Food and Family in the "Filipinas"
After my "Taking Asia 2013" trip with my friend and fellow foodie, Mary, I've been blessed with the opportunity to explore the culinary scene here in Manila, Philippines. Of course after 4.5 weeks of backpacking through Asia (Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam, and China), it's nice to return to a familiar city with familiar faces for some much needed R&R. And fortunately, as a result of its rich historical and cultural background, Manila has many interesting food spots that are worth the infamous Manila traffic. The theme for today's post is the connection between food and family. Obviously, while food is a means for nutrition and fuel for the body, it is without a doubt a social activity, many times a tradition, that creates or continues relationships, celebrates events, and comforts the soul. Personally, my family catches up on the week's activities during our weekly Sunday breakfast/brunch (it usually starts around 8am and last until Noon or when we need to go to church). It's a nice and comforting tradition: you'd wake up to the smell of coffee or the sound of someone cooking, you'd go to the kitchen finding everyone at the table loaded with food, and you'd sit at said table for hours after said food is gone just to talk while dipping pandesal in cofffee. Many times, I find that the largest concern during these breakfasts with my family (which usually includes my dad, sister, two brothers, and two uncles) is the dangers of laughing with your mouth full of food. You never know what joke someone will tell or absurd thing someone will do. For example, one time my younger brother, Leonard, accidentally knocked over a liter of soda while getting me coffee making it explode on the floor, shooting the ceiling, and staining the whole kitchen and dining room. It was like a Coca-Cola massacre. Other times, my other brother and sister initiate hilarious quarrels that really prevent you from eating and risking spitting your food at your dad across from you. I know that not many families have the opportunity to get together for a meal, so I feel incredibly blessed to have these times with my family and would definitely encourage others to try to establish a weekly meal with their loved ones. I think that my love for food is definitely connected to the love I have for my family.
With that said, there are two great food spots in Manila that I recently visited and deserve recognition for the "love for the family" that their food emulates. While the following places do not serve Filipino food exactly, their food has both commendable tastes and evident love that fit with Filipino traditions.
Notes: TTK instantly came to mind when I was preparing to write this post because the Singaporean owner named the restaurant in honor of his daughter. Franco, originally from Singapore, is co-owner of TTK and the head chef. Everything that comes of the kitchen and lands on your table is pretty much Franco's creation. During my visit the restaurant was bombarded with takeout orders, so it took a little while for my two dishes. However, I think that TTK is worth the wait and the average service. From a girl who loves street food and Michelin star restaurants, TTK offers simple great Singaporean food in Manila at a low cost and with minimal frills. If you're very familiar with Singaporean food, you should be aware that the food is altered just a little bit to mediate a lack of resources in the Philippines necessary for Singaporean cooking, but you can be assured that there are no big changes that compromise the dignity of the cuisine.
To be honest, I have to say that the Hainanese Chicken I ate at TTK was better than the Hainanese Chicken I ate in Singapore. Although Anthony Bourdain recommended the Hainanese Chicken that I sampled in Singapore in Maxwell Street, I realize it may not be the best version of the dish in all of Singapore. Also, while I've learned that Hainanese chicken is a very accessible dish all throughout Asia, it can largely depend on your preference and tastes. Originally from China, Hainanese chicken is a staple dish in Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Thailand. While it is difficult for me to say or judge the simple but traditional taste of this dish, I can promise that the Hainanese Chicken at TTK's is delicious and authentic. Hainanese Chicken rice is the national dish of Singapore, and I admire it's simplicity. In terms of preparation, the whole chicken is boiled in stock or water with generous ginger and garlic until the meat is cooked thoroughly. Most of the chicken skin and fat is kept on the meat, so this dish can be a surprising sight at first to many Americans who may be used to their chicken roasted or fried - the chicken (with the skin still on) will look very pale and even white. However, I highly recommend trying this dish because, as you can imagine, this unique cooking method promises very juicy and flavorful chicken. Finally, in Singaporean Hainanese chicken, the remaining stock is often used in the preparation for the rice.
Food notes: So during my first visit, I only ordered the Spanish bread, but I knew that Sophie's Mom is a very special bakery. So a little story that I heard through the grapevine about the name before the establishment existed, the owner originally made mochi ice cream desserts for her daughters and daughters' friends. The little treat became a hit, and one of the daughters, Sophie, started receiving requests or orders from her friends for more of her mom's treats. Thus Sophie's Mom started.
On my first visit, I ordered the Spanish bread which has a sweet pastilla-like filling. When I say pastilla I don't mean the Moroccan meat pie, but this sweet milk-sugar mixture similar to dulce de leche as a result of our Spanish influence. The Spanish bread is very soft and resembles a pandesal, but has a great surprise inside when you bite into it and find the sweet pastilla. It's great paired with coffee.
Put simply, share the food and share the love. Do you have a story about how food connects you and your family? Leave a comment, I'd love to hear it!
Stay hungry, Louella
Featured Image Photo Cred: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philippine_cuisine