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!
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