My favorite desserts around the world

Sometimes, all I can think about is vanilla ice cream, and whoever invented the ice cream is to blame. Now the bigger problem is when you get to taste wonderful desserts from your travels around the world. Good luck on finding them back home when you suddenly crave for the sweet goodness of these world famous treats.

Gelato: Italy

Perfect companion while strolling the streets of Florence.

 

It’s not just ice cream. Gelato has a different feel and texture to it – softer yet denser than the usual ice cream that you taste. Florence has the best shops such as Vivoli and Carabe.

Craving? Get it at Caramia or Amici. There has been a gelato craze in the Metro, prompting for more shops to open.

Baklava: Greece; Turkey

Baklava with pistachios and kajmak, very popular in Turkey

 

A thick pastry that is meticulously prepared, baklava originated from Turkey, but is now more known as a Mediterranean dessert. It is made of a dough called Phyllo, and is flavored with honey, lemon juice and sugar. It is really filling, and can pass as a merienda, not just as a dessert.

Filipinos are not huge fans of this dessert. But if ever you would like to try it, order it after a sumptuous meal at Café Mediterranean or Cyma.

Churros: Spain

I dream of this every time it rains.

Fried soft dough dipped in rich hot chocolate – that’s churros for you. Although you can have it plain, you can also try it in other flavor; cinnamon is quite popular. How do you know tat a churros is cooked well? It should be crispy on the outside and really soft inside. And don’t forget the hot rich thick chocolate syrup as the dip.

Dulcinea makes the best churros here in the Philippines. A single order gives you five pieces and a tasty dip. It’s a generous serving for one, but a little “bitin” for two.

Macaroons: France

Coconut macaroons : A recipe I’m determined to make perfectly.

If you dig really sweet stuff, macaroons should be your thing. A pastry made of icing, egg whites, ground almonds and sugar, it is shaped perfectly like two domes stuck together. They come in different colors, usually indicative of their flavor.

Bizu made French macaroons a regular sight in malls. Safe to say that they’re the local shop that you can count on if you want a taste of great flavors.

Black Forest: Germany

Who doesn’t want CAKE?!

If you think about it, the name sounds a bit German. It’s dark and bold, and really decadent. Chocolate cake with layers of icing and cherries soaked in liquor – this is what black forest is. Of course back then it was super expensive, especially considering the ingredients involved.

Here in the Philippines, black forest is quite popular. You can get it in famous bakeshops like Goldilocks and Red Ribbon, and also in gourmet pastry shops and restaurants. No need to take that long haul of a flight from Manila to Hong Kong and Hong Kong to Germany.

Eco-friendly Traveling Tips

Caring for Mother Earth has direct benefits to us.

Travel is the fastest growing industry today. The world is getting smaller, and adventures more within our reach. But with this progress comes a problem, nay, a challenge, that has something to do with our footsteps and the other things that we leave in a place – trash. How can you help the earth as you travel? Here are some tips.

  • Book a green hotel. Not a hotel that is literally green in color, silly. Green means that they have initiatives to take care of the planet, such as giving you the option to not change your blankets every day, using recycled water for flushing, and creating a ventilation system that maximizes natural air.
  • Bring a reusable water bottle. Now take note that the disposable water bottle isn’t recommended for reuse because of contaminants that may be hazardous to your health. But instead of buying bottles of water on the go, just bring a tumbler with you and refill it every time you get a chance.
  • If you must use batteries, use rechargeable ones. Less waste, and less expenses on your end too. Although rechargeable batteries are more expensive than disposable ones, they are more efficient and cheaper in the long run. You should’ve figured that one out a long time ago.
  • Enjoy dining in restaurants. I’m saying that because take-outs entail more containers, more paper, more plastic, more waste. Plus, it would really be boring to enjoy a nice Thai meal inside your hotel room watching cable TV. Eat it on the street, where all the action is!
  • Refuse the bag. While shopping, you would most likely stop by different shops, which will ultimately result to multiple paper and plastic bags. Why not take the first paper bag, and then use it all throughout your whole shopping trip! It is best if you can just use a large bag that you brought from home. It can even be sturdier than a plastic bag or a paper bag from a store.
  • Do not buy byproducts of endangered species. Doing so will only fuel the cruel acts which all the more place animals in danger. Be informed of these facts before you land on your destination.
  • Use public transportation. Renting a car will significantly increase the carbon emission in the area, plus taking the train or the bus gives you a more local vibe of the place. Riding a bus is more fuel-efficient than flying, but it can sometimes be impractical, especially if we’re taking about cheap flights to Boracay. But you know what’s best? Walking. This is perhaps the most eco-friendly way to travel.
  • Encourage everybody to do the same. If not for other people, I wouldn’t be aware of the need to be eco-friendly. Do these earth-friendly travel tips and share them to your friends and family.

Weirdest Food in the Philippines

If you think that your mustard and ketchup concoction is weird, wait till you hear about these dishes that are only found in the Philippines.

  • Balut. Ah, the iconic world famous fertilized chick inside the egg. It looks disgusting, close to being inhumane actually, because you’d east something that looks like in the middle of preparing for its birth. But don’t worry about the taste; it really is delicious. However if texture is a big deal to you, I’d say skip it. It has slime, gum and roughness all in a bite.

  • Sisig. Filipinos find use for every part of the pig. So the prime parts go the grocery and to the restaurants, while the other parts are bought by the creative minds who are limited by budget. Et voila! You have sisig – a sizzling dish that looks and smells appetizing, is very delicious, but will turn you off once you know which part of the pig it is: the head.

  • Crispy pata. Speaking of using all parts, pata is the leg of the pig. It is chopped of as a huge chunk, and dip fried in high fire to make it crispy. The result? A hit among beer drinkers, family reunions and Christmas parties. Make sure you eat it with spicy soy sauce mixed with calamansi. And pass the steamed rice please.

  • Isaw. It’s not pronounced as iSaw, like an Apple product, but as ee-saw, with a short “a” and pronounced “w”. Interesting name, and an even more interesting dish – intestines washed and grilled, slathered with sweet and salty sauce. Also great with spicy vinegar, and will cost you only about P5 per stick.

  • Dinuguan. Have you ever thought about the taste of Bella Swan’s blood? Well, just order dinuguan in a Filipino restaurant and you’d have an idea, or at least, a feeling of being part of the Cullen clan. Dinuguan is made of chicken’s blood and some meat. And if you think you won’t be able to stomach eating blood red sauce, imagine eating a black sauce that is in actuality, blood. Filipinos are brave that way.

  • Pinikpikang manok. This is as exotic as it can get. A manner of cooking that traces its roots to the indigenous tribes in the country, pinikpikan is a brutal yet effective way of making sure that the chicken tastes good. How? It is beaten to death so that the blood of the chicken travels near the surface as it tenderizes. Then, the dead body is rid of feathers and is then burned to cook.

So whether you’re traveling to the Philippines via Air Asia, or you’re a Filipino touring the country, trying out the food mentioned above is a must. That should make your trip more authentic. Plus, bragging rights!

A Guide to the Metro Manila Weekend Market Scene

To whoever created the idea of a weekend market, thank you very much. We owe much of our weekend to you. Organic markets, artisan food markets, and everything in between – these are the treats that we all wait for at the end of our long week in the office. Where to find these treats? And which kinds of treats to try? Here’s our guide:

Salcedo Market. The one that set the bar high for weekend markets, Salcedo Market is your homey weekend stroll-slash-shopping destination, perfect for family bonding and your much needed pantry replenishment. There’s a playground and park nearby, so you can shop in peace while your kids have the time of their lives. The best thing about Salcedo is that you can enjoy authentic international cuisine without having to buy airline tickets to places around the world!

Time: Saturdays, 7:00 AM to 2:00 PM

Location: LP Leviste St. Jaime Velasquez Park, Salcedo Village, Makati City

Must-trys: Kashmir for Middle Eastern food, Taqueria Mia for some authentic Mexican burritos and quesadillas

Mercato Centrale. Mercato Centrale, the brainchild of Internet celebrities RJ Ledesma and Anton Diaz, boasts of a more gourmet-ish experience than any other weekend market. It is conducive for a weekend lunch, as well as shopping for the a whole week of healthy food.

Time: Saturdays and Sundays, 6:00 AM to 2:00 PM

Location: Corner of 30th Street and 9th avenue (in front of The Spa at Bonifacio High Street), Bonifacio Global City
Must-trys: Chuck’s Grubberie’s beer-battered fish and chips, and Mochiko’s ice cream-filled mochi balls

Il Mercanti. With a crowd composed mostly of young professionals who just got off from work or are having their call center lunch break at night, Il Mercanti has all the makings of a place where you can have as much comfort food as you want.

Time: Thursdays to Saturdays, 7:00 PM to 4:00 AM

Location: Metrowalk Commercial Complex, Meralco Avenue, Pasig City

Must-trys: Amburger’s Juicy Lucy with Bacon Mushroom Melt

Sidcor Market. If you want the traditional palengke but with a more extensive more organic selection, then Sidcor Market was made for you. Not only can you buy fresh produce, but you can also find handicrafts perfect for your living room or as gifts. Prepare to spend money because Sidcor is huge and teeming with great finds.

Time: Sundays, 6:00 AM to 2:00 PM

Location: Eton Centris, EDSA cor Quezon Avenue

Must-trys: Mary’s Kitchen chicken galantina and fish fillet pesto

Banchetto. Before there was Il Mercanti, there was Banchetto. This used to be the most happening place around the Ortigas area, with loads of food stands that range from meals to pastries to drinks. Employees celebrating Friday night would flock to where Banchetto sets up (it used to rove around the Ortigas area), and the area was always full of people. But today, only a few stalls remain and even fewer people who come for food and refreshments. Nevertheless, there are still a lot of must-try goodness in Banchetto.

Time: Fridays, 5:00 PM to 4:00 AM

Location: Meralco Avenue, between Renaissance Towers and the Department of Education, Pasig City

Must-trys: Med Chef’s pastries, and authentic Ilocos empanada from Glomy’s

Love Lechon? Celebrate it with a Festival!

Got fiesta? Here comes Lechon!

Everyone, as in everyone, in the Philippines loves lechon. It’s the definitive fiesta food, the definitive birthday/wedding/Christmas/any occasion food. It is highly celebrated, in fact, that different towns all across the country decided to hold festivals all for the love of roasted pig. Check these out!

Talisay City, Cebu

Anthony Bourdain declared that the Cebu lechon is the best roasted pig in the world. Heavy words from someone who has literally traveled the planet for food! He should’ve visited on October 15th instead, so he can declare that the Philippines is the country that’s the craziest about roasted pig! This is definitely something different from the usually visited Sinulog Festival of Cebu. Come and celebrate and well, eat lechon!

General Santos City

Aside from being home to the People’s Champ Manny Pacquiao, General Santos City is also home to an abundant supply of swine. In fact, a lot of producers in the city supply to clients in as far as Luzon! To celebrate, the whole city holds a lechon parade every 3rd of July. Just this year, 41 roasted pigs were paraded around town! Surely everybody had a great time afterwards, eating the lechon with steamed rice.

Balayan, Batangas

From Visayas and Mindanao, we go to Luzon to continue our celebration of the country’s most loved food! Balayan, Batangas holds its annual town fiesta every June 24, to honor their patron saint John the Baptist. After the celebratory mass, everybody flocks to the streets and waits for the parade of decorated lechons placed on dressed up floats. Some lechons are dressed up as Lady Gaga, and some are even made to look like St John the Baptist! Imagine that! However, the most important part of the celebration is that the roasted pigs are enjoyed and shared with everybody for lunch. *wide grin*

La Loma, Quezon City

Although Bourdain and a lot of other foodies say that Cebu has the best tasting lechon, La Loma in Quezon City still remains as the lechon capital of the Philippines. It has the grandest (though a bit too commercialized) parade that shows pigs as chefs and TV stars. One float even had a pig’s head perched on top of what seems like a sexy lady dressed like it’s her honeymoon. The best part? Written on the float are the words “Pigtoria’s Secret.” If that isn’t worth your visit, then we don’t know what is. It’s an easy drive from any point of the Metro, so all you Manila people don’t have any excuse. If you’re from the provinces, well there are cheap flights care of Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific and other local airlines! See, no excuse at all!

Three Hole in the Wall Restaurants in Manila

We know the road in Manila is almost always hellish, whether you take the wide open streets or the side roads. Yet here we are talking about hole in the wall restaurants that will test your patience in driving and in parking. We promise they are all worth your gas. Or, you know, just commute! If you’re coming from the provinces, take a Cebu Pacfic or PAL flight to get here fast! Here are my top five hole in the wall Manila restaurants.

Galileo Enoteca

Logo courtesy of Galileo Enoteca Facebook page

This gem of an Italian restaurant is true to the term “hole in the wall”. It is located in a semi-residential area in Mandaluyong, where tricycles and private cars pass. This is where I first had a taste of cold cuts, and instantly I fell in love. I knew I’d come back for the cheese and the meat! And as they say, food is all about an experience. I absolutely had a fresh experience dining in Galileo Enoteca.

Where: 80 Calbayog St cor Malinao StHighway Hills, Mandaluyong
Price Range: P500 and above per person

Tri Mo Shawarma Co

Image courtesy of Tri Mo Shawarma Co Facebook page

I had been hearing raves and “try mo!” from friends who have easy access to this famed little shawarma place in Quezon City. So when Tony Stark (Ironman for all you non-fans, how dare you?) told the rest of the gang (Avengers, for the non-informed) that he wanted shawarma after fighting off the bad guys and saving the earth, I knew that I had to have one for myself. If it’s worth having after risking your life, then it’s worth having anytime! So when I finally got my hands on a roll of beefy goodness and fresh vegetables, I immediately understood why Tri-Mo Shawarma Ko still rocks and sells despite being almost inaccessible to most.

Where: Bristol St. – Brgy. Greater Lagro, Quezon City
Price: P70 for the beef and cheese shawarma roll

Friuli Trattoria

Image courtesy of Friuli Trattoria Facebook page

I’ve always thought it was spelled “Freoli” because a lot of my friends would tell me that I should try Frioli on Katipunan. So when I finally gave in and went to the street of the Ateneans and UPians, I had an “Oh, ok” moment when I saw that it was spelled with a U. Nonetheless, I had high expectations that were met when I had a bite of their version of Magherita pizza and Purtanesca pasta. The best thing about this place is that it’s super affordable here!

Where: 79 Maginhawa St., Teachers Village, Diliman, Quezon City
Price: P100 and up

Five Malaysian Must Try Food

I find it interesting that Malaysian food tastes so familiar yet so different at the same time. Perhaps because the Philippines has a similar landscape and weather conditions as Malaysia, we have the same ingredients off the ground. Be it proximity or be it influences, Malysian food provides a certain comfort and satisfaction to the Filipino taste buds. Here are some must-try dishes from Malaysia (truly Asia).

My staple noodle dish in Penang

  • Penang Char Kway Teow. First on our list is a staple Asian food item: a noodle dish. Char Kway Teow is basically Malaysia’s version of our local pancit dishes, but with a different set of ingredients: chives, eggs, prawns and beansprouts. The mixture is finished off by a rich sauce mainly composed of soy sauce and spices.

Is it just me or my nilagang baboy just got tastier? 😉

  • Bah Kut Teh. From noodles, we go to pork. Bah Kut Teh is a Chinese dish best taken with Chinese tea (what else?). It consists of pork meat, veggies and flour sticks cooked in spiced herbal soup. Just like any pork dish, bah kut teh is best eaten with rice! Now you might not be able to replicate this concoction of a meal, so don’t miss the opportunity to eat it in Malaysia, particularly in Klang, Selangor.

This Hainanese chicken is best served with rice balls!

  • Chicken Rice. Oh yes, the chicken  rice that you know in Singapore is also in Malaysia. Although most people would say that chicken rice in Singapore is the best there is, give Malaysia an opportunity to get the gold medal by trying chicken rice at the Lou Wong Restaurant. Hey, this restaurant wouldn’t be able to make a name for itself if it doesn’t cook a mean version of chicken rice. A flight to Malaysia from either Clark Airport or NAIA would all be worth it with a taste of the best chicken rice in this famed restaurant.

Dreaming of roti canai with curry

  • Roti Canai. Although you can get Roti Canai in various restaurants in Manila, you wouldn’t get it for a very cheap price anywhere else. In Malaysia, roti is a staple food that you will find absolutely everywhere. It’s like Malaysia’s fish balls, basically. Tracing its roots to India, roti is a flattened dough with an addicting texture and the versatility of a true artist. You can eat it with Indian curry (any type of curry), or with condensed milk. You can also take it stuffed with all the goodness of either banana, sardines or eggs.

  • Nasi Lemak. The most popular and most familiar-sounding Malaysian dish, nasi lemak is basic and complicated at the same time. Why basic? It’s just rice served with eggs, peanuts and anchovies. Why complicated? The rice is cooked with coconut milk, the anchovies fried to the right crispiness, and the spices impossible to replicate.