Those of you following me on Twitter or Facebook will know that I was in the Philippines for the past week for a wedding.
Recycling bins at Singapore Changi airport
It was a whirlwind trip of six days, and two of those days were chewed up by travelling. We flew to Manila via Singapore, a brief layover preventing us from checking out the giant slides at Changi Airport.
The giant slide at Changi Airport, Terminal 3 [more info]
Lechon suckling pig
There was no time for disappointment - we had a little piggy to see! A feast by our kind and gracious hosts in Manila offered up lechon, a whole suckling pig.
The pig was released from his paper blanket and carved into bite-sized chunks of tender juicy pork, covered in a thin brittle layer of crackling. It was a family feast in epic proportions, with traditional dishes like kare kare beef and peanut stew, pata tim stewed pork knuckle, pancit palabok noodles and puto mamon sweet steamed rice cakes.
Grilla Bar & Grill
Manila was hot and humid, just as we had anticipated. The city is vast and chaotic - the roads choked with beeping traffic, fast food chains everywhere and a glaring disparity between the spectacular high rises towering above a cobble of ramshackle slums.
On our first full day in Manila we sought cool respite within the air-conditioned confines of Grilla Bar & Grill at the Greenhills Shopping Complex. I'd been skeptical of the restaurant, put off by the jungle theme and colourful kiddie-like menus, but the local Filipino dishes were surprisingly good.
Nilagang bulalo beef and tamarind soup 325 pesos $7.70
Nilagang bulalo is a steaming soup of beef bones and vegetables, refreshingly sour with tamarind and tomato. One bowl is enough for at least six servings.
Grilla Feast 590 pesos / AU$14.00
Garlic kangkong water spinach, garlic rice, chicken ala pobre chicken of the poor,
green mango salad, inihaw na baboy grilled marinated pork,
and pan-grilled cream dory with teriyaki sauce
We order two types of platters: the Grilla feast and the Barbecue Feast, picking our way through a multitude of offerings. I found myself returning repeatedly to the chicken barbecue, sweet and caramelised from the grill, and the cones of Java rice wrapped in cones of banana leaf were decidedly cute.
Barbecue feast 655 pesos / AU$15.60
Chicken barbecue, inihaw na pla-pla barbecue tilapia, pickled eggplant,
grilled begukan spareribs with tomato shrimp paste and java rice
Inihaw na pla-pla barbecue tilapia
Grilled begukan spareribs with tomato shrimp paste
Pork sisig 165 pesos / AU$3.90
Pork sisig is the only dish I'm really after, a sizzling platter that arrives engulfed with steam.
A kalamansi lime is squeezed over the top and the entire mixture is stirred around. It's a mixture of pigs head - ears, snout, cheek and brain - chopped and marinated with garlic, vinegar, onions, pepper and kalamansi juice. The best parts are the crunchy bits of crackling you encounter in every mouthful.
Inihaw na pusit grilled squid 290 pesos / AU$6.90
We finish things off with inihaw na pusit grilled squid, a triumph of tender seafood seared to a smoky char.
Can I make a confession? The most exciting thing I was looking forward to in the Philippines was the chance to finally try Jollibee. The friendly bee is everywhere, and the menu is an interesting mash-up of hamburgers, fried chicken and spaghetti, all served with optional sides of rice.
Bright orange melamine plates are used to serve eat-in meals. Jollibee also delivers - practically any restaurant will deliver to your home for free or only a nominal fee, a local explains to us later.
Shanghai rolls with rice and iced tea 64 pesos / AU$1.50
The humble spring roll is re-badged here as a Shanghai roll, and when five rolls are paired with a mound of rice, it makes a surprisingly adequate meal.
Chicken joy with rice, gravy and small drink 85 pesos / AU$2.00
I can't go past the classic chicken joy, a piece of fried chicken served with gravy, rice and a small drink for only AU$2. The batter is cause enough for celebration alone - a bumpy rubble of crunchy goodness. If I'd been hungrier, I would have ordered the bucket 352 pesos / AU$8.40 for six pieces).
And then there is the Filipino obsession with ube. With cheese.
Ice craze ube cheesy magic 33 pesos / AU$0.79
Ube is purple taro, but it's not until I hit the Philippines that I realise how often this vegetable is garnished with grated cheese. For dessert.
I try the ube cheesy magic ice craze, and watch with interest as the sales assistant layers my plastic cup with ube ice cream, buko young coconut fibres, a mountain of ice, condensed milk, more ube ice cream and a generous sprinkle of cheese.
Guess what. It works! The cheese adds a richness, tempered by the sweetness of ube which gives it more of a cream cheese quality overall.
I know what I'm making this summer. Ube ice cream!
Grilla Bar & Grill
Greenhills Promenade, Greenhills Shopping Complex
Ortigas Ave, Greenhills
San Juan, Metro Manila, Philippines
Tel: +63 (02) 726-6200
Sunday to Thursday 11am - 1am
Friday and Saturday 11am - 3am
SYDNEY FOOD BLOGGERS CHRISTMAS PICNIC
If you're a Sydney food blogger, you should have received an email about the second annual Sydney Food Bloggers Christmas Picnic. Chocolatesuze and I are again hosting this event and we're keen to have as many Sydney food bloggers attend as possible.
The best part about food blogging is meeting other people as equally food-obsessed and trigger-happy as you are. We may be hungry, but we don't bite!
Need more info? Click here.
Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Manila 2010 - Food courts and pork rinds
Manila 2010 - Supermarkets, ensaymada and cheese ice cream
Manila 2010 - Turtle stew, black chicken soup and a wedding
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11/18/2010 02:38:00 am