Friday, December 04, 2015

Eating the Globe: Philippines

Time for a new series. Cars and geopolitics play central roles on this blog. Travel too. But food is often neglected. I'm going to remedy that.

I'm going to take advantage of the wide range of restaurants in California and eat meals from around the world. The rules will be fine tuned as the series progresses. No regional cuisines (Szechuan, Basque) for now, just national cuisines. The dish has to be authentic. I'm not going to count Pizza Hut as Italian. I don't know if I'll count meals I cook at home. Rather than relying on my memory to recount past meals, I am starting anew, tabula rasa-style. I will only review meals I have going forward from today.

I hope you enjoy the series. It will be a combination of food reviews and cultural surveys. We will start with the Philippines.

On paper, I should love Filipino food. It's got all the pluses: cheap, rice-heavy, exotic, spicy, unhealthy. But I don't like Filipino food. I think it's because everything is too sweet for my palate. Also, I don't like bones in my food.

On my way to an appointment today, I saw a grand opening sign outside a Burmese-Filipino restaurant called Pacheco Bistro. After I was done with my business, I stopped by for lunch.

The waitress gave me two menus, one Burmese and one Filipino. The Burmese menu looked very familiar. Indeed, it's another William Lue outpost. He now has nondescript looking, but extremely authentic, Burmese joints in Oakland, Orinda, San Ramon, and now Martinez. I get the Burmese chicken potato for lunch at the Orinda location once a month, and it's like crack. You also get a dolly with a choice of six different chili sauces and flakes with your meal.

I opted for the Filipino menu and decided on the Lechon Kawali-- deep fried pork belly. The entree came with a relatively small portion of rice and one tiny slice of fried plantain (see the right end of the plate). The pork was pretty good, when consumed in moderation. Like one piece. But eight pieces? Too much. I am usually one to finish my plate, no matter the quality of the food. But I had to stop after five pieces. I surrendered.

With a diet like this, no wonder the Philippines has a 14.3% diabetes rate (the U.S. is at 9.3%). I imagine heart disease and colon cancer rates are equally high there.

Postscript: That brown dipping sauce was sweet, tangy, and mild. Apparently, it's made with, among other things, vinegar, brown sugar, and a can of liver spread(!).

Countries tried so far:


Saxphile said...

I rarely can resist pork belly, but that does not look particularly appetizing. I agree that Filipino cooking is too sweet for most people's taste. I have a whole box of Filipino simmering spices that I don't know what to do with because they're too sweet. Literally half the content is cane sugar.

Looking forward to the series!

Maxichamp said...

@Charles: Thanks! I think the sweetness aversion in entrees is a Chinese thing. I can't stand fruit in my non-desserts. Primary reason why I don't like Thai and Caribbean foods.

Ed Kim said...

I FULLY of this series!

Saxphile said...

@Maxichamp: Sugar is actually a key ingredient in Szechuan (the heritage I prefer to claim) cooking, but it has to be done subtly. People get confused when they watch me cook Szechuan dishes since they simply couldn't taste the sugar. Dousing food in sugar (e.g., Thai and Korean to some extent) is an easy way to make food taste good, but it's a cheap trick, and the more sophisticated Thai and Korean dishes rarely taste sweet. There are select non-Szechuan Chinese dishes that taste notably sweet, but they are very much the exceptions.

steve-vh said...

The PI has a lot more interesting food to offer. Give it another try, perhaps the seafood dishes.

Rich said...

And here comes one more location for Grocery Cafe Burmese food.