15 hours, 10 restaurants: Here's everything we ate in the ultimate food trip
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Pretty much the whole of Saturday, February 20, was quite an experience – a mammoth 15-hour food trip, where I visited 10 restaurants and sampled a little of everything they had to offer, a dream come true for many food fans.
The 15 Hour Street Food Frenzy was held for foreign and local media to promote the World Street Food Congress (WSFC) 2016, which will be held in the Philippines for the first time.
In my dreams, though, I never had to worry about getting full or about the extra pounds I might put on. As such, the WSFC 2016's 15 Hour Street Food Frenzy was no easy feat – so much food, so little stomach space!
But I've come out the other end a certified "commando foodie" – a certificate that I'm tempted to frame and hang up right next to my college diploma – and ready to tell you all about it.
At 7 am, the day started out easy with breakfast at Recovery Food in Bonifacio Global City (BGC), where 4 kinds of rice bowls were served to around 30 of their local and foreign media guests.
Between the tables, the guests could share: Hey Jude's Paksig (regular, P165; full recovery, P260), a version of paksiw and sisig made with Sarangani bangus belly; Amadobo (regular, P180; full recovery, P260 ) or pork adobo; Tapa de Morning (regular, P180; full recovery, P260), which was a tapsilog (beef, rice, and egg) meal; and SST (regular, P180; full recovery, P280), short for spicy-sweet tuyo (dried fish).
Each bowl came with a fried egg, fried rice, and its own small serving of atchara (pickled papaya).
We soon learned that we couldn't stay too long at all the stops. After 20 minutes in Recovery Food, we boarded a bus for a 2-hour trip to Pampanga.
For second breakfast, we took a stop at Everybody's Cafe in Angeles, Pampanga, which serves up authentic Kapampangan cuisine.
We got a full spread, including tamales, camaru (fried crickets), longganisa, tapang kalabaw, and dinuguan – a special spread that cost P550 per person. If you want to try out Everybody's Cafe, though, they serve regular meals for groups of 4 to 5 people that cost around P350 to P500 per person.
To wash it down, we each got a cup of tsokolate Batirol, a rich hot chocolate, prepared before our eyes.
While in Pampanga, we couldn't skip a visit to Aling Lucing Sisig, the origin of everyone's favorite sizzling pork dish. Aling Lucing invented sisig in the '70s, so as not to waste any part of the pig – American soldiers at the nearby Clark Airbase would usually throw things out, like the pig's face.
Our hosts for the day, Anton Diaz of Our Awesome Planet and Makansutra's KF Seetoh told us the story of Aling Lucing, who was murdered at the age of 80. Rumor has it that it was because she refused to share her secret sisig recipe!
True enough, the sisig at Aling Lucing was perfect even on its own. We had a few bites each before heading over to Chef Sau del Rosario's Cafe Fleur.
I was still digesting everything we had for breakfast by the time we got to Cafe Fleur, and thought I couldn't possibly eat a lot during lunch. But Chef Sau's beautiful spread of appetizers outside his charming cafe made it difficult to resist, and inside, the main course, especially prepared for us, was too good to not try.
For appetizers, we were served pako salad with watermelon, buro (fermented rice) and hito (catfish) rolled in mustard leaves, tamales Mexico, and papaya fritters.
Inside, Sau himself poured each of us sinigang from a little teapot before bringing out his take on many Filipino favorites – crispy pork macadamia kare-kare, lamb caldereta with kesong puti, and rellenong capampangan.
For dessert – halo-halo arayat and pandan sansrival.
Not all of these dishes are regular items on Cafe Fleur's menu, because locals won't want to eat out for food they can cook at home, according to Sau. If you drop by the cafe, though, you can try these dishes that are similar to what was served: tamales Pampangueña (P175), pako savage (P175), and crispy pork belly macadamia kare-kare (P375).
'The Big Binondo Food Wok'
A two-hour drive brought us back to Manila, where Indonesian culinary expert William Wongso gave a quick cooking demo during the WSFC press conference.
Members of the press were served a an Indonesian version of sinigang called pindang serani with salmon and a stick of sate lilit bali.
It was off to Binondo then, where I naively thought Ivan Man Dy of Old Manila Walks would simply give the foreign press a tour.
Instead, he gave all of us a taste of Old Manila Walks' "Big Binondo Food Wok," where tourists get to try all of Chinatown's famous hole-in-the-wall restaurants and delicacies.
To cut the usual 3-hour tour shorter, Ivan only took us to 4 stops.
The first was Quick Snack along Carvajal Street, a restaurant that's been around since 1968. At Quick Snack, we got exactly what it said on the tin: classic homey Chinese-Filipino snacks like fresh lumpia (P70), kuchay ah (P40), Indonesian tauhu (P85), and guisado (depending on what kind meat you want in yours, prices range from P120 to P140).
Since it first opened in 1956, Sincerity's fried chicken has made a name for itself as a great spot for chicken in Chinatown. The restaurant's even opened up branches in San Juan, Banawe, and Lucky Chinatown Mall.
It was getting dark by the time we reached Sincerity. But inside, its mismatched decor – bright lights, orange walls, and green garlands on the ceilings – were very inviting. Upstairs, altars were set up right beside the aircon.
The food was just as comforting. Aside from their famous fried chicken (P160, half; P200, whole), members of the press were also served kikiam (P55) and oyster omelette (small, P240; big, P300), and a glass of their wintermelon iced tea.
All the walking around Binondo hadn't done anything to alleviate how full I was. By the time we got to Dong Bei Dumplings, knowing full well that there was more food to come, I promised myself I'd only have one piece. I ended up having 4.
These steaming hot pork dumplings with chives (P120 for 14 pcs) are all home-made and perfect with their spicy sauce. You can see the dumpling dough being cut up, rolled up, and stuffed with meat right in front of the store as you enter.
Dong Bei is also known for their xiao long bao (soup dumplings). You can read more about those here.
For dessert, Ivan took us to Eng Bee Tin, a hopia store famous for creating the ube-flavored hopia. They have many other flavors too, aside from the traditional monggo, like custard and pandan.
Eng Bee Tin is set up like a grocery store, with rows and rows of their packaged hopia wrapped in shiny aluminum.
Dinner (is it still called "dinner" when you've been eating all day?) at 8 pm was a traditional Filipino feast at Sarsa in BGC – a "boodle fight," where rice and viands are all laid out on a banana leaf for the diners to serve themselves.
Sarsa's boodle fight that night consisted of all their grilled sticks made of different kinds of chicken parts – isol (P185), isaw (P185), panit (P180), baticolan (P180), and atay (P180) – rice (plain, P85; garlic, P50), chicken inasal (P185), and tortang talong (P210).
Later, we were also served huge bowls of Sarsa batchoy (regular, P210; special, 285), a hot plate of sizzling kansi (P395) then piaya ice cream sandwiches (P145) for dessert.
To cap off our tour, we headed to Mercato Centrale, a nighttime weekend food market in BGC that's been around since 2010. There, our group got the biggest treat – our very own lechon (roasted pig), stuffed with truffle rice (French lechon, P9500), from Pepita's Kitchen.
Pepita's Kitchen's stuffed lechon was a hit at the second WSFC in 2015 in Singapore, with people lining up for almost 2 hours to get a serving.
Of course, everyone at the tour forgot how full they were and immediately wanted a serving for themselves the moment the knife cut through the crispy lechon skin and the air was filled with the scent of truffle.
And as much as I wanted a second serving – Pepita's lechon is definitely worth the hype – it was time for me to tap out and roll myself home.
My 15-hour food trip was just at a taste of what you can expect at the WSFC in April, though, as the conference and food festival will have way more than what I experienced on Feburary 20.
If you're interested in hitting up the World Street Food Jamboree from April 20 to 24 head over to 25th Street corner 9th Avenue in BGC, where Mercato Centrale is. Hawkers from all over the world will be setting up stalls and serving their best street food. Food will be priced at P200 onwards.
Here's the Jamboree schedule:
- Wednesday to Friday, April 20 to 22 – 4 pm to 11 pm
- Saturday, April 23 – 12 pm to 11 pm
- Sunday, April 24 – 12 pm to 9 pm
Meanwhile, industry professionals will be speaking and holding cooking demonstrations at the WSF Dialogue from April 20 to 21. Tickets are priced at $250 and include tea breaks and lunch on both days, plus a P1200 voucher for the jamboree.
Will you be eating to your heart's content at the WSFC 2016? Let us know in the comments below! – Rappler.com
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