Thursday, June 17, 2010
The shakes on Boracay are pretty delectable.
Mango Shake #1
Mango Shake #2 (urp)
Buko Shake #1
Mango-Melon Shake #1
Banana-Chocolate Shake #1
Avocado Shake #1
Mango-Vanilla Shake #1 + Nutella Shake #1. That Mango-Vanilla combo is the diggity-bomb. I would never have thought of it, but the flavors sing together. I recommend trying to make it at home, these aren't hard. Some ice, mango, milk, dissolved sugar, and vanilla.
Friday, June 04, 2010
10 Courses of Pampangan Bliss
As any fan of Anthony Bourdain knows, when you want good Pampangan cuisine, you go find Claude Tayag at his home, Bale Dutung.
Claude was Anthony Bourdain's guide in Pampanga when Anthony filmed his Philippines' episode. It was fun hearing a little inside info about Anthony Bourdain's trip from Mary Ann, Claude's vibrant wife and partner. He cooks with quiet style, she hosts with pizazz and knowledge: a dynamic duo. She was dressed in yellow (a Noynoy supporter... or maybe she just likes yellow...), and had a habit of massaging people's shoulders as she stood behind different people, explaining the nuances of our courses. I liked her immediately.
Our beautifully set table. The lights above are made from old carabao yokes.
Apparently, Anthony had plenty of stalkers! She said they were lined up outside the gates when the crew came to Bale Dutung, hoping for a photo of Bourdain. I KNEW we Filipinos are a die-hard bunch of foodies. I asked Mary Ann what Bourdain was like in person. She told me she asked him this: in all the traveling and eating he did, what did he do when he was served a dish he genuinely didn't like in someone's home? His reaction was: when it comes down to showing respect to his host and being honest about not liking the food, he goes with being polite to his host. "All the critique you see on his show, that gets dubbed in later!" she chuckled. "I'm glad he knows to do that much!" I am too, actually. One thing I do like about Anthony Bourdain -- I think he gets it. He gets the culture-food connection in an intelligent way, including the respect for each other that people can share over a meal. It comes through in his show.
There's not going to be much further narrative to this post. It was a case of: We came. We ate. We ate lechon 5 ways. We ate some some.
We started out with homemade sauces that we just tasted on crackers: taba ng talangka (crab fat), pesto, and buro (fermented rice).
Then an amuse bouche: cold crunchy noodles with vegetables slivers in a light dressing.
Course 1 -- Ensaladang Pakó / Fiddlehead fern salad with tomato and quail egg. This is a dish that is very popular with Pampangans, but is the sort of food considered too "low brow" for important guests, since fiddlehead ferns grow freely in the wild in the Philippines (I've had fresh fiddlehead fern "pizza" on Camiguin). Like many homey Pinoy dishes (like monggo), it isn't eaten much by visitors or on special occasions. Kudos to Claude for serving it to Anthony Bourdain when he visited, because it's the sort of dish that would get an artisinal premium price in New York.
Course 2: Piniritong Lumpiang Ubod / fried veggie lumpia
Course 3: Inasal na Manok at Talangka Rice / grilled chicken with crabfat rice. Chicken inasal is not a typical Pampangan dish, it's from Bacolod.
Course 4: Talangka Sushi / crabfat sushi. I could have popped these all day. A bit of rice wrapped in seaweed, topped with a dollop of Claude's super awesome homemade crabfat.
Course 5: Hito at Balobalo Sushi / fried catfish rolled in mustard leaf. I don't think that description matches a translation of the dish name in Tagalog, but it wasn't raw sushi in the roll.
Course 6: Balat ng Lechon at Liver Sauce / crunchy delectable yummy pig skin with sweet liver sauce. Here began our shameless descent into porkdom. This was actually a collapsed lechon skin, which Claude refried to make crispy. He felt so bad about that that after we finished dessert, he produced another lechon and gave us this course again! So we could taste the proper crispy quality of the thing. Oy.
Course 7: Fried Lechon Flakes Binalot sa Tortilla / crispy lechon flake tacos, essentially. We had fresh basil and cilantro going on in these babies. I don't know how Pinoy this was, but it didn't matter, this was my favorite course. So good.
Course 8: Sinigang na Lechon / sour tamarind soup with roasted pork. This was a wonderful, flavor-packed version of sinigang.
Course 9: Ribs with roasted eggplant and quail egg (not my favorite)
Course 10: Carved pork with potatoes, carrots, and green beans. This dish was a nod to the West. Mary Ann explained that in Asia, there is no tradition of carved meats. That is a Western thing. This piece of pork was further cooked in an Asian style sauce, but the sides are Western. And this is one of those things that shows the measure of a truly artistic cook -- there is no twist to the sides, which are very simple vegetables. But I can tell you that they were cooked PERFECTLY. And that makes eating something as simple as green beans a pleasure, to truly experience the flavor and snappy texture they have when cooked just so.
Dessert: Halo-Halo. Everything was homemade, not out of a jar. It made a big difference in the flavor of the beans, corn, and macapuno.
We got to walk around the Tayag home afterwards. Claude is a remarkable person. He is an artist as well as a chef. He built his entire home from reclaimed materials, or things that he made himself. It's beautiful. He recently had an exhibit of his sculpture at the Ayala Museum. And he's a very humble, gentle personality. Swooning over a mouthful of one of his lechon dishes, I told him: "Claude. You're a genuis! Genius!" and he said, "It's just lechon!"
This is him hamming it up with all the cameras our group gave him for the inevitable multiple group portraits:
Some shots around the Tayag home. The ground floor is totally open, given the humid tropical climate, with misters around the edges. The second floor of their home is the floor of an old bowling alley, their chest of drawers a repurposed medicine chest, and various old Philippine knickknacks and tools like the old-style Sorbetes cart (ice cream handtruck).
This tour was with Ultimate Philippines, a group of 4 Pinoy travel bloggers giving tours. It was pricey -- P4,500 (US $100) -- but it included all costs for the day, including a whole massive Pampangan breakfast, snacks, transport from Manila, the 5-hour meal at Bale Dutung, and... did I mention more snacks? This appeared at the end of our mad eating adventure. It's like an inverted brazo de mercedes, a nice spongy cake with sweet cream on top. Lordy.
Checkout fellow eater Lauren's expression when she realized we had a big dessert tray coming after all that food!
You can visit Ultimate Philippines' site for their tour info here.
Out of Order: Boracay Snapshot
Thursday, June 03, 2010
Walking Through Binondo
I wasn't able to arrange a walking tour of Manila's Chinatown while I was there, but I snagged a copy of Ivan Man Dy's DIY walking tour map, "The Big Binondo Food Wok" at the Ayala Museum and gave it a go alone. I think I would have gotten more out of it with a guide, so if you have a chance book Ivan for a tour through www.oldmanilawalks.com.
I stopped by Binondo Church, first.
I lit a candle for my mom, on the right.
Let me tell you there is a whole lotta hopia going on in these parts.
Binondo is the world's oldest Chinatown (about 400 years old). It's chaotic, smelly, and filled with lots of cheap eating opportunities. Which is pretty much already my image of Chinatowns based on the ones in New York, but this Chinatown is even more difficult to navigate. The sidewalks are tiny or non-existent (probably a throwback to the time it was built, when you might have just walked in the street) and the area is filled with vendors and beggars. Plenty of pedicabs will take you where you want to go though. It's got a more aggressive energy than I've experienced in the rest of Manila. I don't mean it's dangerous, I just mean I felt more attitude thereabouts than in the rest of the city.
I couldn't figure out if I was being hit on or if these guys were just trying to hustle a pedicab ride to me, but it's the only time I've gotten a fairly constant stream of pssst and hoy when I go walking by.
I told that to my friend Diosa, who works in Binondo. She said that whenever she and her coworkers are feeling depressed about their appearance, they just go for a walk in Binondo and that'll make them feel very beautiful!
Diosa is a teacher. Her students are all Chinese kids learning English, and are about 5 years old. I asked if they were cute, and she said, "Yes, for the first 30 minutes." I got to each lunch and hang with the teachers, which was really fun.
Diosa is on the left.
Lunch was a yummy assortment of snacks. The ube hopia was my contribution, the rest was a big pile of dumplings, buko tarts someone brought from Tagaytay, a little rice + chicken stew, and corn coffee from Bohol (Diosa had some from her last trip there).
Afterwards, I walked to the LRT to take the train, going along Escolta Street. I wish so much that the architecture in these parts had been better preserved. This section is truly OLD Manila, and it retains some of the interesting cultural markers of the past in the buildings there.
If you can enlarge the image below, there's big images set along the street of what Escolta used to look like back in the day (I guess in the 50s). It was a major shopping street in Manila, and I love how elegant the scenes are in these pictures.