Sawasdee: Thai Street Food

I was able to take a few days off and a much needed get vacay from the Manila stress to travel with my husband and brother Philippe to Bangkok. It was their first time to visit and my fourth time to see the so-called City of Smiles. One thing, I absolutely love about Bangkok is their street food. Unhygienic to some and highly questionable in terms of its safeness to others, I am still all for it. We live but once so I might as well enjoy the whole experience even if there's a fear of occasional stomach upsets! Hahaha! :)

Though intimidating to a lot of foreigners, these food stalls on the streets provide convenient, delicious and affordable meals to the locals. Wherever you go in the city, you are likely to find these stalls very often in busy areas with a lot of people traffic. The popular ones include noodle stalls, made-to-order stalls, satay or bbq stalls and those that sell packed fruits and boiled vegetables.

The hotel we stayed in (Baiyoke Suite Hotel) is situated at the bustling Pratunam area where you can find practically all kinds of street food alongside the bargain stalls of the flea market. Hip and Joel were in awe with the whole gamut of food choices...

Different kinds of Barbeque - Pork, Beef Chicken, innards... I sampled the  strips of beef and it tasted very similar to our local "tapa" / cured beef often eaten at breakfast with rice!

 local crepe with sausage inside

 Grilled catfish served with matching freshly made fish and chili paste

 More and more bbq options

 Steamed Assorted greens with shrimp paste on a plastic bag! 
 Dessert crepe with choice of banana/egg/syrup on top. Hip really enjoyed this dessert so much. 

 Fruit stall : My favorite is their sliced green mangoes with salt/sugar/chili mixture! Heaven!

 Grilled Sausage - more like very tasty longanissa with rice (yes rice inside!)

 Fresh seafoods to put inside your made-to-order Tom Yum

Tom Yum made right in front of you! You choose what you want inside (chicken, squid, fish or shrimp or just vegetables). Ofcourse we choice all of the above! And they ask you how spicy you want it to be. We wanted the authentic flair so we went for the spicy (how the locals have it cooked). It was awesome!

Freshly made Fish Chili Paste that you can eat with grilled seafood or steamed vegetables. I closely watched the old lady as she skillfully used her wooden mortar and pestle and pounded the fish, chilies and other spices creating a chunky green paste which smelled so delightful and tasted spectacular!

We returned to our hotel room on our second night with plastic bags filled with different thai viands - creamy Tom Yum, assorted barbeque, vegetables with fish paste, grilled shrimp plus two generous portions of Pad Thai (Stir Fried Noodles with Shrimp). We sat down in front of the tv and enjoyed each of our amazing, taste and zesty street finds.

Sampling the local cuisine particularly food on the streets is I believe the best way to experience the local culture of Bangkok. I highly recommend you take time out to enjoy their delicacies when you're there... and just so you know our stomachs were fine...no upsets whatsoever :) 

Life is good. Enjoy!


Mamou : A "Glorified" Home Kitchen

Since we arrived from New York about 5 months ago, my husband Joel has ate in this restaurant thrice already (all of which were not with me unfortunately but with friends). He has been raving about their steaks in particular. According to him, it's the closest thing to Peter Luger's steak here in Manila. Well, Lugers is not exactly my top NY steakhouse pick (I still prefer Wolfgang's or Quality Meats over it) but something close to that here in the city is definitely worth a try. 

Last Friday, we both shared a carnivorous craving which mind you, rarely happens to me nowadays! So  he thought that it was the perfect chance to take me to Mamou Serenda. The place supposedly gets really packed during the weekends so you should definitely make reservations beforehand. Luckily, our friend Ziggy, who helps manage the place, was able to squeeze us a table. We also met the gracious owners - a friendly and warm couple (Ziggy's aunt and uncle). They even briefly sat down with us for a little chit chat. 

Well, I honestly wasn't really able to peruse their eclectic menu because Joel already knew what he wanted me to try and so he ordered away...

 They served a complimentary basket of warm assorted buns to start our meal

 Lorenzo's Truffle Cream Pasta (Php 335.00) - I'm not exactly a huge fan of cream-based pasta sauces because they tend to be very heavy but I actually liked this one. I guess I'm a bit biased too because as much as I don't like cream, I absolutely love truffle oil. The earthy and sensual aroma and flavor just makes everything taste so much better.

 USDA Prime Rib (Php 2,800.00) - We asked that it be cooked medium-RARE. We repeated and reiterated the word"rare" because Joel told me that the last time they ate there, they had to send back their steak thrice (gulp! who does that? Having worked in the professional kitchen myself, I pitied the chef on the meat station!)  Maybe it was partly luck and partly skill that night because our order came out perfect the first time around. The 400 gram piece of meat was served on an oil splattered hot plate with oozing olive oil that you can baste the meat with while its hot. It was sprinkled with sea salt on top and came with two sidings of mashed potato and creamed spinach. Both were rather small in size. The sidings unfortunately ended up untouched because we focused all our efforts on the succulent, juicy slab. The thickness was just right and the quality of meat was patently top-notch. Joel and I savored each delectable bite of the meat laced with marbled fat....He liked it with a generous amount of their signature steak sauce while I enjoyed it with just good old sea salt since I don't like masking my meat with sauce!

This was an extra treat for us because they made us sample their special Kurobuta Sinigang (complimentary) with Bagoong Balayan. Although this is a weird addition to the steak and truffle pasta we ordered, Ziggy and Tita just gave in to our request to taste the soup because I've heard a lot of raves about it. And I understood why. The sinigang is the thick, gabi-generous and slow-cooked sour broth that I love with a twist. And who would have thought that bagoong would marry perfectly with it as a dipping sauce. Genius!

I must say, I was quite impressed with my over-all experience - food was superb, service was efficient and the ambiance was homey. I would most definitely come back here again for some glorified comfort food.

Serendra, Bonifacio Global City
Taguig City, Metro Manila
02 8553569


Thursday Date Night: Crystal Jade Finally Here in Manila!

The Xiao Long Bao sensation has finally hit Manila. Last month, Crystal Jade opened its doors in Virra Mall, Greenhills Center. Crystal Jade Culinary Concepts Holding is one of Asia’s most celebrated and multi-awarded food and beverage companies. It has been satisfying the cravings of authentic Chinese cuisine aficionados in more than 80 outlets with 19 culinary concepts in Singapore and other major cities in the Asia-Pacific region. A name respected for the success it has been relishing over the years, it hails itself as a reliable provider of consistent quality food and service. 

This famed restuarant brings good and not to mention tasty memories of our family Hong Kong food trips. Joel has been wanting to go for the past 2 weeks but my sister said the line there during weekends (especially during lunch service) gets crazy. The wait time is about an hour and half or so. We decided to wait it out first and let the craze subside. Finally last night, we gave in to the temptation and spent our "date night" there. 

 Their Steamed Pork Soup Dumplings (Php 158.00) - They're not the best we've had (I think after Din Tai Fung, no xiao long bao can possibly be better!) but it's good enough. It was able to satisfy Joel's Chinese craving. 

Steamed Sliced Pork with Assorted Capsicum & Bean Paste served with pancakes (Php 260.00)

 Noodle with Spicy Cold Chicken (Php 288.00) - Joel wanted something spicy so he sampled this was and boy was it hoooot! The cold chicken was well-flavored and married perfectly with the hand-pulled noodles. What I love about it is that it's served with a spoonful of coriander/cilantro on the side which you can mix with the chicken and noodles. It accentuates the flavor beautifully. But waaah! It sure gives your tongue a good burn! hahaha! I had to ask for a glass of milk and Wong Lo Kat to hlep get the spiciness out of my mouth! 

Wong Lo Kat (Php 44.00) - This helped my tongue recover from the spicy chicken noodle dish above! This herbal drink actually tastes like Sago't Gulaman without the well...sago and gulaman! Did that make sense? 

 For those who have been curious about Crystal Jade, the best time to go is on a weekday at an off-peak time. We went around 8:30 already and there was no line. We were seated promptly and service was quick and efficient.

* The only downside about last night's experience was that they don't have their own restroom inside the restaurant. Joel had to go out and enter the mall only to find out that  that when he got there he needed a stub from the restaurant to enter because its a "Pay Restroom". So with much irritation and frustration, he had to go back and get that stub. Argh!

Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao
Unit 117-211 Ground Floor, Virra Mall, Greenhills Shopping Center
Greenhills, San Juan
570-6912 or 570-6910


Tao Yuan : Best Hainanese Chicken in Town

My Ninang Josie wanted to take out some family friends who happen to be balikbayans to dinner last night. She didn't want to bring them to the usual hotspots here in the city (The Fort, Greenbelt, etc.) and so she decided to venture out to the bustling Malate area for some authentic Singaporean cuisine. According to a lot of reviews (both written and word-of-mouth) Tau Yuan supposedly serves the best Singaporean dishes here in the country. And so we all wanted to sample it and judge ourselves.

First advise is to make reservations and call beforehand because the place gets packed almost every night so this will spare you from an arduous wait. Next and more importantly is what to order. Ninang asked her friend who comes there regularly to give her recommendations. Here's what came to the table;

 Their famous Hainanese Chicken which is what people go there for. Hainanese chicken is prepared by boiling a whole chicken in bone broth flavored with garlic and ginger. Usually the stock is also used to cook the rice (producing the yellowish flavorful sticky rice) and served on the side as a soup. 

 Trio dipping sauce : Ginger sauce, Soy and Chili Sauce. They serve it in rather tiny sauce dishes but don't hesitate to ask for more. We did!

 Rich Scallop with Minced Vegetable Soup (Php 320.00)

Cereal Prawns (Php 150.00 + 10% sc per piece) - This is a unique and innovative twist on the usual prawn balls. This is a specialty so you order it PER PIECE! It's fried plump prawns with a generous sprinkle of sugary "cereal" which to me tastes more like crumbled barquillos! Very interesting!

 Mildy spiced Okra Sambal

 Another must try dish there : Deep Fried Lapu-Lapu with Mango Sauce. The fish is really fresh since you its taken from the fish tanks in front of the restaurant then deep frie with Mango Saud to give it a light and crunchy bite. The sauce is a tangy sweet chili sauce with mango, green onion and bell pepper slivers.

 Peking Duck with glistening skin. The only weird thing was that they include thinly sliced carrot strips inside the duck wrap instead of just the standard green onion and hoisin sauce.

 Tongpo Pork with Steamed Buns - similar to Pata Tim but instead of using pata this is a whole pork belly with bokchoy.
 Steamed Buns for the Braised Pork
 Our refreshing Mango Sago dessert which was on the house :) 

From the outside it looks just like a regular Chinese Seafood restaurant with well-lit fishtanks by the entrance where you see live seafood from lobsters to prawns and eel...but don't be fooled! The place serves really authentic and worth-the-Manila-drive Hainanese and Cantonese cuisine. 

I would definitely go back here for 3 things : Their signature Hainanese Chicken, Fried Lapu-Lapu with Mango Sauce and Cereal Prawns.

Tao Yuan
Mabini St. (beside Pan Pacific Hotel)
Malate, Manila
02-522 7009


Birthday Lechon (Roasted Suckling Pig)

       Last weekend, my cousin Rupert (also known to the cousins as Pipo) celebrated his birthday in Batangas with a special Filipino lunch celebration. And as always, the star of the show was the Lechon/ Roasted Pig that Pipo stuffed himself. So ironic though that he turned Vegan 2 months ago so he couldn't enjoy his birthday treat. 

      The word Lechon originated from the Spanich term leche (milk) . In a lot of regions, lechon is prepared throughout the year and especially during special occasions like festivals, holidays or birthdays. It refers to a suckling pig that stuffed, seasoned and skewered with entrails removed.  The pig is attached to a rod and is roasted whole over a charcoal and turned in a rotisserie action. In the Philippines, we often serve it with a special sauce made out of liver combined with vinegar, garlic or pepper. If you don't have time to make your own, you can also buy a ready-made sauce in the local grocery for convenience (Mang Tomas brand). 

       My cousin Pipo stuffed this lucky pig with a lot of tanglad/lemongrass, garlic, crushed pepper and rock salt. And the meat turned out really tasty, stringy and juicy... I actually didn't need to put sauce on it. My favorite parts of the lechon aside from the crispy balat/skin are the ribs and the tiyan/stomach. They absorb the most flavor from the stuffing and they're oh-so-juicy all the time. So next time there's lechon, you know the parts you should go for!

My sous chef Henri tasting the stringy meat! :)

 Henri shares my sentiment: I love how the meat captures the lemongrass flavor. It's well seasoned and the crispiness of the skin is just amazing! 

Now, I owe myself a good work-out after this! Happy Birthday Pipo!