Irenia: Filipino Cuisine in the O.C.

Tonight I had a craving for Filipino food. I have been thinking about a recent lunch that my best friend and I had in Santa Ana, California. I had bookmarked Irenia when I was doing my research on places to eat near Disneyland. Los Angeles food critic Jonathon Gold had included Irenia on a list of Best Restaurants in Los Angeles. Irenia was only a handful of restaurants located in Orange County so my curiousity was piqued.

We were on holiday, so cocktails during lunch was a no brainer. My BFF got the Purple Drank which was made with gin, coconut rum, ube, and pineapple. Although it wasn’t on the menu, I was able to get a Petite Colada. There is definitely something about drinking from a coconut that sends warm vacation vibes.

Our waiter recommended the Dilis, baby anchovies. I don’t know why I was surprised when a bowl of hundreds of tiny fried anchovies were set in front of us. How bad could it be if they are fried right? Right, because I actually really enjoyed these delicacies. It came with some vinegar to dip them in, which I didn’t really need. It was a fun snack that I kept munching on.
I ordered the Chicken Inasal rice bowl. The pan roasted chicken thigh came with sautéed Chinese broccoli and zucchini. The grilled chicken had a nice crispness and the flavor was out of this world. I definitely could taste a mix of vinegar and soy, like you would find in adobo.  
My BFF ordered the pancit which was described as egg noodles with a soft boiled egg, chicken skin chiccharron, fried garlic, and scallion. It didn’t taste like pancit that we are accustomed to. I think it was the sauce that was problematic. The flavors were one dimensional and fell flat. She let the waiter know it wasn’t what she expected and did not like it. He explained that there were different varieties of pancit, but offered to have the kitchen make her something else. Since we had some time constraints, she declined.  
To make up for the dish, our waiter brought us a dessert on the house. The ube brown sugar pie was a nice way to end the meal. Ube is a purple yam. The pie offered a nice caramelization and the fresh whipped cream lightened up the sweetness.
Irenia offers some very traditional Filipino dishes with a modern twist. Minus the pancit, I thought Irenia was excellent. Looking at the full menu, it’s very clear that they aren’t afraid to use vegetables which I can appreciate from a restaurant serving Filipino cuisine. If you are near Santa Ana, I would recommend a visit to Irenia

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Easy to Make Jerk Chicken Wings

It has been two years since I joined the cooking club “Foodies by the Bay.” The theme last night was Jamaican cuisine. The first thing that comes to mind when I think about Jamaican food is jerk chicken. Since I love chicken wings, I decided to make jerk chicken wings.   
I stopped by Minto Jamaican Market in North Oakland this past Friday after work. I was looking for a jerk spice rub and found an imported bottle of Grace Jamaican Jerk Seasoning in a bottle. It is more like a paste and the ingredients include Jamaican scallions, salt, hot peppers, pimento, brown sugar, black pepper, thyme, garlic, vinegar, spices, and vegetable oil. My experience with jerk chicken is that it could be really spicy, so I bought mild.
The instructions on the bottle said to use 1-2 tablespoons of seasoning per pound of chicken. I massaged 6 tablespoons of seasoning into the 4 pounds of chicken wings. I then transferred the chicken into a gallon size Ziploc bag and left it in the refrigerator for 24 hours. 
Grilling is probably the ideal way to make jerk chicken, but I used the oven for ease.  When it was time to cook, I spread the wings onto a large pan and baked them in a preheated oven of 400 degrees. After 25 minutes, I turned the wings over and cooked for another 20 minutes. The sauce had caramelized and left golden crispy patches onto the chicken wings.
The party (including our host pictured below) agreed it was one of the top dishes of the evening and wanted to know what sauce I used. I highly recommend Grace Jamaican Jerk Seasoning. I made the right decision to use the mild sauce because it was still quite spicy. This is one of the easiest dishes I have ever made and the results are juicy and mouth watering goodness that packs a punch.  Yeh Mon!