Pinoy bread favorites from the humble panaderia

A couple of boulangeries have recently opened in Manila (hello, Paul and Eric Kayser) and there’s even an honest-to-goodness New York-type of bagel place (you must try L.E.S. Bagels!). They’re typically located in the more upscale parts of the metropolis or posh shopping malls, but for homegrown types of bread, you only need to go to a panaderia or local bakery.

A panaderia in Kapitolyo, Pasig

This panaderia in Kapitolyo, Pasig sells delicious putok, which they take out of the oven at around noon (And like many other panaderia, they still put your bread purchases in a brown paper bag)

As someone who dearly loves bread, I grew up looking forward to merienda or after-school snack when my dad would buy something sweet or carb-y or both from the bakery three blocks away from the corner of our street in our old neighborhood in Manila. I loved it when we could go with him and I could inhale the wonderful aroma brought on by the mixture of flour, water, eggs, yeast, and shortening.

Behind the glass case of that corner street bakery would be trays of warm pan de coco, monay, putok, Spanish bread, those local sugared-dusted doughnuts, and ensaymada. The pan de sal would typically be at the back, freshly baked and waiting to be picked up and encased in a brown paper bag for you to bring home. There are many other types of bread in the baking scene now, probably considered more sublime, complex or even more mind-blowing (yes, I don’t doubt bread can be any of those things), but these ones from the humble neighborhood panaderia are likely the ones that have shaped many Pinoys love for bread and nourished many other kids during breakfast or merienda. It did that for me. And all I need now is a glass of Tang and my dad calling us to the table to have some bread. Continue reading

Revisiting Kapampangan food… in a four-hour lunch in Bale Dutung

One of my most cherished food memories was when my family and I would go to my dad’s hometown in Pampanga to attend its annual fiesta. The trip would be hot and dry and dusty, and occasional tantrums would ensue… but by the time we reached the gate of our uncle’s house, we were happy to see our cousins and to ooh and aah over the activity in the dirty kitchen (which, for those not familiar with it, is the part of a traditional Filipino house  where the dirty prep is done).

At the dirty kitchen, in front of the sprawling backyard, we would watch our aunt, uncle, and the cooks prepare the lunch over big pots and kaldero, watch the fresh hito (catfish) swim in a planggana of water before they get grilled, and sneak in bites of the tibuk-tibuk and other rice cake varieties already spread out on the table. We would then be called to have some breakfast, typically pindang damulag! It had a gamey, sour flavor (vinegar-y version of tocino I always thought) that my 10-year-old self didn’t flinch at all when I eventually found out that it was fermented meat from carabao, not exactly what you might find in a supermarket in Manila.

By the time lunch came, I would pile my plate with Kapampangan fiesta staples such as asadong matua, kare-kare and lechon. (I was a carnivore early on.) My dad used to make me try the buro or balao-balao (fermented rice) to go with the grilled catfish but I found the smell revolting. Only when I reached my twenties, did I finally acquire a taste for its soupy, sour assault to the senses. By then, trips to Pampanga were no longer an annual activity and once deprived of such fascinating dishes, I craved and searched for them; they’re not your typical everyday fare so my dad wasn’t keen on cooking them.

Bale Dutung

Bale Dutung

Almost a month ago, I got to revisit my Kapampangan roots when our department at work took a field trip to Bale Dutung. For several years, I’ve only heard good things about this private restaurant that is also  home of artist, author and chef Claude Tayag and his wife Mary Ann. It gained even more following and fame when Anthony Bourdain paid them a visit in a feature on the Philippines in his then-show, No Reservations.

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Satisfying a craving for ginisang monggo and eating around QC

One of the most viewed posts in this little blog is the story on two restaurants along Maginhawa Street in Quezon City. That stretch in the district of Diliman remains a popular dining destination, although nearby streets and districts have their fair share of good restaurants for different budgets and cravings.

Recently, I met up with two friends, A and JK, for lunch at Tatung’s Garden Cafe . I first heard of Chef Tatung, who’s a big supporter of using local and sustainable ingredients, when I was researching on organic farming in the country for a magazine feature. The restaurant is in a house with a little garden in a quiet residential street and it serves local dishes–which gives the atmosphere that you’re simply having a nice meal at your parents’ home. Our spread included Tatung’s Favorite Fried Rice, Inihaw na Pusit (grilled squid), Chicken Sisig Lettuce Wraps, ginisang monggo soup, the Warm Tsoknut Chocolate Cake and a cold bowl of halo-halo. (Our meal came to a total of around P1,100+)

Our small spread of fried rice, grilled squid, chicken sisig lettuce wraps and ginisang monggo soup

Loved the monggo soup the best–probably because I’ve been craving for it for quite some time. It’s a simple Filipino soup made of mung beans with the salty taste of smoked fish bits and bitter melon leaves, something you can find in most humble neighborhood eateries. It was a good starter, while the chocolate cake and halo-halo ended the meal and the conversation on a happy, we-should-do-this-again-soon mood.

Address: 17 Matipid St., Sikatuna Village, Diliman; phone: (632) 352-6121

Here are five other neighborhood restaurants in the Diliman and Katipunan area worth a visit should you find yourself in this part of Metro Manila, where you can satisfy cravings for Filipino food, vegetarian dishes, pizza, and even cheap Japanese food. Continue reading