Saturday, September 29, 2012

Panoramic, palatable Pangasinan

I have an austral origin, my hometown being located as it is in the Southern Tagalog Region. As I always find myself heading to that direction for a much needed break from work and to visit my parents, It's a breath of fresh air to sometimes go north. One of the provinces in that direction which I've visited several times and loved, is Pangasinan. The last time I was there was during the recent summer (2012), when our office held a three-day team building workshop/outing in San Fabian town.
As far as I can remember, the first meal I had on Pangasinan soil during all my trips there consisted of rice with grilled Dagupan bangus (milkfish) dipped on sinful, deliciously salty Pangasinan bagoong na isda (fish paste). This is, perhaps the traditional welcome meal in the province. Dagupan is an independent city in Pangasinan and bangus is its No. 1 product, touted as the best-tasting milkfish in the world, reportedly owing to the water quality in the area. Dagupan holds Bangus Festival every month of May and it is considered as one of the most popular tourism events in the Philippines highlighted by the long street barbecue and party (up to two kilometers long and 10,000 pieces of milkfish grilled!) . This, in fact, placed the city in the Guinness Book of World Records in 2003 for the longest barbecue.
Aside from the milkfish, other food items that have made Pangasinan famous are the bagoong na isda, tupig (rice cake wrapped in banana leaves and cooked over live coal),   dried fish and the puto Calasiao - those yummy bite-sized rice cakes that are white as snow.
Pangasinan is, of course, also known for being home to the Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag, one of the most venerated icons of the Virgin Mary in the country. It is believed to possess healing powers as patroness of the sick, the helpless and the needy.
And then, there's the beach, the long stretch of clean sand inviting hours of walking or sitting or lying down and meditating. The sunset was breathtaking when I was there with the various hues it painted on the summer sky. The seawater? It promised never ending frolicking, moreso, I suppose, if only I was able to go sightseeing on a boat. A local fisherman offered me and my co-workers a boat ride for just P20 per person but alas, we didn't have much time for it so we declined, me with a heavy heart. (Sigh)
A journey to Pangasinan would not, of course, be complete without a trip to the market, where one could find perhaps the cheapest (but good quality) mangoes and vegetables plus all other favorite Pangasinense food like the tupig and bagoong. Once I got back home in Manila, it was time for the family waiting to enjoy all the delicious pasalubong and me, to relive the moments that I briefly lived in Pangasinan.

Welcome lunch - grilled bangus and dinengdeng (a popular vegetable dish among Ilocanos)

Inside the Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag.
This is another image of the Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag outside the shrine.

Beach scene.

My slippers resting on a boat.

Alluring sunset.
Tapsilog for breakfast.

Going to the beach again the following morning after breakfast, we find seafood being sold.

Alimasag (blue crabs).

Alupihang dagat (mantis shrimp) mixed with alimasag.

Shellfish (I forgot what these are called).

Mixed seafood that I bought for P250.

Tupig at the market.

Row of tupig stalls.


Where else can you find sweet mangoes with prices this low?

Aswangs (witches or warlocks) dare not pass by this aisle. Hehe.

I bought a lot of dried fish in Pangasinan (not from this stall, though).

Vendor rests while waiting for the next customer.

Peanuts for boiling. Yum!

This is patupat, a sticky rice delicacy.

My co-worker shopping for mangoes.

Duhat (java plum).

Ripe or green mangoes? I love both.

Bottles of fish paste that I bought (picture taken in Manila).
This is an ugly picture, sorry. I was too tired and lazy to put the puto Calasiao on a plate.

The seafood I brought home, now cooked. This was before I put some coconut milk, though.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The flavors of Quiapo: A foodie adventure

If you love adventures and eating is your hobby, you will want to get your fill in Quiapo - that district in the city of Manila where you can find a hodgepodge of everything and anything from food to clothing to eyeglasses, electronic equipment, religious statues, and a lot more other knickknacks. Adventure it is, indeed, when you travail the paths of Quiapo as you will have to  do away with your fancy get-up and car (parking and driving around will be a problem) and will wisely put away your pricey gadgets before you navigate through its streets that are wild, wild, wild! Hahaha! I'm exaggerating, of course, but there's a wee bit of truth in it, as those streets are usually hot and crowded, muddy when it rains, and notoriously dangerous because of the nasty presence of snatchers and pickpockets. This is why when you're going to Quiapo, I'm advising you to dress simply and be street-smart. By being street-smart, I mean avoiding putting out your cellphone to text and being very careful with your bag. It will likewise be wise not to bring a lot of cash, you wouldn't need that anyway except if you're planning to buy a lot of things. If you're mulling embarking on a foodie adventure, you might not even need P500 even if you're in a group of three! Well, I'm speaking from experience. 
Last weekend, I, together with my daughter and her beau, went to Quiapo, ate at 3 different places, and only spent less than P400! Hard to believe? Let me tell the story in detail. First, we went to the balut stall in the Muslim area. For those who do not know what a balut is, it's a fertilized duck embryo boiled and eaten with some salt or vinegar. Going to the balut stall in the Quiapo Muslim area is a little adventure in itself and you probably know why (someday, I'd muster all my courage, visit the mosque there and eat 'halal' food). Our group ate 5 baluts and washed them down with two bottles of Mountain Dew (we've had Coke at home so my daughter and I just shared a bottle of softdrinks in Quiapo), for all of which I paid P98. Next, we went to Globe Lumpia House and ordered three pieces of fresh lumpia and 2 bottles of Sarsi and there I paid P68. We then transferred to Ma Mon Luk, where we ordered a Special Mami for P115 (good for sharing), Siopao, P45 (regular) and Siomai, P45. Total? P205. So, in all three eateries, I spent a grand total of P371. Cool, isn't it? 

Balut is P14 apiece in Quiapo.

Balut in vinegar dipping.

But while we were low on expenses, it was not so on flavors. What we ate in those three places were delicioso! Well, a balut is a balut wherever you eat it but it's the sour-spicy vinegar where you dip it that's perfect in Quiapo. As for Globe Lumpia House and Ma Mon Luk, the fact that they've been in existence for several decades now is proof enough that they serve good food. Globe was opened in 1956, built around its sole product - lumpiang sariwa. There are days when they sell empanada too but on most days it's only the lumpia that you can order here. Interestingly, they also sell just one kind of soda - Sarsi. Aside from the fact that Globe has stood its ground for 56 years, another proof that lumpia here is good is the long queue that will greet you on most times.

Globe Lumpia House on Raon St.

You usually have to line up before you can finally eat lumpia at Globe Lumpia House.

Lumpiang sariwa done the messy way here. Hehe. You should see how fastly and expertly done each lumpia is!

Lumpiang sariwa.

Even older, however, is Ma Mon Luk, which, in fact,  is one of the 10 oldest restaurants in the country, opened decades earlier than Globe Lumpia House. According to Wikipedia, the owner, Ma Mon Luk (1896-1961) himself, went to the Philippines from China in 1918 and sold noodles on the streets of Manila. Soon, he established the first Ma Mon Luk eatery in Binondo, followed by other branches including the one in Quiapo. By the 1950s, the restaurant was already very popular and was considered an "iconic Chinese restaurant" in the Philippines. These days, however, only the Quiapo and Quezon Ave. branches have remained. The one we visited in Quiapo has, I presumed, retained its original interiors, judging from how old the entire store looked. Entering it, I had high expectations, especially when I saw written on the wall that it was Ma Mon Luk that "invented the mami". On first taste, however, I was not sold. I surmised something had gone wrong in the way our order was cooked and hoped it would be better next time. Also, we ordered siomai and we were surprised that we served another bowl of soup. This is not the siomai that I like. I like my siomai served dry on a saucer, with chili sauce. Apparently, siomai at Ma Mon Luk is a soup dish. It was the siopao that saved the day for my group at Ma Mon Luk. It was meaty, rightly spiced and with delicious sauce to boot. This got me sold.

Special Beef Mami

Siomai soup.
Asado Siopao

Interiors of Ma Mon Luk in Quiapo

But balut, lumpia and mami and siopao are not all there is to send you to gastronomic heaven in Quiapo. If you're craving for something else, say pancit, there's another place I can recommend. This is Amis, located on Carriedo St., the busiest road on this side of Manila, where you'd better be at your most vigilant self when it comes to guarding your bag. The street is only for pedestrians and closed to vehicles, with its entire length full of vendors on both sides and at the center. This is where one can buy all sorts of clothing including school uniforms, casual wear and even underwear. If you're going to Sta. Cruz coming from Quiapo Church, Amis is at the left side of Carriedo. Do not blink as you might miss it. Teehee. I don't know when this restaurant opened but it could have been in existence since the '70s. It was in the '80s when my older sister started bringing home pancit canton from Amis as pasalubong from work at ADB (which used to have its Philippine headquarters at the present DFA office on Roxas Blvd.), . It was and still is - pancit canton - that's so good in Amis. It's not quite any other offered elsewhere. The noodles that they use is different from what we usually eat - it's whitish and they make it saucy, with lots of meat and veggies. I definitely urge you to eat at Amis, not just for their pancit canton. They also have siopao which is unique in appearance (it has a leaf-like pattern), sandwiches, rice meal and fruit shakes, all at affordable prices. The exact price of each fare I can't remember very clearly but I think pancit canton was P110, good for sharing, while a rice combo meal was around P110 at the minimum depending on what you want included in your plate. Fruit shakes cost some P45 and sandwiches around the same amount. I ate here two times last May with my balikbayan sister, who really loved the pancit canton.

Amis on Carriedo St.

Asado Siopao


Pancit Canton

Chicken Sandwich
Fried chicken and lumpiang shanghai combo meal.

Guyabano Shake
Mango Shake
        Meanwhile, last month of August, my other daughter and I ate at a relatively new restaurant in Quiapo - the Hongkong Noodles and Dimsum House on Quezon Boulevard, which opened just last year (if my memory serves me right. I asked it from the server). It has a branch in another side of Quiapo, on Carlos Palanca St., near the SM Department Store, and another one in Cubao. I was taken by their Pancit Miki Bihon! Everything about it was right - the texture, the taste, the color, even the price. Haha! My daughter had a chicken rice meal and it was good, too. I think it was yang chow fried rice that came with the fried chicken. I also had siopao here but I can't remember its taste as I write this piece. However, I don't remember having any adverse feeling towards this siopao so it must be good, too. Haha! The little problem is I can't remember the prices here too but I assure you they won't hurt your pocket.

Inside Hongkong Noodles and Dimsum House on Quezon Blvd. near Quiapo Church
Bola-Bola Siopao

Fried Chicken meal.
Pancit Miki Bihon

My plate.
  Now it's time for you to go on your own foodie adventure in Quiapo. Good luck and happy eating!