Daily Digest: Charleston Filipino chef makes fish curry, leche flan to enjoy on the boat | Food

This is part of The Post and Courier’s Daily Digest series, in which one of our food reporters asks a local to describe a day of eating in detail.

Nikko Cagalanan, who lives in West Ashley, is a chef and the owner of Mansueta’s Filipino Food pop-up

Today, I woke up extra early and hungry at exactly 5:15 a.m. I heard my stomach growling but decided to stay in bed for few more minutes, well, 60 minutes.

I’m not really a breakfast person but today was a different story. I grabbed a small pot and added four scoops in an old yogurt container of rice, rinsing it a few times until the water was clear. Then I added the perfect amount of water using the finger line technique that my lola (grandma) taught me.

I turned on the stove to medium heat and covered the pot with lid. While waiting for my rice to cook, I grabbed my coffee mug, added some water that I heated in the microwave and tore open a sachet of Nescafe 3 in 1 coffee that I bought from the H&L Asian Market, where I usually get my Filipino necessities.

I then cracked two eggs in a pint container, added salt and pepper and a splash of Knorr liquid seasoning. I heated up a pan with oil, waited to see some smoke and then added my egg.

Breakfast was ready: Rice, a quick omelet and banana ketchup.

Around 11 a.m. I got a text from my friend Marvin, the owner of Peculiar Pig Farm who provides me with the best pork and chicken products in the Lowcountry and is one of the kindest people I know.

He asked if I needed some meat, and I requested pig’s head and chicken. He was dropping the meats around 1:30 p.m., so I decided to get ready so I could grab lunch before I met with him. I hopped in my car and drove to Old Li’s restaurant where they serve authentic Chinese food. It’s my favorite restaurant in town right now. 

Old Li's is now open in West Ashley

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I got the saliva chicken (mouthwatering), twice-cooked pork and string beans, along with herbal tea. I also had kimchi (cabbage, daikon, cucumber) and two sides of rice, because that’s how I roll. 

I got in my kitchen a little early so I could make some longganisa (Filipino sweet-garlicky sausage), curry and caramel noodles for Marvin and his family. He arrived a few minutes later with two pig’s heads and two whole chickens, and we exchanged some goodies. He asked for one more thing, lumpia, so I dropped 10 pieces of lumpia on the fryer and served them with some banana ketchup aioli on the side.

Then my friend Philippe asked me what time I was coming over for dinner. I said I’ll be there soon and decided to bring him some chicken from Peculiar Pig Farm. I packed up some curry sauce, lumpia and longganisa to bring, too.

I got in my car and called Ding Tea and Ha Long Cafe to place an order to-go: Winter melon milk tea with boba and coffee jelly, 100 percent ice; 75 percent sugar. Don’t ask why, just get it and thank me later. You’re welcome.

Ha Long is now open and serving boba tea in downtown Charleston

I arrived at Philippe and Oana’s house, and another one of my buddies was already there. Philippe started taking out a bunch of produce from inside their fridge so we could decide what to cook for dinner, but first he asked me to show him step-by-step how to make leche flan, so I did while Oana made salad.

Cheese, cherries and charcuterie came out of the fridge, then halibut and some tomato sauce that Philippe made.

We decided to make fish curry with some rice, French bread and everything we said earlier from the fridge, along with some bottles of wines.

Philippe then asked if we wanted to go on his boat. We all said yes and packed up our food to go while the leche flan was finishing up. Then, we went cruising the beautiful Charleston marina.

We parked in between Drum island and Daniel Island to eat dinner and chill as we watched the sunset. This was by far the best dinner experience I’ve had this year, no doubt.

Daily Digest: Food and bev worker weekend starts Monday by eating out in Charleston

Reach Kalyn Oyer at 843-371-4469. Follow her on Twitter @sound_wavves.

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