I guess it’s about time I put up a Filipino recipe on this blog. Lechon Paksiw (pronunciationleh-chon pak-seww) is one of my favourite dishes. It’s a peppery-sweet stew that’s really easy to make, so long as you have the key ingredient: lechon or roast pig.

Finished Lechon Paksiw

A friend and I decided to throw a party for New Year’s Eve, which in itself sounds pretty epic, but it was mostly an excuse for us to buy a giant 40lb lechon. When it’s made right, the meat is absolutely juicy and flavourful, while the skin – my favourite part – is perfectly crispy and crunchy.

It’s common to go to a Filipino party and see a huge, beautiful roast pig sitting on the dining table. And being that NYE parties are a huge deal in the Philippines, we wanted to preserve this tradition at our little gathering here on the West Coast. Seriously, doesn’t this look amazing:

Lechon or roast pig

We ended up having way too much leftover lechon, so I got my mom to divulge her lechon paksiw recipe. You use a ton of sarsa or Mang Tomas sauce, which is perfect since normally Filipinos dip their lechon pieces in this sauce before eating it. You also don’t have to buy a whole pig to enjoy this recipe – you can also just get half a pound or one pound of roasted pork (make sure it’s got the crispy skin!) from your neighbourhood Chinese market.

**Ingredients list follows instructions below**

Chop up cooked lechon into bite-sized pieces (you can opt to leave out the crispy skin and eat it separately as it will get soft if you cook it in this stew). Place it all in a large pot. Add vinegar, Mang Tomas sauce, soy sauce, sugar, bay leaves, and garlic.

Pieces of Lechon

Flavour base for Lechon Paksiw

Add enough water to completely cover the meat. Bring to a boil, and then put the temperature to low and simmer for 20-30 minutes. You’ll know it’s done when the meat is soft and super tender.

Lechon Paksiw in the pot

Season with pepper if necessary. The Mang Tomas sauce is quite peppery, so give the stew a taste before seasoning.

Lechon Paksiw

Ingredients

2½ C Mang Tomas All-Purpose sauce (available at Filipino or Asian grocery stores with a South East Asia section)
2-3 C water (enough to cover meat)
3 tbsp vinegar
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 bay leaves
1 tsp garlic
½ pound roast pork with skin still on

More Stories By Karra:


I try not to break the bank when I travel, but I always make sure to give myself one free pass per trip. This means I get to splurge on something that I really want to experience. When I went to Europe, it was skydiving from a helicopter in Switzerland. When I went to New York last August, it was a feast at Beauty and Essex, a really cool speakeasy in the Lower East Side.

Back during Prohibition, speakeasies were establishments that illegally sold alcohol, usually in a secret bar that was hidden somewhere on the premises. Even though Prohibition has long been over (thank god!), there are plenty of modern-day speakeasies still rocking the NYC streets.Beauty Elixir from Beauty and Essex in New York

NJ and I had to do a double take when we first saw Beauty and Essex, since it didn’t look like a fine dining restaurant from the outside. Even when you enter the front door, all you see is a pawnshop with glass cases filled with vintage jewelry and other knick-knacks. We were told to go through the back door if we were after some grub.

Beauty and Essex restaurant, New York

Stepping through that door was very much like going through the wardrobe and landing in Narnia. Crystal chandeliers hung above round wooden tables with leather-backed seats. Giant peacock feathers sprouted out of golden vases. Beauty and Essex was dim, elegant and emanating cool from its pores.

Roasted bone marrow at Beauty and Essex Lobster tacos from Beauty and Essex

And the food was amazing! We started with the melt in your mouth Roasted Bone Marrow with braised shallot marmalade and buttered bread. I couldn’t resist the Lobster Tacos, which was made with sweet beer battered Maine lobster and finished with a spicy poblano crema.

Beauty Elixir from Beauty and Essex in New York

Did I mention that I had a cocktail, too? I sipped on the Beauty Elixir, a refreshing gin, cucumber and strawberry drink topped with sparkling rose.

Brick Pressed Chicken from Beauty and Essex

New York Steak from Beauty and Essex

Steak sauces for Beauty and Essex

Fries from Beauty and Essex

For my main, I had the amazing Brick Pressed Chicken on a bed of creamy mascarpone polenta, while NJ got her NY Steak fix. Her dish came with four house sauces, including an amazing white truffle cream sauce. We also grabbed perfectly crisped fries because we obviously have eyes bigger than our stomachs lol

Mini Rhubarb and Strawberry Tarts from Beauty and Essex

Molten Chocolate Banana Bread from Beauty and Essex

Since we were going all out, we grabbed dessert despite being super full. We shared sweet Mini Strawberry Rhubarb Tarts and an extremely decadent Molten Chocolate Bread Pudding.

More Stories By Karra:


I'm sorry Karra Barron looks sad

So, I’m putting a pause on the 26000 Words project. I know it seems like I’m throwing in the towel, but I swear I’m not. I’ve loved working on this project and I have so many great ideas that I was excited to roll out throughout the year, but I came to the realization that in my quest to produce a 500-word project every week, I was neglecting my blog and the novel that I’ve been trying to finish for over a year now.

My big dream is to be a New York Times Bestselling author and unfortunately, having to do my 26000 Words each week keeps me from achieving this goal that much faster. So, I’ve made the hard decision to take a break from this project until my novel is done and submitted to a million publishers.

I’ll still continue to blog on a regular basis and you may see a short story every once in awhile, but for now, I’ll be concentrating on Carter Gordon and his misadventures. Stay tuned!

More Stories By Karra:


Happy Day of Love! Whether you’ve got a sweetie or are surrounded by a bunch of sweeties, don’t forget to tell someone you love them today. I’m sure mom will appreciate it 😉

20130214-083739.jpg

I love thee so, that, maugre all thy pride,
Nor wit nor reason can my passion hide.
Do not extort thy reasons from this clause,
For that I woo, thou therefore hast no cause
But rather reason thus with reason fetter,
Love sought is good, but given unsought better.

William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night, 3.1.151-6

More Stories By Karra:


It’s Week 6 and Valentine’s Day (on Thursday, anyway)! Last year, I wrote a short story about a kid named Carter Gordon who got to take his perfect girl out on a Valentine’s date…only to have his deal with the Devil get in the way. Now I’m working on turning this story into a full blown novel. 

This year’s Valentine’s story is a lot less dark and devilish. I was thinking about fate and how our decisions in life not only shape who we are, but help us find the person we’re meant to be with. You may not realize it, but every decision you make can bring you one step closer to that special someone. Whether you believe in this stuff or not, it’s definitely an interesting thing to think about. So, I took this idea and came up with this story. I ran out of time to think of a better way to end it, but I think what I’ve laid down serves the purpose.

As always, let me know what you think with a comment below or on Facebook!

A red bike lock is shaped into a heart and surrounded by other Love Padlocks on the Pont D'Arts bridge in Paris, France

=====

The Skinny. Green Berry Blast.

The Skinny? Green Berry Blast?

My eyes went back and forth between the two smoothies on the Jam Juicemenu. I usually went for the peach-mango Skinny with an energy booster before my yoga class, but the Blast was packed with blueberries and antioxidants. I’d woken up with a major hangover thanks to a poor decision to check out a new wine bar last night with the girls.

Okay, it wasn’t a poor decision at the time, but some antioxidants were definitely necessary now.

There were only two people ahead of me now and I started to panic. I had to decide fast. Skinny? Blast? Skinny? Blast?

I hated this. Seriously. There were people living just four blocks away from here who have to decide between keeping the lights on or eating, and here I was, having an internal battle over which smoothie would make me feel less like ass.

“I’ll get the Valentine’s Day special,” I heard the guy in front of me say. He had a nice, deep voice. Smooth and rich like a piece of dark chocolate after a swirl of red wine in your mouth.

Wait. What was the Valentine’s Day special? My eyes scanned the menu for their holiday mixes. Ooh. Chocolate and strawberries mixed together? God, that sounds good. But what if it doesn’t give me the same energy boost as the Skinny? Does it have antioxidants? The last thing I needed was to drag my ass through yoga and then, wind up with a cold right before Jules’ party later.

The guy in front of me reached for his drink and turned around. Holy shit. He was cute. We locked eyes for a second and he gave me a polite smile, showing off two perfect dimples resting on either side of his cheeks. He continued towards the door without another glance and next thing I knew, he was gone.

My sexy, dark chocolate-voiced dreamboat that I had no chance in hell of ever seeing again in a city as huge as Manhattan.

The blonde cashier waved at me. “Hi there. What can I get for you?”

“Uh…”

Skinny? Blast? Valentine? The choices spun around in my brain, making me feel dizzy.

“Miss?” the cashier urged.

I stared at her like a lamb being led for slaughter as people behind me started to complain that I was ‘taking too long princess!’

Ugh. I hated making decisions.

Well. That sucked.

It took me way longer than I expected to decide what I wanted at Jam and I ended up missing my bus. Unfortunately, I couldn’t take a cab because I’d left my credit card at home so I wouldn’t be tempted to spend on anything more than my smoothie. I’d been having a hard time lately resisting all the cute yoga clothes they sell at my studio.

So, I had to wait for the next bus to come, which meant that I missed my usual class and had to take the one after it instead.

I thought it would be fine, since I figured it would be the same thirty-minute yin-style class. I should’ve checked the website for more details (why else would God invent smartphones?), but I thought it would be safe to trust my memory this time around. My first clue that I was wrong should’ve been how hot the room was when I ran inside, barely just making it on time.

But it wasn’t until the instructor walked into the class and said, “Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! Thank you for joining me in this ninety-minute hot yoga class. Any couples here today?” that I realized how unreliable my memory was. And as much as I wanted to leave instead of getting tortured in a room so hot I wanted to faint, I made myself stay because it would’ve been way more embarrassing to try to explain to the instructor that I had to leave because I was a pansy.

Somehow I survived the entire thing, but not without sweating out every single drop of water in my body. All I wanted to do was shower, down ten gallons of Perrier and go to bed, especially since I only had twenty minutes to change and get to Jules’ place before it was beyond fashionably late to even show up anymore. Getting dressed in a flash just didn’t seem worth it at that point.

But I reminded myself that this was a party that was going to be filled with tons of eligible bachelors. Jules’ annual Single Valentine’s Party was notorious for being the place to snag a man. Every year, at least three girls ended up married to or in long-term relationships with someone they met at the party.

Even though I haven’t had much luck as a guest in the past three years, I had a feeling that this was my year. It was my turn to find my Prince Charming and have my happily ever after.

So I had to go. No matter what.

And that’s how I ended up racing down my stairs, my heels clutched in my hand, wearing a white dress that I hadn’t intended to wear because I thought I’d have more time to iron my sexier little red dress. But I’d barely had time to put on underwear, let alone work a steaming hot appliance properly.

Luckily, I managed to get a cab as soon as I stepped out and was in front of Jules’ building in record time. Okay, I was an hour and fifteen minutes late, but I was really hoping that didn’t mean all the good guys were already taken.

I had just hopped out of the cab when I heard a familiar voice.

“Taxi!”

My head swiveled to my right. It was the guy from Jam Juice! He was wearing fitted jeans and a blue button down shirt that showed off a very fit-looking body.

My first instinct was to yell out to him, but that would probably make me look like a psycho. I couldn’t figure out if walking seductively by him or pretending that I needed help with something would be more effective in catching his attention.

Unfortunately, before I could think of what to do or say next, a yellow cab came to a halt in front of him and then, for the second time today, he was gone just like that. God, if only I had been here a minute earlier. Maybe I’d have had more time to catch his eye. Or more time to summon the courage to say hi, at the very least.

I sighed, trying not to let my disappointment get the better of me. There was a whole apartment with guys waiting for me upstairs. Chances are at least one of them would have a smooth, dark chocolate voice and dimples, right?

“You think one is enough?”

I looked up at Allan, not even trying to hide my annoyance anymore.

“Well, you did make a huge stain, so I guess I should get more than one,” I said through gritted teeth.

“You’re pretty,” he slurred, giving me a toothy grin.

I rolled my eyes and grabbed two Tide-to-Go pens. I couldn’t believe I had let Allan talk me into coming to a convenience store in Hell’s Kitchen instead of one by Jules’ place in St. Mark’s. Between being flustered that he had accidentally spilled red wine on me and cursing myself for wearing the white dress, his suggestion that no stores nearby would have Tide-to-Go didn’t seem ludicrous at all. Plus, his offer to pay for the pens was too good to pass up considering I was on a spending sabbatical.

So, I agreed to take a cab with him. He hadn’t seemed all that bad, klutziness aside. Three hours ago, he had been a charming, decent-looking graphic designer for a mid-size advertising agency. He was well traveled, liked a bunch of the same bands I did, and he had nice grey-green eyes.

At one point, I even caught myself thinking about what he would look like on our imaginary wedding day in the not-too-distant future.

But when we got into the cab together and away from the excitement of the party, I was finally able to see that Allan was also very drunk. He was slurring his words as he tried to explain the differences between 2-ply and 3-ply toilet paper, a topic that even when explained sober would have made the ten-minute cab ride almost unbearable.

When the cabbie reached the store, I tried to convince Allan to stay in the cab and get himself dropped off at home. I even offered to pay for him. But he insisted that it wasn’t safe for a young lady such as myself to be wandering around at night. It was a cute attempt at chivalry, but I was long past finding anything that he did cute or even tolerable.

After he paid for my bleach pens, Allan followed me out of the store. We stood awkwardly in front as I debated whether to be polite or just hightail it out of there.

“Well, it’s been… yeah. Goodnight,” I said and turned around, eager to get away from him.

“Wait,” he called out.

I spun slowly on my heel and faced him again. “Yes?”

“I live nearby. You should come over. So, you know, you can wash your dress with that stuff,” he suggested, pointing at the Tide-to-Go in my hands. The pervy look in his eyes was unmistakable.

I stared at him, barely able to keep my mouth from hanging open. Now it made sense why we had come all the way over here. And I had fallen for it like an idiot. Seriously. Could this Valentine’s Day get any worse?

“Goodbye, Allan,” I snapped and stomped away from him, ignoring him as he called for me to come back.

A block down, my stomach started to grumble and I realized that I hadn’t eaten anything since the smoothie. I checked to make sure that Allan wasn’t following me, and then slowed down to look around for a place to eat. I hardly ever come to Hell’s Kitchen and was wondering if I should just get a cab home where all I had to eat was a packet of peanuts I had procured from a flight a few months ago. I knew I was going to regret skipping grocery shopping to go to the wine bar last night.

It seemed like everything I’d decided to do today had backfired on me. I didn’t understand how someone could have this much bad luck. I didn’t even need all this Tide-to-Go because my dress was definitely ruined. The wine had soaked in long enough to leave a mark. A permanent reminder that I had managed to have yet another lonely and unsuccessful Valentine’s Day.

A small donair place came into view and I trudged towards it. A lamb donair would be a good way to drown my sorrows.

I opened the door and was about to step inside when someone said, “Hold the door, please.”

I froze. Even my heart seemed to stop.

I turned my head and coming up behind me was none other than Dark Chocolate Voice. He gave me a dimpled smile when he reached me. “Thanks for – hey, you’re the girl from earlier. At Jam Juice.”

“You-you remember me?” I stammered.

“Yeah,” he laughed. “This might sound creepy, but I’ve been thinking about you all day. I’ve been kicking myself for not talking to you earlier.”

“Really?”

He nodded. “It was such a stupid decision. I mean, what are the chances that you’d ever see someone again in a city this big?”

“I guess they’re pretty good, considering what’s happening right now,” I said, unsure if I was dreaming or not.

“Thank God, I decided to give in to my donair cravings, huh?” he said, giving me a sheepish smile. “Can I buy you one? I mean, if you’re up for having a meal with a perfect stranger, that is.”

I grinned. “You know what? I think saying yes will be the best decision I’ve made all day.”

 

 

 

More Stories By Karra:


I went to a really interesting penthouse party last weekend. It was put on by the fab Saschie and her friends at a really cool space in Gastown. Everyone was told to bring at least one friend so that the party could be filled with strangers to meet and mingle with. But that wasn’t what made the night interesting (although this big wheel of brie on the food table did somewhat make my night).

Saschie Maclean and Karra Barron

I’m just going to say it. We all came to this party to try a berry.

Synsepalum dulcificumi or “miracle fruit,” to be exact.

photo-4

Yeah, I know it sounds weird to throw a party that helps people meet their daily serving of fruit, but this is no ordinary berry. You have to bite into it and let the juice coat your tongue for about a minute. Afterwards, your taste buds are transformed and everything tastes sweeter for about an hour. It’s weird…in a really amazing way.

Limes are like pure sugar. Grapefruits are heavenly. Spicy salsa is sweet with a hint of picante lingering on the edges of your tongue. Pickles taste like…uh, well still like a pickle. So, forget about that one.

Food table at the 1+1+1 Penthouse Social

My point is this little berry is amazing. Almost like drugs for foodies. But not. Because this stuff is natural and it is all legal. Even though I did kind of trip out because of how much better lemons and cheap red wine suddenly tasted!

If you’ve ever tried miracle fruit, what did you think? And if you haven’t, would you?

More Stories By Karra: