Lahi – Bicol Express

Instagram Post 7/13/2018

(Click on any image to view it in high resolution.)

Here’s Lahi’s version of another Filipino classic, and one of my favorites, Bicol Express. Crispy pork belly stewed in coconut milk infused with shrimp paste and laden with green chilies. Named for the Bicol Express, a passenger train that ran from Manila to the Bicol region in the Philippines, I guess you could think of this dish that’s both creamy and spicy as running from one terminus on the flavor route to another.

More dishes from Lahi, 51-24 Van Loon St in Elmhurst, Queens, to follow.
 
 

Lahi – Crispy Pata

Instagram Post 7/2/2018

(Click on any image to view it in high resolution.)

I’ll say one thing for the folks at Lahi: they know how to do pork! In this context, the Tagalog word “pata”, as in Spanish, means an animal’s leg, and Crispy Pata is one of my absolute favorite Filipino dishes. It’s a pig knuckle/trotter/hock, deep fried until the skin is crispy and the meat is meltingly tender, accompanied by a soy-vinegar dip. Here, it comes to the table topped with crunchy fried noodles, a garnish I’ve not seen elsewhere which perhaps gilds the lily a bit, but I’m not complaining. One day, I’ll eat a whole one of these by myself, even if somebody’s watching! (Although they might want some too. 😉)

More dishes from Lahi, 51-24 Van Loon St in Elmhurst, Queens, to follow.
 
 

Lahi – Sisig Bangus

Instagram Post 6/21/2018

(Click on any image to view it in high resolution.)

There’s excellent Filipino food waiting for you in Elmhurst, Queens at Lahi, 51-24 Van Loon St. I initially encountered them last year at the Queens International Night Market and I’m happy to report that their brick and mortar establishment is top notch!

It’s easy to think of Filipino sisig as delicious sizzling crispy pork parts, but this mouthwatering dish comes in a many varieties. Here’s Sisig Bangus, chopped crispy milkfish with onions floating on a sizzling hot plate. I’m especially partial to their presentation; it leaves no doubt as to what you’re about to dive into!

More dishes from Lahi to follow.
 
 

The World’s Fare – Bangad & Bougie

Instagram Post 5/12/2018

(Click on any image to view it in high resolution.)

In the Ilocano language of the Philippines, bangad means “bad” in the sense of a show of courage and Bangad & Bougie’s modern Filipino fare lived up to the name. In addition to their chapulines (grasshoppers), gusanos (mezcal worms) and durian challenges, B&B offered some fine, less daunting food at April’s World’s Fare in Queens.
🇵🇭
1) Here’s a trio of treats, each served up on a chunk of chicharrón: Tocino Spam al Pastor, Pork Belly Sisig, and Black Cod Sisig – and each one was wonderful.
2) Perhaps it was a little tricky to tease out which dish was which in the trio tasting, but I have no complaints; it enabled me to try a little of everything!
 
 

Mama Fina’s House of Filipino Sisig

Instagram Post 4/5/2018

(Click on any image to view it in high resolution.)

To paraphrase Clara Peller, “Where’s the squid?” I mean, I liked the dish – after all, anything that’s that crispy and crunchy gets extra stars in my book – but it was difficult to tease out much squiddy flavor lurking within. We considered sending our Pusit Sisig back for one of the five other varieties they offer, sort of a squid pro quo if you will, but we were assured that our order was right and that’s how they did it there. My theory is that they use deep fried squid tentacles (yum) and chop them so fine as to be beyond recognition. So it was tasty, just not what we were anticipating. A side of garlic rice could have used more garlic, but that’s true of almost anything. We also got an order of Laing, taro leaves cooked in coconut milk with shrimp, which I liked but my dining buddy thought was too sweet.

So went our brief adventure at Mama Fina’s House of Filipino Sisig, 167 Avenue A, Manhattan. Being a major booster and fan of 🇵🇭 Filipino food, I wanted to love it; perhaps I was misled by my expectations, perhaps it’s a slightly different style of Filipino cooking than I’m accustomed to. And if I were walking past, yes, I’d give it another chance.

#clarapeller #goAheadLookHerUp #iCanWait #iKnowImDatingMyself
 
 

Wok Wok – Part 2

Instagram Post 3/29/2018

Part Two of my review of Wok Wok Southeast Asian Kitchen, 11 Mott Street, Manhattan with its dizzying array of Southeast Asian fare. Check out yesterday’s post below to see four more photos of their great cuisine.
(Click on any image to view it in high resolution.)

Spicy Sambal Seafood – plump and juicy jumbo shrimp sautéed in spicy Malaysian belacan sambal with onions and peppers was delicious – best enjoyed over rice.

Malaysian Salt & Pepper Pork Chop had a tiny bit of sweet and sour sauce gracing it. We’ve tasted versions of this dish that were crisper and thinner and unadorned by any manner of sauce. Not bad at all, but not what we were expecting from the name.

Four of a Kind Belacan – to me, the only thing these four vegetables have in common is that they’re all green! Beyond that, the flavors, textures, and even the shapes differ radically – and that’s a good thing in my opinion. String beans, eggplant, okra (not at all slimy), and sato are united by the medium spicy belacan sambal; the combo of stink bean and belacan work well together and are a singularly Malaysian flavor profile.

Stir Fry Pearl Noodle featured eggs, bell pepper, Spanish onion, scallion, and bean sprouts with pork. This is actually one of my favorite dishes and not all that easy to find. Pearl noodles, sometimes known as silver noodles, silver needles, and other fanciful names, are chewy rice noodles that are thick at one end and then taper to a point at the other (look closely at the little tail at the bottom of the photo). These are generally stir-fried to pick up a little browning and a lot of “wok hay”, that ineffable taste/aroma that can only be achieved by ferocious cooking over incendiary heat. Not at all spicy, this one is always a favorite.

Due to a communications mix-up, a couple of dishes came out that weren’t what we ordered. Everything we tasted that day was very good, but I want to make sure that you don’t end up with two or three similar dishes – one belacan and/or sato offering is plenty for the table, you see – because I want you to experience a broad range of flavors, and Wok Wok is most assuredly up to the task. Choose a wide variety of disparate dishes, perhaps even from different parts of Southeast Asia, and you’ll go home happy and satisfied!
 
 

Wok Wok – Part 1

Instagram Post 3/28/2018

Ever been up for Southeast Asian food but couldn’t decide which cuisine would best tickle your tastebuds? Then Wok Wok Southeast Asian Kitchen, 11 Mott Street, Manhattan, has your answer. They cover a lot of territory serving up dishes from Malaysia 🇲🇾, Thailand 🇹🇭, Indonesia 🇮🇩, Vietnam 🇻🇳, Philippines 🇵🇭, India 🇮🇳, Singapore 🇸🇬, and various regions of China 🇨🇳, and perusing their colorful menu is like taking a survey course in popular street food of the region.

Part One…. (Click on any image to view it in high resolution.)

We started with Original Roti, a dish you may know as roti canai, consisting of Indian style flatbread with a chicken and potato curry sauce for dipping. Properly crispy outside and fluffy within, it was the perfect medium for savoring the luscious sauce.

Roti Murtabak, another crepe folded around a spiced chicken and egg mixture also accompanied by the potato chicken curry, had a pleasantly spicy little kick to it. A cut above what we’ve had elsewhere.


Our soup course was Hakka Mushroom Pan Mee, a study in contrasts. Springy handmade noodles topped with silvery crispy dried anchovies, earthy mushrooms, chewy bits of minced pork, and tender greens in a clear broth that was richer than I anticipated.

Spicy Minced Chicken, Shrimp and Sato. Ground chicken and chunks of shrimp with sato cooked in a belacan based sauce. Sato, also known as petai and sometimes stink bean, is a little bitter, a little smelly perhaps, but quite delicious. Belacan is fermented fish paste; most Southeast Asian cuisines have their own spin on this pungent condiment, and it’s particularly characteristic of Malaysian food. Maybe it’s an acquired taste, but I think this dish is delicious.

Stay tuned. More to come tomorrow….
 
 

Kabayan

My Instagram posts are usually brief takes on restaurants accompanied by a photo or two. (You can see my feed right here, updated almost daily, by selecting the “Instagram” category from my home page – no signup required.) But folks sometimes ask for fuller reviews and more photos, so in response, here’s a more comprehensive report on one of my favorites.


Lately, I’ve been craving Filipino food (one of my favorite cuisines) and one restaurant that excels at its execution is Kabayan. Woodside, Queens is home to two Kabayan outposts along with numerous other Filipino eateries; it’s a veritable Little Manila. At these establishments, you’ll typically find a steam table laden with delicious (and often unidentified) offerings; diners queue up alongside and request portions of whatever strikes their fancy. If you know the names of the dishes, you can simply ask for what you want; if you don’t, just point and ask questions. As a matter of fact, there’s even a name for this procedure, turo-turo, which means “point-point” in Tagalog, the national language of the Philippines. Of course, you can always order from the menu as we did on this visit.

Here are a few favorites.

(Click photos to enlarge.)

Kilawin Tanigue

Spanish mackerel ceviche, a perfect way to begin a Filipino feast.

Laing

Laing looks like creamed spinach, but the flavor is completely different: it’s made from taro leaves and coconut milk. Gotta get your greens, right?

Garlic Rice

Binagoongan Rice

Two kinds of rice accompany our repast, Garlic Rice and Binagoongan Rice (made with shrimp paste, mango and scallions). I can’t decide which I like better – that’s why I always get them both!

Ginataang Langka

Ginataang Langka is unripened jackfruit with pork and coconut milk, because even a vegetable side dish needs pork!

Pancit Bam-I

Filipino cuisine has a number of noodle dishes, some with rice noodles, some with egg noodles; this one offers the best of both worlds with the addition of shrimp, chicken, and vegetables.

Palabok

Kabayan offers an assortment of the aforementioned noodle dishes; this one is Palabok, steamed rice noodles lurking under a cover of shrimp sauce, garnished with hard-boiled egg, crumbled crispy pork rinds (of course!) and scallions.

Sizzling Sisig

This sizzling pork dish is made from pig’s ear, jowl, ear, shoulder, and ear (did I mention ear?) and is one of the best renditions I’ve had of this Filipino favorite. Kabayan also does other sizzling sensations such as squid, seafood, pork chop, steak, shrimp, and bangus, milkfish that pops up everywhere in Filipino cuisine.

Inihaw na Pusit

Inihaw means grilled and pusit means squid. This beauty is stuffed with fresh vegetables and served with a vinegar-based dipping sauce.

BBQ Chicken

It may sound prosaic, but Filipino BBQ is famous and justifiably so. Sometimes, you’ll find meats on skewers; here, we enjoyed delectable chunks of dark meat chicken. A popular favorite.

Ginataang Manok

Chicken with ginger in coconut milk.

Adobong Kambing

Stewed goat with chick peas and peppers.

Dinuguan

A rich stew made of pork offal in a luscious gravy. Yes, the gravy contains pork blood, but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it! One of the diners at the table described it as chocolate pork – and everybody loved it. You will, too!

Bicol Express

Another classic Filipino dish. Vegetables simmered in slightly spicy coconut milk.

Lechon Kawali

I saved the best for last: the undisputed king of crispy deep-fried porky goodness, Lechon Kawali, fried pork belly with a vinegar garlic dipping sauce. A must-have.

Kabayan is located at 69-12 Roosevelt Avenue and at 49-12 Queens Boulevard in Woodside, Queens. Both are easily accessible by subway.

 

Filipino Polvorón

Ever tasted polvorón? The correct response is, “Which kind?”

If you’ve ever wandered the streets of a Mexican neighborhood, you may have passed a panaderia that featured polvorónes, a soft, crumbly cookie that is essentially the Spanish version of shortbread and akin to the goody known as Mexican wedding cookies; the texture is almost like a Chinese almond cookie. One bite and you’ll know what I mean by crumbly – polvo means powder, after all. (Photo on the left.)

In the Philippines, polvorónes are made of powdered milk and toasted flour and are even more crumbly (if that’s possible) and to my taste, they’re more like a candy than a cookie. (Photo on the right.)
Mexican PolvoronFilipino polvorón

Typically wrapped in brightly colored cellophane twisted on the ends, Filipino polvorónes barely hold their shape and instantly crumble into sweet delicious dust when bitten into. They’re available in flavors like cashew, peanut, ube and pinipig (crisped rice).
Cellophane WrappedBox

I thought I had sampled every available version of this treat. Until now, that is. Chocolate coated polvorónes. Chocolatey goodness on the outside surrounding polvorón in flavors like cookies & cream on the inside. Surely a case of lily-gilding, but what’s to not like? I was certain that no further embellishment was conceivable.
Chocolate CoatedChocolate Coated 2

Wrong again. Because I had stumbled upon ChocoVron’s Rite Snack Polvorón Sticks. They’re similar to the cylindrical crispy wafer cookies called Pirouettes but covered in chocolate and filled with polverón, in this case ube. (Ube is purple yam — or purple yum if we’re to believe the package labeling.) Their slogan “One Bite is not Enough” is tauntingly accurate. Beware: these are addictive. (Actually, anything that goes crunch is addictive, but that merely serves to prove the point.) Buko Pandan (coconut pandan) and Classic flavors invite a return visit.
Polvoron Sticks 360x500Inside Polvoron 360x500

 
Found at Sariling Atin Grill and Filipino Grocery
89-12 Queens Blvd.
Elmhurst, NY
718-397-1200