Episode 102: A Spicy Encounter at the Grand Chili Meet!

Chili farmers, foodies, entrepreneurs, and lovers of everything spicy took the time to gather together at the 1st Grand Chili Meet hosted by Chili Growers Philippines on May 13 and 14. This was held at the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife in Quezon City.

The event’s highlights included seminars for chili growers on the latest technology in cultivating chili, the exhibition of various chili varieties, and pod tasting for those who dare to challenge the hottest peppers in the market.

Local entrepreneurs also showcased their products, from chili-infused vinegar and oils to chili sauces and snacks with chili. Some were mixed with fruit essences, while others come with a sweet or savory kick, all of which come with a unique blend meant to compliment any meal. Guests were given the chance to sample these products, and judge which among them are their favorites.

A country’s cuisine won’t be complete without something spicy on the menu, and that much can be said about Filipino cuisine. Chili-laden dishes such as laing, pinangat, and Bicol Express tickle the fancy of diners who seek something fiery for their palate. Ordinary favorites get the extra kick with some chopped chili here and there. To that end, chili sauce, chili oil, and vinegar or soy sauce with chili have become staple condiments.

We owe this culinary wonder to our local chili pepper farmers, traders, and entrepreneurs, whose expertise and dedication bring us the spicy products we enjoy today.

Events such as the 1st Grand Chili Meet give our farmers and entrepreneurs the opportunity to get the word out about their wares to the local market. Their contributions and creativity boost the agricultural sector and its capability to produce home-grown, quality household products that anyone are sure to enjoy at their table. Here’s hoping that our local chili industry will continue to grow and set fire to plates and palates everywhere.


Episode 101: Of Cravings, Large Servings, and Ramen Shokudo

Satisfying a craving for ramen is quite easy nowadays, with the dozens of Japanese restaurants popping out in the metro for the past few years. But sometimes, just grabbing the nearest bowl of ramen within reach isn’t enough. If you’re going to eat ramen, you might as well get the most satisfying noodles that you can, right?

The invitation that day was a bit sudden: Maiya was craving for ramen, and she wanted to try out Ramen Shokudo, a new Japanese ramen restaurant in Quezon City. Being the ramen fan that I always am, I agreed to accompany her to dinner.

I found out later that Ramen Shokudo was a relatively new place. The restaurant opened last February 2017, and it boasts of serving authentic Yokohama-style ramen, made with 100 percent natural ingredients and no MSG. That’s quite a tall order.

To add to the authenticity of the restaurant, the dining area is set up in a cozy bar-style with a grand view of the action in the kitchen, similar to ramen bars in Japan. The area can accommodate about 22 people, which also means you may have to fall in line before you can get seated. Just like in Japan.

First off on our meal was their gyoza, the traditional ramen side dish. The gyoza had a crispy, salty, oily feel in it, complimented by the spicy kick of their gyoza sauce.

Along with the gyoza came the curry cheese roll, their best-selling appetizer, which is basically deep-fried gooey cheese rolls with curry drizzled with Japanese mayonnaise. The taste of the savory cheese and the spicy curry blended well, especially while it was hot.

Finally, it was time for the ramen.

Ramen Shokudo’s best-selling tantanmen is a bowl of thick, dense noodles resting on a rich broth and topped with a slice of juicy chasyu, ajitama, and minced pork. The result is a rush of spicy, creamy, meaty, oily, peanut-like flavors bursting in your palate.

Maiya ordered the shoyu ramen, noodles with a mix of pork and chicken broth in a savory soy sauce base and topped with menma, scallions, and ajitama. This variety is light and mildly salty, and is recommended for those who like simple, subtle flavors in their ramen.

The servings were large and quite heavy, but we still slurped our way through the noodles like it’s the biggest thing we’ve had in life. I’ve eaten tantanmen in a lo of places, but this has been the best and the most satisfying bowl I’ve had in years.

As for Maiya, judging by her reactions, it looks like eating at Ramen Shokudo satisfied her cravings in many ways. In the end, though, she could only finish three-fourths of her ramen, and she was so full by the time we left. Yup, the ramen must have been that heavy.  Not for me though, since I finished off mine with ease, but my stomach is a different story altogether.

Perhaps it was a good thing that Ramen Shokudo didn’t have dessert; otherwise our stomachs and waistlines would have been busted afterwards… except she started asking about that crepe shop I casually mentioned on the way home. Maybe next time.


Ramen Shokudo
401 Banawe St., Sta. Mesa Heights, Quezon City
Tel. No.: (02) 247 7873


P.S. It’s been months since I last blogged about food. Sure, I get to post on Instagram about my latest food adventures, but I’ve never had the time to write here. Looks like this latest assignment is my wake-up call to start eating – and writing – again.

Episode 100: Zubuchon comes to Manila!

sam_1274Dreams do come true! Zubuchon, Cebu’s famous lechon, is coming to Manila!

Social media went abuzz when Joel Binamira (@therealmarketman) posted on Instagram about the preparations for a Manila branch. Binamira (also known as Marketman) is behind the Market Manila blog, and the same person who launched Zubuchon.

zubu2Netizens immediately inquired where this new branch will open. Binamira revealed that the branch will be located “about 100 meters behind the Makati Fire Station”, which is just around the San Antonio area. The target date, he added, is around February.

zubu1Another well-anticipated news is the menu. Zubuchon’s Manila fans are hoping they could try out here the same dishes and drinks as the ones in the main Cebu branch. (Some items they’re clamoring for are the lechon belly sandwich and the kamias shake.) Binamira also hinted that he’ll do taste-testing with selected Instagram followers this February.

Zubuchon was established in 2009. The name comes from a combination of “Zubu”, (the name of Cebu in old Spanish and Portugese maps) and “Chon” (lechon).

Binamira’s lechon gained fame earlier when celebrity chef and “No Reservations” host Anthony Bourdain came to Cebu in 2008 to shoot his unique way of cooking lechon. Bourdain called this lechon “the best pig ever”.

Zubuchon takes pride of using organic pigs, fresh fruits and vegetables, homegrown spices, and good olive oil in cooking their lechon. The best part is that it doesn’t have MSG, and the best meaty parts are kept intact while roasting. The result is a unique lechon with crunchy skin and juicy, tender meat.

It’s been six years since I first tried out Zubuchon in Cebu as part of a writing project on lechon. Finding Zubuchon was quite an adventure, but it was worth the trip because the lechon was just that good.  (It’s Anthony Bourdain’s fault why I became a fan of lechon in the first place.)

Now that Zubuchon is coming to Manila, our cravings for great Cebu lechon should be tempered a bit. The biggest question now is: how do we get invited to the opening?

Zubuchon on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/zubuchonph/
Zubuchon Website http://zubuchon.com/


Episode 99: A Clean Slate for 2017

To everyone who has followed Unlimited Grub Grabs through the years, thank you.

Three weeks have passed since we welcomed the New Year, but while everyone’s done with their resolutions, checklists, and diet plans, I’m still waving around a clean, blank slate. That’s how I intend to start 2017: with a clean slate.

Currently I’m on exile, unemployed and striving to work freelance. At the same time, I‘m catching up on a lot of reading, watching drama series, errands, and self-studying, followed by cooking and sleeping.

I stopped going out on food trips and sightseeing walks. My budget only covers bills and groceries, and if I do so much as have a sip of beer, I’ll suffer gout flare-ups again. Meanwhile, my career as a crime author slowed down. I lost the time and energy to write and I never got to promote my books properly (I thought it no longer mattered since nobody’s reading them anyway).

On top of all that, my motivation and self-respect were in the dumps. I’ve been insomniac and frequently hungry and thirsty. When I fall asleep, I sleep for long hours. Most of the time, I’m lethargic. There are moments when I imagine jumping from my window at the fifth floor. And yeah, I wallow in moments of self-depreciation. I won’t be surprised if I get diagnosed as undergoing depression.

But I promised myself that’s about to change this 2017. This year is meant for new beginnings, going back to zero, starting over from scratch.

I still have my knowledge base. I still have my health. I still maintain a blog. I still have my social media accounts. I still have writing opportunities to explore. I still have ideas and stories. I still have restaurants to visit. Most of all, I have people who support me from afar, who have faith in me and my resolution to rise from my travails. I don’t see them, but I know they’re there.

I know Unlimited Grub Grabs isn’t popular, and my writing isn’t influential. I’m probably not the best role model for writers. But despite my flaws and insecurities, I know you’ve patiently watched over me, and cheered me in my endeavors. I know I’ve imparted as many lessons, thoughts, and experiences as I can through my stories. I know you’re watching me grow.

I’m thankful that I’ve been blessed with so much, and as gratitude, I will make use of my abilities to begin anew. For staying with me through my journeys all this time, I thank you.

With this post, I now leave behind the doubts and failures brought by 2016, along with the victories and successes I gained. At the same time, I look forward to the changes that will be brought by 2017.

As for this blog, who knows? There’s so much to do rather than dwell in the past. Like, for example, a new book or anthology that needs filling up, or maybe a food park somewhere. Maybe a new blog…

Episode 98: Spreading Christmas cheer with Blacksoup’s Suspended Noche Buena

15726353_10155004143187573_3853160072597708668_nI’ve been spending Christmas without immediate family around for a few years now. Most of the time, I spent it at work, after which I would buy a KFC meal and watch drama series at home. It’s quite lonely, but it was a good chance to have time for myself.

This year’s Christmas is different. Instead of celebrating it alone, I devoted my time for a worthwhile cause.

15741247_10155004146457573_7254132937462489720_nBlacksoup Café + Artspace started the Suspended Noche Buena project to provide food for the poor. The idea, which started in Europe, was for customers to buy meals for those who cannot afford it.

15747732_10155004141062573_6429558850952636599_nCustomers bought a suspended Noche Buena pack for P250 each. Each pack contained a serving of Spanish sardines with sundried tomatoes pasta, slices of ham and quezo de bola, Blacksoup’s deep fried pudding with caramel sauce, and a bottle of iced tea.

15672623_10155004139437573_6998660192975369947_nBlacksoup collected a total of 288 meals this year. Volunteers went around the streets and gave these away to street dwellers, beggars, and poor families.

15726384_10155004144332573_10487745477907442_nMy team – there were three of us, consisting of fellow volunteers Karl, Diane, and myself – ventured on Christmas Eve around Quezon Avenue, Roxas Boulevard, and the Ermita-Malate district in Manila to give away these Noche Buena meals.

Joining the Suspended Noche Buena project was quite an adventure, especially that children and adults (even the unsavory ones, admittedly) flocked to us to get food packs. More importantly, it was a reminder of the struggles that the poor endure this Christmas, much more throughout the year. We’re glad that the food packs we distributed found their way to those who truly need them.

15727067_10153995395945124_1450896553784458874_nWe’d like to thank Blacksoup Café + Artspace for giving us the opportunity to make others’ Christmas a little more cheerful. I for one look forward to helping out again someday.

The number of the poor and hungry is ever growing. May the ranks of those who can reach out to them increase as well.


Episode 97: Local cuisine and more at the Valenzuela Food Fiesta!

valenzuela-food-fiestaComing over to Valenzuela this December? Then take the time to go on a food trip!

Residents and visitors of Valenzuela City were in for an early Christmas treat with the opening of the Valenzuela Food Fiesta this Friday, December 2. Over thirty food outlets are participating in this weekend food festival. Foodies can hang out and try out snacks, barbecues, desserts, and other local products that the city has to offer.

The festival was opened to highlight Valenzuela’s food businesses, and give the city’s entrepreneurs a venue to showcase their products and culinary expertise.

dsc_0015dsc_0021When it comes to food, Valenzuela City takes pride of the putong pulo, a rice cake originally created in the town of Polo. The rice cake is steamed, mixed with annatto (atsuete) to give its reddish color, and topped with cheese.

This local favorite is known for its versatility as a side treat with various dishes. Residents would create artistic versions of the putong pulo, making it one of the highlights of the Feast of San Diego de Alcala, celebrated every November 12.

dsc_0022 dsc_0023 dsc_0024With Valenzuela’s continuous economic growth, more food establishments are opening up in the city. It’s not just the putong pulo, but even the city’s potential as a food hub is gaining attention, especially with its growing population of students. This rapid growth is creating more opportunities and opening a wide variety of places to dine in for food lovers. These establishments will surely find a place to shine and reach out to more people with the opening of events such as the Valenzuela Food Fiesta.

dsc_0027 dsc_0029 dsc_0033 dsc_0034The Valenzuela Food Fiesta is located at CJ Santos Street (in front of the Justice Hall or old City Hall). It will be open every Friday and Saturday for the rest of December from 5pm to 2am.

(I apologize for not adding a lot of food pictures here; it’s been a long while since I last wrote anything, and eating out isn’t part of the budget nowadays.)


Episode 96: #HeistClub at MIBF 2016!

14199682_1832804367005972_7671969188836935594_nThe Manila International Book Fair has begun at the SMX Convention Center!

#HeistClub has gone a long way since our launching last June 25. Now, our titles are being sold at #MIBF2016! It’s a great venue for indie writers like me to promote ourselves and gain recognition in the Filipino reading community.

If you’re looking for great crime stories by Filipino authors and more, drop by at the BDAP (Book Development Association of the Philippines) Booth (near National Bookstore). The titles available are:

The Bayawak’s Trail by Justine Camacho-Tajonera
Chasing an ATM Schemer by Racquel Sarah A. Castro
Classified by Georgette S. Gonzales
Sampaguita by Mark Manalang
Snakehead by Bianca Mori
High Stakes by Chris Nava
Till Death Do Us Part by Irene Recio
The Retreat by Yeyet Soriano
Corpus Delicti by Porcupine Strongwill


Get to know more about the authors behind #HeistClub who are participating at #MIBF2016. They’re also selling their own works from other genres. If you’re lucky, you may meet them in person and have your copies signed!

(Shoutout to Racquel for the author profiles!)


Justine Camacho-Tajonera

Justine Camacho-Tajonera, author of Bayawak’s Trail, was born and grew up in Cebu City, Philippines. Despite starting a corporate career in telecommunications, she pursued her masters in Literary and Cultural Studies to keep her close to her first love of writing.  She has had her poetry published in several anthologies and local publications and she has published three books: Artemis Lets Go (novella), A Portrait of Jade (novella) and Gift: Poems, her first collection of poetry. She maintains a blog, Claiming Alexandria. She works full time at a corporate job in the Philippines, is married, and has two children whom she homeschools with her husband.

Email: justine.tajonera@gmail.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Justine-Camacho-Tajonera-Author-Page-144071125674206/
Twitter: @justine_tajo
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/7758033-justine-camacho-tajonera


Racquel Sarah A. Castro

Racquel Sarah A. Castro, author of The Fraud Hunter Book 1: Chasing an ATM Schemer, is living with Cerebral Palsy. She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Information Technology from AMA Computer College-Binan Campus. She wrote When Fate Speaks Big Time, Second Sight to Forever, Encyclopedia Mystique, Stockholm Syndrome: A #WriteBreakUpSongsAbout Story, and The Real Me: An Autobiography. Racquel is a geek, a math tutor, a food addict, a web designer, and a freelance programmer.

Email: racquelcastro2884@gmail.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/racquelsarahcastro
Twitter: @rsacastro017
Instagram: @rsacie
Wattpad: @RacquelSarahCastro
Blog: https://racquelsarah.wordpress.com/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/11574447.Racquel_Sarah_A_Castro
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00RTBGT62


Georgette S. Gonzales

Georgette S. Gonzales, author of Classified (A Prologue to Les Dames des Fleurs),  is a full time author, residing in a small house somewhere in the Visayas. She has been writing for 12 years now under the pseudonym Edith Joaquin for My Special Valentine (Bookware Publishing, Corp.). This is her first English story to be published online.

Email jette1013@yahoo.com
Website http://pinaynobelista.com
Facebook http://www.facebook.com/georgette.pinaynobelista
Twitter @Gette_aka_EJmsv
Instagram @neferjetjet


Mark Manalang (THAT’S ME!)

Sampaguita is my third crime story. After writing The Seven-Day Detective and I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus last year, I decided I want to go all out and write as much fiction as I can. In fact, Sampaguita’s sequel is now in the works, and I’ve written a few short stories before that.

I’ve just finished language training and focusing on a new upcoming job. However, I’m also taking time to work on my romance stories on Wattpad. My current project is titled Odoriko (“dancer” in Japanese), which focuses on the Spanish dance flamenco as a central theme.

Once I’m done with Sampaguita’s sequel, I’m starting a new project. What is it, you ask? Stay tuned!

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MTJManalang
Twitter: @mtjmanalang
Instagram: @unlimitedgrubgrabs
Wattpad: Tenkouken
Website: https://www.unlimitedgrubgrabs.com/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15453627.Mark_Manalang


Bianca Mori

Bianca Mori, author of Snakehead, writes contemporary romance and romantic suspense. She loves watching fantasy movies and reading anything she can get her hands on. She lives in Manila with her family and a hyperactive pug.

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/thebiancamori
Twitter: @thebiancamori
Blog: http://www.thebiancamori.blogspot.com
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/thebiancamori


Chris Nava

Chris Nava, author of High Stakes, graduated with a degree in AB Literature from UST. She has written for several media outlets. She is currently taking her Master’s from UP.


Irene Recio

Irene Recio, author of Till Death Do Us Part, is a stay-at-home mom with a degree in BS Applied Economics and BS Business Management. She found her happiness teaching pre-nursery children and was taking her Masters in Education when she had to put her career on pause to focus on her amazing daughter. She used to do freelance writing for a parenting website and magazines.  Earlier this year, she finished her first romance novella, Breakfast with Brie. She has always been fascinated with mystery and crime fiction, and her love for the genre started with Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys.


Yeyet Soriano

Yeyet Soriano, author of The Retreat, has been writing her entire life. Though the themes of her written works have changed over the years, she held on to one truth—she needed to write to keep the voices in her head at bay. Her day job is that of an IT manager in charge of the Asia-Pacific region for a multinational corporation. She is married to a man who reads only to fall asleep, and they have three wonderful kids—two of whom love to read and one, only starting to learn how to read.

List of published works: Turning Points, In My Dreams,  The Retreat, Until . . . Whenever.  She has also contributed the following stories to published anthologies: Yeyet (Life in the Middle, A Discovery, 2011); Fairy Queen-In-Waiting (Talecraft Presents Master Story Creators’ Anthology 1, 2016); He Loves Me . . .  Not (FLESH, Fixi Novo, 2016).

Email: yeyetms@gmail.com
Facebook: http://facebook.com/Yeyetsorianowrites
Twitter: http://twitter.com/ysrealm
Website: http://www.ysrealm.com


Porcupine Strongwill

Porcupine Strongwill, author of Corpus Delicti, is a Messiahn artist from Manila, who adores cats, milk-coffee, and the sound of heels clacking on wooden floor. She is currently the editor of and a contributing writer for PSICOM Publishing’s bestselling series Heartbreakers: Season 2. Her debut book, a poetry collection called “Forgotten Things To Say,” was released in 2014.

“Corpus Delicti” is her first published crime fiction.


The Manila International Book Fair runs until September 18. Have you started scouting for books to buy? We at #HeistClub hope to see you there!