"I ordered a few special things for dinner," our host in the Philippines said with a knowing wink.
He wasn't kidding. A farewell meal to mark the end of our visit to Manila was a banquet like no other. My penchant for food blogging had not gone unnoticed, and our kind hosts seemed to take great pleasure in creating a menu I was unlikely to forget in a hurry.
Live prawns marinating in rice wine
We'd headed to Annapolis Seafood Palace in Greenhills, a Chinese restaurant that looks recently renovated. Tonight's dishes are all negotiated directly with waitstaff, and the dishes remain a mystery until they arrive on the table.
I admit I was a little taken aback by the live prawns marinating in rice wine, trapped in a glass dish and twitching in a bath of alcohol. Thankfully they are soon transferred to a wok on a portable gas cooker, engulfed in flames when the alcohol catches alight.
Drunken prawns cooked in rice wine
The drunken prawns are firm and sweet, flavoured with shallots and chilli and distinctly boozy.
Wontons, dumplings, sushi rolls and taro strings
An entree plate is a colourful assortment of steamed dumplings, deep-fried wontons, siu mai and fried taro strings and wedges of century egg. Sushi rolls feel like an odd inclusion, and a border of asparagus spears, carrot flowers, pineapple rings and seafood sticks add unnecessary kitsch.
Lifting off the lids of fresh young coconut with soup inside
A parade of fresh young coconuts arrives at our table, not a round of tropical drinks as I'd initially thought, but each coconut containing a hot soup inside.
Black chicken herbal soup
We find an aromatic soup of black chicken cooked with Chinese herbs, a medicinal broth that includes white fungus, huai shan Chinese yam, red dates and angelica root.
Black chicken from the silkie chicken breed
The black flesh of the silkie chicken is said to have restorative properties, according to Chinese beliefs. The meat is lean, but much of its gamey flavour has been leeched into the sweet soup.
Taro baskets with taro vegetables
Two baskets of deep-fried taro hold tender slices of braised squid, and a bounty of mushrooms, celery, carrots, beans and edamame soybeans. The basket, or nest, of deep-fried taro is deliciously addictive too.
We move onto eel -- fishier in flavour than the one we usually encounter in Japanese bento boxes -- served here with a light soy stock, rather than smothered in lashings of super sweet glaze.
A hotpot appears innocuous enough until our host asks if we can guess its contents. I admit I was stumped by this one, not really twigging that the hard shell I was tapping was from a cooked turtle.
Turtles are commonly farmed for eating in Asia, and I'm quite fascinated by the range of textures from piece to piece. Some mouthfuls are fatty, others are a little dry. We find the shell is hard and impossible to eat on some pieces, but soft and gelatinous on others. There is not a lot of meat on the nobbly bones, and I find the texture and flavour like a cross between duck and beef.
Deep-fried mantou buns
Deep-fried mantou buns are golden pillows of supreme fluffiness.
Crab with scallops and fried rice
We conclude with fresh crab, scallops, fried rice and a giant plate of seafood fried noodles. Our table of thirteen barely gets through half the food - the leftovers are packed up to take away.
Seafood fried noodles
Long life peach buns
Dessert is a three stage affair. Long life peach buns are traditionally eaten at birthdays, a soft steamed bun filled with lotus paste.
White fungus with red dates in sugar syrup
White fungus dessert is a textural playground of frilly white fungus, soft red dates and the sweetness of sugar syrup.
Cold mango and sago soup
Cold mango soup is a surprise finale, a refreshing liquid mango pudding filled with sago pearls.
Bullet warning at the Cathay Pacific check-in counter at Manila airport
Our time in Manila was short but sweet, and before we knew it, we were back at Manila airport to catch our Singapore Airlines flight back to Sydney. We found the bullet warning signs at the Cathay Pacific counter rather intriguing!
Adult meal - Manila to Singapore
Lemon chicken with tuna salad and sago in coconut
Our meals on Singapore Airlines were rather disappointing this trip, either bland or too sweet, and accompanied by strange salads. What I did learn was that kids meals are awesome! Next time I'm seriously tempted to take the kids meal option...
Kids meal - Manila to Singapore
Spaghetti bolognaise with fruit salad, chocolate cake, macaron, gummi bears and Kit Kat
And the wedding? It was beautiful. The ceremony was held at the World Heritage-listed San Agustine Church in the walled city of Intramuros, Manila. It is the oldest standing church in the Philippines.
San Agustin Church in Intramuros, Manila, completed in 1607
The wedding ceremony
Husband and wife
The bride was beautiful. The groom shed tears. It was a day devoted to family, friends, love and laughter. Congratulations to the happy couple!
Annapolis Seafood Palace
43 Annapolis Steet, Greenhills
San Juan, Manila, Philippines
Tel: +63 (02) 724 6192
Open 7 days
Lunch 10.30am - 2.30pm
Dinner 5.30pm - 10.30pm
Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Manila 2010 - Food courts and pork rinds
Manila 2010 - Suckling pig, Jollibee and sizzling sisig
Manila 2010 - Supermarkets, ensaymada and cheese ice cream
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12/02/2010 01:54:00 am