For You, Daddy!

Friday, 1 June 2012

Kain Tayo!

 

 

Kain tayo  = “Let’s eat!” in Tagalog, the widely spoken language in the Philippines.

During my stint as Nurse Clinician with Aramco, Saudi Arabia, I befriended Fleur, my Filipina co-worker. 

 

Well over a decade on and oceans apart, we are still friends today. 🙂

 

I had spent a considerable amount of my time at Fleur’s. Why? Because she was an excellent cook! Duh. And I? Oh, I’m every good cook’s dream guest! Because I love good food, I am not afraid to try out things I have never eaten before and I am definitely not afraid to voice my opinion.

 

With Fleur and her group of friends, the words, “Kain tayo!”were tossed around a lot. Yes, I spent many happy hours around food with my friends. Filipino cuisine is not as hot/pungent as I have come to prefer, but it was tasty enough to eat on a regular basis. Pancit (noodles),  Lumpia (spring rolls), Adobo (a soya sauce-vinegar-garlic meat dish), Kare-Kare (oxtail peanut stew) and Longganisa (sweetish sausage) were eaten often enough by my friends to be considered staples. Which is why I grew to enjoy these preparations.

 

Having had such a wonderful gustatory experience with Filipino food in Saudi Arabia, it was only natural that I visit the country properly to enjoy the real deal.

 

Four years ago, I visited the Philippines on my own because Fleur and I could not coordinate our holidays. She was (and still is) with Aramco and I had long since left. I wasn’t too disappointed because I liked exploring a bit of her country on my own.  But the food? It was a letdown.

 

Sadly, “real” Filipino food did not live up to the fantasy experience I had envisioned and hoped for, or even what I had experienced with Fleur and friends.

 

Disclaimer: When I travel, I avoid international food chain outlets, and I avoid high end restaurants. I love street food and I patronise small and/or family run eateries for a more authentic or organic experience. So my experience below may come across as skewed.

 

Overall, I found the commercial fare in the Philippines very greasy, the portions small and not “meaty” enough. On the whole, there was nothing that blew me away. The warm, melded flavours were Asian in some ways, but there was, once again, that noticeable absence of spice and heat (pungency). I preferred the street snacks by far.

 

The tastiest ‘proper meal’ (i.e. in a restaurant) I ate was at a food court in a mall in Manila. It was my last lunch in the country, and after a mostly non-exciting experience with restaurant food, I went in for known favourites.

 

I ate Bihon Noodles (vermicelli-thin noodles) and Stir-Fried Squid (with the ink). I did not pay attention to the prices when ordering and chose from the array on display. Those turned out to be some of the cheapest options, but ironically, that meal was the most expensive I had had in my 2 weeks in the Philippines. That’s because that mall was none other than the largest in Asia and therefore, appropriately called The Mall of Asia.

 

Thank you, Elvie Rose, for permitting the use of this image. You can find more of Elvie Rose’s work at http://flowersblooms-elvierose.blogspot.in/

  

Although I was disappointed with my overall eating experience in the Philippines, I did try out a whole lot of new dishes during my time there. The following put a smile on my food-fussy face. Not surprisingly, everything I liked was from the street hawkers. With the amount of time I have spent eating on the streets of Asia, my tummy has been galvanised. 🙂

 

1. Puto BongBong: Sweetened sticky rice, coloured a bright purple, that’s put in a small bamboo mould and pushed out to form a 10 in (25 cm) long roll. Topped with grated coconut and brown sugar. Served on a bit of banana leaf.

 

Thank you, Jeff Vergara, for permitting me the use of this image. You can find more of Jeff’s work at http://www.dubaichronicles.com/

  

2. Pinagte: A leafy veggie pie (local spinach?) cooked in a fish-based gravy and cut into big, soggy squares. And I ate that out of a plastic bag. 🙂 The texture reminded me of Spanakopita.

 

3. Piaya: A flattened pop-tart. Flaky pastry with ube (taro) and date filling. I tried the other fillings with mung beans and camote (a sweet potato-like root veggie), but liked the ube one best.

 

4. Puto: Tiny, steamed, rice cupcakes. These were a favourite that Fleur often cooked just for me. I had to be very strict with myself not to gorge on these in the Philippines so I could try other stuff. I had them just once. 😦

 

Thank you, Ghee, for permitting the use of this image. You can find more of Ghee’s work at http://forgetfulghee.blogspot.in/

 

As always, I tried out a different item every opportunity I got. Here are some that were a first for me, and quite possibly I won’t ever go back for seconds.  All, but the first one (i.e Chicken Skin), were dipped in thick batter to bulk up the bits, and deep fried. 

 

1. Chicken Skin: These bits of pure chicken skin were cut up in pieces and were nicely crisp, but they had an overpowering chicken taste. I could almost taste the chickens scratching around in the yard!

 

2. Chicken Oesophagus: (Not!) These bits looked like pretzel sticks. They were equally firm and crunchy. The vendors called them “throat”. When I looked askance, they offered “neck”. Turns out they were bits of oesophagus. That’s what I thought until I contacted Sidney Snoeck to request the use of this image of his.

 

Thank you, Sidney Snoeck, for permitting me the use of this image. You can find more of Sidney’s work at : http://my_sarisari_store.typepad.com/

  

This is not what I ate. I mean, what I ate did not look like this. They really looked liked broken bits of deep-fried pretzel sticks. I’ve chosen to include this image because I quite possibly ate the deep-fried version of ….  chicken intestines. Ack!

 

These are the grilled version. Sidney’s site (URL above) has a lot of, um, interesting stories.

 

3. Chicken “Nuggets”: This snack saddened me. I got 5 pieces for 10 PHP/15p/25¢. The first one I bit into was all batter and bone. So was the second. I thought I just got unlucky with those 2, but all the pieces I had were the same. Later, my volcano trek guide confirmed that that’s what chicken nuggets are. I felt very sorry for those who could not afford to buy real chicken nuggets because bony bits in batter is what street snack consumers knew of the popular meat(ish)-only snack.

 

4. Camote: Camote is a kind of white-fleshed tuber. Not too starchy like the potato, but a little smoother like the sweet potato. It’s just the tiniest bit sweet, too.

 

And I’ve saved the best of my Filipino foods for last!

 

Balut: Dude, I psyched myself about this well-known delicacy for months before I got there, but plucked up the courage to eat it …. only on my last night. What a wimpy (overgrown) kid!  

 

Balut is … deep breaths, everyone … boiled duck embryo.

 

The Day 16 one is for losers. 😉 I’m no loser, yo, so brave heart that I am, I went for the Day 19 one, which is recommended, because the embryo is better developed with the downiest of feathers in view.

 

Quack Pot

 

Quack Pot. That’s what Elmer Fudd calls me, but I’m talking about what’s in my right hand. You cannot see it very clearly. That’s a quack in a pot. Okay, in a shell. It’s a Balut, the boiled duck embryo. Of course, I ate it. And? I absolutely loved it!

 

The shell at the pointy end of the egg has to be gently broken and the broth, uh, amniotic fluid, is to be drunk. That heady fluid tasted like a strong crab broth. Slurp! I peeled off a little more of the shell and peered very briefly at the little duckie with its eyes wide shut, dismissed its little face from my mind, ignored the network of blood vessels all around it and bit right into it. Soft, smooth and savoury. There was no turning back now. What little trepidation I had left crumbled like the rest of the egg shell.

 

The white of the egg was a disappointment. It was hard. Oh, very hard and had none of the rich flavour of the developing yolk.

 

A real pity I summoned up the courage to eat this night snack on my last night in the Philippines.

 

Balut is a late evening snack and is sold by vendors on bicycles. I plucked up the courage to flag down the last vendor to walk into the street I shacked up for that night and the chicken that I was, I bought just one.

 

Well, I’ll just have to go back to the Philippines for more one day.

 
 


Thank you, The Book of Terrible , orples and mj monaghan, for commenting on my last post.

Thank you, The Book of Terrible and orples, for liking my last post.

***********************************************************************

P.S.: Cheerful Monk adds a footnote to every post acknowledging those who comment on her previous post. She also links the commenters’ names back to their own blogs.

 I like both these practices of acknowledging the time and effort made to comment, and the free advertising! So I’m doing what I do well – being a copycat! 



 
 
 
 
 
 
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10 Comments »

  1. Kate, you are such a brave soul to try out so many foods. I’m a wimp when it comes to exotic foods. I could not imagine eating boiled duck embryos or
    Stir-Fried Squid. Although, I must say that the Puto BongBong looks interesting, and from the ingredients you listed, I’d probably like it. I love coconut with about anything that comes along, so yum on that choice!

    I’m sorry that you didn’t catch up with Fleur on you last trip back to the Philippines. Maybe next time. I am comfortable in my own company, too. Like you, I’d have probably eaten from the street vendors menus as well; that is pretty much the case when I go to little outdoor events around here. It is important to support the Mom/Pop operations and I suspect the food is more wholesome as well. Either way, it sounds like you enjoyed yourself. Good for you! One of these days, I’d like to travel and see some of the sights in person, that I see in the blogs. The world and the many different cultures offer such a variety of experiences. Maybe, one day…time will tell. In the meantime, I hope you continued to enjoy your travels, good friends, good health, and a blessed life. Marcy

    Like

    Comment by orples — Friday, 1 June 2012 @ 10:46 am |Reply

    • >Kate, you are such a brave soul to try out so many foods.
      – I agree! Tee hee! Because Big Sis is not so gung ho about these things.

      >I’m a wimp when it comes to exotic foods.
      – I take after my parents who were always open to trying out new cuisines and encouraged us, children, too. Big Sis must have missed that class. 😉

      >I could not imagine eating boiled duck embryos
      – Like I said, I had prepared myself mentally long before I got there, yet ate just one the last few hours I was there. Much as I enjoyed the taste, I want to research a little more about how they go about preparing balut. Specifically, if there’s cruelty involved. Other than the obvious, that is.

      >or Stir-Fried Squid.
      – I grew up by the coast and we ate sea food every day. Squid is one of my favourites.

      >Although, I must say that the Puto BongBong looks interesting, and from the ingredients you listed, I’d probably like it.
      – You probably would. I watched the two sisters prepare it and that whet my appetite. Later, I realised that the bright hue was not a hindrance in any way. The proof of the pudding, I guess. 🙂

      >I love coconut with about anything that comes along, so yum on that choice!
      – Strangely, I do not like dessicated coconut or the feel of grated coconut when it’s dryish. For example, in macaroons or coconut biscuits/cookies.

      >I’m sorry that you didn’t catch up with Fleur on you last trip back to the Philippines. Maybe next time.
      – I had switched to teaching when I visited the Philippines, so my holidays were fixed. But Fleur has to depend on the needs of her work unit and that’s why she couldn’t get leave when I went to the Philippines. But we’re in touch regularly.

      >I am comfortable in my own company, too.
      – So am I. But I’m done travelling alone. I’ve travelled so much on my own that I don’t want to do it anymore. I’ve decided to travel only with my closest now. I have to travel on work, which is why I do not travel for leisure much now and welcome more visitors instead.

      >Like you, I’d have probably eaten from the street vendors menus as well; that is pretty much the case when I go to little outdoor events around here.
      – Street food is food world of its own. I read this quote recently.

      Street food is the best of a country – and strangely, much safer for you than the spaghetti bolognese at the Hilton.~ Anthony Bourdain.TV host.

      >It is important to support the Mom/Pop operations
      – Oh, totally! It’s the second reason I eat at these places.

      >and I suspect the food is more wholesome as well.
      – This is the first reason. Wholesome and more real, I think.

      >One of these days, I’d like to travel and see some of the sights in person, that I see in the blogs. The world and the many different cultures offer such a variety of experiences. Maybe, one day…time will tell.
      – If that’s what you wish, I hope that’s what you get, dear Marcy.

      I have travelled a fair bit, but now I realise, I no longer am interested in collecting visa stamps in my passport or checking off some exciting list of sights to see and things to do. I will travel to places that mean something to me and the people I travel with, and I will travel to meet dear ones.

      >In the meantime, I hope you continued to enjoy your travels, good friends, good health, and a blessed life.
      – Thank you, Marcy! Part of my blessed life is having complete strangers like yourself who are so cheerful and positive.

      See you around!

      Kate

      Like

      Comment by For you, Daddy! — Friday, 1 June 2012 @ 11:58 am |Reply

  2. I feel like I’ve accompanied you on your travels, Kate – truly the mark of a great writer!
    Thank you for the global education – in food as well as people!

    Like

    Comment by The Hook — Friday, 1 June 2012 @ 5:21 pm |Reply

    • >I feel like I’ve accompanied you on your travels, Kate – truly the mark of a great writer!
      – Ego. Inflating. To. Unhealthy. Proportions. Or as I was brought to say, “Thank you”!

      >Thank you for the global education – in food as well as people!
      – Well, you’re not too different, Mr.Hook. By pointing out the distasteful behaviour of certain people recognised the world over, you remind me what not to be.

      Kate

      P.S.: In my response to Marcy’s comment above, you are another of the ‘strangers’ I count as part of my blessings in life.

      Like

      Comment by For you, Daddy! — Saturday, 2 June 2012 @ 11:29 am |Reply

      • Thank you for being one of the best friends I’ve never met in person, Kate!

        Like

        Comment by The Hook — Monday, 4 June 2012 @ 5:30 pm

      • *fist bump*

        Kate

        Like

        Comment by For you, Daddy! — Monday, 4 June 2012 @ 10:09 pm

  3. I found this post very interesting. I have worked with large groups of Filipinos throughout my manufacturing career. Such lovely people, like you.

    And, I have tried many of the foods you mentioned. In fact I’ve seen the sticky rice in many colors and configurations. Some foods I tried willingly, and others … well, let’s just say I think they put me up to them just to see the crazy face I’d make when I tried something they knew I wouldn’t like. 🙂

    After the move to southern California, I’ve tried quite a few local mom & pop eateries. The Mexican food is fantastic. I’ve also found a fab Chinese place – Chu’s Quik Wok. Though the name is interesting, the food is really good. The shrimp and snow peas are my fave at this point.

    I’m not very adventurous with food. I know I wouldn’t have tried the Balut for sure. But good on you for your open-minded spirit about eating. Yeah, I’m that kid that stuffed my asparagus into the milk carton at Catholic school so the teacher thought I ate it. hehehe

    Like

    Comment by mj monaghan — Wednesday, 6 June 2012 @ 11:17 am |Reply

    • >I found this post very interesting.
      – Are you kinda complaining that I deprived you of an impromptu nap?

      >I have worked with large groups of Filipinos throughout my manufacturing career. Such lovely people,
      – They are, arent’ they?! I’ve had the good fortune of working with people from different parts of the world and while every culture has their stellar points, I found the Filipinos seemed to enjoy life the most.

      They have close family ties, strong friendship bonds, they are devout without being fanatical, they love music, food and a good party. And they seem to treat life like one big party, too! I hope to have imbibed that through my time with Fleur and her group.

      >like you.
      – *beam* Thank you!

      >Some foods I tried willingly, and others … well, let’s just say I think they put me up to them just to see the crazy face I’d make when I tried something they knew I wouldn’t like. 🙂
      – And I’m sure you didn’t tone down the drama either. Ha ha!

      >After the move to southern California, I’ve tried quite a few local mom & pop eateries. The Mexican food is fantastic.
      – Oooh, lovely!

      >I’ve also found a fab Chinese place – Chu’s Quik Wok. Though the name is interesting, the food is really good.
      – Good for you!

      >The shrimp and snow peas are my fave at this point.
      – And you have a fave dish already! You’re settling in, MJ, you’re well on your way to becoming a local. When The Tourist AKA YLB moves in *fingers crossed for you both*, you can show her around like a seasoned old timer.

      >I’m not very adventurous with food.
      – It’s not a big deal. You have other things that delight you. With me, food is high on that list.

      >I know I wouldn’t have tried the Balut for sure.
      – I was a mix of scared (of the feathers, beak, etc) and sad (it’s a little baby thing, after all) right up to the time I tasted it. Still, I want to look into some ethical issues before I enjoy one again.

      >But good on you for your open-minded spirit about eating.
      – Yes, I will try pretty much anything. Over the past decade, I’ve drawn the line at animal cruelty. So no more shark fin soup for me and no foie gras or live monkey brain EVER.

      >Yeah, I’m that kid that stuffed my asparagus into the milk carton at Catholic school so the teacher thought I ate it. hehehe
      – My jaw literally dropped open when I read that, MJ! That little innocent picture of you at 6? That cannot be the same kid you’re talking about here. Scamp!

      I couldn’t get away with veggies at home. Big Bro would literally dump a heaping spoonful onto my plate at every meal. I dared not protest in front of Dad and Mum or Big Bro would have “dealt” with me when they weren’t around.

      A few years ago, I asked Big Bro what that and other threats meant he’d do.
      “I don’t know”, he shrugged. “I never really had anything in mind. I got a kick out of just threatening you.”
      All I could manage to spit out in rage was, “Basket!” Ha ha!

      As mentioned in my comments above, you are yet another of the handful of nice folks I’ve met out here. I know there are other readers, but they don’t comment, so I haven’t got the chance to get to know them as well as I know you, Marcy, Hook, Elvie and Jean.

      Kate

      Like

      Comment by For you, Daddy! — Thursday, 7 June 2012 @ 10:59 am |Reply

  4. Hi Kate !

    I like your statement “Well over a decade on and oceans apart, we are still friends today”. People walks in and out of our lives. Some no matter how far they are stays connected and others just disappear and out of touch. You and Fleur may have touch each others heart that lead to a beautiful friendship ! God bless you both !

    It is great to know that you have been to my country, the Philippines and have tried some of our food. Sorry to know that you were disappointed with your eating experience in the Philippines. Some food that are commercially sold in malls and restaurants may not taste as good as the traditional Filipino cuisines. As much as possible and if I can avoid eating outside, I prefer eating at home. The traditional Filipino cuisine is actually a result of the cultural influences of foreigners who invaded or occupied our country very long time ago. It is a mixture of eastern and western influence. Our famous baked food and dessert like “Pan de Sal” (dinner roll), ensaymada (cheese buns) and Leche Flan (Egg custard) came from Spanish. Favorite dishes during special occasion like town fiestas ~ Menudo, Morcon, Kaldereta, Mechado and Pochero (these are meat dishes) are Spanish influence as well. History says that our food is around 80% Spanish origin. Chinese inspired dishes are the noodle dishes like Pancit, Lomi, Mi-ki, Mami. Other Chinese food are arroz caldo (congee), lumpiang Shanghai, Kikiam, siomai and siopao. Most of our food is not spicy. However, we do have dishes that are hot and spicy like the Bicol Express (pork with coconut milk and chilies), Gambas (spicy prawns), Laing (spicy vegetable dish with coconut milk) and others. The use of spices was introduced by Malaysian and Indian traders.

    I like street food as well because they are yummy and less expensive. There are many other street food so when you go back in the future, try the following :

    1. “Helmet “ – Grilled Chicken Head
    2. One Day Old chicks – butter fried one day old male chicks
    3. Ukoy – deep fried bean sprout with small shrimps
    4. Walkman – Grilled pork ears
    5. “Betamax” – Grilled dried chicken blood
    6. Tokneneng and Kwek-kwek – Tokneneng is chicken egg dipped in orange colored dough and deep fried. Kwek-kwek is same but it is quail egg.
    7. Adidas – Grilled chicken feet
    8. Fried squid balls, fish balls and kikiam – processed deep fried food

    Filipinos like to eat. We eat five (5) times a day ~ Breakfast, AM Snack, Lunch, PM Snack and Dinner 🙂 Thank God for the food we eat !

    Thanks for promoting my blog !

    Best regards,
    Elvie

    Like

    Comment by Elvie Mesiona — Saturday, 16 June 2012 @ 8:08 pm |Reply

    • Elvie, I’ve got to laugh at this first: Helmet, Betamax, Addidas. Hilarious! I’m sure there are reasons for those names like Sidney Snoeck pointed out that the skewered intestine is called IUD.

      >I like your statement “Well over a decade on and oceans apart, we are still friends today”.
      – Of all my Filipina friends, Fleur (and her husband, Ricardo) were wonderful to me.

      Fleur and I bonded because we were both outspoken. It got us into trouble sometimes, but we always had each other’s backs.
      Quite a few people were jealous of our bond and tried to poison one about the other. But Fleur and I knew each other too well to be fooled. Oh, we had fun confronting the tale tattler(s) together, including our HoD at one time. Hee hee!

      >People walks in and out of our lives. Some no matter how far they are stays connected and others just disappear and out of touch. You and Fleur may have touch each others heart that lead to a beautiful friendship !
      – True. But friendship is hard work. It takes time and effort to keep the connection alive. It’s so easy to get swept away with our hectic lives. Fleur and I know the importance of friendship and thanks to technology, distances have disappeared for us.

      Like the rest of the people I know personally, Fleur does not know about this blog of mine. It’s okay though. She and Ricardo know how special they are to me.

      >God bless you both !
      – Thank you, Elvie. I’m always up for blessings. 🙂

      >Sorry to know that you were disappointed with your eating experience in the Philippines.
      – I felt sad for myself, too. I was very excited over the prospect of enjoying authentic Pinoy cuisine.

      >Some food that are commercially sold in malls and restaurants may not taste as good as the traditional Filipino cuisines.
      – I was a little concerned that my Filipino readers might feel offended with this part of my post. This was my experience, but in no way, is it the gospel truth.

      >As much as possible and if I can avoid eating outside, I prefer eating at home.
      – It’s why I choose to eat at smaller, family run places wherever I go.

      >The traditional Filipino cuisine is actually a result of the cultural influences of foreigners who invaded or occupied our country very long time ago. It is a mixture of eastern and western influence.
      – Yes, I know. I learned a lot about your history during my time in Aramco. As I do before I visit a new place, I did my homework with Lonely Planet, too.

      >Our famous baked food and dessert like “Pan de Sal” (dinner roll), ensaymada (cheese buns) and Leche Flan (Egg custard) came from Spanish. Favorite dishes during special occasion like town fiestas ~ Menudo, Morcon, Kaldereta, Mechado and Pochero (these are meat dishes) are Spanish influence as well.
      >Chinese inspired dishes are the noodle dishes like Pancit, Lomi, Mi-ki, Mami. Other Chinese food are arroz caldo (congee), lumpiang Shanghai, Kikiam, siomai and siopao.

      – Oh my goodness! I’ve eaten ALL of this with Fleur and other friends! Loved everything!

      >Most of our food is not spicy.
      – But it is tasty. The versions I ate in Aramco, mostly.

      >However, we do have dishes that are hot and spicy like the Bicol Express (pork with coconut milk and chilies), Gambas (spicy prawns), Laing (spicy vegetable dish with coconut milk) and others.
      – So I’ve heard. I just never got to experience any. I asked at every place I ate, but none offered the spicy version. 😦

      >I like street food as well because they are yummy
      – Totally!

      >and less expensive.
      – Another important point.

      >There are many other street food so when you go back in the future, try the following :
      – You bet I’m going to give all these a shot if I visit the Philippines again! The English names are simply too funny to miss. I’m still laughing just thinking about them!

      >Filipinos like to eat. We eat five (5) times a day ~ Breakfast, AM Snack, Lunch, PM Snack and Dinner 🙂
      – Oh, I know! Which is why I used to joke that “Kain tayo” was like a greeting!

      I noticed in the Philippines that the between main meal snacks were meals themselves! I could definitely live like that. 😉

      >Thank God for the food we eat !
      – It’s something I do each time I stuff my face. I never ever take the luxury of everything I eat for granted. I now work primarily with HIV/AIDS orphans and seniors who have been abandoned in an old aged home, and occasionally with the homeless. I am reminded of all my blessings every day.

      >Thanks for promoting my blog !
      – You’re welcome, Elvie! I did it because that is what my blog is mainly about – sharing my experiences that have taught me something or made me laugh. Your blog is informative. Some could think you include a lot of technical details, but I thrive on those same technical details! I like learning about certain angles of every place.

      But more importantly, you strike me as a kind person, which is why I will name drop people like you (and your blogs) every opportunity I get.

      Give your doggies a hug for me! 🙂

      Kate

      Like

      Comment by For you, Daddy! — Sunday, 17 June 2012 @ 12:38 am |Reply


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