Posts Tagged ‘halo-halo’

PINOY NOODLES

Noodles are very much part of the Filipino diet. They can be eaten as lunch, merienda (snack), or dinner.  There are myriad noodle dishes in the Philippines, but I’m partial to only a few. One of them is pancit bihon – thin vermicelli noodles topped julienned vegetables and meat – which is a staple dish during celebrations like Christmas and birthdays. The other two are my very favourite. First is pancit malabon or thick rice noodles with shrimp sauce and topped with squid, egg, and crushed chicharon (fried pork crackling). I always order pancit malabon without the chicharon from Ang Tunay na Pancit Malabon on Tomas Morato in Quezon City.

Second is pancit luglug which is slightly more difficult to find than the other dishes. Goldilocks was one place I could find it when I used to frequent the place. There was also this eatery at National Bookstore building in Quezon City but it has since folded shop. Pancit luglug is like pancit malabon in terms of the basic ingredients namely the noodles, shrimp sauce, and toppings. Its name derives from the method of cooking the noodles which is dipping, or blanching, the noodles in hot water until they are cooked. Gourmands would point out that pancit luglug is the answer of the Pampangueños’ to another all-time favourite noodle dish pancit palabok, which has thinner noodles.

pancit luglug by Razon's of Guagua

pancit luglug -without the chicharon – by Razon’s of Guagua

Razon’s of Guagua satisfied my craving for luglug at their branch in Greenbelt, Makati. The restaurant, according to their website, “is home of the best Kapampangan dishes in town”. Its menu runs the gamut of Kapampangan specialities such as sizzling dishes viz. bulalo (beef soup made from shank and the bone marrow), sisig (chopped pig’s head and liver, and seasoned with Philippine lime and chilli), and bangus steak (milkfish). Noodles include the luglug and a pancit plus. There are rice- combo dishes and rice cakes too. For dessert, there are the silvanas, empanada, and halo-halo.  Dessert was truly satisfying when I tried their halo-halo for the first time. Halo-halo literally translates to mix-mix because when you order it you have to mix everything from top to bottom inside the parfait glass. Razon’s halo-halo is simpler and less colourful than, say, Iceberg, but which belied a terrific punch to the palate. It’s a merry mix of sweetened Saba banana and macapuno (coconut), which are at the bottom of the glass, evaporated milk, finely shaved ice that melts in your mouth, and leche flan.

halo-halo by Razon's of Guagua

Razon’s halo-halo features sweetened Saba, macapuno, and leche flan

Lunch of luglug and halo-halo with an uncle was a pleasant experience peppered by scintillating conversation. After all, nothing can go wrong with a meet up over Pinoy noodles and a Pinoy dessert.

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A FILIPINO MERIENDA

Any afternoon is good for a Filipino merienda.

Any afternoon is good for a Filipino merienda.

The Filipino word merienda roughly translates to snack and is part of every Filipino’s upbringing whether he or she is a foodie or not. It is the meal that tides one over until dinner time, and food choices depend on how peckish one is at that point in the afternoon which can be between 1pm and 530pm. Calorie-conscious Filipinos might eschew having merienda or actually make it into an early dinner because, for instance, pancit luglog (rice noodles in shrimp sauce and garnished with shrimp, squid, spring onion, and slices of hardboiled egg) is quite a filling meal. But that group is almost a minority in the archipelago where eating is a perennial staple of an itinerary that it’s deemed blasphemous not to have merienda.

The appeal of a Filipino merienda is all the more heightened when you have been away for quite some time and the versions you have tasted are simply deplorable. Nothing really parallels merienda prepared in Manila. All-time favourites run the gamut from savoury to sweet offerings. Naturally, being born with a sweet tooth, I am inclined to peruse the light merienda section of a menu that always feature rice cakes and shaved ice desserts. Pancit luglog or its twin version pancit palabok is, in my book, a dish fit for dinner.

Translated as mixed together, halo-halo is never a bad choice to tide you over until dinner.

Translated as mixed together, halo-halo is never a bad choice to tide you over until dinner.

Via Mare is considered the restaurant to satisfy the craving for a Pinoy merienda, if not to introduce foreign friends, colleagues, and lovers to a part of an array of Filipino cuisine which disgruntled Malaysian Chef Wan seemed to have missed as he ranted over the Net about his utter disgust for Filipino cuisine. Perhaps if he had dug into a glass of halohalo or bit into puto bumbong or bibingka by Via Mare he wouldn’t have lambasted Filipino cuisine like he did following the recent poll done and released by CNN. The survey placed the Philippines as the second best food destination in the world after Taiwan while Malaysia came in at sixth place.

You can have your cake and eat it too with the Via Mare Shooters.

You can have your cake and eat it too with the Via Mare Shooters.

At Via Mare in Landmark, Makati, an afternoon with long-time friends not seen for years is a reunion of kinship and palate. Our table that warm Saturday was a profusion of traditional Filipino merienda led by the emblematic halohalo. In a bowl or a parfait glass, the bottom is a melange of sweet stuff viz. nata de coco (coconut), munggo (red beans), langka (jackfruit), and gelatine that is filled with shaved ice. Evaporated milk (the Carnation brand was a perpetual choice) is then generously poured over the ice. For the penultimate finishing touches, the halo-halo is topped with a spoonful of ube (pronounced u-beh) and a square of leche flan. The ultimate ingredient to add is a scoop of ice cream which is generally ube. Via Mare has a degustation of shaved ice concoctions called Shooters, a platter of enlarged shot glasses holding halohalo, mais con hielo, and guinomis. The latter is a variation of the halo-halo that features sago (tapioca balls), cubed gelatine, toasted pinipig (rice grains), and coconut milk.

Vying for second place in the all-time favourites are the bibingka and puto bumbong, both of which are variations of rice cakes and are traditionally only available during the Christmas season, but not anymore. The real McCoy meant not using the ubiquitous instant batter mixes gracing the supermarket shelves. It spells hours of preparation because the ingredients are prepared the old-fashioned way – visualize a stone grinder turned manually for hours to pulverize the ube to powder-fine form for the puto bumbong and the glutinous rice flour for the bibingka batter. Cooking was also labour-intensive. A bibingka in a single tin baking pan lined with banana leaf cooking over and above charcoal in an especially made terra cotta pot – constantly fanned manually to keep the embers from dying – was the definitive way to savouring a delectable bibingka with its distinctly infused aroma of roasted banana leaf. Anchor or Queensland butter melting into its core and dipped in grated coconut was the proper way – the only way, in fact – to enjoy it for merienda. Toppings for the bibingka vary but the most popular ones are slices of kesong puti (soft white cheese similar to cottage cheese), duck egg, or salted egg. The Via Mare version my friend settled on was swathed in melted queso de bola.

Christmas or not, bibingka is a good entry point to introduce foreign palates to Filipino cuisine.

Christmas or not, bibingka is a good entry point to introduce foreign palates to Filipino cuisine.

Move on to puto bumbong after bibingka to further tease the taste buds.

Move on to puto bumbong after bibingka to further tease the
taste buds.

Puto bumbong, on the other hand, not only required being charcoal-cooked. It also necessitated dexterity in, one, determining whether it is already steam-cooked in the bumbong (bamboo cylinder). One simply doesn’t poke the cylinder with a fork or knife to get a sample because it will ruin it. Second, adroitness is needed to get the puto bumbong out from the cylinder with no other equipment except for gently banging it to shake the ube rice cake out and lay it symmetrically on the banana leaf. However, like bibingka, it is painted over with butter and dipped in grated coconut for that added punch to the palate. Some drizzle white sugar on it for extra sweetness.

As for ube ice cream, it is indubitably a Filipino ice cream flavour popularized by Magnolia, the ice cream brand that monopolized the childhood years of my generation until it saw competition from local brands Selecta and Arce and the international labels that have entered the country. In a cup or cone, ube, like mango and macapuno, is always a favourite among the young and old.

Just the merienda alone is more than enough to excite the palates of foodies and even the pickiest eaters, so Chef Wan’s criticisms are just sour grapes. Whether Chef Wan likes Filipino cuisine or not, a Filipino merienda (or any Filipino meal) is not less palatable or his Malaysian dishes tastier. As an Indonesian phrase goes, emang gue pikirin. Now, care to join me for merienda?

Keep it simple but flavourful with a single scoop of ube ice cream for merienda.

Keep it simple but flavourful with a single scoop of ube ice cream for merienda.