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Thursday, December 02, 2010

Black chicken soup, turtle stew and a wedding

"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.

Turtle stew

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 bride

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
21 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 12/02/2010 01:54:00 am


  • At 12/02/2010 8:16 am, Anonymous Tina@foodboozeshoes said…

    Aaah, love a wedding... especially if it involves travel!

  • At 12/02/2010 9:09 am, Anonymous A said…

    cant believe you cant carry bullets on board! ludicrous!

  • At 12/02/2010 9:24 am, Anonymous The Extra said…

    That feast reminds ne of the banquet in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom! You're a braver person than I Helen!

  • At 12/02/2010 9:26 am, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    hee i love drunken prawns! booze me up baby!

  • At 12/02/2010 10:04 am, Anonymous shawn@StreetFood said…

    I just love these Manila posts to bits!

  • At 12/02/2010 10:29 am, Blogger Kay @ Chopstix2Steaknives said…

    lovely wedding! =)
    and loving the Manila posts!

  • At 12/02/2010 12:04 pm, Anonymous sara @ Belly Rumbles said…

    I will admit, PETA/RSPCA/various others will probably come after me, but I looooove drunken prawns :)

    What a gorgeous church.

  • At 12/02/2010 1:31 pm, Anonymous Hannah said…

    You know how I'm likely to feel about three-stage desserts... :D Though actually, I think I'm most intrigued by the savoury hot soup in the young coconut. Fascinating stuff!

  • At 12/02/2010 2:05 pm, Blogger Brenda said…

    Turtle stew?? Eeeeekkkk!! My parents tricked me into having turtle soup once and I'm still scarred!
    The rest of the food looks great though hahaaha!
    Oooo and congrats to the newlyweds. That dress is stunning!

  • At 12/02/2010 4:05 pm, Blogger Rita (mademoiselle délicieuse) said…

    Love the Chinese fare and who doesn't love a wedding?

    I'm still traumatised from the time I saw drunken prawns being forced down a metal chute connected to a pot of boiling water. Never again!

  • At 12/02/2010 5:41 pm, Blogger Simon Leong said…

    glad they weren't endangered turtles!

  • At 12/02/2010 6:52 pm, Anonymous R said…

    Lovely wedding!

    Yes, the soup in coconut and the prawns were intriguing but my eyes were all for the crabs! Oh my, if only I can go there. :( Love all your posts about the Philippines. I'm still dreaming about the enseymadas.:o

  • At 12/02/2010 6:54 pm, Anonymous mrs ed said…

    nice coverage.. helen!! i myself never tried turtle soup.. but i love black chicken :)..

  • At 12/02/2010 11:56 pm, Blogger YaYa said…

    I've never thought much about the cuisine of the Philipines, it's most intriguing stuff and would love to learn more, love the almost-Chinese banquet, we always used to call those good luck peach buns "Bum buns" for obvious reasons!

  • At 12/03/2010 3:21 am, Anonymous Trissa said…

    Thanks for the whole Manila coverage. You make me proud to come from the Philippines!

  • At 12/03/2010 1:37 pm, Anonymous divemummy said…

    what a magnificent finale meal. Where do you recommend for mantou bins in Sydney?

  • At 12/03/2010 2:19 pm, Anonymous Karen said…

    Very interesting menu. Don't know about the black chicken though...

  • At 12/03/2010 7:34 pm, Anonymous Dolly said…

    nooo how can u eat turtles ><

  • At 12/04/2010 6:32 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Extra - lol. Nah, I still wouldn't go to boot camp!

    Hi Sara - Yes, it is a quandary!

    Hi Hannah - I forgot to mention the best bit - scraping all the young coconut flesh out after you've finished the soup!

    Hi Brenda - lol. Parents are good at that!

    Hi Mademoiselle Delicieuse - argh, that does rather traumatising.

    Hi Mrs Ed - It was the first time I'd tried black chicken. Had always been intrigued, especially after it featured on Top Chef.

    Hi YaYa - lol. Obvious indeed!

    Hi Trissa - It was a great trip, and yes, you should be!

    Hi divemummy - You can get deep-fried mantou buns at most Sichuan restaurants. Try Golden Sichuan or Spicy Panda in Chinatown.

  • At 12/10/2010 12:00 am, Blogger Gianna@TheEmptyFridge said…

    i actually went to primary school on the street where this restaurant is!

    what an interesting meal!

    amazing how a wedding brings everyone together! what a lovely trip - now i'm more excited about mine!!

  • At 12/11/2010 5:24 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    helen, dad said the black chicken you guys tried..wasnt really as good as it should be (when cooked adobo/chinese style) at home oh well!..


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