I just got home from the gruelling 15 Hour Food Frenzy Safari in Manila curated by KF Seeton of Makansutra and Anton Diaz of OurAwesomePlanet in conjunction with the World Street Food Congress WSFC 2016. I am so excited to share this crazy foodie adventure with you :-D
The 15 Hour Food Frenzy Safari is a memorable introduction to delicious Philippines food, culture, places, history and people.
Over thirty of us, local and overseas media were put through the intensive 15 hour long initiation to Philippines food. Setting off from Seda Hotel in the buzzing Bonifacio Global City BGC, our first stop was Recovery Food just 5 minutes hop away.
Recovery Food began as a small shop popular with party goers who popped by before and after drinking at bars. It's a modern cafe now, though simply furnished. Recovery Food has kept to the original home style comfort food menu and round-the-clock operations that had earned it success.
There were many Filipino home style dishes to try at Recovery Food. I enjoyed their signature Tapa de Morning which sounded like "top of the morning" (hint.. hint.. hangover food). I was happily chomping down on the home made tapa which tasted like a tender type of savoury sweet zingy tangy beef jerky and slurping up that gorgeous runny egg when KF Seetoh came over and warned me to take it easy. This was just the first of literally dozens more delicious dishes we will be going through during the safari.
After breakfast we took a two hour drive up north to Pampanga. We stopped at Everybody's Cafe. Founded in the 1940s, Everybody's Cafe serves an extensive range of classic Kapampangan home dishes. It's called Everybody's because literally everyone, regardless of nationality gathers here for their delicious local fare for the past 60+ years.
Mdm Peronila Jorolan still oversees the kitchen while her nephew Poch and his wife runs Everybody's Cafe. Peronila's mission is to make sure the Kapampangan heirloom dishes are passed down to the next generation.
KF Seetoh encouraged us to try this local delicacy, Taba ng Talangka which is a rich spread made with orangey fat from little Talangka crabs found at the sea shores around Pampanga. It's a creamy rich crustacean savoury sweet buttery spread perfect with bread. Taba ng Talangka is often used as a pasta sauce.
I picked up one of these adobong camaro (mole crickets) to taste and unconsciously popped a few more into my mouth. Everybody's Cafe serves 1,600 kilos of these critters a year. They plucked off the legs and wings, then stir fry the head, thorax and belly with a bit of salt and sauce. It tastes savoury sweet like cheese and it's soft with a slight crunch. You should try it :-D
Everybody's Cafe's signature betute or fried stuffed frog wasn't served today. Otherwise, it would have been another interesting new experience :-D
Everybody's Cafe serves house made Tsokolate E, a freshly ground and boiled rich creamy chocolate and almond beverage. Chocolaty and aromatic, I had two cups before hopping back on the bus :-D
The third stop is the legendary Aling Lucing Sisig. It's a kind of pilgrimage for sisig lovers as the ubiquitous Filipino dish is said to be invented here.
Aling Lucing created this dish from pig heads which were discarded by the kitchen at the former American Clark Air Base nearby.
Click on photo ^ for full story on Aling Lucing Sisig ^
The skin, meat and fat carved from a pig's head are fried with diced onions and served on a sizzling hot plate. Some crackling, mostly soft and gummy, a bit savoury, some sweetness and a touch of sourish tang. It's an artery clogging sizzling grease spluttering unphotogenic mess. It's 5-star in my books - "food worth dying a little for".
After the birth place of sisig, the safari bus brought us to Cafe Fleur. A small well appointed restaurant converted from a small bungalow.
Here the talented Chef Sau del Rosario serves traditional Filipino classics and is also renowned for his Avant-Garde Kapampangan creations. Chef Sau treated us to many Kapampangan delights, old and also his new interpretations.
Crispy pork belly with macadamia truffle kare-kare sauce.
The tender juicy pork belly was sweet, mildly savoury with slight porcine flavour. The thin golden brown skin crackles with every bite while the fatty juices bathed the taste buds with seductive porcine sweetness. Hehe... I picked the pieces with the most fat attached ;-p
The kare-kare sauce reminds me of satay sauce but finer, smoother and doesn't have the spiciness. The sauce is sweet, nutty with a subtle savouriness.
This is the amazing Rellenong Bangus or stuffed milkfish - my personal highlight of this trip.
Click on photo ^ for full story on Cafe Fleur ^
It's a Filipino style meatloaf made with milkfish. There were layers of tenderness from the slightly crisp fish skin wrap, to the roughly mashed soft white flesh to the jelly like fat from the fish belly. Then, there were those layers of mild sweetness from the milky sauce to the natural flavours of the sweet fish.
I am so glad to have a chance to taste this marvellous Kapampangan dish.
After Cafe Fleur in Pampanga, we made our way back to bustling Metro Manila.
The press conference announcing the World Street Food Congress WSFC 2016 was held at Diamond Hotel. The press conference was graced by Karem Miranda of Tourism Promotion Board Philippines, Javier Hernandez of Ayala Malls, and Master Chef William Wongso (Indonesia's culinary ambassador, among many other accolades).
Click on photo ^ to go to the WSFC16 website ^
WSFC2016 will be held from 20 to 24 April at the iconic "Spaceman" location at 7th Avenue and 25th Street, Bonifacio Global City, Metro Manila, Philippines.
As I discover more and more through the food safari, The Philippines is a great venue for WSFC16 as it's food culture is rich with indigenous flavours which are further enriched by tastes from Indonesia, China, Spain, America, and Japan.
Renowned culinary personalities will address the WSFC Dialogue. 24 hawkers will represent 8 cities from around the world at the WSFC Jamboree - a street food feasting fiesta.
For more information and updates on the World Street Food Congress WSFC2016 <- click
After the press conference, we proceeded to Binondo, Manila's Chinatown to get an insight into the world's oldest Chinatown through food. The old immigrants who crossed the South China Sea from the southern Chinese Fujian province some 400 years ago still retained their language and food ways (with local adaptations, of course).
The tour known as "The Big Binondo Food Wok" was curated and conducted by Ivan Man Dy. Our first Binondo food stop was a little eatery known as Quik Snack (founded in 1968).
We had Quik Snack's signature lumpia (spring rolls), ku-tsai-ah (empanada), Amah Pilar's Tokwa and sate mi. All familiar Hokkien comfort dishes with a Filipino twist.
The innocuous looking sate mi was particularly memorable. It reminded me of Hokkien mee with an oyster flavour (a style long disappeared from Singapore streets) and a hint of sourish spicy Sriracha sauce reflecting local tastes.
Next Binondo food stop was another little eatery known as Sincerity.
Another old Binondo stalwart, Sincerity was founded in 1956. Sincerity signatures include Hokkien staples like owa-chien (oyster cake), go-hiang keng (5 spice meat roll), and their best selling crispy fried chicken.
We also stopped by a dumpling shop, representing the more recent Chinese migration from Northern China around 1990s onwards.
Next stop, at Sarsa in Bonifacio Global City serving Negrense cuisine.
We were treated to a Boodle Fight. It's a Philippines Army traditional communal eating fiesta spread on banana leaves - reminds me of a Javanese style Nasi Ambeng kenduri (party). Despite it's name, Boodle Fight is a great way to bond over food.
Sarsa is popular for their inasal or Filipino style grilled chicken. Tonight, we had many different grilled chicken parts such as leg, wing, skin, liver, gizzard and tail on skewers eaten with heaps of rice fried in garlic.
Another Negrense food icon, Sizzling Kansi Bulalo.
Sizzling Kansi Bulalo is made with tender, juicy and flavoursome chopped beef, served with a shank bone with artery clogging creamy bone marrow, all set on a pool of sweet rich creamy sauce.
This kansi is food worth dying a little for.
Overdosed with cholesterol, I staggered out for the next and (thankfully) final stop :-D
When our bus first drove past the bright lights and humming buzz of Mercato Centrale earlier in the evening, I asked myself "why ain't we stopping here?"
To my delight, Mercato Centrale was our final stop - now I know what KF Seetoh meant when he said, he is "saving the best for last". Mercato Centrale is a kind of pasar malam (night market) with many pop up stalls serving different Filipino foods. How popular is Marcato Centrale?
They ran out of seats but in The Philippines that's no problem at all - people party on, picnic style.
Mercato Centrale co-founders Anton Diaz and RJ Ledesma see the food market as an "incubator for new F & B start ups" and of course a gathering place for foodies. Some of the Philippines F & B brands that took their first baby steps in Mercato Centrale include Manang’s Chicken, Mochiko, Merry Moo, Cristina’s Inutak, ManilaQ’s Bagwang and Big Bob’s Charcoal grilled burgers. Needless to say, the list just keeps growing.
But, we cannot expect KF Seetoh to certify us "Food Commandos" until we have passed the ultimate test of eating another Philippines food icon, the balut (duck embryo).
OK, here's the Johor Kaki guide to eating balut (after 2 tries).
First, crack the shell by knocking the round bottom on the table. Peel off the shell and membrane exposing the embryo. Suck up the fluid inside, through this hole in the shell. It is warm and tastes like mildly savoury sweet chicken broth. Serious.
Next, peel off most of the egg shell to expose the embryo entirely. Put that into your mouth and chew on it before swallowing. You will feel only soft tissue and it tasted like a very mild salted egg.
It's nice :-D
So, it's official - I am a Commando Foodie :-D
We celebrated with lechon - what else but with that "best pig ever" in the words of Anthony Bourdain and I have to agree wholeheartedly with him.
This 15 Hour Food Frenzy Safari opened my eyes wide in wonder and it was just the appetizer for more Philippines food to come. I can't wait for April to be back in Manila for the World Street Food Congress WSFC2016.
I hope to meet you in Manila :-D
Click on photo ^ to go to the WSFC16 website ^
Restaurant name: Recovery Food
Address: R108, Bonifacio Stop Over, Rizal Drive Bonifacio Global City, Taguig, 1634 Metro Manila, Philippines
Tel: +63 2 217 7144
Restaurant name: Everybody's Cafe
Address: San Fernando Del Pilar, McArthur Highway, San Fernando City
Tel: 045 860 1121
Restaurant name: Aling Lucing Sisig
Address: Glaciano Valdez St, Angeles, Pampanga, Philippines
Tel: +63 45 888 2317
Restaurant name: Cafe Fleur
Address: 463B Miranda St, Angeles, 2009 Pampanga, Philippines
Tel: +63 45 304 1301
Hours: 11:00 am to 10:00 pm (Closed on Monday)
Restaurant name: Quik Snack
Address: Carvajal St, Binondo, Manila, Metro Manila, Philippines
Tel: +63 2 242 9572
Restaurant name: Sincerity
Address: Ground Floor, Lucky Chinatown, Soler Street, Manila, 1006 Metro Manila, Philippines
Tel: Phone:+63 2 516 7088
Restaurant name: Sarsa Kitchen + Bar
Address: Unit 1-7, Forum South Global, 7th Ave corner 25th Street , Fort Bonifacio
Tel: +63 927 706-0773
Hours: 11:00am to 11:00pm
Restaurant name: Mercato Centrale
Address: Corner of 34th street and 8th avenue (across MC Home Depot), 34th St, Taguig, Metro Manila, Philippines Tel:+63 917 840 1152
Hours: 6:00pm to 3:00am (Fri & Sat only)
Date: 20 Feb 2016
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