Category Archives: food

Palatable adventure in Binondo

There’s something about Manila that lures me into exploring it. The atmosphere, perhaps?
Traversing the streets of Manila transcends a feeling of going back in time and watching the colorful culture circling the place. Despite the modern structures, moving around Manila feels like living inside a history book, seeing the historic capital described in it firsthand.
As part of my urban exploration, my friend and I visited the oldest Chinatown in the world—our very own Manila Chinatown in Binondo. Established in 1594, Manila Chinatown offers a one-of-a-kind dining experience.
How to get there
Well, I can only talk about how we got there, but this is still useful information.

 

From any southbound station, take the MRT and get off at Taft Avenue station. Then, take the LRT and alight at Carriedo station. We walked from the station going to Binondo, but I’m sure there are jeepneys headed that way. We just navigated the route through Google Maps and decided to walk since it’s a short distance. It took us 7 minutes or less to reach our first stop.
Ying Ying Restaurant
It was lunch time when we arrived and the two-story diner was full. There’s nothing spectacular about the interior. In fact, it’s akin to a school cafeteria. But it being jam-packed hinted that an exciting feast awaited us. The intervals between people coming out and going in were short.
We ordered braised beef noodles, fried pork dumplings, shrimp hakaw, and black gulaman. While waiting for our food, we helped ourselves with the house tea that sat waiting for hungry souls on the table. It was newly brewed, as the tea pot was hot.
A few minutes later, food was served. And indeed, it was an appetizing meal!
Braised Beef Noodles

Shrimp Hakaw
Wai Ying
We were hoping to eat Xiao Long Bao (pork wonton with savory soup inside), but it isn’t in Ying Ying’s menu, so we headed to Wai Ying after we chowed down on our food.
Wai Ying is another go-to restaurants when it comes to wonton and dumplings. Unfortunately, they’re not serving Xiao Long Bao either, so we ended up eating dessert instead. Their coffee jelly and buko pandan are superb!
We did not give up on our quest. We continued looking for a restaurant serving the savory dish. We tried our luck at Dong Bei Dumblings on Yuchengco St. The food joint has been receiving raves online, so it piqued our interest. Sure enough, the food joint serves Xiao Long Bao.
But there was one more problem: it was jam-packed and we were on the waiting list. And it seemed that we wouldn’t be able to get settled in the next half hour.
Chuan Kee
Since we didn’t want to waste our time waiting, we decided to buy hopia and other food items we can take home at Eng Bee Tin on Ongpin St.
After paying at the counter, we used the toilet located on the second floor. When I came back downstairs, my friend told me that the food joint adjacent to Eng Bee Tin had Xiao Long Bao in their menu. The food joint which we thought to be Café Mezzanine is in fact called Chuan Kee. They serve 10 pcs. of Xiao Long Bao for P170.
We knew at that point that our food trip in Binondo was drawing to a close since we had already found the highlight of our palatable adventure.
We placed our order, waited, and presto! Our eyes widened in glee as though we were presented with a precious gift.
We feasted on the juicy meaty goodness of each piece and savored the food trip’s finale one Xiao Long Bao at a time.
Xiao Long Bao
Expenses
The best thing about dining out in Binondo is, you don’t need to spend a fortune to get your fill. With less than a thousand pesos, your tummy will be happy. Here’s the breakdown of our expenses:
Expense per person
Ying Ying
P227.50
Wai Ying
P60.00
Chuan Kee
P138.50
Total
P426.00
You might spend more than that depending on your appetite, but that amount, I can say, is enough to satisfy your cravings.
Now I know what else lures me into exploring Manila: the sumptuous feast that you can find in places that marked our country’s history and have become part of our heritage.
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Satisfying food experience at Novotel Manila

Food plays a big role in our overall hotel experience.

One of the greatest things I looked forward to at this year’s Blogapalooza was our two-night stay at Novotel Manila—a first for this annual event since its inception in 2011. The relatively new hotel, which is part of Accor Hotels, is located at the Araneta Center. It’s perfect for both a leisurely stay and a business-related trip.
The hotel boasts of stylish posh rooms with soft beds, carpeted floors, elegant toilet and bathroom, and a view of the bustling city. I had a rejuvenating comfortable sleep, but truth be told, what I loved the most about the hotel was the Food Exchange Manila buffet breakfast.

The feast was a mixture of Asian (Filipino, Indian, Japanese) and Western (American, English, Italian) cuisines that created a flavorful revelry in my mouth. Even the coffee, which was served in a French press, added fun and excitement to my breakfast experience.
Appetizing salad greens and other colors!

Refreshing drinks
One of the food choices that I will never forget is the shabu-shabu. It would have tasted better, though, if I added more spices to it.
Experiment with as many flavors as you can to make your finished product more exciting.

The homemade corned beef is one for the books as well. I’m not a fan of corned beef, but I really enjoyed Novotel’s a lot.
Juicy and chunky corned beef–perfect for meat lovers.
Then there’s the taho. Yes, it’s everywhere here in the Philippines, but mixing the ingredients all by yourself is another great experience in itself. The homemade soya milk was rich and flavorful.
When I was a kid, I would always wait for the vendor’s reverberating voice exclaiming “taho” on the streets. Upon hearing it, I would hastily grab a mug and ask for P5.00 from my mom, so I could enjoy this morning treat. Twenty four years later, I experienced not only the joy of eating it, but also the fulfillment of making my own cup of taho.
The Filipino food, on the other hand, was nothing out of the ordinary, but it was worth a try as well, so on the second day, I dug in some sinangag (fried rice), longganisa (pork sausage) and tinapa (smoked fish). Usually, I give Filipino food a pass at buffets, but I really wanted to stuff myself with rice, so why not?
One of the choices I wished I had tried was the Indian food. Too bad only the photos I took are my memories of it.
Conclude your breakfast experience at Novotel by taking your dose of fresh fruits, or fresh fruit smoothies.
Here’s a tip: To fully enjoy the buffet, get a little of something to get a taste of everything.
Thank you, Blogapalooza and Novotel, for another palatable dining experience!
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Scenic Sagada

My 2015 planner has this list called “101 Things to do in 2015.” First thing on the list reads, “Enjoy the view in Sagada alone.” When I read that part after I bought the planner in November last year, I thought to myself that it was perfect, because first, I really needed some time alone and was planning to spend it someplace that offers peace of mind, and second, Sagada was my dream destination in the first quarter of the year.

Going to Sagada and appreciating its picturesque views while reconnecting with myself and pondering on things that really matter was the perfect idea to jumpstart the year. The thing is I accomplished neither within the time frame I set.

Continue reading Scenic Sagada

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One-day feast in Baguio City

One of the interesting things that draw people towards a place is the food it offers. Treating your eyes to all things wonderful is a great experience. But the food we eat in a particular place creates a delicious memory that sticks to our palates.
A tour around Baguio City isn’t about sightseeing alone; it’s also about tasting good food offered by the best diners around.
Have you ever wondered then what your one-day menu in Baguio would look and taste like?

BREAKFAST
Kiwi Bread and Pastry Shop
Mines View

Start your day with a hearty combination of sausages, steak, bacon, egg (sunny side up or scrambled), bread and beans in tomato sauce complemented by a cup of coffee, or hot chocolate with a refill. Good for two to three persons, you can enjoy this authentic breakfast at P420.


AM SNACK
Cucinino
Porta Vaga, Session Rd.

Your craving for pasta will surely be satisfied by this small diner at Porta Vaga located along Session Rd. Try their Full Combo meal which gives you your choice of pasta, grilled chicken or sausage and garlic basil toast. For only P90 (add P10 to upgrade your pasta), you can complement this meal with honey mint ice priced at P25. Indeed, big things come from small beginnings.
LUNCH
Chicken ala King
Moran St., cor. Arellano, Gibraltar
Treat yourself to a sumptuous lunch and a cozy place at C Boutique Hotel Baguio. One of their best main course meals is Chicken ala King (diced chicken in cream sauce with minced bell peppers and red onions) served with fresh slices of orange. Order this delicious dish for a reasonable price of P190.
PM SNACK
Chocolate de Batirol
Camp John Hay
Grab a cup of flavorful hot chocolate while enjoying the cool weather of Baguio City. You can savor this delectable drink for P95 a cup at Chocolate de Batirol in Camp John Hay and partner it with suman sa lihia (P64), bibingka (P105), or turon de langka (P85). Now what you get is a tongue tickling sweet fix.

DINNER
Korean Palace Restaurant
South Drive

Just for once, forget about your diet and dig into the flavors of Korea at the Korean Palace Restaurant where they offer an eat-all-you-can buffet for P399. You’ll definitely give in to its heavenly goodness, as the first thing to greet you upon entering is the buffet table overflowing with delightful treats.
Melt
Ayala Technohub
Another good choice for your dinner is Lechon Cubano with Crab Fat Sauce and Laing served at Melt in Ayala Technohub for only P180. Let the meat, vegetable and seafood combination party in your mouth.

Enjoying your food trip so far? Don’t think that the feast is over. If there’s still space for more, then the fun continues well into the night. Drop by Baguio Craft Brewery located along Marcos Highway and start treating yourself to different flavors of beer with varying alcohol content levels, brewed and mixed right in that place.

Some of these may be a bit pricey, but as long as they meet your expectations, satiate your cravings and give you the best tasting experience in Baguio, I don’t think the price matters.

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Pangasinan Food Tour 2014: Binmaley

Fish from the neighborhood

Fish is a good source of proteins. It is even a good substitute to red meat as it does not contain cholesterol that aggravates hypertension.
Talking about fish, an establishment in Binmaley, Pangasinan focuses on processing a fish variety which is abundant in the province—bangus (milkfish).
When we visited the Binmaley Fish Processing Plant, we were delighted to see the workers (most of them female) busily packing products and preparing their next batch of merchandise. Upon entering, we were much happier to be accorded with warm welcome as shown by their genuine smiles and…the dishes that was waiting for us on the table.
Bangus siomai was an instant hit among the foodies. It’s a party in the mouth as its meaty texture and heavenly taste tickle the taste buds.

Rellenong Bangus
The number of products being prepared and the number of workers proved just how successful the business has been. But, the Binmaley Fish Processing Plant isn’t just an enterprise; it is a venture with an advocacy—the advocacy to provide jobs, to empower women and to contribute to the overall development of the community.
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Pangasinan Food Tour 2014: Calasiao

The baker and restaurateur in one

A bakeshop and a restaurant—a perfect combination. After eating at the restaurant, diners can go to the bakeshop for some pasalubong , or they can order some bread as well to complement their meal.
That’s what Jech’s is, a bakeshop and a restaurant rolled into one.

Located in Calasiao, Jech’s Bakeshop and Restaurant let us taste some of its specialty dishes. Regular finds, yes, but undeniably delicious and mouth-watering.

Chopsuey

Lengua
Pancit
Out of all the dishes served to us, however, my favourite was the glazed chicken which was really tasty and savory.

Glazed Chicken
Jech’s has been the venue for a great lot of celebrations. But, with or without an occasion to celebrate, it is a perfect spot for a family opting to dine out, or for a group of friends and colleagues looking for someplace to eat at after school and work.


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Bibingkang latik making

I am a kakanin (rice cake) lover.
When I was little, every time my mom visited her bestfriend at her office in Malabon, she would bring home a bilao of sapin sapin, a round kakanin with various colors that are pleasing to the eyes and irresistible for the stomach.


In Antipolo City where we used to live, I also had tasted many times the triangular kalamaywith latik sprinkled on top and suman which can be fried in margarine or butter.
Then in Pangasinan, my taste buds have been aquainted with other kinds of kakanin. One of these is bibingkang latik, a mixture of glutinous rice, coconut milk and sugar. Spread on top is a mixture of coconut milk and sugar. Recently, due to a project I’m currently working on (Basista’s audio-visual presentation), I was lucky enough to witness the step-by-step process in making this delicacy.
In Basista, Pangasinan, Kuya Romy is the lone bibingkang latik maker in Brgy. Dumpay. His product, however, is not sold at the public market. He only makes some when there are orders for such occasions as wedding and christening, or for pasalubong.

Even the employees at the municipal hall order bibingkang latikfrom Kuya Romy.
He showed us the arduous task of bibingka making including the extraction of coconut milk from coconut shavings.

For a 16-inch bibingkang latik, the following ingredients are needed:

2 kg malagkit (glutinous rice)
3 coconuts (1 for the malagkit, 2 for the coconut-sugar spread or katiba)
6 packs of white sugar (1/4 kg per pack—4 for the katiba, 2 for the malagkit)

Four packs of sugar had been cooked until it melted and turned red. Kuya Romy, then, poured the previously extracted coconut milk (from the shavings of the two coconuts) into the preparation. He boiled the mixture for about 45 minutes until it thickened. At the same time, he cooked the malagkit in another mixture of coconut milk and sugar, just the way we cook rice.

Later on, Kuya Romy transferred the cooked malagkit into the round earthenware laid with banana leaves and flattened it.

Then, he spread the katiba on top.

Another earthenware was placed on top of the one containing the preparation. Kuya Romy filled it with several pieces of wood and set them on fire later on. This would cook the preparation beneath.

Three hours later, et voila! Bibingkang latik was ready.

Prices:
Small, 8 inches-P300
Medium, 12 inches-P450
Large, 16 inches-P600
During the Holidays, production is at its peak and orders come rushing in.
While Basista pushes for the promotion of bibingkang latik as its One Town, One Product (OTOP), Kuya Romy wishes to acquire a huge concrete stove (pugon) with a chimney. That way, he said, he could increase his production to meet the growing demand for this delectable delicacy.


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Pangasinan Food Tour 2014: Calasiao

Eat like a Don

Not very far from our last stop, Kuya Max, is another diner, this time in Calasiao, offering the usual Filipino cuisine but not forgetting to concoct twists to make a client’s food experience one of the best. Many have tried experimenting on different recipes, but only a few have stood out. Don Armando’s may not ring some bells when others hear about it, but the fact that customers come rushing in and out of the place is proof that it is getting there sooner rather than later.
Evidently, the owners, husband and wife John Paulo and Teng Bauzon, have poured extra effort into this venture. Not to mention the fact that they also cater to customers looking for an American cuisine through Pizza Don.

The Food Tour team

Don Armando’s Chicken

Sisig

Leche Flan
Friday Special and Pizza Don Special
The dish, however, which really stood out during our visit was Binakol, Don Armando’s sinigang na may buko. 

With dedication and passion combined with the owners’ and their staff’s perseverance to provide their customers the best dining experience, Don Armando’s and Pizza Don will surely succeed in making a big hit.


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Pangasinan Food Tour 2014: Dagupan City

Food trip to the MAX

Going beyond and offering more than what others do will surely turn on customers looking for dishes other than the regular fare that can be found in most diners. These are acts put together by Maximo Alexis Tan, the owner of Kuya Max Grill and Restaurant in Dagupan City.
About 15 minutes from Mangaldan, our next stop during the Pangasinan Food Tour 2014 exceeded the satisfaction rating that our stomachs can give. It was lunch time when we arrived at Kuya Max situated along De Venecia Road, Dagupan City. We could hear our stomachs grumble at the sight of food. Add to that the inviting ambiance of a combined stone and wood architecture which gave us the cozy feeling of dining.
Soup
Many restaurants and eateries in Pangasinan offer clam soup to their customers. So does Kuya Max. But what makes Kuya Max’s version exciting is its spiciness, a perfect appetizer for a big feast which was the scene at the restaurant during the food tour.

Sizzlers
Three sizzling dishes were served to the tasters: Sizzling Boneless Bangus (milk fish), Sizzling Bangus Max and Sizzling Pork Binagoongan (with talong). Literally gone in less than five minutes, the last one obviously became a favorite (and the top sizzler on that day).
Fish
Inihaw na Bangus (grilled milk fish) and hito (catfish), regular finds in restaurants in Pangasinan, were also presented to the group, only this time, the bangus was boneless and the hito, crispy. What everyone was curious about was the Crispy Bunor, small fried fish with a vinegar dip, a dish which can serve as finger food.

Veggies
Vegetarians will never miss out on their healthy diet. Kuya Max introduced to the group its version of the Ilocano specialty, Pinakbet. What makes it different is the tomato sauce which renders a flavorful mixture of vegetables. The Gulay (vegetable) Kare-kare is equally delectable. The rich flavor of peanuts in the sauce brings the taste of vegetables to a whole new heavenly level.

Pigar-pigar
And because Kuya Max is located in the city which is most famous for Pigar-pigar, everyone will definitely look for it. Sure enough, Kuya Max offers this delicious dish. It boasts of its take on Pigar-pigar where in real Angus beef imported from the US is used. The tender meat cooked to perfection instantly became a hit.
Thirst quenchers
With a wide array of food served to us, we definitely needed some fluid intake to drive the bits down. Kuya Max served us with Frozen Lemonade which indeed has a cooling effect. Kamias Shake, however, held everyone’s attention.
Offering old favorites in a different light is one act mastered almost perfectly by Kuya Max. The twists are indeed enticing, making diners enjoy an extraordinary food experience.


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Pangasinan Food Tour 2014: Mangaldan

Undying Filipino staple

One of the things that define our mornings as Filipinos is the undying breakfast staple, tapsilog, which stands for tapa, sinangag (fried rice) and itlog (egg).

Over the years and after several experimental touches, new versions have been concocted served as hearty meals to start the day of the hardworking Filipino. We started eatinglongsilog (longanisa, sinangag at itlog), tocilog (tocino, sinangag at itlog), bangsilog (bangus, sinangag at itlog) and other combinations dished up by the practical Filipino kusinero.
Mama Cela, however, stuck to tapa and made a living out of this original Pinoy pride. Mangaldan is a town in Pangasinan known for tapa. While others continue to sell the product in the public market, Mama Cela has stood out, established a one-stop shop for her products at the heart of the town, and became an empress of meat products and more.
Tapa, strips of beef, or carabao meat that are salted and seasoned, is what Mangaldan is known for. Ask where you can find the best tapa in Pangasinan and everyone will surely point you to this town.


Evidently, her hard work which started when she was just a kid paid off and led her to where she is now. And during our food tour, she had been generous enough to let us taste what exactly she and her business have been known for—tapa. But, it wasn’t the regular tapsilog that she and her trusted employees served to us on the second day of the tour.
Cooked during the demo rendered by Ate Joan, an English-speaking employee who sounds like British, their take on the famous dish originating from Dagupan City, pigar-pigar, had been served to spectators circling around the sweet sounding pan over the dancing flame of the stove.

After several minutes of waiting and salivating over a lip curling treat, everyone took hold of a toothpick, ready to lunge any moment.
True enough, our expectations had been met. Perhaps, even exceeded. The tender meat touching our tongue oozed with a flavorful taste that would make you crave for more.
What makes Cela’s tapa special?
Simple. They use carabao meat and beef and mix together the right amount of ingredients and process it the right way. Couple the whole thing with humility and the business will surely get a natural boost.

No wonder, after many years, Mama Cela’s Meat Products continue to become a hit, and a trend as we say in the modern times. The community they built within the enterprise continues to grow stronger, too. Well, I must say, our visit to Mama Cela’s comfortable and warm abode was one of the tastiest food encounters during the food tour. One heaven of a delight!


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