Soft Fishbones

Sardines! This this brings back memories. One can, saute and a lot of water. Before, whenever we had it, it was a sign of very tight budget. I was not sad. I was happy. It used to be one of my favorite fish. No head with bitter gall bladder to deal with. She was not good at removing it without breaking and free fish cleaning service at wet market was not popular at that time. No spiky tails to hurt my tongue. And, the best of it all, no sharp bones to lodge in my throat. Removing fishbone was not my thing. I was so lazy with it that it often lodge in my throat.

Sardines fishbones are soft that you could barely feel it.

Hmm… How do they come up with a soft fishbone. If there is such thing as fast and easy way to do it. Then perhaps every household will do it. Lodge fishboad in throat could be dangerous but we just force it down with traditional and recommended method. Like swallowing a rice ball or large chunk banana. My wife can cough it out safely. I couldn’t do that. Perhaps there are more like me who couldn’t. Drinking soda do, cause the carbon dioxide gas may help dislodged it. Another is vinegar. The liquid may soften the bone after some time. In case it take longer, gurgling vinegar every hour or so is not a good idea.

Thankfully, it is not a rocket science. Anyone can do it provided with few resources and enough patience.

If vinegar works on softening fishbone. Then, my mom cooking expertise, which is pinangat na tulingan at galunggong should have relatively soft bones. I think they are softer after, but not enough to pass throat unnoticed. It gonna give pain and discomfort for few hours to two days. I think internal acids are strong enough to break it down. The longest time I have lodged bone was three days. It goes off on its own without doing anything.

Boneless Bangus in marinade has no noticeable bone softness. So as the fried fish soaked in vinegary sauce.

Eggshell soaked in vinegar have immediate bubbling reaction and noticeable degradation after few days. Both have calcium components but may have different bond structure. Mammalian bones are way stronger to be affected by such.

Fish, if fried to crisp. All the bones become brittle and safe to eat. Whenever I was assigned for cooking task, I was setting aside a piece or two for toasting. Both fish meat and bones taste great. No worries on pointed things. Accomplishing it is easier for smaller anchovies, like the popular dilis. Oh! I remember it now. Pinangat na dilis can have soft bones provided with longer cooking period.

In the end, int is all about heat and pressure. A sardine can be organic and still have soft bones. Cooking it in oven for 200 C for three hours might be enough. Lowering the temperature means extending the time. Adding pressure shortens it significantly. The exact case of sardines. Raw sardines have strong bones. Pre-cooking have no effect on bones at all. Retorting is responsible for that.

Sauce Is All That Matters

When Chooks To Go was lauched, they became instant big hit because of their tag line. “Masarap kahit walang sauce”, Delicious even without sauce! I was thinking, perhaps they wanted to take advantage of the fact that most fried products are reliant on sauce. Most of the time the dependence is too much to point where the product loose its real identity. There are many fishball vendors in an area. Their product without the sauce basically taste all the same. People tendency is to patronize the one making the best sauce. I have been eating in many fastfood restaurants. All their fried chicken taste taste same. However, there are noticeable variations in gravy flavor. The very same reason why customers prefer one over the other.

There are unverified rumors that sometime you can get sauce from some Chooks To Go establishment. I tried it once but didn’t get any.

There was a place that I couldn’t remember. A similar broiled chicken business was beside Chooks To Go. Their tag line say, “Mas masarap pa din kapag may sauce” – With sauce is better. The latter focused on having the best of both worlds. They want customers to buy their product not just for the sauce or chicken alone but for both. Their slogan is amusing and may create a buzz to some extent. A great advertisement if someone make it trending on social media.

My wife brought home a pack of fishball. Unlike the common public market brands, it was plumbed it its raw state. The common are curvy flat which turn to round during frying. Then curvy flat again when cooled down. Trapped air inside every piece is responsible for it. Air expand when heated and compress when cooled. The method used to turn nitrogen to liquid form. These mass produce product is made by someone or machine with the science of baking in mind. The air packets are intentional, created by adding baking soda/powder or live yeast. It is also beneficial on cooking point of view. When frying, they are done when grew and float like a ball.

She told me, maybe it taste better. I replied, if it was budget friendly, then it is sure not. It turned out my expectation was right. It taste nothing but flour. When I was a kid. I was asking myself. The thing is called fishball. I must be made of fish and yet it never tasted like any real fish. I only realized the reason behind after growing up and studying. It has very little fish in it and mostly made of fillers. That must be its composition to be affordable. I can only eat premium fishball when I am making it myself.

Bytes. Our elementary teachers were discouraging us to buy fishball from vendors near school premises. They said it was bad for us. The food was made of shark. The pieces will fuse together, will become shark again and eat us from the inside. Poor me, I believed them at first. I thought the pieces can really volt-in like my favorite cartoon animation, Voltes 5. They were lying. They just wanted us to buy bread they were selling. The Nuri-Ban. I was Marcos project if I remembered it correctly.

When I was in highschool. I remember eating a real thing. It was not called fishball however. The vendor called it veggie balls and meat balls. She was making it herself at home. Perhaps her purpose was to be different from the rest of competition. They were five of them selling fishballs and sandwiches. Being a little different attracted loyal customers.

We grew up to our favorite food which are fried fish and pork. We were making spicy sauce concoction to the point fish and meat become insignificant. Eating were continued after all viands were gone, sauce and rice were enough. Subtracting items from the menu, fish sauce or soy sauce alone is good match for rice. True when budget is too tight or simply you don’t want what’s on the dining table.

I was was still safe from gout attack, my favorite fast food chain is KFC. I like gravy and they provide unlimited serving. Their gravy cup is large and can be refilled whenever empty. There are other restos that provide extra gravy, but their cup is ridiculously small. Coming back and forth and getting very small refill is rather inconvenient

Gravy goes to rice first. Then to fried chicken later. Typical Filipino like me do this.

Sadly, gravy is worst gout trigger.

Auto Shut-off Water Heater

This is a water heater with automatic shut-off feature. It should be operated strictly as intended. There are heater models that can be used for other cooking purposes. Rice cooker can be used effectively and safely for different cooking styles. However, rice cooker is different. It relies on the fact that water boils at 100 C (sea level). When all the free water has evaporated and other absorbed by rice. The temperature spikes and the thermostat mechanisms shuts the main heater and will turn to alternate keep warm mechanism. Alternate heat will dry out the cooked rice if left for prolonged period, but getting it burnt is very unlikely.

It is convenient if used correctly. Equipped with auto shut-off switch that relies on water vapor pressure. Located inside the handle, which has a duct at the top, pointing downward, intended to catch boiling pressure. The switch is triggered when water comes to a running boil. The water heater has been with us for years now and it never failed me.

There came to a point when I almost threw it away. It is still in good working condition. A little problem though. It was giving me a strong electric shock every time I lift it from base. It must be unplugged (before and after use) to avoid getting electrocuted. We often forgot so we got shocked countless times.

I disassembled it and discovered its working mechanism and the problem. The tube-like handle was filled with wet food debris which became electric conductor. It was our fault. Because it was convenient, we used it for coffee and hot chocolate preparation. Sometimes, making boiled eggs too. The debris were deposited overtime until it reached the switch. I cleaned it and never used again other than for water boiling. On the contrary, she is still do the old way during emergencies. She just make sure the cover is open to prevent pressure build-up. She also keep watch and shutting it off when reaches mild boiling.

It is not equipped with thermostat. If turned on without water, which I accidentally did once, it will pump the heat up and continue heating until do damage to itself or nearby appliance. Burn the house in a worse case scenario. Let us hope the worse case never happens. Thankfully, I checked it after fifteen minutes to fill my mug.

Ginger tea preparation using large ginger slices maybe feasible. As long as the slices are large bigger that the hollow tube going to the switch. I realized it when I ran out of Lipton tea and my only option was ginger. Other leaves, roots, barks and stem are perhaps suitable as long as they are in large chunks. Many of us are believers of herbal medicines but often fail to standardized boiling time. This might be your best tea maker friend. Weigh the leaves and measure desired water amount. Then, the herbal tea is ready as soon as the button switch pop-up. No more guessing game. No need for clock timer. It can be set and leave to do other job.

Chiclet and Flat Gum

My next buy of juicy fruit gum got me a little surprise. They converted it to chiclet type. I was a bit disappointing cause it is not as longer lasting as the previous. It only last for about 10 to 15 minutes. I looses its gumminess to a texture similar to a soggy bread. There might be an ingredient that causes this. This is exactly the case when I have a gum and take in some roasted peanuts. My practice is push it aside to cheek, behind the teeth, to avoid contact. However, even the slightest of contaminant is enough to ruin it. My best guess is, the chiclet outer covering is the culprit.

The change could be for good cause. From the old flat shape. Each was individually wrapped with foil paper. Removing it sure saves a lot of input and perhaps raise company profit. It also reduce environmental waste. Only few are responsible enough to dump the wrapper in the right place.

The next day. I got Double Mint gum in an old flat shape. They are from the same maker. Wrigleys. Then, I also got an old style Juicy Fruit gum. So, are they changing to chiclet type? Maybe adding variant with label of unrecognizable differences. Or, maybe just a short run trial. Need more time to observe.

Side story…

My better half also got hold of single packs, laminated plastic/aluminum foil. While tinkering with the magnifying glass. I unintentionally pointed it to minute array of letters. Excessive use can have a laxative effect. I never knew that! And, most of the time people won’t bother knowing. It is so because the ingredient listing is next to unreadable. It so happened that I have a magnifying glass on my desk.

I am not sure if it is warning or claimed benefits. It can be good or bad depending on the situation. If you are having a hard time inside the comfort room. Then having it might help. It might keep you away from laxative drug. Remember, this medicine is not recommended for prolong use. If you are under influence of diahrea, or it is making you have it. Then stay.

We unintentionally visited the store where we first got the chiclet type gum. Now, I realized the differences are noticeable. There are two chiclet drawings on label and one end of the packaging is painted blue. Okay. Because I am aware that they are selling two gum types, I can see it clearly now. For those who are not, it means nothing.

It last longer now and seem tougher than before. The differences might be cause by separate batch process.

Making Finely Ground Coffee, Almost Instant

Having tried instant coffee with finely ground roasted coffee beans prompted me to experiment with my very own.

For the testing, all I have was this old stock grounds. Label may not be elegant but its taste was superb. Yes, especially when freshly roasted. I left it inside refrigerator for quite a while. Its flavor must be severely deteriorated by now. My goal was making instant coffee so flavor is just a second thing. I can get another bag easily in case I succeed.

I recalled, I can make finely ground sugar from sugar crystal with our regular low cost blender. Perhaps it will work with roasted coffee too. I dumped it all inside. Then cycled between cranking the motor and manually mixing it with a spoon. Coffee tend to accumulate to sides preventing homogeneity. Extra manual intervention was needed. Then after half an hour, the grounds was finer than before but not enough for my purpose. Few more minutes and I decided to scrape the glass sides. Sticking powder seemed to have smaller particles than the rest.

I decided getting only one teaspoon. Placed it in mug and poured with freshly boiled water. Grounds floating on top was ugly evident. It quickly dissipated after few stir. However, the attempt to make instant coffee powder without visible specks failed horribly. Particles were sticking on cup sides and clearly seen when spoon was lifted. My tongue will surely feel it down to throat.

Next time, I may try measuring the volume of settled sediments. This way I can estimate the amount of fine grounds effectively suspended. On the other hand, I felt no particulates when I drank it. Smooth all the way down. The reason. I leave it 30 minutes before drinking.

The undissolved powder can be clearly seen on top. It dissipated though after few stir
Gritty particles can be clearly seen with the help of spoon. Also visible on cup sides.


Because I have no tools to make finely ground powder, my attempt to make instant from roasted coffee beans failed. My cocoa melanger can do it provided with enough time. Let us assume two days continuous running period. Almost the same length it is taking to make our chocolate products silky smooth. However, I cannot risk experimenting coffee with it. The stone is likely to absorb the strong coffee taste which will result mixture of coffee and chocolate flavor later on. It is not necessarily undesirable. It is not what I wanted with our earning product.

If the blender I used can be left for hours and can reliably spin the powder around in homogenous fashion. I will let it run for hours to achieved a nice result. Not, sadly. I can set up a ball mill later.

I can still test if what I did worked to some extent. That is by preparing it filter drip style. Fine powder will pass through the filter with ease while those with larger particles will be left behind.

Coffee grounds in filter before brewing process.
Coffee grounds in filter after brewing process. Reduction in quantity is visibly evident. I am trying to dry it out to get the weight before and after. I did get the “weight before” already.

There was a significant reduction in grounds quantity after the brewing process. See image. I originally planned on getting the weight of grounds before and after brewing, but the water retained in ground coffee got in my way. There was an additional drying work. Let us see if I can re-dry it successfully and weigh later. For the time being, the image served as good estimate.

The resulting brewed coffee was still grainy. Maybe I should use lesser grounds to water ratio the next time or instead use a good coffee filter paper. On the other hand, cocoa powder, can be prepared to a nice drink with a smooth mouthfeel. Unlike commercial instant coffee and juice, which are derived from liquid extraction and crystallization. Cocoa powder is a by-product of cocoa butter extraction process. It is a solid mass ground to a very small particle size. If it is possible with cocoa, then it must be doable with coffee.

I was successful in drying the grounds. The wait before brewing was 18 grams. The weight after brewing and drying was 15 grams. Three grams pass through the filter and successfully carried down to receptacle. That was 16 percent dissolved grounds.