Archive for the 'Manila' Category

Abè @ Serendra Mall

After a 2.5 hour bus ride, we finally arrived at the bus station in Puerto Princessa. In a hurry to catch a flight back to Manila, we immediately hopped on a tricycle and zoomed to the airport. We landed in Manila in the early evening and since our flight back to Saigon wasn’t for a couple of hours, we grabbed a cab and headed to Abè for dinner.

Abè, like all of Manila’s dining gems, is located inside a mall. Since we didn’t have a reservation and all of the tables inside were taken, we dined alfresco. Abè (pronounced AH-Beh) specializes in Kapampangan recipes from the province of Pampanga. The area is famous for creating some of the tastiest meals and desserts in the country.

Dinner started off with a green mango and bagoon salad (95 PP). The unripe mangoes were crisp and sour and topped with a deeply flavorful salted shrimp paste that reminded all of us of our dear friend, mam tom. I think I was the only one who really appreciated the combination of tart fruit with a savory fermented sauce.

I arrived in the Philippines only knowledgeable about two Pinoy dishes—lumpia and pancit. During my weeklong stay in the country, I had my fair share of pancit, but not a lone lumpia. I made up for lost time at Abè. The restaurant served both fresh and fried ones, so we ordered one of each. The fried ones (129 PP) tasted no different from Chinese eggrolls, especially with the red wine vinegar sauce. The stuffing included carrots, cabbages and not a trace of meat.

The fresh lumpia (129 PP) was stuffed with pork and woodear mushrooms, wrapped in a pancake and topped with crushed peanuts and hoisin sauce. The dish’s composition and presentation reminded me of the classic Chinese take-out dish moo shu pork.

Another dish that we couldn’t leave the Philippines without trying was kare kare (475 PP)—a peanuty stew made with oxtail. The peanut sauce veered toward bland, but it was paired with a fermented shrimp paste to add a bit of zing. The oxtail skin was incredibly decadent.

The Mutton Adobo with Popped Garlic (395 PP) was everyone’s favorite. The meat was tender as can be and the seasonings were simple and satisfying. We were a bit confused by the “popped garlic” bit, but with meat this good, we let it slide.

One last garlic rice (60 PP). I adore this stuff!

For dessert we shared a Halo Halo (120 PP), which means “mix mix” in Tagalog. It is a popular Filipino dessert that is a mixture of shaved ice, milk, boiled sweet beans and fruits, served cold in a tall glass or bowl. The halo halo was topped with a combination of leche flan, ube halaya and ice cream. Condensed milk was poured into the mixture upon serving.

The leche flan was the best part!

Well-fed and smiley.

On our way to Abè for dinner, I spied a cute little bakery called Cupcakes by Sonja. I made a mental note to return after our meal because I’m a total sucker for cupcakes even though they’re disgustingly trendy.

Nina picked up a handful of delights for The Boyfriend as a peace offering for ditching him for a week, while I scooped up a simple yellow cake number with chocolate frosting. The cake was dry and the chocolate frosting’s texture was granular. Unimpressed, I took two bites and gave my leftovers to our cabbie. The loveliest cupcakes in all of the land are at Magnolia Bakery in New York City.

And that wraps up our tour of the Philippines!


Abè
G/F Selendra, Retailer Area Bonifacio
Global City, Taguig City
Phone: (632) 856-0526
Website: www.ljcrestaurants.com.ph

Vegetation Profile: Mangoes

One of the four major fruit crops grown in the Philippines is mango (Mangifera Indica). It has been considered as the national fruit of the country due to its several uses and rising importance and high potential both in the local and world market. Mangoes are eaten as raw, cooked, frozen, preserved or dried. Ripe mangoes are used for confectioneries, ice cream, sherbet, and bakery products while unripe mangoes (usually the Indian variety) are a good source of juice. The demand for processed mango is increasing, as seen in the proliferation of mango products in supermarkets and groceries.

There are several mango varieties grown in the country but Carabao mango, known in the international market as the “Manila Super Mango,” is the most popular. Piko and Indian varieties rank next to Carabao variety in terms of production volume and popularity.

The Philippine mango industry continuously to be one of the backbone industries of the country’s agriculture sector. The sector contributes an average of P14.9 Billion per year to agriculture GVA. It ranks 3rd as the most important fruit in the country in terms of volume of production and area after banana and pineapple.

Ranking only 7th among major mango producing countries in the world in terms of production volume, contributing 3% to the 27.7 Million metric tons world production. The Philippines is the 6th largest exporter of fresh mangoes after Mexico, India, Brazil, Netherlands and Peru.

With mango season wrapping up in Saigon, I was stoked to find an abundance of perfectly ripe Filipino mangoes while in Manila. Nina says that this variety is the most common in Canada. I thought it might get a little messy eating mangoes without a knife and plate in my hotel room, but that certainly wasn’t the case! They peeled so easily, but were mad juicy so I had to eat them over the sink to avoid soiling the carpets.

Filipino mangoes are divine—sweet, juicy, a bit firm. Ripe mangoes really are heavenly! Sigh… Can’t wait to taste India’s famous Alphonso mangoes to see how they match up.

Salcedo Community Market

On our final morning in Manila, The Astronomer and I visited the Salcedo Community Market, while Nina checked out a historical part of the city called Intramuros and Cathy visited a pimped-out Chinese cemetery.

Here’s a bit about the market from an article written by Robyn Eckhardt:

When it comes to the cuisines of southeast Asia, the Philippines is better known for balut (half-hatched duck eggs) and the local fast-food franchise Jollibee than any major gourmet experience. But spend a Saturday morning at Salcedo Community Market in Manila’s business district and you’ll be wondering why the cuisine of this archipelago nation has been overlooked for so long.

Close to 140 stalls set up each week in a shaded carpark, ready to take its customers – bejeweled socialites, shopping list-toting housewives, families, ex-pats and nearby call-center workers just off the night shift – on a gastronomic tour of the Philippines. Whether you’re in search of rare seasonal produce or pre-prepared specialties from the provinces, a leisurely approach is recommended. Devote a few hours to grazing the market’s aisles, people-watching, and sharing sit-down fare at the market’s undercover communal tables.

It was too early in the morning for blackened fish, but they smelled excellent.

An array of Pinoy desserts. Due to the employment of similar ingredients including coconut, banana, rice flour, taro and sesame seeds, I thought that Pinoy treats tasted very similar to Vietnamese ones. I really liked the abundance of free samples at the market. I felt like I was at Costco.

The Astronomer was hooked on these mango cookies after one sample. Even though they cost a pretty peso, he splurged and bought a box. The taste and texture of these cookies were reminiscent of Fig Newtons, but more mango and not so much fig. Duh.

Organic produce! Man, this stand brought be back to the days when I used to live in Oakland, California and shopped at the farmer’s market under the overpass on Lakeshore. Manila, I am totally impressed.

The Astronomer and I tried a sample of the curry ice cream. It was definitely more sweet than spicy, and not addictive enough to procure an entire scoop. In my mind, only Capogiro can get away with flavors this funky.

I don’t know about you, but this reeks of fake wagyu to me. Turning precious wagyu into shawarma filling and dousing it with a creamy sauce is a travesty (and a big ‘ol waste). I think that the only proper way to eat waygu is unadorned and rare like at Alinea in Chicago.

After circling the market once to see what was available, The Astronomer and I started chowing down. The Astronomer’s first pick of the day was a tuna empanada. I personally would have gone for chorizo, but he rationed that the tuna would probably taste better cold.

I started the day with some Sweedish meatballs drenched in gravy. Clearly, I was in a strange mood. They were larger than golf balls and and meaty as heck, but not spectacular in any way.

Next, The Astronomer purchased a vegetable ukoy or fritter. It would have tasted loads better hot out of the fryer, but the soy and vinegar sauce saved it.

I indulged in some pritson next, which was comprised of roasted piglet and fresh cumber spears wrapped in a crepe-like pancake with hoisin sauce. Really, really good. I like how the Filipinos have no qualms about animal carcases. In fact, it was the sight of the whole animal that attracted me to this stand.

A huge jackfruit. I placed my Nalgene next to it to really get the sense of its enormity.

In bloom!

Next, The Astronomer and I shared some lechon baca—beef lechon. Once again, a whole animal carcass was present and it didn’t seem to faze anyone. I like that! After we placed our order, one of the people running the stand approached the roasting cow and cut us off a bit. Talk about fresh meat.

Mmm…carne! The meat was ridiculously tender. Slow roasting over charcoal does wonders.

And lastly, a little something sweet called piaya—round wheat flour flat breads filled with smoky muscovado sugar and sprinkled with sesame seeds. Great flaky texture and not too sweet. A delightful conclusion to our market excursion.

Mang Inasal

After our awesome day-trip to Tagatay, we arrived back in Manila beat, stinky, dirty and hungry, so we didn’t stray far from our hotel for dinner. The Astronomer, Nina and I dined at a fast food-style joint called Mang Inasal on Makati, while Cathy took her meal back to the hotel. Here’s a heartwarming blurb from the restaurant’s website.

Mang Inasal endeavors to adhere to elements that bear a distinctively Pinoy stamp—grilling with charcoal, rice wrapped in banana leaves, a marinade concocted out of local spices and herbs, bamboo sticks for skewers, and the ambience that encourages kinamot (the Ilonggo term in eating with the hands) whenever chicken inasal is served. All these evoke a rush of nostalgia for tradition, culture, and most of all, Home.

The protocol here is order at the counter, pay, take a number and the food is delivered when it’s ready. Just like at Rubio’s!

Nina ordered Paa with Rice—grilled chicken (leg and thigh) with white rice and a kalamnsi. This is referred to as a Paborito Meal on the menu, which I assume is comparable to a Western value meal.

The Astronomer also ordered a Paborito Meal—Pork Inasal with Rice. The meat wasn’t super-tender, but it was very satisfying and well-seasoned. The flavors reminded me of Korean barbecue. Charcoal grilling imparts of a lovely smoky taste upon the meat.

The best perk of the Paborito Meals is unlimited rice! One was enough for Nina, but The Astronomer demanded seconds. There is an employee at Mang Inasal whose sole job is to provide rice refills. After he scooped a fresh ball of rice onto The Astronomer’s plate, he said something like, “here is your second rice, and it is free!” He cracked us up.

The Astronomer and Nina shared a side of Krispy Kangkong—deep fried river spinach with a mayonnaise dip. Definitely not up my alley (I prefer my vegetables honest), but The Astronomer and Nina seemed to like it fine.

In the mood for something sweet, I decided to try one of Mang Inasal’s dessert offerings. After grilling the woman working behind the counter on her favorite sweet on the menu, I settled on the Saging Melt. The Saging Melt, which was comprised of shaved ice, topped with bananas and a scoop of vanilla ice cream, was a huge let down. The ice cream was good enough, but the bananas’ texture was horrendous (I’m pretty sure they were frozen for months prior to being served) and the shaved ice was just strange. Boo.

Mang Inasal
Villa Building, Jupiter Street, Makati City 1207
Phone: (632) 890-2442

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