I just completed a post on my other blog, Filipinos in America, about Tagaytay and Pagsanjan, Paete, and Pakil in Laguna. Please go there so I don’t have to rewrite anything. In this post, I feel like concentrating on Pinoy food — not as a culinary adventure, but as simple, ordinary food that I enjoy and, in general, miss.
This feeling of wanting to talk about food began when I was writing about Tagaytay. I remember that off the ridge highway, Tagaytay had a public market that featured fresh beef, Tagaytay being a beef-growing area. Obviously, demand for the beef they sold evolved into demand for cooked food…some sort of “specialty” that people would flock there for. What better “specialty” than bulalo?
Bulalo! Here in the States, sometimes referred to as a member of the “KMS” food family. The “Killing Me Softly” family of fine foods includes, among others, lechon and lechon kawali, piniritong pork chop Pinoy style (with the skin on, deep-fried) and chicharon. Oh, what the heck. My father-in-law always said “Walang ganito sa Loyola,” ignoring the admonitions of my mother-in-law and his children. Imagine steaming bulalo on a cold night, the bone marrow melting soothingly on your palate. What could be better? Certainly not any of the Campbell or Progresso soups.
About three weekends ago, we went to visit my Ate Eden, a cousin who’s a retired veterinarian who lives in Fountain Valley. We went specifically to have lunch at Mami King, which is a Pinoy restaurant serving Chinese dishes, the most popular of which is mami’t siopao supposedly like the original Ma Mon Luk.
Remembering Ma Mon Luk in Cubao always brings back memories; I can still remember that row of stores across the street from Stella Maris in Cubao. Commander Drug (there was always one within a few steps of Mercury Drug), Mercury Drug, Manila COD, Robina roasted chicken, Little Quiapo, a Chinese-owned watch and jewelry store, and Aguinaldo’s department store. (The Aguinaldo’s spot was eventually taken over by the first McDonald’s in the Philippines.)
I remember visiting Ma Mon Luk or Ferino’s Bibingka after shows (now known as “concerts”) in Araneta Coliseum, or after playing mini-golf in Green Acres next to the Coliseum. It was in Araneta Coliseum that American performers…uhhhmmm…performed.
Ferino’s was “my spot” for bibingka. Served hot and steaming, margarine (never butter!) sprinkled with sugar dripping from the sides, grated coconut piled high, kesong puti covering the top — all sitting in banana leaf wrap. Ma Mon Luk, on the other hand, was “home base” for the Chinese noodle soup called mami, served with siopao, meat-filled buns.
I always had bakya taste. Everyone told me that. I preferred pork barbecue from Baclaran’s Barbecue Plaza over kebobs at the Hyatt or some other five-star hotel. I bought kropeck from roving popcorn/kropeck/cotton candy stands in Dewey Boulevard (now Roxas Boulevard). I bought taho and penoy from itinerant vendors. I ate lumpia sariwa on the sidewalks of Divisoria. I savored tilapia and dalag from the makeshift restaurants of
Estero. I preferred talangka to the rich man’s crab and lobster. I loved (and still do) tuyo and daing — even the US version of daing called Jeprox. I made special trips to the front of FEU hospital (then) to buy turon, bananaque, camoteque and adobong mani. Yes, I was bakya. I still am.
I even miss Pinoy treats, snacks and holiday dishes. Hopia from Polland (yes…double “L” — not the country). Champoy from Bee Tin. Chinese ham from Echague. Taho. Halo-halo from Little Quiapo. Melon (cantaloupe strings in iced melon juice). Lumpiang sariwa from the sidewalks of Divisoria. Even sundot kulangot from Baguio.
Yes…bakya food is good food….
If you remember other stuff you’d like to share, let me know…