Spicy sauce and coconut vinegar: what new chef Robbie Hojilla keeps in his kitchen

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Toronto chef Robbie Hojilla and Justin Bella, known for running the famous Filipino brunch restaurant BBs Diner, are longtime friends, having met while working in the small (but growing) Filipino dining scene. from the city. They had been circling the idea of ​​teaming up for some time, but the timing never worked out – until now.

Although the OG BB closed last year, Bella is reviving it (and reinventing it) for its new spot, Sari Not Sari (1566 Queen St. W.), an event space, comedy bar and hotspot. Filipino culture combined into one, which opened last month. On weekends, BB’s favorite brunches will be served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Hojilla – who has worked in osterias in Italy and places in Toronto like the lively but short lived Hudson Kitchen and Little India’s Lake Inez – runs BBs Kitchen at Sari Not Sari, succeeding the original chef, Julian Ochangco. , who has since moved.

The menu will be Hojilla’s take on traditional Filipino dishes, prepared with his distinctive style. Describing it as a “Eurocentric Filipino fusion”, he draws on nostalgia for his refined interpretations of classic dishes. For example, his arroz caldo (a rice porridge usually made with chicken) is vegan, with a French vegetable broth, while his Filipino spaghetti (a dish usually notable for the addition of brown sugar) is less sweet and garnished with crumbled Cheez -It’s cracking.

While this new iteration of BB is still a work in progress, Hojilla says they hope to eventually expand brunch beyond weekends and add take out. They have already started offering small batches of roast chicken and catering, which will ramp up as the holidays approach.

When not coming up with new ideas for BB’s, Hojilla can be found at home, usually cooking up something spicy. Here he shares some of his cooking staples.

The spicy dip

Hojilla loves the classic numbing effect of this Sichuan-style Lao Gan Ma spicy chili crunch. The popular Chinese condiment is made with part of fried peppers (which gives it a fun crispy texture), soy, onions, MSG, garlic, and peanuts for an intense, spicy, flavorful and full of flavor. ‘umami. He’ll use it on just about anything – say, as a dip for dumplings or whatever protein he’s making – to kick his meal up a notch.

Lao Gan Ma spicy chili crisp, $ 7, tntsupermarket.com

The salty dough

Hanamaruki white-type soybean paste, $ 6, walmart.ca

Miso gets its tangy umami from fermented soybeans that are high in protein, and the white variety tends to be sweeter and milder than the red versions, thanks to a shorter fermentation period. “It’s very easy to make a soup with it, or a good dressing – like the kind of sushi served with shredded lettuce,” Hojilla says of this Hanamaruki paste. “I also like to make a marinade for fish with mirin, sugar and rice wine vinegar.”

Hanamaruki white-type soybean paste, $ 6, walmart.ca

The Italian topper

Terroni peperoncini piccanti, $ 14, labottegaditerroni.com

Anyone who has been to the famous Italian restaurant Terroni knows how tempting it is to have too many slices of bread topped with your spicy piccanti peperoncini (red peppers in olive oil). So when the restaurant started selling jars of condiments – which is imported from Puglia, Italy, and counts Meghan Markle as a fan – it was a game-changer for Hojilla. “It’s so awesome,” he says. “It really tips the scales off the table.”

Terroni peperoncini piccanti, $ 14, labottegaditerroni.com

The chef’s tool

Smak Instant Read Digital Meat Thermometer, $ 29, amazon.ca

When cooking, there are techniques you can use to gauge whether you’ve reached the right temperature, but Hojilla prefers the guarantee that comes with a chef’s thermometer. He favors this waterproof digital from Smak because it is affordable, easy to clean and precise, offering reading in just seconds.

Smak Instant Read Digital Meat Thermometer, $ 29, amazon.ca

Traditional vinegar

Mama Sita's Anghang Sarap Spicy Snorkel Vinegar, $ 7, sunshinegrocery.ca

Coconut is a staple in Filipino cuisine, as are Mama Sita’s sauces, spice blends and vinegars. Hojilla says the brand’s Anghang Sarap spicy tuba vinegar, made from a blend of spices and naturally fermented coconut sap, is one of his favorite vinegars because it’s “nice and tangy.” Its crisp acidity makes it the perfect companion for dipping grilled meats or adding to rice.

Mama Sita’s Anghang Sarap Spicy Snorkel Vinegar, $ 7,grocery storesoleil.ca

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Freeda S. Scott