving town of Moalboal, I fell in love with one of the restaurants there (I ate there almost every day!). I saw they offered classes, so I inquired, and the owners gave me a private class!
Venus and Venisse run Ven’z Kitchen. Venisse is from Manila and worked in IT in Malaysia for four years. Venus is from Davao and worked as a pharmacist for five years before opening the business. Both of their passion is cooking, and they decided to take their passion and open a restaurant on Cebu. They found their space in Moalboal and opened in April 2016.
Their food is a mix of local staples like Adobo and Pancit, but also serve local flavor fusions making an array of vegan dishes for the non-meat eaters. You must try the banana heart salad. It tastes like tuna but is all vegetables and absolutely delicious.
On the day of my class, Venisse took me to the market to pick up the ingredients for our dishes – Chicken Adobo, Pork Kare-Kare, and Ginataang Talong - and gave me a tour of the market. We picked up a coconut and had it shredded that would be used to make the coconut milk and cream for the Ginataang Talong. This was a treat to learn how to make, I’ve learned how to squeeze coconut milk from shredded coconut in Thailand and Indonesia, but this technique was different. They use the coconut meat, where the other countries use the meat and the flesh.
Back in the kitchen, Venus was waiting for me to explain the ingredients and talk me through how to make the dishes.
The first thing we did was extract the milk and cream from the coconut. You take a small amount of water and squeeze it through the coconut shreds. This first press creates the coconut milk. We then added another small amount of water and pushed it through a strainer, which created the coconut milk. Honestly, as long as there is coconut around, I will never use boxed coconut milk or cream again! So easy and it doesn’t get fresher than this!
After the coconut milk and cream were made we moved on to making the dishes. First was Chicken Adobo. You’d think these recipes would be so complicated to make, but they are very simple and packed with flavor. Adobo was the first dish I had at Ven’z, and the chicken just melts in your mouth with the savory sauce. The ingredient that surprised me? Ketchup! You don’t even know it’s in there!
The second dish we made was Pork Kare-Kare. I have to say I was a little concerned when Venus put a beautiful piece of pork belly in boiling water. I was like, what is she doing to the pork?! I’ve always had pork belly roasted or sauteed; I thought boiling it would take away flavor and texture. I was sooooo wrong. The boiling made the belly even more tender than it already is. We used the broth the pork was cooked in to make the sauce and just brought out all the flavors of this dish that just melts in your mouth. I can’t wait to try this one at home!
The last dish we made was Ginataang Talong, eggplant in spicy coconut sauce. This is where we used the coconut milk and cream to make the sauce. Such a simple dish with a nice spicy kick.
After all the dishes had been complete, I sat at their bar table and ate my labor of love. I stuffed myself silly trying to finish all the dishes. One of my favorite cooking classes to date!