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How to Cook Delicious Without a Recipe? Rebel Chef Ninong Ry Shows How

That's keeping it real.
by Pia Regalado
Jul 28, 2021
Photo/s: @ninongry/Instagram

Watch Ninong Ry's vlogs and you'll notice one thing missing: a recipe with exact measurements. Standards be damned, kitchen rebel believes the secret to delicious Filipino food is to cook freestyle.

Some 4.8 million social media followers agree with Ninong Ry (real name Ryan Morales Reyes) who is among many go-tos for no-frills takes and twists on favorites like kare-kare on a hot plate. That video, where he cursed after dropping a slab of pork belly, got 439 million views and 330,000 shares.

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"Kapag nagpakulong tayo sa recipes, hindi na mag-grow ang skills natin as a cook," Ninong Ry told reportr.

Home cooks who are discouraged by one missing ingredient from a recipe should just go for it. Tasting as you go is a learning experience, he said.

"Mas hassle sumunod sa recipe kaysa 'yung tatayo ka sa pantry mo tas titingin kung ano ingredients na meron ka," he said.

Beloved by his inaanaks or godchildren and netizens who chance upon his food vlog, Ninong Ry said recipes, like people, don't need to be perfect. He drops curses like his Facebook video is R-18 and peppers it with hugot lines.

Sometimes, he measures ingredients by the way it looks in the pan. In one of the many videos with one million views, he said his late father's favorite balun-balunan sa gisantes or offal would turn into sarciado if he's not careful with the tomatoes. When he cooked his non-standard adobo, he poured the contents of two small bottles of Coke, some red wine, and mirin (rice wine) into the pan without using measuring cups.

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"Gusto ko lang 'yung idea na pinapalaya natin ang mga tao sa kadena ng mga recipes," said Ninong Ry, who got his no-recipe mantra from his father.

From palengke vendor to social media star

Ninong Ry is happy that his channel has become a coping mechanism during the pandemic for many Facebook regulars. It was meant to entertain himself after the pandemic forced his family's palengke stand to close and he had to give up being a chicken meat vendor.

"Luto-luto lang" was what he aimed for when he started his food vlog in July 2020, tapping into the culinary knowledge he learned as an HRM student at De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde. He said he enjoyed his college life so much, he was extended for a year.

"'Pag tinatanong nga ng mga tao bakit ko pinili ang ganitong style, 'yung nagmumura, ang daming green jokes, hindi ko pinili 'yun, 'yun lang talaga ako. Medyo tamed pa nga 'yun e," he said, laughing.

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He's amazed that he earns from his vlogs, much more than his days as a chef which earned him P500 for a 20-hour work day. When he saw how much Facebook paid him four months after he started his vlog, he said: "Put*ng*na, nanti-trip lang naman ako, totoong pera ba 'yan?"

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Ninong Ry said he uses his earnings to reward his crew -- his editor Jerome Ramos,  videographer Ian Gimena, manager Laira Ocampo, and Ranny Reyes, his brother and social media handler -- and to buy shooting equipment he could use to improve the quality of his vlogs.

The new equipment doesn't include a lapel mic to keep that rough edge.

"'Di kasi ako puwedeng dumating sa point na ang content ko ay mala-Erwan (Heusaff) na. 'Di puwede 'yun. Ang hinahanap ng mga tao sa akin: authenticity, relatability, roughness. 'Yung kawalan ng pakialam," he said.

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Tips for amateur cooks

Ninong Ry said an amateur cook doesn't need many tools. You just need a high-quality chef knife that's comfortable to hold, a big enough chopping board, and a sharpening stone or steel. He reminded those at home that a dull knife is more dangerous than a sharp one.

"Hindi nakakapogi 'yun na meron kang isang set [ng kutsilyo] tapos 'di mo naman ginagamit lahat," he said.

When it comes to cooking your first dish, don't do adobo, he said. It's complex for something with few ingredients.

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Try making a nilagang baboy instead, Ninong Ry said. All you have to do is to boil the meat until it is tender, then put the vegetables in. Once you've mastered that recipe, change the veggies and add a sinigang mix and you can serve the Filipino-favorite sour soup.

"Ang pinakaimportante d'yan, makuha mo 'yung idea na 'sh*t, ako ang gumawa nito. Effort ko 'to', hindi 'yung wow, galing ko na, gets ko na lahat ng concepts and theories and ideas," he said.

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"Output muna para lang 'yung kaluluwa mo, nafi-feed mo rin."

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