Monday, May 16, 2011

QUAN YIN CHAY -- Veggie Good Eating

Many years ago, I became a lacto-ovo vegetarian.
I ate only vegetables and dairy and egg products. This phase lasted for four years.
Since I shifted back to being carnivorous (or omnivorous in my case), I still pop back into vegetarian mode for 40 days each year, specifically during the lenten season.
I still find it easy to just stop eating all meat and sea food specially when there are many delicious dishes for vegetarians.
There is a very good vegetarian restaurant in the heart of
Chinatown called Quan Yin Chay.
If you are on Ongpin Street, turn at Salazar and you will find it at the very end, where Salazar intersects Masangkay.
Quan Yin Chay has been around for ages and offers a lot of vegan dishes.
Choose from sauteed veggies like spinach, broccoli, bok choy, chinese style fresh lumpia.
There are all sorts of mock meat dishes like gluten barbecue, mock pata tim, mock asado, mock kare kare.
Ampalaya with mock beef. There's mock chicken empanada even a vegan ginataan and pancit palabok.
However, I am not too keen on the veggie meat and gluten dishes that are all masquerading as meat imitations.
I should think it would be harder to keep to the vegetarian lifestyle
if you constantly tempt yourself with dishes that still remind you of meat.
That said, the food at Quan Yin Chay is all yummy and it's all veggie.
I can't say that it's all healthy though since some of the dishes are deep fried or sauteed in a lot of oil.
If you want a vegetarian pantry at home, Quan Yin Chay also has a fully stocked
mini store selling everything you could ever need to make that lifestyle shift.
Next time you're in Chinatown, try something different.
Quan Yin Chay welcomes vegetarians, vegans, carnivores and omnivores alike.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Shrimp Tales - G Squared at Dampa

The best ever deep fried, crisp, crunchy shrimp I have ever had, bar none is at G-Squared in Dampa along Macapagal Avenue in Pasay City.
It is so good that I can easily eat half a kilo and if I really pushed myself, I'm sure I could eat more.
Because G-Squared is a "paluto" type of restaurant, you can actually go and buy the shrimp yourself from the very complete wet market right outside the restaurant door.
I however prefer to sit and relax and have a cold beer while waiter does all the marketing.
A half kilo of good sized suahe, not too big and not too small, easily fills two plates. Seasoned perfectly with just salt and a little pepper, the shrimps are so crisp and tasty that you can eat every little bit -- from head to tail, nothing wasted, nothing left on the plate.
I sometimes like to dip the shrimps in vinegar with lots of garlic and chili, just as a taste breaker but it's perfect, just as it is.
If you've ordered a kilo of shrimp, the other half kilo can be made into a passable shrimp tempura.
G Squared can cook any kind of sea food you feel like having -- crabs, fish, squid, mussels even non sea food items like inihaw na liempo.
But believe me, once you've tried the crispy shrimp, it's what will keep you coming back for more.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Food Memories from my Childhood -- Everybody's Cafe, San Fernando Pampanga

I was born and grew up in Malabon, Rizal but my folks were from Orani, Bataan.
My father's family stayed in Orani, while he migrated to the big city. But as they say, you can take the man out of Orani...
So every time there was an occasion, my father would head "home" -- for Holy Week, for summer vacations, for the town fiesta in October, for Christmas breaks.
Summer meant a trip or two to Orani. Since this was way before the North Luzon Express Tollway, the route was through the MacArthur Hiway - a long stretch that took you through towns of Bulacan and Pampanga before you eventually reached Bataan.
A car journey in those days meant a lot of stops for food and drink -- puto from Pulo in Bulacan, chicharon from Bocaue (and later on, more chicharon from Guagua, Pampanga), pancit from Marilao and so on and so forth.
But the stop I most looked forward to was Everybody's Cafe in San Fernando, Pampanga.
Once we crossed the boundary sign that said Pampanga, I would start to fidget, I would crane my neck to look over from the back seat, waiting for the bend in the road and the large tree and the house with the sign that said "Everybody's Cafe".
It meant a real stop, with a real meal (not just chichiria) but good hot food and rice.
Today, Everybody's Cafe is still at the same location where it has been for more than fifty years.
Since the opening of the North Luzon tollway, it is no longer along the regular route but foodies and Pampangos all know that a detour through the old highway will still lead to the reliable bastion of home cooked Pampango cuisine.
Just a few months ago, I invited my Bataan cousins for a trip down memory lane. We all met up at Everybody's Cafe, they drove from Orani and we motored from Manila.
It was a food trip that beat all food trips.
We spent our time ooh-ing and aaah-ing at the "escaparate" of ulam that displayed all the things we remembered. There was Pampango dinuguan, kare kare, dalag cooked in luyang dilaw, burong baboy ... what to order? What to eat?
We finally settled on our old favorites -- the sinfully rich and decadent "morcon" (actually, an embotido topped with drippings and gravy), tapang usa, inihaw na hito with buro and young, tender mustasa leaves, nilagang biyas ng baka, dalag cooked with luyang dilaw.
How about some of that crispy lechon kawali? Let's have that too!
And what would a Pampango meal be without the camaru -- field crickets cooked dry adobo style.
Not to mention deep fried, crispy frog legs.
We ordered and ate them all!
Excuse me while I burp...