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Tham Jiak: The Many Sides of Manila and It's Food
Tham Jiak means in some way "love to eat" in Hokkien. I am a Malaysian Hokkien and truly love to eat.

Friday, May 07, 2010

The Many Sides of Manila and It's Food

“Add 30 peso, heavy traffic!” said the taxi man.
“What?!?” I feign incredulity, this is not the first time I was asked of this.
“Yes ma’am, heavy traffic, taxi cannot make money” he continued.

Somehow this line make me relent, at times some taxi man are rude in asking for more money on top of their meter, but this one just tells me honestly why he needs it. Maybe it is just how frankly he tells me why he needs that extra. So I just said “OK!”

It is not always like this in Manila, I have many times met more kindness than I can ever have expected, once a taxi man said I can pay whatever amount I seem fit since the destination I went to was just so near, it caught me off guard, but I paid as how much I think is right with tips to boot.

I find that I actually enjoy tipping, after living a life of an ‘expat’ (some of them refer me as that though I don’t feel such as that word makes one think of extravagance life but trust me it is not),but still new habits are learnt when one is in a foreign land. I never tip when I was in Malaysia, I guess somehow it doesn’t seem like the culture to me then but as the saying goes, when in Rome, do what the Romans do. I have learnt here that not many are that well off, many earn their wages through sheer hard work and many of them are in the service industries. So if the restaurant does not charge for service (most of them do not), then I would leave some tips so that the servers could earn a more decent income. Besides, at most places the service is good, I am always greeted with a smile, and they are mostly attentive and genuine.

Food I must say though there are hits and misses, but who am I judge when I have only been to only so few of them, many good ones still uncovered I believe. In the metropolitan area which are dominated with few chain restaurants, it is quite hard to avoid them (being one who always think that chain restaurants are just a small step away from ‘fast food’), some did disappoint but many does surprises you with their good food and how they have maintained the quality despite the huge expansions and the some for even the longest time of existence. I guess this is just how Filipinos show their fidelity, if the food is good, they will keep returning to it religiously, thus allowing a selected few chain restaurants to boom across the metropolitan faster than you can say “Sarap!” (means delicious in Tagalog) This is after all the country where their home-grown fast food chain, Jollibee (just love the catchy name) out beats McDonald by a seriously high margin; at nearly every corner that you turn, you will see the happy bee with a chef hat smiling at you.

Nevertheless, I have in fact tried quite a number of local dishes, many times in various restaurants, just to find them differ slightly (sometimes widely) from one another, and then on to find my favourites among them. So let me introduce you to them slowly, each food that the locals here enjoy day in and day out and where to get the best of them and what varieties you may just find (mind you some or most of them would be coming from the said chain restaurants, I guess they are a chain for the same reason?). First let me start with a dish, as you all know me, the one who praises the pork relentlessly, would of course start with one which is the pork sisig.

Pork sisig is one of the well known pulutan (food to go with drink), where normally people order when they are out having a beer or some alcohol. It was said to reduce the impact of alcohol on the stomach and the name itself actually meant to be ‘taken in small quantity’. But as for me, I ordered it anyway as appetizer or main meal even, because I simply love it. There are two groups of pork sisig lovers, those who love the crunchy ones while those on the vice versa, for me I belong to the former group. I just love to have a crunch on my pork sisig but nevertheless I do enjoy the other types too. Pork sisig would serve better to those who don’t really know what it is made of, but just if you are brave enough read on now else skip to the next paragraph, you have been warned! It is made of chopped pig’s head (hair removed and tenderize and yes entire head!), then boiled and grilled/broiled then finally fried with chopped onions and served on a sizzling platter with vinegar and kalamansi juice (Asian lime).

Normally they like to serve the pork sisig at the last cooking part where they would ‘fry’ the mixture in front of you on the sizzling pan, even sometimes cracking a raw egg over and cook it along. Once served, you can then squeeze over the kalamansi  to taste yourself and voila, you would have a perfect crunchy pulutan or simply a good dish to  go along with your rice.

For my favourite crunchy pork sisig:
Krocodile Grill
Greenbelt 3
Esperanza St., Ayala Center
Makati City, Metro Manila

A cross between the crunchy and the soft, a lot of people's favourite:
Gerry's Grill
Glorietta 5
Level 2, Ayala Center,
Makati City, Metro Manila
(02)856-4443, (02)856-3544
Sunday to Thursday 11am - 12midnight
Friday and Saturday 11am - 2am

Other Branches

Another pork sisig with a twist, added with mayonnaise but nonetheless uniquely tasty:
Giligans ‘s Island Restaurant and Bar
Greenbelt 1
Esperanza St., Ayala Center
Makati City, Metro Manila


"Joe" who is constantly craving said...

u moved to manila d?

i would never have guessed whats in that sisig..but if its pork head, i rather not know and enjoy it as a dish.

rokh said...

haha no i did not move here, just assigned here for work for 3 months ;) will be back soon!

Kenny Mah said...

Manila looks like a true-blue, full-blooded Babitarian's Paradise! :D

rokh said...

oh yes....a Malaysian colleague who visited here say he had had enough of babi! not ever for me though haha

Babe_KL said...

ahhh finally a post on Manila's food. be quick leh where are the ensaymadas, sinigang, pork adobo, buko pie??? hehehe

rokh said...

whoa babe...you already know even before i blog? hehehe

Unknown said...

I tell you... you all should see her crib in Manila. She is living like a rap supastar!

Ciki said...

yea totally agree with you. Love pork sisig.. not many othr Philp. dishes i like though:)

rokh said...

frat, come on :P

ciki, ya pork sisig is one of the better dishes right...

gfad said...

Yar man, these ppl luuurve their chi yoke. Even here, they are the ones who buy the most! The fattier, the better! *shudder*

And they seem to like their food really salty and sour. Favourite dip seem to be patis (pish sauce) and vinegar - supermarkets even sell them banded together!

Unknown said...

i loveeee manila. my absolute weakness is their barbecue (the meat skewer) i had tat every single meal during my stay in manila heheheh

alvin b said...

i hope you didn't miss the liempo (grilled spare ribs). hands down one of my "must eats" when i'm manila. one of the best i've had is at fely j's in greenbelt 5...their sisig is great too apart from the ones you've mentioned ;)

rokh said...

alvin, i tried liempo many times but unfortunately not at fely j's, and not even sisig there. oh no! now i have to return to try it :D

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