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Adventures Culture Features Restaurants

The First Time I Tried An Authentic Filipino Breakfast

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I’ve always thought of myself as a connoisseur of breakfast foods.

The warm, velvetiness of soft scrambled eggs. The crunch of a perfectly fried strip of bacon. The squirt of juice that comes from biting into a plump sausage. These were all little highs I’ve chased for the last twenty-something years of my life.

Since my pancake-loving youth, I’ve branched into many breakfasts from different cultures. I fell in love with the Mexican chilaquiles. I adore dining on dim sum. I’m even down for the occasional crepe when the opportunity arises.

However, it wasn’t until recently that I got to experience what an authentic Filipino breakfast was like.

I was on an all-day food shoot with fellow Foodbeast Richard Guinto, who made up half of the Hot Boy Duo. We were in the Koreatown area of Los Angeles and I had been sitting in traffic for nearly two hours.

Reach, Richard’s nom de guerre, suggested we grab some food before starting our extensive workday.

What do you wanna eat? I asked him.

Are you down for some Filipino breakfast?

I had never tried Filipino breakfast before in my life. It wasn’t a taste thing, or a culture bias by any means necessary. I just never had the opportunity to try the cuisine before. My prior experience with Filipino cuisine was limited to fusion spots that highlighted meats like adobo (marinated meat in a stock) and sisig (sizzling pork). Though they were heavily white-washed on fries, or stuffed into a burrito.

No, we were going for traditional tapsilog, the combination of marinated meat accompanied by garlic rice and a fried egg.

We drove through the backstreets of Koreatown until we came upon a rundown looking plaza.

Tucked between a lavanderia and a Filipino corner store was a tiny restaurant and bakery. On a typical day, I would have just driven past the location without a second glance.

Bagnet Restaurant, the spot was called.

It being my first time there, and himself a local, Reach ordered our meal in his native Tagalog.

I got you, man.

There was some back-and-forth between him and the elderly Filipino woman behind the counter. She looked at me like a shy fawn walking towards human campers for the first time.

took @pham_bot to his first #silog experience. #foodbeast #breakfastforever

A photo posted by @cozy.bryant on

We took our seats, Reach whittling away at his Redwood tree of unanswered emails. I, on the other hand, scanned the restaurant eagerly taking in the aesthetics of the establishment. The menu was painted on the far back wall. In bold letters, a sign boasted $5 breakfast served all day with unlimited rice.

Five bucks for breakfast with all the rice you could eat? My excitement grew along with my hunger.

A few minutes later, the woman approached our table with two plates of food.

Before me was an aromatic plate of garlic fried rice, crispy fried chicken, two fried eggs, roasted pork known as lechon, and two longanisa links. The savory crimson sausage is flavored with Filipino spices that made for one hearty protein.

While I took a moment to take a photo of this magnificent meal, a habit that’s pretty hard to shake in this line of work, I could hear the earth-shattering crunch of Reach biting into his fried chicken with overwhelming satisfaction.

As I forked a stout piece of sausage, Reach offered me some words of caution.

Prepare yourself for some “longanisa burps,” he said. This meant that the flavor from the breakfast meat was so potent, you’d be burping up the taste for days to follow.

As I bit into the ample banger from the Pacific Islands, my taste buds were engulfed in flavor and juices. I immediately chased down the richness of the longanisa with a spoonful of garlic rice. Next up was the lechon.

I myself am a sucker for any kind of pork. You can roast a pig, braise it, smoke it, or even pan fry it and I’m down to nibble. The crispy texture and fatty content made the lechon a perfect parallel for bacon. It pleased me, as much as finding a front-of-the-store parking spot on an exceptionally frustrating day.

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I washed the meal down with a refreshing gulp of a Filipino style of lemonade called calamansi juice. The light, citrus beverage cleansed the savory sin congregating in my mouth, my palate now a social chatter of flavor. The meal left me pretty satisfied, albeit unwilling to continue onto my forthcoming workday.

As with every successful breakfast, I just wanted to nap.

After we left the restaurant, I told myself I would make time to return and try more dishes. The savory Filipino breakfast I just devoured had left a craving in my spirit and a new restaurant to frequent whenever I’m in the area.

My trip to Bagnet further reinforced my love of breakfast, the greatest meal of the day.

Driving out of the parking lot, I let out a pretty hefty belch. He was right about those longanisa burps. I tasted the meal again, its essence dragging its feet through my tongue, anchoring its flavor to my senses and staying with me for the rest of the week.

Categories
Features

21 Filipino Foods You Should Know About

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Have you ever tried Filipino food? I’m sure your Filipino friends have asked you at some point or another. For the majority, the answer is usually, “Ya… I think so, I’ve tried lumpia before. Does that count?”

It does, but you’re only brushing the surface. Floating over it, if you will. The history of Filipino food is troubled, wonderful and full of heart. It’s been conquered, relinquished and diluted.

The reason? Food, like all things in life, is tied to power. A simple hot dish of rice, eggs and longaniza evokes 300 years of Spanish colonization. While the heavy influences of Chinese and Malaysian cuisine can be found in the savory soups and heavy use of soy sauce. Again, I’m floating over the surface. Barely touching it.

So, let’s casually bypass the centuries of cultural tension that took place on those tiny islands floating in the Pacific Ocean to… now. Filipino food is going through a revival. In modern America, of all places. This is in part thanks to Filipino pride expressed in Instagram photos of tapsilog egg porn, fearless young restaurants like NYC’s Filipino gastropub Jeepney, and the internet’s insatiable desire to find the next “pretty young thing”.

We’d like to be the first to give you a proper introduction to this world’s glorious cuisine. So, sit tight, relax, and enjoy the view. We take no responsibility for any post-crispy pork cravings.

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Sisig

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TASTE: CRISPY, VINEGAR, SOUR

Chopped ear-to-jowl pork braised, fried and served on a sizzling plate. Seasoned with calamansi — a small, green citrus fruit — and chili peppers. Must always be served with a ready-to-pop sunnyside up egg. If not, it’s not proper sisig.

 

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Sinigang

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TASTE: STRONG SOURNESS, FISHY

While a variety of meats can be used for this dish — pork, beef, etc. — milkfish or bangus is a favorite. Just a warning: milkfish is notoriously bony. Luckily, its delicate, tender texture is worth the inconvenience. The broth is flavored with strained tamarind and stocked with okra, taro, eggplant, water spinach, and string beans.

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Crispy Pata

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TASTE: DEEP GARLIC, VINEGAR

Pork leg simmered in star anise, bay leaf and peppercorns, then rubbed down in garlic and salt, before being deep fried until the rind gets crispy and the inside soft and tender. Served with a side of spicy vinegar.

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Pinakbet

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TASTE: ANCHOVIES

As you might have noticed by now, a lot of Filipino cuisines are potent in flavor. Very few dishes can be described as “light” and “airy.” Pinakbet, for instance, is made from bagoong — a paste of fermented ground shrimp and salt. The smell is intoxicating, which garners either a love or hate reaction. Spiced with garlic, ginger and onions, this vegetable dish comes packed with squash, string beans, okra, eggplant, bitter melon and chili peppers. Shrimp or beef is sometimes added.

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Pork Adobo

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TASTE: SOY SAUCE, VINEGAR MEAT CRACK

Not to be mistaken by Spanish adobo. Filipino adobo is an absolute staple in the Philippines. The smell of it alone puts me in the mood, yes that mood. The dish is quick and simple, marinate pork or chicken in soy sauce, vinegar, garlic and bay leaf sauce. Simmer until meat is tender and serve over a hot plate of rice.

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Lechon Kawali

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TASTE: SALTY, FATTY

I suggest adding “eating lechon hot from the frying pan” as one of the less ambitious, tastier things on your bucket list. The deep-fried pork belly crackles as you bite into the salty skin, then tender fatty layers of meat. Spanish-influenced, expect to eat these crispy bits of magic by the handfuls.

Oh, and don’t forget to dip in Mang Tomas “brown sauce”.

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Lumpia

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TASTE: FRIED GARLIC, ONION-STUDDED PORK

Derived from the Chinese spring roll, lumpiang shanghai packs ground pork embedded with chopped onions, garlic and veggies into a fried eggroll. They’re usually found next to a side of sweet and sour dipping sauce but I like slathering it in Mang Tomas, because that liquid crack goes great on everything.

 

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Dinuguan

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TASTE: SWEET, SOUR, SPICY, AKA ALL THE THINGS

My grandmama calls this one “chocolate meat”. A savory stew of pork offal — snout, intestine, lungs, etc. — simmered in a rich gravy of pig’s blood spiced with chili and sweetened with sugar. The added garlic and vinegar bring this dish to next-level savory. Oh, stop fussing. It’s delicious. I promise.

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Tapsilog

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TASTE: EGG-SOAKED MEATY GOOD GOOD

Tapsilog is a portmanteau of tapa (beef slices), sinangag (fried garlic rice), and itlog (fried egg). Think of it as the holy trinity on one plate of unadulterated egg porn.

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Kare Kare

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TASTE: PEANUT BUTTER

Oxtail stew flavored with peanut butter. One of the more subtle-in-flavor dishes of Filipino eats. Best when generous amounts of tripe are thrown in.

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Ampalaya Con Carne

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TASTE: BITTER

One of the healthier dishes on this list, Ampalaya Con Carne mixes bitter gourd and beef strips. The gourd is chock full of nutrients — Vitamin C, Folate, and Riboflavin, to name a few.

The extreme bitterness has a wonderful slap-you-in-the-face effect.

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Pancit Malabon

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TASTE: FISHY STIR-FRY

Noodles colored with a orange sauce flavored with patis — fish sauce – and bagoong (which is also used in pinakbet). Usually topped like a seafood Christmas tree and garnished with a sliced hard boiled egg.

 

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Longganisa

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TASTE: SAUSAGE CANDY

Just imagining having this for breakfast with warm rice and egg yolk spilling everywhere makes me sweat. A nod to Spanish chorizo, longganisa is a sweet sausage with an addicting garlic taste.

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Filipino Spaghetti

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TASTE: SWEET TOMATO

Two words: Banana Sauce. My mom makes this for me every time I come home to visit. It’s quick, easy and has a wonderful, distinct taste thanks to the banana sauce added to the tomato paste.

Protip: Use tiny Vienna sausages in a can for the hot dogs. Trust.

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Halo-Halo

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TASTE: THE HOLY GRAIL OF DESSERTS

Halo-Halo means “mix-mix” in Tagalog. There are three layers to this beloved dessert. Bottom: candied fruits and beans. Middle: Shaved Ice. Top: a scoop of ube ice cream (purple yam), evaporated milk, and if you’re lucky, chunks of leche flan (below).

Make sure to mix it really well, so you get a bit of everything in each spoonful.

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Gulaman

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TASTE: MAPLE SYRUPY BOBA

It’s not unusual to find a clear tub of this at Filipino parties. Chewy gulaman cubes and sago pearl jellies floating in dark sugar syrup. Served ice-cold. A heaven-sent refreshment in the summer.

Note: While similar to gelatin, gulaman is a carbohydrate made from seaweed, while gelatin is a protien from collagen in animal skin and bones.

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Sarsi

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TASTE: LICORICE ROOT BEER

You can find this at any convenience store in the Philippines. A sarsaparilla-based soft drink, Sarsi carries a strong licorice flavor with a sweet flavor similar to root beer.

Protip: Pour Sarsi into a glass, then add a few scoops of vanilla bean ice cream for a “Sarsi Float”.

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Chicharon

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TASTE: SALTY

Deep-fried pork rinds. Almost any store in the Philippines will have plastic bags of chicharon on its shelves, next to the Sarsi. Popular throughout Latin America and Spain as well.

One of my personal favorite finger foods, especially when there’s spicy vinegar on deck to dip it in.

 

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Leche Flan

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TASTE: SILKY CARAMEL

Good luck taking “just one bite” out of this one. A rich custard made with egg yolks and condensed milk, topped with a soft caramel surface. If you’re making this at home, I recommend making the syrup yourself, as opposed to buying it at the store. The process is simple enough — slowly melting brown sugar into a syrupy liquid — but takes patience.

 

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Polvoron

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TASTE: SHORTBREAD COOKIE POWDER

A soft, crumbly candy made from powdered milk, butter and toasted flour. Warning: this will make a mess no matter how hard you try to keep it neat. Don’t worry, it’s worth it.

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Ube Halaya

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 TASTE: SWEET, SAVORY

Made from mashing purple yam and stirring in evaporated milk, condensed milk, coconut milk and sugar over low heat. Often referred to as “purple yam jam.” Hands down my all-time favorite Filipino dessert for its simplicity in flavor and recipe. If you’re looking for a thicker halo-halo version, swap the ube ice cream with ube halaya.

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Photos taken by Peter Pham

Categories
Fast Food

KFC Philippines Offering All-You-Can-Eat Filipino Style Breakfast

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Breakfast is a big deal in the Philippines. It usually takes the form of something called tapsilog, combining meat (tapas), garlic fried rice (sinangag), and fried egg (itlog) into the perfect Sunday morning meal. So instead of trying to woo breakfast eaters with chicken donuts, KFC Philippines decided to just give the people what they want: all you can eat tapsilog every weekend in July.

According to Brand Eating, this entails “unlimited servings” of a few more iconic Filipino breakfast staples, including longanisa (sweet sausage), tocino (barbecued pork), arroz caldo (rice porridge), garlic rice, and egg — along with a few oddballs like chocolate chip pancakes and chicken filets, for variety or something.

There’s a total of eight participating locations throughout the PH, where reservations go for 199 pesos (or about $5 USD) a head. That’s not even enough for a hot cakes breakfast platter at McDonald’s here, womp.