Episode 77: Return to Binondo! Masuki’s Special Mami!

Binondo is such a great place for foodies to visit. The last time I came to Manila’s Chinatown on a food trip was almost five years ago, when I joined Ivan Man Dy’s “Big Binondo Food Wok”. And even now, I’m hearing more marvelous places to dine there.

Some time ago, I joined the crew of “Foods Tayo” in visiting Masuki, one of the most popular dining spots in Binondo. No surprise about the restaurant’s fame; the family that manages Masuki is related to Ma Mon Luk, the legendary father of the Filipino mami.

After we had our usual product shots and rom-com skit (the owner, Mrs. Willen Ma, had a cameo role), I decided that I had to go back someday and dine there once again – this time, by myself.

Masuki’s mami comes in asado, chicken, wonton, beef, or a combination of two or all. Each is served with Masuki’s signature soup and wheat noodles, chopped spring onions, and a special sauce served separately.

Another favorite is their version of siopao, big meat buns filled with savory asado and sauce, the perfect dish that goes best with the mami.

Being the voracious eater that I am, I got for myself a Special Beef Chicken Mami, normally good for 2-3 persons, three pieces of siomai, and siopao (which disappeared immediately)..

The best part about Masuki’s mami is that it’s served piping hot, letting you savor the sweet scent of the noodles and the meaty toppings. This is served alongside some chopped spring onions, and a platter of thick special sauce (this is actually asado sauce; how it’s made is a different story, and a trade secret).

The soup is mildly salty, though it may taste bland for some. This is where the special sauce comes in. One may pour a spoonful of the sauce into the soup to give it a sweet-savory flavor.

Sauce or no sauce, the thick slices of beef give the mami a rich, sweet-salty taste, complemented by the soft chunks of chicken. The noodles are no pushover too; they help balance the flavors swimming in your mouth by the time you get in too deep in enjoying your ingredients.

Masuki’s siomai is a great side dish for your mami. And by “great”, I mean “meatball-sized, packed with pork goodness” great. At P35 a piece, it’s worth shelling out an extra buck or two.

Masuki’s food is just as stellar as those served in their ancestor’s mami houses, but they still stand out as their own brand. Every bowl of mami, siomai, or siopao sates the appetites of those who need their filling, fulfilling fix of warm broth, meat, and noodles.

While they already have branches in SM Megamall, Greenhills, and Mall of Asia,  I would still prefer dining at their Binondo branch. Their mami one of the tastes and scents of Manila that’s worth coming back for.

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Masuki
The Antigua Mami in Binondo
Since 1930
Address: 931 Benavidez St., Binondo, Manila
Tel. Nos.: (02) 244-0745 / (02) 243-2674 / (02) 244-0737 / (02) 502-2300
Email: yalancatering@gmail.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Masuki/193897223966668

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Episode 76: Food, flowers, and romance (or something) at My Mother’s Garden

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Instead of looking for a Valentine’s date, I found myself exploring a small alleyway in Pasay City. The target: the ancestral house of Pablo Severo Antonio Sr., a National Artist for Architecture.  While the house itself is a wonder worth visiting, foodies know this place better as the home of the restaurant aptly called My Mother’s Garden.

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My Mother’s Garden is a tribute by Antonio’s daughter, fashion designer Malu Antonio Veloso, to her mother Dona Marina. She runs this restaurant with her daughter Letlet.

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The first thing diners will notice before entering My Mother’s Garden is the Antonio ancestral house’s garden space. Dining outside amidst the quiet surroundings and the lush greens makes for a great Valentine’s Day experience, but I digress.
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One can also see the garden from inside the house, though worth noting is the interior itself, which is simple yet spacious and calming. Bonus points for the colorful orchids and the koi pond.
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There is also a portrait of the owner’s mother prominently hanging at the living room.
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Many of the rooms are open for exploring. Some of the rooms are used by diners, while in a larger room, there is an exhibit of Letlet’s jewelry creations. Too bad I forgot to ask if any of them are for sale. They would make for a perfect impromptu gift.

My Mother’s Garden offers course or buffet meals depending on the occasion or reservation.  For this visit, the restaurant showed off some of its specialties, especially those served to couples having their dates there.

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First up is the Green Salad, made of mixed green vegetables, and served with four kinds of sauces- mango, basil, and Caeasar, and an orange one that tastes like Greek salad dressing.
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Next on the menu are fettuccine and pomodoro pasta with chorizo or black olives as toppings. Note the variety of tastes one can enjoy (though I like the black olives the most).
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 Not far behind is plain and simple fried liempo (pork belly), and a platter of shrimps, clams, and squid.
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Another of their best-sellers is the mustard chicken. Lightly fried and seasoned, this tender chicken dish is best enjoyed while swimming in mustard sauce, which gives its tangy taste.
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This buffet set came with a double serving of white rice and brown rice with mangoes.
To cap this buffet is a mouth-watering selection of mini-cakes and tarts.
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This particular buffet we partook at My Mother’s Garden is worth P1,000 per head and for a minimum of two, making one’s romantic date an affordable and enjoyable  experience, complemented with a selection of flavors that’s remarkably home-made in presentation and taste.

As their Facebook page would say, “My Mother’s Garden is ideal for romantic dates, family gatherings, group meetings, parties and memorable events such as showers, christenings and small weddings.”

So you can probably imagine yourself and your darling having a romantic date here. Dining at a garden table sounds good, followed by a bit of wine and music, and doing a slow dance under the stars. Yeah, I’m not a romantic guy, but I can probably imagine what you’re imagining.

Seriously, no dates for me, though. I’ll probably be back for the mustard chicken and the orchids.

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My Mother’s Garden
2650 Zamora St., Pasay City, Philippines
Mon – Sun: 11:00 am – 11:00 pm
Tel. No.: 8318407

Episode 75: "Ngongis" and empowering the "ngongo"


At the corner of Scout Lozano and Tomas Morato in Quezon City is “Ngongis,” a small resto-bar standing amidst a sea of international brand names and popular hotspots. “Ngongis” sounds like something straight out of someone with a speech defect, and this is where the story gets deeper.
“Ngongis” hires workers with cleft lip and palate (we know them better by their Filipino names “bingot” or “ngongo”). They take your orders, cook and serve meals, and clean customers’ tables, among others. They converse with you in their most cheerful, most natural selves, “ngongo” voices and all.

Yes, it’s a restaurant with “ngongo” people, but this is not comedy material, as the name of the restaurant implies. The whole point of “Ngongis” is that it’s an establishment where people with cleft lip and palate may work, mingle, and enjoy themselves there without fear of ridicule.

People with cleft lip and palate are just competent or talented as others without congenital defects. It’s just that we’ve been raised to make fun of people born with such conditions. This tendency to ridicule them extends to society, which deals a painful blow to their self-esteem and confidence. Their looks alone barely eligible to get jobs in places that judge people by looks.
“Ngongis” pays homage to these individuals the moment you read the menu. Every item is read the way a “ngongo” would say it.

Funny names aside, the dishes served here are at par with most watering holes in the area. Among their best sellers are the Mork Hishig, Mork Iyempo, Ishnim Inapiya, Miyeded Mork Chop, Maffalo Wings, and the Ngarlik Niyays.

Sometimes one may find live bands performing on weekends or holding events.  Customers are also invited to sing along or jam in these gigs.
“Ngongo” speech may be comedy material, but not at “Ngongis”, where people with speech defects are empowered to become skillful members of the food and service industry. It’s a place with good food, refreshing drinks, great service, and a reminder that everyone has a role and place to contribute in society, even the “ngongo”-sounding ones.