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Once upon a time I was asked to write about food.


This was an article I wrote and was published in a national daily…

Bacolod City does not have a typical Chinese enclave like Binondo.  It does not have a Chinatown that engulfs your senses with the sights, sounds and scents of a faraway Oriental place. The Chinese presence in the city has been integrated well within most of our culture with their presence in commerce, the academe, the arts and others that we do not see them as foreign. And it is because of this that eating Chinese in Bacolod does not mean searching high and low for secret little places that serve them good.

Chinese food has long been an integrated element in our food experience, common and extraordinary at the same time, that it has become comfort food to the local palate. It has become comfort food not only in terms of the convenience of ordering Chinese food during birthdays, graduations and other occasions but also comfort in the sense of the familiarity of our palate with noodles, siomai, spring rolls and the myriad ways the Chinese do wonders with pork, beef, chicken and seafood. It was this childhood memory of having home cooked Chinese dishes made by his aunt in his grandfather’s house that cultivated the gastronomic desires of a developing foodie soul in the young JP Anglo. It was only after a few years of trying out a few varied college majors that the passion for food beckoned and he enrolled and graduated in a culinary school.  He could have gone the French or Italian way like his peers but it was that serious passion and longing for Chinese comfort food of his younger days that made him choose the kitchens of the Chinese food courts and learn more about the rudiments from an uncle in Hongkong with his dad acting as interpreter/food taster. Armed with formal training of culinary school and experience gained from different Chinese kitchens, JP went home to Bacolod to open Mai Pao Restaurant in September of 2001. Mai Pao features in its menu a list of Chinese specialties such as siomai, crispy bihon, garlic spareribs, hot-sour soup, prosperity spring rolls and other offerings that is no longer comfort food only for JP Anglo but for other Bacoleños who continually patronize the quaint little restaurant.

Nghohiong kheng, owachian, chao pat chien, kiampong! These are not the screams you hear in the cacophony of a frenzied mahjong session but some fairly new food items (at least in my vocabulary) available at the recently opened Red Moon restaurant aside from the more common and familiar offerings. Ngohiong which is quite uncommon in Bacolod is actually a delicacy widely available in the neighboring province of Cebu. It is almost like lumpia except for its distinct use of ngohiong or Chinese 5 spice powder as main flavoring ingredient. Owachian is an oyster omelet and whoever’s ancient ancestor who dreamed up of marrying oysters and eggs deserve accolade for this wonderful cholesterol-be-damned treat. Chao pat chien, who could easily be the lead in a Hong Kong action flick, is actually a dish of vegetables stir fried with varied meats, a chopsuey with a pedigree. All these exciting flavors are best enjoyed with spoonfuls of kiampong or fried rice.

One of the best times to indulge in Chinese food is this January when Bacolod City once again celebrates Bacolaodiat to welcome the Chinese New Year of the Ox. It is a festival “cooked-up” by the local Tsinoy community to celebrate their presence and contribution to the city and give us a view of their rich cultural heritage which the city folk rarely see in public before. Bacolaodiat is a portmanteau combining the words Bacolod and “laodiat” which is Fookien for celebration.

For some the concept of Chinese food is always an exclusive and complicated ten course lauriat complete with all the pomp and pageantry akin to the closing ceremony of the Olympics. For others it a standard office party and celebratory fare and a quick no-brainer feast you order in a panic when unexpected visitors surprise you for dinner, but for most of us it is comfort food. Comfort defined by the soothing experience of sipping spoonfuls of broth from of a steaming bowl of noodles with the distinct perfume of sesame oil wafting gently, the familiar and anticipated crunch of a perfectly golden spring roll or the sublime pleasure of slicing open a siomai dumpling, stuffing it with chili garlic, dipping it in soy sauce and slowly taking it in bite after bite after bite.

Bookkeeper Sans Serif


Here is Zubuchon’s menu board featuring the food offering and of course the chalk writing abilities of Marketman’s bookkeeper. Hence the title. Nice handwriting and a nice touch to the restaurant. 

Lechons and Lapidas


After a memorable gastronomic weekend highlighted by the Marketmanila Lechon feast, I bade goodbye to Cebu with a box full of chopped up lechon and other goodies to bring home. On the trip back to the airport we passed through a cemetery and I took a picture of this scene from the window of the taxi. A man and his display of grave markers. Life and death. Lechons and Lapidas.

Before the Pork Came Marching In.


Moni, ChrisB, Anne, and I were at the Eyeball site while the sun was still up. This allowed us to visit the roasting station and have a sneak peek at the lechons rolling, roasting and sweating on top of coals. We were there while Mrs. Marketman and the Teen were doing finishing touches to flower arrangements. I am the least interested in floral arrangements and how they are done but these were amazing. Lotus flowers and roots were arranged in fishbowls and their colors were really intense especially against a background of a roughly finished wooden picnic table and a gray deck. Color, contrast, emphasis, balance.

The floral arrangement and the rough wooden table looked perfect together. I really love the rough wooden table. It reminds me of the old Robin Hood movies where they feasted on huge roasted legs of deer and Friar Tuck’s brewskies.

I can use this color palette and principle of balance on a graphic design project. Again obsessing on the wooden table… You can easily pull out a little splinter to pick out all the lechon bits stuck on your teeth. I did not. Seriously. I did not do it.

This was the buffet area before it bore the brunt of the collective weight of pork goodies. Imagine a parade of platters of Five-Pork Fried Rice, Chicharon fresh from the cauldron, Sisig from chopped lechon heads, a truffled lechon de leche, a chili lechon, a butter basted lechon de leche, a lechon stuffed with chickens, an amazing kinilaw na tanguigue, Zubuliempo, roasted corn, seafood paella.  And there was seaweed salad and an assortment of pickles to cleanse your palate and your conscience. This was the altar where conversations were in hushed whispers among a catatonic group of zombies not knowing what do after a visual, olfactory and taste overload.

Until the next Marketmanila Lechon Eyeball.

Zubuchon


The man behind the legendary Marketmanila blog finally decided to open up a restaurant and I just had to be there. Allow me to share some photos for words are not enough to describe the unctuous goodies I consumed like a hungry and starved piranha.

Here’s Marketman’s very own version of lechon with pricked skin served in a counter visible to the diners. What a visual treat seeing crisp pork chopped into lovely bite sized pieces.

This is the Zubuchon set meal. A generous serving of lechon and rice served with vinegar, soy sauce and chili oil for your dipping sauce.

Binagoongang Lechon. This is a powerful blend of Bagoong and Pork. Whoever thought of marrying almost microscopic fermented shrimp and pork is a genius.

Red Curry Lechon and Monggo with Lechon drippings and Chicharon. Self Explanatory. Shut up and order extra rice.

Slow-cooked adobo. One of Marketmanila’s obession is the quest to create the perfect adobo. Cooked in a palayok or clay pot with just a few basic ingredients, this adobo is the closest you can get to a meal our ancestors ate.

The Zubuchon story in standees with the cute little red pig icon. The restaurant has minimal decor. No flashy neon gizmos out to distract you from what you really came for.  Crunchy MSG free Chicharon smileys on the foreground.

I have to end this calorific post with something refreshing. A tall glass of Iba or Kamias shake. Now who would have imagined that tart fruit commonly used as a souring ingredient make an excellent shake.

 

Zubuchon is at One Mango Mall, Mango Avenue in Cebu City. A second branch is opening soon at the Escario building near the Provincial Capitol.

Eat Pork and be happy.

No Words Needed For This Post


A Blog Post Before the World Ends on May 21, 2011


The world will not end on May 21 because of a little unresolved issue. An unresolved issue about certain signs. You see these signs along roadsides from bustling urban sidewalks to sleepy towns and even in lonely stretches of highways. These signs harbor a promise of salvation and a solution to allow you to go on with life and reach the ultimate destination. But then which of these signs speak the truth? They all, in one way or another, provide solutions but which one is truthfully spelled?

Vulcaning, Volkit, Vulcanizeng, Vulcaning, Vulcate while you wait, and of course the thirteen-letter version of the spelling in the photo above. VULLCANIYZING. I asked my good friend G about the provenance of the word and he told me that the proper term for this process of salvation of worn out tires (and not the tired and worn out) is Vulcanization and not the previous spellings I wrote. But Vulcanization is not the word in the signs out there??? Therefore it is wrong! How can you even think of debating a painted wooden sign nailed on a tree? The world will not end until every sign by the roadside says VULLCANIYZING.

(The sign above was shot from the open window of a jampacked non airconditioned bus while picking up more passengers in the cave-rich city of Mabinay, Negros Oriental)

The Holga Chronicles III


This is from my 4th roll of film. I still made the mistake of shooting with the lens cap attached. I still attempted to shoot an ASA 100 film with an approximate 1/100 sec. shutter speed in the shade with disastrous results. The last shots from the roll are still amazing and I finally had one with the Holga “Light Streak.” I used an expired Fujifilm YKL for this series.

Just Another Rainy Day


Streetside Barbecue


From the vantage point of the back seat of a jeepney, I take out my camera, make some adjustments, point, shoot, return camera inside the bag. The shot was not sharp. It was in fact a blur. A pleasant, smoky, light splattered blur.

 

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