Monday, August 14, 2017

THE PANSIT RESURGENCE

More than 11 years ago from today, I started blogging about the colonial churches of the Philippines and campaigning for the pansit to be proclaimed as the Filipino national dish.

Hundreds of photographs and 656 blog posts later, the pansit has somewhat faded away.


Maybe because I just had too much of it, or perhaps there were more interesting dishes to shoot and write about from the countries I've visited around the world in the last 11 years.


It took a spur-of-the-moment lunch at a Kapampangan buffet restaurant to remind me that I was the Pansit Guy of blogsphere, and that there's a lot of pansit dishes still to be discovered out there.


And it took me the pansit puti, sauteed bihon noodles wafting with ground black peppers that was supposed to have originated from the LSS Fastfood in Makati, to realize that I was a pansit connoisseur second, my MVI persona being the first.      


So hail to the pansit sang the band as bilaos of its various interpretations were brought to the 2017 Bowling Games, to be consumed by the drunk and happy crowd, to be balo-ted by the Atengs, or simply to rot in the heat of a fierce August sun.


Shooting churches and eating noodles might have segued into The Bicycle Diaries and a travel and food blog of sorts, but I always tell the sheep, cows, carabaos and dogs that I meet in the bike trail that it all started with pansit and two old churches in Obando and Bambang...  

Monday, August 07, 2017

OF SNAILS AND BEER

"Bisukol", that with an ebony black hard shell, used to be the King of Snails back in Almaguer until the imported "Golden Kuhol" --- light brown, brittle and almost inedible --- was introduced and radically altered the ricefield ecosystem.

The Prince and Princesses would be the "Agurong" and "Dukyang" that we usually picked in places where there is running water.    

What can be trash snail is the slimy "Birabid" that, if not cooked the right way, can daze its diners.

I enjoyed harvesting these "Treasures of the Ricefields" with my childhood friends but have never eaten any of it in lieu of my Sabadista upbringing.

Until now.  


I was introduced to the culinary pleasure of the "Agurong" much later in Nueva Ecija where my gustatory senses were teased by a plateful of "Kalderetang Susong Pilipit".

My drinking buddies in Bacal 2 would later introduce me to the pleasure of the ginataan version which is the standard pulutan during San Miguel Beer-spiked birthday celebrations.

Anything cooked with coconut milk is supposed to be anti-beer but that turned out to be hearsay.

"Ginataang Susong Pilipit" in fact blended well with beer.  



But I had too many of snails and beer last week, including a feast of "Ginataang Batukari" --- large sea snails tenderized in coconut milk all the way from Casiguran during Day 1 of our annual Bowling Games --- plus sinful dishes of pork [dinakdakan, sisig, barbecue, chicharon] that I've been eating a lot lately.

That plus the small folding bike in Manila acting up and hindering my daily early morning urban prowls has created an uncomfortable sense of fullness inside me.  

So for this week, I decided to work-at-home and so far, I have been trail biking a lot for the sake of being able to enjoy more snails and beer.

Monday, July 31, 2017

CHICKEN RICE AND FISH HEAD CURRY

Tian Tian Chicken Rice [Maxwell Food Center]


What is more Singaporean than chicken rice, and what better place to have it than Tian Tian's?

That of course is so unplanned, just a random thing as we foraged for a late dinner, and I was actually there for the beer than anything else.

But the next day's lunch was no fluke as the jewels of of the Imperial Treasure Noodles and Congee House were presented to prelude a feast of heirloom Chinese dishes. 


Back to the chicken rice, the rightful term is Hainanese chicken rice since the dish originated from Hainan province's Wenchang chicken which eventually made it's way to Singapore where it has become a national dish.

It is in some ways similar to the New Bugis Street's transformation from being Albert Street and erstwhile epicenter of a regular transgender culture to what is now billed as the largest shopping street in Singapore. 

In other words, Singapore is emerging to be a harmonious blend of the old [colonial houses] amidst the new [gleaming highrises]. 



It was Jo's mission to buy something and Oskar's familiarity with the city-state that brought us to Bugis which led us to the golden domed Masjid Sultan, the centerpiece of Kampong Glan, and to a discreet corner tea shop where we refresh ourselves with Teh Tarik prepared by a barista who seemed to pull the milk tea between two vessels.



At nearby Haji Lane, we ogled at street art and tested craft beer at Good Luck Beerhouse which sounds funny in the Filipino context, like husbands going home late from sleazy beerhouses to angry waiting wives, so good luck!  



At Chinatown's Food Street, we got overwhelmed by the options and ended up in the wrong place.

Fatty Weng's Restaurant may have a significant place in Singapore's culinary history but their seafood noodle is flat, their alleged best-selling honey-glazed pork ribs is too sweet, and I don't really like tocino.




Banana Leaf Apollo [54 Race Course Road]


Day 2.5 found us lunching at Banana Leaf, Singapore's oldest Indian restaurant, where Thomas Thomas scratched my itch to sample fish head curry, another must-try in Singapore at least as far as my understanding of KF Seetoh is concerned, which was presumably invented in Singapore by an Indian chef to capture a share of the dining Chinese who have a propensity for fish heads.   

There were two heads and I ate all four eyes of them, that is why I was having double vision while exploring Chinatown one final time, everything so clear that I discerned that one single line [South Bridge Road] connecting three major religious centers in Singapore: the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple of the Chinese, the Sri Mariamman Temple of the Hindus, and the Masjid Jamae of the Muslims.  





They were all there in peaceful co-existence in that stretch of Chinatown that also lead to the rowdy Street Market of bargain items of all sorts although my extra-powerful vision pierced through all that to an almost deserted street corner bar where I found Oskar's lost craft beer joint.

And that's [almost] it, a concluding two pints of cold Archipelago Brewery liquid gold and a free Tiger Beer mug from the friendly bartender to top my extraordinary quest for chicken rice and fish head curry.  




Epilogue at the Sidcor Sunday Market [Eton Centris]

But there's more from the chicken rice and fish head curry of course, like Bicolano and Ilokano food stalls at a Sunday market just across the big street from my Manila abode.

There, Bulan had dinakdakan in lieu of the steamed chicken, and Italian sausages in place of the fish head.

And did I went back for a second on a pork barbecue with a burnt-out stick, an acidic kilaweng kambing, and chewy ube ice cream.  




The best part though is the French and Dutch beer moment with Bulan, and that's no chicken shit or fishmonger's tale.

Monday, July 24, 2017

KEMANG

I hate lonely nights when I'm travelling.

I don't sleep well on these occasions that's why I need to have at least two big beer bottles to help me get knocked off.


Dry Sahati Hotel and its equally arid environs is therefore not the place for me and I am grateful to Oskar for leading me to the more cosmopolitan neighborhood of Kemang in Jakarta. 



I've got a sparse room in the Amaris Hotel la Codefin but what matters is the Lotte Mart right on the ground floor and its well-stocked beer fridge.

There was of course the de rigueur Bintang on the first night which segued into Bali Hai, Anker and Draft in the succeeding nights, local brands I was told which is my usual preference when on the road.

I've had these mostly with Oskar and then Derk, at the Amaris/Lotte tables usually and some nights in the fancy Lippo Mall and the secluded Bremer Beer Garden. 


The restaurants are also diverse and I tried a different one each night: a large plate of Nasi Campur Umara at Lumpang Emas on Monday, ayam and kambing satae at Jalan Raya on Tuesday, and a tiny grilled chicken leg at the Bremer Beer Garden on Wednesday.

Lunch was also memorable: fried chicken and stir-fried vegetables wrapped in brown paper at the Oxfam office, fried chicken Indonesian-style at Sintia's favorite restaurant, and a superb spread [beef rib stew, satay, kangkong, an omelette of sorts] prepared for us by friends from KIARA.

Hotel breakfast is forgettable so I pampered myself with Old Town's famous white coffee, the equally renowned Kaya butter toast, and two soft-boiled eggs while whiling my time at the airport.
   

Somehow, beer and good food [and good company!] takes off some of the stress that comes with those work-related trips.


Kemang was exciting but nothing is comparable to homegrown beer and lunch with the family even if I have to squeeze these all within 15 hours between coming home and travelling again to my next destination.  



I like Kemang but there is no place like home!

Monday, July 17, 2017

RANG NAM STYLE

The Chatrium in general is cool and chic [big rooms, superb buffets, stable internet] but there's just too much of that and it's too far from city noise it is becoming insanely sedate sometimes, so I looked forward to a week at Picnic Hotel along Rang Nam right in Central Bangkok where the streets give way to to the smell and colors of cooking food [grilled, fried, boiled] every night as people jostled either to the BTS Victory Monument Station or to the Payathai Station of the Airport Rail Link while I sat down in a random Thai deli for my fave spicy pork neck salad with Chang beer, really hot but disappointingly bland.



And there were street beer bars too at Brick Lane with a Thai band and sexy promo girls enticing passing pedestrian to drink pitchers of Chang beer, which Oskar and me did while waiting for Jo, two pitchers in fact, before deciding on dinner at an airconditioned glass panelled restaurant also along Rang Nam where the the spicy Thai seafood salad is above standard especially after fusing in a liberal dose of Parmesan cheese to cut the spice, then back to that random deli of the first night for the third night, an all male group which is very un-Oxfam but Oskar justified as Men-tor-ship where we got surprised with a really great egg omelette, a delectable plate of morning glory [kangkong], delicate steamed fish and more, which taught me a lesson not to judge a deli by its spicy pork neck salad, so I ordered spicy minced catfish salad in another random deli for the fourth night [wrong decision, am not sure if what I was eating is actually catfish] and of course spicy pork neck salad and fried chicken wings [good choices]. 



This is Rang Nam style and I like my cozy hotel room with a window opening up to a green park [ala-Central Park in New York milieu] although the internet service really sucks and generally, the hotel food [breakfast and lunch] is below par.



I like pork, a lot in fact, and five days of halal food elevated a craving in such a way that I took my dysfunctional small bike to a ride to La Loma [I was thinking of the Dangwa flower market before the chain started acting up again] to a street corner eatery [that's what it's called in the Philippines] for a lechon breakfast at Mila's 6 hours after touching down in Manila, dry and insipid but good enough to whet my desire for pork, before taking the bus home to Bacal 2 where I indulged Scottish Rites brothers in a fellowship of pork cracklings [chicharon] and grilled intestines [isaw] that required a 31-kilometer bike ride with Kuya Paeng the next day before refilling burned calories with a Japanese buffet at Tempura in Cabanatuan City, an unintended but welcome celebration of the pansit [yakisoba, sukiyaki ramen] which this blog is co-titled but neglected for some time now, before taking the bus back to Manila for the next day's early morning flight to Jakarta.



I don't feel good coming and leaving so quick but perhaps discovering what will be Kemang Style will compensate for that, somewhat.

Monday, July 10, 2017

THE FORMULA FOR A HAPPY LIFE

Working At Home 
= preparing the day's dinner during a webinar
+ doing float requests while catching up on emails
+ minding the kids during a skype call.


Working At Home
= output-based flexitime
= increased productivity and more social time
= happier life.


Working At Home
= more quality time with family
= more time for quality biking.


Life is good! 

Until the five weeks of travelling started to unfold... 

Monday, July 03, 2017

WOULD YOU DRINK BEER WITH PIZZA, SISIG OR CHICKEN BARBECUE?

I would with Bulan's homemade pizza to temper the tanginess of the tomato sauce and drown the strong taste of corned beef of what was our Eidul Fitr lunch. 


I am getting convinced that I have a feel for red shirts which perhaps blended well with the "old house" feel of the orchidless Orchid Garden Suites.


Sisig is supposed to be the must-have at Gerry's Grill but I had better versions in places not as "hi-so" and I say the beer went well with the chicharong baboy, the lechong kawali, and the sizzling pusit.

Aristocrat claims to have the best chicken barbecue but I'm no fan of sweet meat and yellow rice so I nursed my beer with crispy pata, bangus belly sinigang, and dinuguan.

It could have been heritage cuisine in Intramuros where the cerveza might have been born in 1890 if not for a kill-joy afternoon rain, weddings in both San Agustin Church and Manila Cathedral, and the fact that Art needs to catch his flight to Osaka that gave us no other choice but a quick calesa tour and me shooting new doors in old Intramuros.    



I like beer and I love biking, not those bamboo bikes which might break in my trails, but my upgraded mountain bike and creaky folded bike, the reasons why I can still drink that beer, eat that sisig [no thanks for the pizza and chicken barbecue], and indulge in the killer pair of beer and lechon.    


Monday, June 26, 2017

A DAY AT THE MUSEUM

Mines View Park? Mansion House? Baguio Central Market? Session Road? Lourdes Grotto? Wright Park? PMA? Good Shepherd? La Trinidad's strawberry fields?

Nope! Been there, done that.

Except maybe a family picture at Burnham Park, more as a rendezvous point rather than a place to visit.


"Let's go see a museum!" I said. 

"Search for BenCab's museum!" I next asked Bulan who, after giving us time to digest the sinking disappointment of not being able to correct the wife's birth date on her PRC ID, led us through the jigsaw of Asin Road via Waze.

And that was how we found the BenCab Museum, a modern edifice perched on a cliff housing a treasure trove of visual art, from a gallery of Filipino masters to budding artists, through modern printed art to a collection of antique Cordillera artifacts, and an interesting corner of erotic art to which Balong exclaimed "Nakakasuka!" but with that mischievous smile of his. 





Somehow, I have to balance my interest in Philippine art with the plain curiosity of my companions which unfortunately equates with a short attention span so after taking one last shot at a reproduced Igorot house, I herded them to the van.

"Take us to the Korean Ssambap Restaurant" I said to Bulan.

We found the place along Leonard Wood and with guidance from the chef, we tested two ssambap courses with bulgogi and the usual shabu-shabu, not really sure where to start, rolling condiments into fresh lettuce leaves, grilling frozen beef, experimenting with the shabu-shabu which turned out fine, wondering when the bulgogi would be cooked enough to eat, and declaring at the conclusion of lunch that it is among the most memorable ever. 

I realized only later that in ssambap, the rice should have been wrapped in the lettuce leaves too along with the bulgogi [grilled beef] and condiments. We ate it wrong and I don't really know what the last dish is but the entire meal was good just the same. 



Old Manila is also a museum of sorts. 

The square in Liwasang Bonifacio and the walls of Intramuros are etched with history, Escolta and Ongpin smells of acrid pollution and our Chinese heritage, while famous dead Filipinos are paraded in ornate tombs at the North Cemetery. 

I say the rice fields of Nueva Ecija is also a living museum on agriculture and a diary of our biking forays! 


Meanwhile, historic [bawdy] Cubao is undergoing gentrification with high rises dominating its skyline.

Malls and hotels have enveloped the Araneta Coliseum as restaurants sprouted like mushrooms among which are Food Exchange Manila in Novotel where for two lunches I gorged on Chef Sau Del Rosario's Kanyaman Buffet [the best of elevated [[fusioned]] Kapampangan cuisine [[[tamales pampanguena, lamb shank kaldereta, rellenong bangus, sisig with foie gras, three kinds of lechon belly, kare-kare with truffle oil, atbp]]]]; and Fred's Revolucion in what was the Cubao Expo now colonized by restobars where I have the best kinilaw na bangus ever and of course, reconnecting with old friends over glasses of free wheat beer.

That was more than a day and much more than museums but it was good memories that can be packed in a diamond studded day.