Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Ninak, Quite a Good Excuse to Eat More "Kanin"

Do you consider rice a culprit that adds extra kilos around your belly? Well, think again! A new research shows that people can improve their diets simply by enjoying white or brown rice as a part of their daily meals.

This research builds on two previously published studies that showed the positive contribution of rice to diet quality. A 2009 observational study found that rice eaters consumed significantly less fat and saturated fat and consumed more iron, potassium, fibre, meat, vegetables and grains.

Even Ayurveda uses rice based diets in treating various imbalances in the body.  Bet you didn't know that rice also accelerates fat burning. In fact, the essential amino acid methionine found pre-dominantly in rice helps mobilize fat from the liver. 

Know that rice is not a bad thing. The bad thing is when we mindlessly decide to eat horrendous amount of it and not minding the regularly dietary needs allotted specifically for our body needs.

So, if these facts aren't enough reasons for us to enjoy rice more often, then maybe this list of Southeast Asian dishes I had at Ninak would.

Ninak, simply stands for kanin or rice, spelled the other way around. The owners just needed something unique to highlight the best of Southeast Asian cuisines they have on their menu, dishes eaten significantly with rice or without rice.

The minimalist atmosphere of their Makati branch has a lot to offer not only with the same menu they have with their first branch in Kapitolyo, Pasig.  A walking distance from Pasong Tamo, where Don Bosco is, it's nestled on the building where the commissary of Brothers Burgers used to be.

 Watermelon Lychee Slush, Ginger Lychee Slush, Green Grapes Basil Slush
Ninak boasts of serving a plethora of authentic dishes from Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and of course the Philippines.  Though they're not against fusion, they make sure that their dining guests get to be satiated with their fave Asian dishes sans flying all the way the the aforementioned countries.

While western palates tend to segregate tastes, Asian cuisine emphasizes a combination of flavors and textures, often within a single dish.  With the blend of rice or noodles with  vegetables and/or a protein source may also include something crunchy, such as nuts, or something softer, such as raisins.

What I love about Ninak is their traditional emphasis on aromatic and lightly-prepared food, using a delicate balance of quick stir-frying, steaming, or boiling, supplemented with discrete spices and seasonings, including citrus juices and herbs such as basil, cilantro, and mint, also, the importance of galangal, lemon grass, and tamarind for additional flavor.  Most of these ingredients are already being sourced out here locally already.

Before you begin choosing your appetizer and mains, make sure to check out their beverage menu. Their smoothies and shakes are definitely a must with whatever you are ordering.  It doesn't only re-freshens it also serves as a good palate cleanser as well.        

I started the gustatory lunch fare with a glass of Ginger Lychee Slush, a perfect beverage if you need some perking up and invigorating specially with the subtle spice from the ginger.   

Chicken Satay or chicken meat-on-a-stick, originates in Indonesia. Thanks to the traditional satay spices for the intense flavor of the meat.  It is served with cucumber relish and spicy peanut sauce which livened it up a notch higher.  The sweet and spicy peanut dipping sauce (known in Thailand as nam jim tua) is a complex blend of dried and fresh spices combined with freshly roasted and ground peanuts cooked in coconut milk. This sauce is then seasoned with fish sauce, shrimp paste (kapee), palm sugar and tamarind.

Another of my fave soup, the Laksa, an iconic Malaysian soup that is curry and coconut based which was so hefty with squid balls, chicken fillet, shrimps, boiled egg, rice noodles and tofu, garnished with bean sprouts and cilantro.

Like many Malaysian dishes, it starts with a blended spice paste of turmeric, galangal, lemongrass, and shrimp paste, and cooks down that blend to concentrate flavors; shrimp or chicken broth turns that thick paste to a broth, and the coconut milk is added toward the end. 

Ahhh...the comforting (with medicinal advantage to boot) feel of sipping the milky and creamy broth of this Laksa.

 If Laksa uses yellow curry, Chilean Mussel's broth base is with spicy green curry coconut.  The soft imported huge mussel is simmered till cooked and garnished with cilantro, then drizzled with teh sweet "kakang gata."

The Nasi Goreng on one hand may or may not be the perfect match for the hot viands I just described but can make up for being a complete dish in itself.   An Indonesian staple, this fried rice bowl has flavorful chicken bits and shallots then crowned with sunny side egg.

I'm never a fan of fried beef except if it's  prepared "tapa-style" however the Crispy Beef Belly can be a pleasant addition to that sole item on the list.  US beef belly spiced enough! Crispy on the outside yet juicy on the inside. Topped with crispy chopped garlic and chili.

Soft Shell Crab on Egg Noodles was then delivered on our table and I got excited though nearly full with the previous dishes I have been devouring.  
A true gourmet seafood delicacy, crabs were fattened up to make it through the process of molting, rendering soft shell crabs intensely flavorful. To think how nature aids crabs in this stage of their life, where the hard and old shell naturally breaks off and a new calcium-rich skeleton that's still soft emerges, nothing can compare the experience of having a bite of the crunchy soft-shell crab that was fried and paired with stir-fried noodles.

So my new-found foodie friends including the "burger brothers" have taken seafood dining experience up a notch with Seabass Sambal.  Whole seabass is drenched is sambal and clothed in banana leaves and fried. The diverse way of cooking plus the sambal (lime and chili) made this fish just as exciting as eating the best fried chicken there is.

Mango Sticky Rice is somehow like our own "suman" but not steamed and without banana leaves covering it up.   The milky coconut taste is delicately melded into the stick rice and the crunch of the toasted sesame seeds make this a well-loved Asian sweet delicacy while the mango just brightens the whole dish up and making it fruity and delectable.

Red Ruby is not a kind or brand of a shoe, it's a dessert.  It's actually a famous Thai cold snack of shaved ice flavored with coconut cream and glamorized with plush red water chestnuts and preserved jackfruit. 

Serving is really generous here in Ninak and communal dining is a must, meaning every dish can be shared to up to 4 persons.  An average of P 1000 budget can have four people raving with joy after eating here.

I haven't tried Ninak in Kapitolyo, but I've heard good mentions and nice reviews of the place, so I'm definitely paying them a visit soon with the whole pack.


Address:  G/F, V&P Building,
                Don Bosco Street, Pasong Tamo,
                San Lorenzo, Makati City


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