Episode 89: A taste of the world’s best street food

Street food is a well-ingrained part of society. It’s all about casual dining enjoyed anytime with the best flavors at the most affordable prices. Being able to see, smell, and taste the best in street food is a unique experience, and what fitting way to do so than in one of the world’s best food destinations, the Philippines.

The World Street Food Congress Jamboree, which opened at Bonifacio Global City, offers everyone a chance to savor street food from around the world.

Twenty-five food stalls from the US and Asia (including the Philippines) are showcasing various snack dishes, rice meals, barbecues, and desserts, all for as low as P200. The venue is jam-packed as early as the first day, but with all the buzz and scents around, you’ll never get tired waiting in line. This is definitely one place where you can have local cuisine that’s no-frills, no-extenders, all-flavor, and worth every centavo.

By now many have recommended dozens of their favorites from the jamboree, but that’s not stopping me from sharing my own recommendations. They’re a bit pricy but worth every centavo.

Pasta Bicolandia, Bicolano Wellington, Level 1 Chili Ice Cream (Philippines)
Savor the legendary spiciness that makes Bicol Region famous in one plate. Start the fiery palate flamenco with the Bicolano Wellington, stuffed chunks of Bicol Express. Kick up the tempo with the Pasta Bicolandia, creamy pasta with meaty chunks and chili bits. The chili ice cream puts a sweet finish into this set.

Penang Laksa by Wan Dao Tou Penang Assam Laksa (Malaysia)
Tamarind, hae ko (sweet prawn paste), chili, ginger, and mint leaves bring a salvo of flavors into this Malaysian noodle dish. The fish flakes and the savory broth complete the dish, giving diners at taste of how authentic laksa is like. (Lee Ee Quen, the owner of Wan Dao Tou, was crowned the Champion in the Assam Laksa category in the Battle of Penang Hawkers 2011.)
Braised Zhu Hou Chicken by Xu Jing Ye (China)
Chef Xu Jing Ye brings to the Philippines this representative dish from Guangdong, China. The vendors say it’s similar to Hainanese chicken, but there’s a stronger salty-fatty-savory kick in this chicken dish. This is topped with Foshan specialty sauce, made from a combination of soy bean, salt, sugar, sesame seed and light soy sauce, to add balance.
Ayam Taliwang by Ayam Taliwang Bersuda (Indonesia)
Ayam Taliwang is a grilled chicken dish from Lombok, Indonesia. The chicken is marinated with bird’s eye chili, and served with a pelecing (water spinach) salad and sticks of satay. The smoky, roasty aroma of this chicken is enough to awaken an appetite. Be warned, though: the Ayam Taliwang is dangerously spicy!
Smoked Chili Grilled Tofu Bao by The Cinnamon Snail (USA)
Healthy flavors have a special place in the street food jamboree with this vegetarian bun stuffed with sautéed kimchi pickled basil and onion, and sambal alek cream.  Vegetarians will enjoy this mildly strong yet calming snack.

There’s much to look forward to at the street food jamboree this year. One can marvel at how rich each country’s food culture is, given the local ingredients they make do with, and the kinds of dishes they come up with at homes, on the streets, or any place where it’s comfortable to eat. It plainly shows that everyone at every place around the world has a unique way of showing how much they love their food.

 

The World Street Food Congress Jamboree runs until April 24, at Federacion Drive corner 9th Avenue, Bonifacio Global City, from 4pm to 11pm until Friday, 12pm to 11pm on Saturday, and 12pm to 9pm on Sunday.

For more information, visit their website at: http://wsfcongress.com/

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Aikyatchi: #HeistClub

“We challenged Filipino writers to tell us tales of crime and mischief, fear and suspicion, dark alleys and darker souls. Welcome to #HeistClub.”

Mystery and crime lurk anew from the dark corners of the Filipino ebook community with today’s release of the #HeistClub bundles.


#HeistClub is an online writing workshop facilitated by Mina V. Esguerra and Bronze Age Media, Inc. last August. Writers were encouraged to create crime and mystery stories primarily set in the Philippines, all of which have the potential to become series in their own right. The result: the works of sixteen authors with stories ranging from fraud and unique modus operandi, to plain old revenge.

My second story, “Sampaguita”, is part of the “What We Hide” bundle. To be concise, this is about a Japanese expat, driven by remorse over the apathy towards Manila’s crime problem, who prepares to exact revenge on a wanted criminal.

The #HeistClub bundles are available at the Buqo Bookstore. You may buy them through the Buqo App on your smartphones, or through these links:

What We Fear:
http://www.buqo.ph/Shop/Book/1933f9e8-5054-426f-b962-210373a69e0f

What We Hide:
http://www.buqo.ph/Shop/Book/e6e07117-9b05-44a5-ba78-0c693d0666c4

Why We Run:
http://www.buqo.ph/Shop/Book/5c6f0379-f6c1-49b1-9e28-0b5cfcfe2200

Episode 84: Starting Anew in 2016

2016 is coming in a short while. I hope this year has been good to you, my dear readers.

Have you been working or studying well? What have you started or accomplished? Do you get to eat on time? How are your families and loved ones? Are you hurting somewhere, or are you nursing heartbreak? How are you spending the last few hours of 2015?
Celebrating the New Year is like ending a chapter and starting a new one. Sometimes, we have leftover ideas that only needed revising. Other times, we have stuff that has to be discarded. Usually, we have new stuff to add. But what’s definite is that we’re starting over with a clean slate, a new leaf, or a new page, be it clean or smudged or whatnot.
We keep saying that we’re leaving behind a lot of things from 2015 as we celebrate the New Year, but how much of it are we letting go?
Greeting 2016 means looking back and leaving behind everything we had for the past 12 months. These include successes, failures, doubts, aspirations, fears, possessions of value, and dreams. We shall let go of all these and more for the sake of starting over.
By letting go, I’m also referring to renewing and improving the memories, promises, and positive goals we set for ourselves, as well as leaving behind the bad ones while salvaging the lessons meant to be learned from them.
Just don’t be afraid to take the first step, make a leap, dash through the first lap, or whatever propels you to move forward. You have things to accomplish, promises to keep, worlds to discover, and a life to live to the fullest.
Whatever the circumstances we’re facing up to the last second of 2015, never forget that there’s always room to start anew, which is what the New Year is all about.
Let go, go forward, and start anew this 2016.
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I’m talking/typing like this because I’m looking back at how the past year has treated me, especially as a writer. To say it has been a fulfilling one is an understatement, because there’s so much more to be done.
To start with, I’m ending 2015 with three novels (two published ones and one that will be launched this January) in my author’s portfolio.
My first crime novel, “The Seven-Day Detective”, is now available as a standalone story on Buqo. You may get the e-book through the Buqo app from App Store and Google Play, or click the link below to purchase it online.
Then there’s my first crime short story on Wattpad, which got upgraded into a light novel (novelette) and published just before Christmas. The story is called “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”, which is about a child who wanted to catch Santa Claus on video. This story is also available on Buqo.
Unlimited Grub Grabs slowed down a bit, partly because I’ve been busy with my day job and my novels, and partly because of health issues and certain circumstances. But that doesn’t mean I’m not slowing down on doing food adventures. Anything that’s not on the blog can be found in my Facebook page and Instagram accounts. Also, expect more news from me on my other exploits. I won’t give details, but we have a lot to look forward to.
For now, enjoy the last few hours of 2015. See you all next year! And be careful with the fireworks and food!

Episode 82: Novelist Mode

For those who are following my adventures, I apologize for the long drought of posts here. I’m still working on writing crime novels at the moment, which explains why I haven’t been writing about food so much.
Stay with me for a while, though, as I tell you why. These past few months have been exciting.

As a recap, I joined the #JustWritePH workshop last July, and finished my first novel, “The Seven-Day Detective”, about a month later. The story goes as follows:

“Insp. Gene Bello is no stranger to rape cases, or speedy investigations. As a cadet, he was known as ‘The Seven-Day Detective’, having solved a serial rape incident in seven days. So when an NBI official asked him to handle a similar case, he was ready to take on the job… or so he thought. The case: a serial rapist targeting call center agents from Bonifacio Global City.
Luck is on Gene’s side, though. Four PUV drivers plying the EDSA-BGC routes have seen and interacted with the fifth victim. Each of them knew her well. Each of them, perhaps all of them, may hold the key to stop the next attack and find the suspect before he strikes again. But they have to hurry… All they have is seven days.”

Soon after that, I finished writing for Heist Club, a crime fiction class sponsored by Bronze Age Media, The Study by Enderun, and Buqo. Heist Club aims to open up the Filipino crime genre to a bigger audience, and entice more local authors to write crime stories.  This workshop ran from October 1 to November 7.
Participants were required to write a crime story worth 5,000 words or more in English, with a few conversations in foreign languages. The theme of the class is “Case Number 1”, which means it has the potential of becoming a series.

My story, essentially my second crime novel, is titled “Sampaguita”. The blurb I submitted to Heist Club says:
“Japanese expat and tycoon Keniichi Daimon has conflicting emotions for his second home, Manila. Despite Manila’s subtle beauty and charm, the corruption seeping deeply in the city has left him nearly apathetic of its future. But when his indifference leads to the death of a young flower vendor and his fiancée, his jaded view of Manila is shattered.
Keniichi, now driven by remorse, finds himself dragged into a world where the innocent are broken for the pleasures of the privileged and sinister few. Ignored by the police and spurned by the apathy of the people around him – the same apathy he once showed – he realizes the only way to make amends and seek justice is to take matters into his own hands.”


I also joined NaNoWriMo 2015, during which I rewrote and improved “The Seven-Day Detective”. Once I have it beta-read, re-edited, and polished, I intend to relaunch it, not only along with the Just Write PH #ForJustice bundle, but as a solo book. I intend to rewrite “Sampaguita” and do the same. But I’m thinking too way ahead and showing off my cards too much, huh?

Just because I’ve been busy writing about crime doesn’t mean I’ve shelved my food writing. In fact, you may want to visit my Instagram and Facebook page and see what I‘ve been up to and what I’ve been eating lately.
I mean, there are a lot of new places to dine that opened recently, and to say they were well-received and sought-after is an understatement, but I decided to lie low a bit, eat discreetly, and write about how good these places are when the hype around them dies down. (Also, once I have the budget to eat out.)

Stay tuned

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Twitter: @mtjmanalang

Episode 80: A Trending Post

Something pleasantly strange happened in my social media account last month.
I just happened to pass by Cajun Red Rock at SM Megamall that day, and noticed they’re serving an unlimited desserts promo. While I wasn’t interested in availing it at the moment, I thought I should just announce it on Facebook.

What came next was a mild surprise. The picture earned me nearly 4,000 likes on my main Facebook account, and about sixty on Unlimited Grub Grabs’ FB page. It has also been shared less than 5,000 times on both accounts.

At the same time, I got swamped with private messages and comments from people asking how long the dessert promo will last, where else they can avail of the promo, etc. I eventually made the time to ask the crew at Cajun Red Rock, and added the information on the spot.  
Thanks to that recommendation post, UGG’s FB account now has over 900 likers, and the old posts are somehow getting the attention they needed. That’s good news for me, since that means I’m now getting an audience as a food writer. 
By the way, with all the attention that Cajun Red Rock’s unlimited desserts promo is getting, I decided to try it out myself, and make a proper review of the restaurant itself.
Cajun Red Rock was crowded when I came in for late lunch. Most of them are high school or college students. All of them are after the unlimited desserts.

The desserts promo itself is simply a dessert buffet, plain and simple. There are plenty of mini-slices of cheesecakes and brownies, candies, more cakes, cookies, fondues, ice cream, and even more cakes. It’s quite obvious why many are drawn into the promo. Who wouldn’t want to satisfy their sweet tooth for only P199?
My only regret was that I was unable to taste their waffles and crepes. I forgot that I was supposed to order those from the staff.
But what drew me to Cajun Red Rock was the main menu itself.
My late lunch started with a hearty bowl of Louisiana-style onion soup, topped with toasted bread and cheese. I know, it’s just onion soup under all that cheese, but the soup is just enough to whet the appetite, though the cheese blanket makes for a fragrant and mouthwatering addition.
Then there’s the star of the meal, the Southern Bacon Cheese Volcano (Southern Bacon Cheese + Make It A Volcano). This is a Southern-style quarter-pounder smoky bacon cheeseburger served with fries, except the burger is baked with mozzarella cheese and topped with caramelized onions. The result is a burger that looks like a volcano oozing with cheese.
The volcano-like burger looks appetizing aesthetically, but once you bite into it, there’s this savory flavor overload that storms your palate and tickles your belly. Maybe it’s the cheese complimenting the taste of the thick beef patty or the bacon. The whole burger is messy though, so it would be quite a chore to eat it with a fork and knife.
Cajun Red Rock serves a good selection of ribs, steaks, burgers, and other dishes emulating the Cajun style. Cajun cuisine, which mostly hails from Louisiana, USA, is characterized with the use of local ingredients, resulting in a savory and aromatic experience.
(There seems to be confusion over Cajun cuisine, as compared to its sibling, Creole cuisine, since both have the same birthplace, or something. But that’s a different story that will require an expert’s view.)
The dishes are pricey, though, so dining in pairs or groups is most recommended.
The unlimited desserts promo should have ended as of this writing. The likes have stopped pouring too, but that’s okay. At least for a brief moment, I outdid myself by posting something that actually drew an audience.
Social media in general, not just blogging, is a helpful tool for writers (food bloggers, in this case) to gain audiences and broadcast their messages. Whether it’s a review, news, or something found somewhere that’s worth commenting on, it’s a quick and convenient way to get our messages across.
Instead of writing in my blog as I ought to do, I’ve been using instant posts on social media to document my adventures. Lately I tend to take more pictures of my food or anything food-related, and then post them on Instagram and Facebook. It’s not because I’m getting lazy as a food writer; I just happened to spend more time writing something else, like my novels.
UGG is still catering to a small audience on social media, though it has become more diverse now that I also work as a novel author. I made three new FB pages for myself (an author page) and for my two writing projects, and once I start dishing out new material, I hope to strengthen my online presence through all of them.
Which now leads us to the future of this blog. I decided I have a lot of catching up to do as far as reviews are concerned. I did post about most of the places I dined in months ago, but I guess a proper blog article for each of them is in order.
Then again, I’m currently writing a new novel for the Heist Club workshop, and my story from Just Write PH is begging for a second and third book, so I’ll figure something out somehow. That includes hunting for more stuff to post on social media, and to start writing about on the blog. I just need to make time for all of them, right?
Maybe I’d look for my next unlimited grub grab, hit the jackpot and see how many would like to try out what I’ve been spotting.

(Please check out the Just Write PH bundles. You may buy the five story bundles, namely “For Justice”, “For Love”, “For The Feels”, “For Redemption”, and “For The Win” through the online library Buqo. My crime novel, “The Seven-Day Detective” is one of the stories featured in the “For Justice” bundle.)
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Visit Unlimited Grub Grabs on:
Also, check out my new author page:

Episode 79: Coffice Work


At a corner table in the smoking area of Seattle’s Best Trinoma, I find myself at peace the most. I wrote my first love story here, and polished many of UGG’s blog posts. During instances when I do have to work on something from my day job, this is where I feel more focused, calm, and meditative. This is where I’m most comfortable as a writer. 
Jamiroquai is right. This corner table might as well be my corner of the Earth.

Just to digress from the topic, I’m not dead yet. While I don’t talk about my latest food adventures on this blog, I post more regularly through my Instagram account @unlimitedgrubgrabs. I know it’s inexcusable. It’s just that I don’t have enough free time to write for this blog lately.

The little leisure time I have is spent lately on writing my novels and relaxing in my coffice, Seattle’s Best Trinoma.
The crew here knows me by name. They let me hang out as I nurse my large breve or Javakula, and chomp on a bag or two of Lays. They know I like their Big Breakfast Plate with sausages and bacon. The WiFi connection’s hard to come by but stable. The music gets repetitive at times, but I see no reason to complain about listening to jazz for hours.
SBC Trinoma’s smoking area gets quiet at least three hours before closing time. This is when my writing soul burns the most, when I churn out paragraph after paragraph of my articles, or choreograph the scenes I need for my novel.
(If there’s one thing I like about SBC Trinoma’s smoking area, it’s not always crowded, even if the rest of the shop is. It IS a smoking area, after all.)
Visiting coffices is a trend among office workers nowadays, especially those who need to work on as much of their assignments as possible.
Working in a coffice has numerous benefits. A noisy, busy environment is, to a degree, conducive for accomplishing creative tasks. Visitors don’t feel isolated because one can meet like-minded people who want a more comfortable place to work in. The (rather incessant) need for a WiFi connection is also something useful for workers who are dependent on the internet.
Add to that the fact that the coffice has a good selection of beverages and you’re all set.
Sure, my work behavior can be frowned upon by coffee shop enthusiasts. A coffee shop is for everyone, I agree, not to mention there are workers who abuse their privileges. (The same could be said about some leisurely visitors, though.)
That’s why I make it a point to actually patronize the coffices I visit. I buy food and drinks whenever I work at SBC, or any coffee shop where I intend to work. I make use of their bandwidth as sparingly as possible. If I arrive at a shop during peak hours, I limit my working hours and don’t hog the power outlets. I clean up my table too, or at least keep it less messy.
In hindsight, working in a coffice is the same as working in a regular office space, with a set of guidelines and etiquette for its patrons. Perhaps it’s the feeling that one is working in a more relaxed environment while guzzling a favorite drink or chowing on a warm pastry that makes coffice work a viable option especially for people on the go.
When I finished “The Feast of the North Star” (my first novel on Wattpad), I made sure to include the staff at SBC Trinoma in my acknowledgements. Staying in their coffee shop was instrumental in my creative process, after all. Their breve, to be specific, was bitter – as bitter as my tears when I first wrote the story, but I digress.
By the way, I’m writing this post in my usual corner table, my corner of the Earth, at SBC Trinoma.
References:

Episode 73: Monster-sized burgers at Monster Bites!


Tucked in a far-off corner of Tondo, Manila is a food shop known for its cheap, humongous beef burgers. The name of the shop itself – “Monster Bites” – suggests that one can expect to find thick, bulky chunks of beef patties in oversized buns, lying in a thick bed of vegetables and slathered in cheese and sauces.
It took a while for the crew of “Foods Tayo” to find the place and see for ourselves if the stories about these massive burgers are true, and we could say we were not disappointed.

First things first: Monster Bites opened around April this year, but then moved to its present location – a larger venue – a few months later. The shop opens from two in the afternoon to two in the morning, and serves dine-in and take-out by the numbers, mainly because customers flock the store and line up early.

True enough, the place was jam-packed when the crew arrived. A small crowd had gathered in front of the cashier, each awaiting their turn to get their orders. In front of the store, patties of various sizes were being grilled by the dozens over blazing charcoal grills. Some customers have resorted to standing watch as their prospective orders are being grilled, while servers periodically come and go to pick up the freshly grilled patties.

 
Monster Bites particularly takes pride of the size of their burgers, starting from their so-called humble quarter pounders. Each patty is a solid, meat-packed chunk that starts dry and chewy in the palate, but draws out the beefy juices with every succeeding bite.
The half pound patty is a different story altogether. To say it’s just like the quarter pounders but only bigger in size is an understatement, because these were probably born to make sure you’ll enjoy more of the burger and never go wanting by the time you’re done with it.
Speaking of the burgers, how do these sandwiches fare, you ask?  

Behold the Monster Sandwich, a monstrosity made of juicy, beefy goodness and tons of coleslaw and saucy toppings. One of these would probably fill up a group of four.

Then there’s the Black Bun Burger, a chunkful of beef with a bun as black as your sinful heart. Cue Penance Stare by Ghost Rider. These buns are baked with squid ink and roasted on bamboo charcoal, giving a smoky feel to every bite of the beef patty.

Monster Bites has a lot of varieties to choose from, which you can enjoy for as low as P50. Aside from these titans and the usual quarter pounder, they also have burger steaks, German franks, and sidings such as fries and buffalo wings.

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To learn more about “Foods Tayo,” visit:
To have a behind-the-scenes look at what we’re up to (and for some hardcore food porn), visit: