What started out as an interesting feature on Philippine Street Food has now become a quest, a pilgrimage if you will, in featuring some of the most authentic Philippine Street Food. For this feature, Isaw and the infamous Balut are on the menu. This may not be for the faint of heart. (pun intended)
On a warm sunny day, a few food trips back and a few calories and pounds gone, you would find me playing in the street with the neighbors. After running around for hours without a care in the world, one does work up an appetite. I was lucky. Just around the corner you would find the neighborhood entrepreneur grilling some stuff on sticks. Or maybe the ambulant vendor pushing around a wooden cart with a gas stove and pan frying some Fish Balls. Yes I am talking about Philippine Street Food. I grew up to these delicacies and am quite fond at how unique and interesting each one tastes like.
I’ve always been asked about those special niche places where dining is at its best and not everyone frequents it. I have an aversion towards restos in Malls because they tend to go for the generic taste which drives traffic rather than the authenticity and of the meal. Don’t get me wrong, I know quite a few restos in malls which do offer quite good cuisine, but I am more inclined towards those hidden gems scattered all over the metro.
Tsumura is definitely one of them. Hidden in the heart of the Makati CBD, lies one of the most authentic Japanese restos. Being heralded and a nominee for one of Manila’s Best Kept Secrets for Japanese cuisine, Tsumura actually is a place you must check out at least once in your life.
Nobody doesn’t like chocolate. I know of exactly just one person who doesn’t like chocolate. (Yes Richard, I am talking about you) Chocolate is one of the first things you start eating as a kid. When you break up with someone you turn to chocolate. When your sad you got chocolate. Chocolate both comforts and is an aphrodisiac. So when Max Brenner opened here in the Philippines, I promised myself that once I have enough money I will definitely have to check this place out.
I have a soft spot for hole-in-wall type of restaurants. Add a bit of history and nostalgia and you’ve got the making of an excellent hidden food spots that all foodies troop off to, something like a pilgrimage to the best food spot. My trip to KL was not going to be complete without this. So on my last day, Nicholas Chay, Nuffnang Malaysia’s Country Manager asked me out to lunch and couldn’t say no or rather wouldn’t say no.
We drove to Jalan Alor on a sunny Sunday afternoon. The best place is eating in Jalan Alor. Formerly known as the Red light district of KL, this place has undergone quite a few changes. The street is literally peppered (pun intended) with little restaurants offering everything from Satti to Char siew. I was actually looking forward to getting some Char Siew, but we stopped at a childhood favorite of Nicholas’.
It was called Charn Kee Tasty Corner. They basically served Clay Pot noodles.
One of the few places or things I definitely had to go back for in Malaysia was Ba Kut Teh at Klang Valley. Ever since I had my taste of “the good stuff” from Malaysia c/o Tim, I knew I had to go back. Bak kut teh (Chinese:Â è‚‰éª¨èŒ¶;Â PeÌh-Åe-jÄ«: bah-kut-tÃª) is a Chinese soup popularly served in Malaysia, Singapore, China, Taiwan and the Indonesian island of Riau (where there is a predominant Hoklo and Teochew community) and also, cities of neighbouring countries like Batam of Indonesia and Hat Yai of Thailand. The name literally translates as “meat bone tea”, and, at its simplest, consists of meaty pork ribs simmered in a complex broth of herbs and spices (including star anise, cinnamon, cloves, dang gui, fennel seeds and garlic) for hours and hours on end. Additional ingredients may include offal, varieties of mushroom, choy sum, and pieces of dried tofu or fried tofu puffs. Additional Chinese herbs may include yu zhu (rhizome of Solomon’s Seal) and ju zhi (buckthorn fruit), which give the soup a sweeter, slightly stronger flavor. Light and dark soy sauce are also added to the soup during cooking, with varying amounts depending on the variant. Garnishings include chopped coriander or green onions and a sprinkling of fried shallots.
Just around the corner from the Nuffnang office lay a Kopi Tiam so unassuming and quaint that you would fail to notice it the first time. Later on did I find out that Yut Kee was one of the oldest Kopi Tiam’s in Kuala Lumpur and was often full and constantly full. Known for their Chicken Chop and cakes, this is a frequent lunch spot for locals who are looking to get a good meal.
Custard tarts were introduced in Hong Kong in the 1940s by cha chaan tengs. They were then introduced in western cafes and bakeries to compete with dim sum restaurants, particularly for yum cha. During the economic boom of the 1950s and 1960s, Lu Yu (é™¸ç¾½, Pinyin: LÃ¹ YÇ”) took the lead with the mini-egg tart. Ironically, mini egg tarts are now a common dim sum dish and are usually richer than those served in bakeries.
The first food tourist thing I did (ok that should be a term now! Food Tourist!) today was check out this bakery at Pavilion Mall called The Loaf. I did my due diligence in researching some local blogs reviewing the loaf just so I knew what to expect, plus Tim of Timothytiah.com was adamant that I at least try it once!
The Loaf is owned by the previous Prime Minister of Malaysia Tun Dr. Mahathir, and it is considered to be quite pricey by Malaysian standards. It actually reminded me of Bread Talk because of the way it was set-up where one would just take a basket and a pair of tongs, and just plop on different doughy treats to be consumed. There was an assortment of treats from the really sweet almond leaf loaf, to some basic ham and cheese croissants.
All the treats actually looked real tasty. There wasn’t much to the space though. It looked like a typical cafe which had an outside space for people to dine and smoke and a small area inside the mall for people to actually sit down and eat. There was an actual bakery INSIDE the mall, complete with ovens and mixing tables. I don’t recall the last time I actually a complete functioning bakery inside a mall.
Ok overall I think it really is quite pricey. 5RM for a roll of anything or 18RM for a loaf of bread is. But the smell that wafts throughout the area will just keep calling to you that you just have to try it. From the choices I had, I really did like the taste and it was indeed quite unique.
I’ve finally touched down in KL and after a LONG night, I’ve entered our Malaysian office. For those of you who don’t know, I am country manager for Nuffnang Philippines. (Yep, those ads that you see floating around!) I flew in to KL to go on a food trip and how apt that I start of the trip with my first meal from a nearby resto called Pak Li.
I scoured the menu hoping to find what I was so yearning to eat, a traditional Malaysian dish called Nasi Lemak. True enough, there were several choices, but I decided to go all out and ordered the Special.
It came with peanuts and dilis, a drumstick swimming in red curry, half a hard boiled egg, sotong sambal, and of course copious amounts of sambal! I mixed them all together and they were heavenly. This is what I missed. I missed the spicyness that malaysian dishes brought. It packed everything with heat, and flavor. Filipino counterparts could only copy a portion of the flavor, but this was the real deal.
A colleague of mine ordered something as well and it looked really tasty. *note to self: must order this next time! Yummy Katong Laksa!*
I’m hoping to do the “hop-on, hop-off” bus today and find some really special food places here! Till my next entry!