09 September

Buko Pandan Salad

September 2: World Coconut Day

For our marriage preparation ministry, we usually sponsor the “mixed couples” from our church. It makes sense because we are a mixed couple ourselves and can relate our experiences with them. Sometimes we are assigned a young couple where the bride and/or groom is Filipino. Their parents and grandparents would like them to incorporate Filipino traditions (13 coins, veil and cord) in their wedding ceremony, so we practice at our house. To get them in the mood and excited about their cultural customs, we have a Filipino theme night and serve Filipino foods for dinner. One of our brides wanted to share a dessert and brought buko pandan salad. It brought back happy childhood memories for Islander who ate it at relatives’ parties!

We had leftover young coconut (buko) shreds from our buko pie recipe and Islander was able to make this sweet salad at home on the mainland. Thanks to our bride Jobelle for sharing the dessert and the recipe. Serving and eating this buko pandan salad is a wonderful way to observe World Coconut Day!


(From Jobelle B.)


  • 3 cups buko (young coconut meat), shredded
  • ½ cup quick-cooking tapioca pearls + water
  • 2 cans (7 ounces) table cream
  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 can (5 ounces) evaporated milk
  • ½ – 1 teaspoon pandan extract (we used Butterfly brand—see Notes)
  • 1 jar nata de coco (cubed coconut gel), drained
  • 1-2 cans green ai-yu jelly, sliced


In a saucepan, bring 4-5 cups water to a boil. Add the tapioca pearls and cook for 5-10 minutes until no longer white in the middle. Immediately strain and rinse with cold water. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, pour the table cream and mix with the cooked tapioca.

Pour the condensed milk and evaporate milk. Stir in the pandan extract. Drain the nata de coco from the jar and add to the mixture.

Open the can of green jelly and slice into cubes. Gently fold into the mixture. Mix in the buko until well blended. Cover and chill for at least an hour. Serve cold.


  • If using frozen buko, defrost, rinse and dry completely. If it is too wet, it could spoil easily and ruin the dessert.
  • Butterfly brand pandan extract is thick and bright green but other brands of pandan flavoring are thinner and/or clear color. Adjust accordingly and add a few drops of green food color if desired.
  • Green gelatin, agar-agar or gulaman may be used instead of the canned green ai-yu jelly.
  • In addition to nata de coco, kaong (sugar palm fruit) in a jar could be used in this recipe.
  • Search our blog for other coconut recipes.

Kabuli Pulao

(Afghani Rice Pilaf)

September: National Rice Month

Our wedding godmother Dr. Natalie R. was just a little girl living with her family in Afghanistan when her diplomat father served in Kabul during the rule of the Shahs. After her father’s term ended, the family went back to France long before the wars made Afghanistan an unsafe place to live. Natalie told us how beautiful Kabul once was with its grand architecture and marvelous mosques and minarets set against majestic mountain views. She wants to remember Kabul that way instead of its crowds and congestion. Now in her 70s, the retired chemist told us about a tasty dish that she still cooks on occasion. Kabuli Pulao is a colorful rice pilaf from the capital of Afghanistan. Make this country’s national dish during National Rice Month.


(From Natalie’s Maman)


  • 1 ½ cups basmati rice
  • 4 ¾ cups water, divided use
  • 2 tablespoons butter (may substitute for ghee or oil), divided use
  • 2 carrots, julienned (or about 1 cup)
  • ½ cup raisins
  • 2 ounces pistachio nuts (approximately 1/3 cup), coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon saffron
  • ½ teaspoon curry powder
  • ½ teaspoon chai (tea) masala (may substitute for garam masala)


Bring 4 cups water to a boil over the stovetop. Add the rice and cook for about 5 minutes until expanded. Drain the rice in a colander. Set aside.

In a large pan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Stir fry the carrots until softened (about 5 minutes). Stir in the raisins and cook until plump (about 3 minutes). Stir in the pistachios and cook for another 2 minutes.

In an oven safe dish, layer some of the rice on the bottom. Then layer the carrot-raisin-pistachio mixture, along with the drippings, on top. Add the rest of the rice and stir. Set aside. In the same pan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter with ¾ cup water. Bring to a boil.

Add salt and saffron. Stir in the curry powder and masala.

Pour the curry-masala sauce over the rice. Mix until the colors blend. Cover and bake in a preheated oven at 450 degrees for half an hour, making sure the rice is cooked through and softened. Remove from the oven and stir again. Serve hot.



Taiwanese 3-Cup Chicken

(San Bei Ji 三杯)

September: National Chicken Month

The tables have turned—literally—when Islander, a volunteer tutor at the local literacy center, became the student. YaJu Y. from Taiwan had completed all her lessons in English as a Second Language from Islander and wanted to give back some knowledge to her before she returned to her country. Knowing that Islander likes to cook cultural foods, YaJu wanted to share some easy recipes from her country.

San bei ji, or three-cup chicken, is a simply satisfying recipe from Taiwan. The sauce is traditionally made with a cup each of sesame oil, rice wine and soy sauce (but YaJu and many other cooks have adjusted the proportions to their tastes, mainly reducing the oil). This chicken dish is flavored with Asian mainstays of garlic and ginger and is similar to Japanese shoyu chicken and Filipino chicken adobo recipes. But the addition of Thai basil at the end of the cooking cycle gives this three-cup chicken an A+ taste.

Learn how to make this chicken dish, san bei ji, for a terrific and tasty Taiwanese meal during National Chicken Month.


(From YaJu Y.)


  • 2 pounds chicken wings
  • ¼ cup sesame oil, divided use
  • 15+ cloves garlic
  • 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and cut into “coins”
  • 3-4 stalks green onion, sliced into 1 inch pieces (green part only)
  • 2-3 dried red chili peppers
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • ½ cup rice wine
  • 1 bunch Thai basil leaves


In a large pot, place the chicken wings. Fill with enough water to cover. Parboil for about 15 minutes to remove the scum from the meat. Drain the water and pat dry the chicken with paper towels. In a large wok, heat 2 tablespoons of the sesame oil and fry the chicken until browned. Remove to a plate and blot out excess oil with paper towels.

In the same wok, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of sesame oil and sauté the garlic and ginger “coins” with the green onion and chili peppers for about a minute or two until fragrant. Remove to a plate and keep warm. Return the chicken wings to the wok. Stir in brown sugar and rice wine.

Mix in the soy sauce. Add the garlic, ginger, onion and chili peppers back in the wok. Lower the heat and cover the wok. Add Simmer the chicken for about 10 more minutes or until cooked through. Add the Thai basil leaves and toss with the sauce and chicken. Turn off the heat. Serve hot over steamed white rice.


  • Lower sodium soy sauce may be used to substitute for regular soy sauce in this recipe.
  • Instead of chicken wings, other chicken pieces may be used. Chop them into smaller sizes to cook more quickly.
  • YaJu taught Islander other simple Taiwanese and Chinese recipes. They will be posted on this blog in due time.
  • Search our blog for more chicken recipes.

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