Monthly Archives: December 2011

Filipino Food

There was a group of six of us sitting around the table at Neros and the subject of how and why we first came to the Philippines came up. The guys each stated why they came there and then it was Shaggers turn but before he could answer I butted in and said well there could only be one reason for Shagger to come to the Philippines and that’s right there on the stage. This provoked a knowing chuckle from all the guys, except Shagger, who upon hearing my remark turned to me and said “actually mate I came here for the chicken adobo”.

Shaggers remark caused yet another round of guffaws from the guys but at the same time it got me thinking about some of the dishes that are symbolic of Philippine cuisine and an integral part of Filipino culture. When spending time with the Filipina it is almost inevitable that you will be exposed to Filipino cuisine and if your anything like me you will have probably been curious about certain dishes and wonder what the heck they are composed of and why are the girls so fanatical about them.

At first glance Filipino cuisine seems basic and bland but it is in fact quite the opposite. There are numerous dishes and even more variations in their preparation and cooking so much so that a simple dish such as Chicken Adobo will vary from region to region throughout the Philippines. There have been numerous influences on Filipino cuisine including Chinese, Spanish, English and American. These influences have all in some way been fused together along with local produce to create the unique cuisine of the Philippines.

Perhaps the signature dish of Filipino cuisine is Chicken Adobo. What curry is to Indian cooking adobo is to Filipinos. Pinoys and pinays have been known to wax lyrical about their chicken adobo to the point where it has become an iconic symbol of Filipino culture. Bands such as the Black eyed peas have paid homage to adobo in their songs and there are numerous websites and cook books dedicated to the different recipes’. Chicken adobo is nearly always associated with fond memories of childhood or happy times and Filipinos all seem to have a personal experience with this dish.

Although there are numerous variations in the adobo recipe’ they basically all include vinegar, soy sauce and pepper corns. These are the three ingredients that can be found in all adobo recipe’s and combine together to create the unique adobo flavor. Adobo is often referred to as the Filipino national dish and all Filipinos seem to know how to cook it.



Adobo

Like most dishes in Philippine cuisine Adobo is always served with rice.


Adobo



One of my favorite Filipino dishes is Sinigang. Sinigang is a mixture between a stew and a hearty soup. There are numerous different ingredients used including sea foods, pork, chicken beef and many different vegetables including eggplant, onions, tomatoes, beans, white radish and these are all stewed in a Tamarind broth.


Sinigang na Hipon




Sinigang na bangus


Bangus is a local fish and in this dish they use guava leaves giving the broth a sweeter taste.



Pork sinigang or sinigang na baboy




Beef sinigang or Sinigang na baka


This is an interesting dish in that it has contradictory flavors these being the sour taste of Tamarind and the strong earthy flavor of beef.

Beef Kaldereta as the name implies is basically a beef stew and is a result of the Spanish influence on Filipino cuisine. The main flavor is created through stewing the beef and extensive use of tomato paste. Just as in adobo Filipinos will sometimes use vinegar which acts as a meat tenderizer and also gives the stew a slightly sour tang. Other common ingredients in the Kaldereta are carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers, onions and garlic.



Kaldereta


One of the first Filipino dishes I tried was KareKare. Basically this is composed of meat normally pork, beef or oxtail combined with some vegetables and all stewed in a peanut flavored sauce. Most often the main vegetables used will be string beans eggplant and sometimes jack fruit. KareKare is often eaten with a salty shrimp paste named Bagoong as a side dish.



Kare Kare


The pancit canton is composed of long noodles and includes basic meats and vegetables mixed in with the noodles. Pancit Canton demonstrates the Chinese influence on Filipino cuisine and will often be used as a quick dish in times of celebration such as birthday parties and New Year celebrations. Pancit Canton is also a comparatively quick and easy dish and is cheap to make. It also comes in an instant meal form.



Pancit Canton




Pancit Bihon


Pancit Bihon is composed of glass noodles mixed with various meats and vegetables.

Tinapa or smoked fish is sometimes referred to as food for the masses or poor peoples food. Tinapa are small salt water fish which are smoked. The Filipinos buy them and them fry them in oil creating the fried fish smell that permeates throughout so many of their houses. Another way of cooking them is on the grill and many of the poorer Filipinos will purchase the Tinapa in bulk, grill them then resell them right of the grill in a kind of street side operation. Tinapa is often eaten with rice using tomatoes and lettuce leaves as the vegetables accompanying it.



Tinapa




Tinapa


Bicol Express is a stew that originates from the Bicol Region and is composed of pork onion garlic chilies shrimp paste all gently simmered in a coconut milk sauce. Bicol express normally contains several chilies and has a reputation for being their hottest dish. This is an interesting dish because in most of their dishes unlike their South East Asian neighboring countries they tend to shy away from spicy food however the Bicol Express is loaded with chilies and has a reputation of making its eaters horny and supposedly it increases sexual potency.



Bicol express


Perhaps the staple meat in the Filipino diet is pork and it is cooked and consumed in a number of different ways. Pork forms the basis for many dishes including the ever popular Sisig. It is a common belief in the Philippines that owning a piggery is a “good business” and it is not uncommon to see pigs being transported for slaughter whenever traveling. The sisig is reputedly a Pampangan dish created in Angeles. Throughout Pampanga and now Manila and beyond Sisig is considered the ultimate pulutan and is enjoyed during social get-tog ether’s. Normally Sisig will be accompanied by a cold beer or two and Filipinos will order it when engaged in drinking sessions as a side dish to be enjoyed either by itself or with rice.



Pork sisig


Pork Sisig is the most famous but it is not exactly a heart starter. In fact for those suffering with cholesterol problems or hypertension then this is a dish certainly best avoided. Sisig is composed primarily of the pigs head the brains, the ears, the tongue, the snout etc . They will also use the pigs heart if available.

To make sisig the ingredients are chopped up into small pieces then marinated in water together with pineapple juice, salt and black pepper corns. This mixture is then simmered for about one hour. This mixture is then put onto a hot grill and combined with chopped up ginger, garlic onions, calamansi, salt, pepper and of course some chopped up chili to add that extra bit of zing.

Sisig is not restricted to pork and for those who are watching their diet sisig can be made from chicken, fish and even tofu. When you know what goes into sisig it can be a bit off putting but the end result is truly delicious and the crispy pork really does make the perfect accompaniment to a cold beer.

For lechon kawali pork is once again the meat used. To make this dish the Filipinos use pork belly (liempo) which is broiled in water with salt, pepper, garlic and laurel leaves. This is done for 35 minutes then it is deep fried in oil until crispy brown and served with a sauce composed of vinegar soy sauce onions and garlic. This is not exactly a healthy dish but it is truly delicious and like sisig can be enjoyed while enjoying a cold beer or two.



Lechon Kawali


Kilawin literally means to cook in vinegar but this is in some ways misleading because the fish (primarily mackerel) is actually soaked in vinegar with shallots, chili, ginger, salt and pepper added. The dish is served cold and has a distinctive flavor. Normally Filipinos will eat this together with rice but I find it even better just by itself. This is a light dish and makes a perfect non fattening snack. It can be made from tuna or tanigue or lapu lapu.



Kilawin Tanigue




Kilawin Tuna


Shanghai Lumpia was perhaps the second dish I was ever exposed to when trying Filipino food. This is basically the Filipinos answer to spring rolls or egg rolls and it has the advantages of being fast, light, cheap, easy to prepare and can be consumed quickly.



Shanghai Lumpia


Shanghai Lumpia is composed of either ground pork or mince meat together with carrots diced onion, spices and all held together with raw egg. This ingredients is then poured into lumpia wrappers and deep fried until golden crispy brown. The lumpia are small and treated by Filipinos as finger food or a quick snack. The lumpia is always associated with party times and social gatherings and as such is a favorite amongst Filipinos.

Beef tapa or tapsilog are basically the same thing. The word tapa refers to salt cured meat which is normally beef although they use pork as well and the tapsilog is the name for a particular dish incorporating the beef tapa. Tap refers to the salt cured meat, si refers to the sinangag or garlic flavored rice and log which refers to the egg or as the Filipinos pronounce it Itlog. Tap-si-log. Tapsilog is primarily recognized as a Filipino breakfast dish although to be honest they seem to eat it at all times of the day especially when traveling. Tapsilog is also convenient and a number of fast food restaurants exist whose primary dish is tapsilog or other dishes utilizing beef tapa the classic one of these that springs to mind is Tapa King which has branches all over the Philippines. The Tapa especially when it is beef is usually tenderized but for me this is a bland dish and I am yet to find any what I call decent beef in the Philippines.



Tapsilog




Tapa King advert


Another breakfast favorite is longanisa. The longanisa is basically a Filipino sausage and is most often served together with garlic rice and an egg. This is a long time favorite of the Flipinos and harks back to the Spanish influence when they introduced the sausage to the Filipino diet. Longanisa together with garlic rice and egg is considered a so called power breakfast and comes in many different variations and formats but the most common is certainly as a breakfast dish with garlic rice and eggs.



Longanisa


There are of course many other Filipino dishes far to numerous to mention here and as a result I have stuck with the main ones that you will more than likely be exposed to through your interaction with the girls. As said previously there are many books and websites dedicated to Filipino cuisine and as you read through them like me you will probably get a much better idea of the truly unique cuisine that is so much a part of Filipino culture. No visit to the Philippines is complete without trying at least one of these dishes but be warned like the Filipina it can become addictive and don’t be surprised if you find yourself seeking out Filipino food when back in your own country.


Bon apetite or as the Filipinos would say Mabuhay

Where To Live! Subic or Angeles?

Part 1:

There are so many fellows from different walks of life, and many levels of financial security (or insecurity) around here, who, honestly, have one common bond when they find their way to this village ¬¬– that’s the lure of the Filipina (they’ll sometimes develop other reasons as time goes by, but this, with damned few exceptions, is at the root of the attraction). This place is surely as great a testament to the lure of an available, attractive woman as there is in existence. Without them, I probably wouldn’t even know how to spell the name of the country, or even know where it is!

Of the years I have lived here, nearly all of them have been spent living in Angeles City, with the exception of a year and eight months I lived in The Barrio Barretto area of Olongapo City, in the Subic Bay Area.

The Subic Bay Area, at one time a larger bar scene than Angeles City (in the days of the American occupation of the Subic Naval base) is now a substantially smaller scene than Angeles (as of this writing in 2011). Through the years, in my “tourist” days (as well as while I’ve been planted in A.C.), Subic has always been a place I thoroughly enjoyed visiting for a three-day visit. I always wanted to live there, and I finally did, from October 2008 to May 2010.

The secondary lure (everything’s always secondary to the ladies for me!) of The Subic Area was the beaches and being close to the water. I grew up on the West Coast of America, so I take to being around the beach. Leaving the women out of the equation for now, I’ll share what I liked about living in Subic, and what I didn’t.

I enjoy spending the afternoons on the various floating bars. There were three when I was last there, and they all are just fine with me. The “Arizona”, The “Blue Rock”, and “Treasure Island” are all hotels that have floating bars tethered to their beaches. The GROs working on them vary, but mostly they’re good company while hanging out on those floaters. Nothing like this in Angeles City. The most popular beach area for expats is in “The Baloy Beach Area”, though the “Arizona” is quite nice, on the main highway; it does seem a bit windy there, at times, though.

As far as restaurants, there are more of them in Angeles City (as there is more of just about everything) than Barretto, but a very good meal can usually be had at The “Arizona” or “Blue Rock”. There is a lower-budget place just up the street from the corner where Club One is situated, right across the street from the former “Marmont Hotel”; it’s called “Sit & Bull”. This location was the “VFW” in my tourist days, and is known in the area for good solid meals at a reasonable price – it’s where the locals eat. There’s a pretty good English-style fish & chips joint on the main highway called “The Underground”. The “Dryden” restaurant, which once was my favorite place to eat anywhere, unfortunately didn’t survive the transition of Tom Dryden leaving it, but is now a pretty good fast-food-style spot next to The Wet Spot bar, serving a variety of sandwiches, pizza and snack foods. Right across the street from “The Arizona” is a little Filipino spot called “The Coffee Shop”, which makes a very popular taco and taco salad. It’s not the same as if you were eating in Mexico, but it’s a pretty darned decent bite to eat. People’s tastes in what-satisfies-them- in-a-meal vary so greatly that it’s almost pointless to spend much time recommending anyplace. If you ever decide to go/move to Subic you’ll come up with your own preferences, as we all do.

I’ve often been asked about the difference between Angeles and Subic as far as renting a house or apartment. I came away with the impression is that it’s not a lot different. There are more new complexes in the Angeles area. You can pay too much, and good deals can be found in both places. One thing they both have in common is that you’re best off hitting the pavement and looking for places with a sign and phone number out front. Realties and want ads aren’t as dependable as they are in the West for finding something you’d like for a price you’d be willing to pay. Subic landlords are quite fond of having you pay your lease money up front, and will sometimes offer substantial discounts for your ability to pay them a lump sum in advance. I’ve rented in seven different locations in Angeles and one in Subic. I found all of them by word of mouth or just having a look around.

There are quite a few expats leasing in the “Baloy Beach” area, in the neighborhood of the “Blue Rock”, “Wild Orchid”, and “Treasure Island” resorts. They, naturally enough, like to be part of the expat community gathered there, and enjoy its proximity to the better beaches in the area. I, personally, wouldn’t want to live on Baloy Beach because I found it to be a poor value-for-money – you are, in good part, paying for the beach that the rental is close to, which causes the leases to be pretty high for what you’re getting, in a great many cases. I know plenty of guys who are quite happy with what they’ve found on the Baloy Road, so just keep in mind that you can likely get a nicer place for your money if you venture away from this popular area. If you’re willing to pay the price that is, of course, your personal choice. One other thing I dislike about this particular area is the horrible road leading into it. With all of these popular resort hotels in there and the large expat community, I feel it’s downright stupid to not do whatever it takes to get this road paved properly. In the rainy season it often becomes almost un-drivable! The potholes and flooded areas are formidable.

During the rainy season The Subic area is far more flood-prone than Angeles. Where I lived in the “Santa Monica” complex (in close proximity to the “Dreamland Resort” area), the whole complex got flooded for three days once (it hadn’t happened to this degree in over ten years, but once is all it takes)! The water was waist-deep outside of the house I was leasing, and I had 21” of water in my bedroom/toilet/den area on the lower floor. A couple of more inches and the whole living room and kitchen area would’ve been flooded, also. If I ever live in Subic again (which I might) I’ll definitely look for higher ground!

When I continue this subject, I’ll go over other differences in the two areas, from my perspective. I’ll discuss what it is like to shop for basic goods, where things are located/convenience of location, the differences in the bar scenes, and what one area features that the other doesn’t.

Part 2:

In part one, I outlined my perception on the living situation in Subic (primarily the Barrio Barretto area, because that’s where I spent most of my time – that’s where the bars are, mostly); shopping, and where you need to go to do it, is outlined here, as well as what it is like to barhop here compared to Angeles City.

One of the reasons I decided to move back to Angeles, after nearly two years in the Subic area, was the availability of goods that I wanted, and how spread-out things are compared to Angeles. In A.C., I drive my old car about once every two weeks, and then only to go somewhere out of walking distance, like Marquee Mall, The duty-free stores on Clark Airbase, Perimeter bars, or to the immigration office. In Subic, I depended on my car nearly every day (it’s an old car, I’m not rich, and I hate to have to depend on it). I lived in the Santa Monica complex, Subic (close to Dreamland Resort), and I was driving to the bars and hotels in The Dryden group almost daily; I also needed to drive to downtown Olongapo or onto the Subic Base to the duty-free stores to do much in the way of worthwhile shopping. I also found I needed to drive to Angeles a couple of times a month to shop at SM Mall, Marquee Mall, or some other place. I’ll give you an example of what I’m getting at: once I went on a quest to buy some local honey, which is readily available in Johnny’s Market, JJ’s Market, SM Mall, and several other places I know in Angeles. I drove all over downtown Olongapo, the Subic Base, and Subic City, and never found any at all! I did locate some imported “Sue Bee” stuff in a small jar, but it wasn’t what I needed, and the price was horribly inflated. I drove to Angeles City on my day off and picked a couple of liters up at Johnny’s.

I have other examples of things the Subic shopping area lacks, but the above one stood out in my memory. Another thing that really annoyed me was when, on two separate occasions, I needed some duplicate keys and good quality photocopies; there was no place in The Barrio Barretto area to get either, even with all the expats jammed into that area. The only place I could get keys made (that I could find) was on the streets of downtown Olongapo. For photocopies, I had to continue on to the duty-free stores on SBMA, where I found a machine at the National Book Store (unfortunately for me, their machine wasn’t very good, but it was the “only game in town; I ended up re-doing the project the next time I went to Angeles).

This situation is due to improve! Our friend “Pok Pok Boy” has informed us that there is an SM Mall being built in downtown Olongapo, and an Ayala Mall (The Corporation behind Marquee Mall in Angeles) on Subic base, right by the entrance to downtown Olongapo. Even though it’s still a bit far from where most of the expats are living, it at least means that shopping will be easier and better than before. This is bound to draw more expats to the area, which will, in turn, draw more girls. I saw these two construction sites in late November of 2011, and they’re moving right along. I was told the SM mall will be in operation in about six months, and the Ayala mall in less than a year. If you kids or girls that you’d like to entertain during the daytime hours, there is “Ocean Adventure” marine park, with a dolphin/whale show on the base that I found surprisingly entertaining, along with a sea lion show. There is also the “Zoobic Safari” zoo, but I didn’t get to see this, as our group arrived too late in the day to go in. I’m not the best person to ask about such activities available in Subic, but it’s clear the area is growing again!

As far as the bars, what expats/tourists are looking for in a barhopping experience can vary quite a bit. The fact is there are less bars, and less customers. As the area has grown, so has the number of expats, and the number of girls hoping to meet them. More action, more girls, and vice versa. You should see it when ships come in. The volume of girls seems to double, coming out of the woodwork! If you’re one of the fellows who like to “drown” themselves in a “sea of girls” (putting it politely), this is far more likely to happen for you in Angeles, at this point, than it will in Barrio Barretto. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve seen plenty of happy fellows achieve “major party time” in Barretto! There are plenty of fellows who prefer this scene to Angeles.

Back before Pinatubo erupted, it was pretty much the opposite for these two areas. After the Americans left the two bases, Angeles grew out of the ashes to become the punter’s prime destination, while the bars of Olongapo were replaced by a virtual ghost town of empty buildings. The real “death-knell” came when this was compounded by the mayor deciding to shut down all dancing bars in Barrio Barretto. This caused what little scene was left to locate in the Calapandayan area of Subic City. Obviously, this is changing.

While Angeles City is still a far more active scene, I believe we will see this becoming less the case as time goes on, particularly with the much-improved access provided by the expressway, and the large malls coming in.

I’m aware that there are punters who are on a constant “feeding frenzy” for new faces in greater volume which, clearly, the Subic area is far less likely to provide at this moment in time, but I can say for myself that some of the best girls I’ve ever met were right there in Barrio Barretto, and I’ve got plenty of company in guys that agree with me. There were plenty of beauties I never managed to get to. As a good friend of mine said to me, “Sure, there are less girls here than Angeles, but how many do you need at any one time?” … and, too, as the scene grows, so will the volume of girls, just like it did in Angeles.

One perception that I have regarding the Subic scene that makes it preferable to the Angeles scene: the Gordon family seems to have the respect of the departments who routinely attack the Angeles bar scene in search of favorable headlines and big payoffs, under the guise of enforcing morality. I’m not personally aware of how far back it goes that a Gordon family member wasn’t the political leader of the Olongapo/Subic area, but they go back quite a way, and really appear to be respected enough to run the area without federal agency interference; the different agencies don’t come in over the local government’s heads like they do in Angeles City. In Angeles it sometimes seems like nobody’s really in charge, opening the door to seemingly rogue operations aimed only at foreigners, while turning a blind eye to the many native-run establishments who are far more guilty of the charges they throw at the “visiting teams”.

I’ve always enjoyed The Subic Bay Area, and I will continue to enjoy it. I can say that I hope to live there again. Even though Angeles is more convenient for me in a lot of ways at this point in time, I look back on my stay in Subic with fondness, and would certainly go back if the opportunity presented itself. I miss those peaceful days and nights at the beach! … and, not just a few of the beautiful girls I met!