Category Archives: Food

Eating in Kota Kinabalu (Part 2)

Continued from Eating in Kota Kinabalu (Part 1): Cultures Crashing

One of the things I loved about Kota Kinabalu is that the food was very affordable. On the average, the meals we ordred cost us around RM 8 each, and that’s with drinks. We splurged a bit at Kedai Kopi Lotus and Upperstar, but it was still well within a reasonable range. The servings are also good, so we didn’t feel shortchanged. We forgo eating at fast foods, the only time we did was when i ordered a Zinger from KFC to get rid of the quesy stomach I had after drinking teh tarik one time. In my opinion, skip the fast food and go eat local.

Kedai Kopi Lotus
I was beginning to think that most food places around Kota Kinabalu are called “kedai kopi”, so long as they have coffee and tea to go with the other stuff.

This place was outside of the KK City Center. I wouldn’t have gone if our friends didn’t bring us here. It’s a restaurant, but stalls owned by other cooks are stationed outside. One offers dumplings, another sells grilled seafood and chicken wings. Order food from any of them, and once it’s delivered, you pay on the spot. It’s a popular place for the people who live nearby, and many of them drop by to buy food rather than cook.

I never got the name of the dishes we ate. We had an almond pudding, a noodle dish with some chicken and veggies, dimsum, chicken wings, and grilled fish with shrimp paste and kang kong.

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We also had dinner at a similar place a day later. It had a fascinating story, because it was located in a place in KK where the houses were on stilts.

More noodles
We had a free day, so we decided to strike out on our own for lunch. We decided to try Kedai Kopi Yee Fung along Gaya Street. Luckily, it wasn’t crowded. I wanted to try the claypot chicken, but it was out of stock so I decided to try their yee fung ngau chap. Had a glass of kitchai ping go to along with it. The noodle serving was smaller than Nountoun’s, but the drink was in a tall glass and I was happy.


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Eating in Kota Kinabalu (Part 1): Cultures Crashing

The food of Kota Kinabalu has elements of the familiar mixed in with the novelty of new flavors. Perhaps this is so because our similar roots, and that the climate and topography is also quite like ours, their ingredients are quite like the ones we use ourselves.

Kota Kinabalu has a strong Chinese community, with many restaurants carrying Chinese dishes alongside the Malay and Indian ones. They have European influences too, particularly British, as the Malaysia was a colony of the United Kingdom for a long time.

Food was not something Shabby and I planned for on this trip (then again, not a lot of it was really planned). Like our activities, where and what we eat was done on the fly, and was mostly based on the recommendations of our hosts. We went to places that the locals particularly liked, and more often than not, it was almost always packed.

Day 1
Our first meal in Kota Kinabalu was at this small kedai kopi (which I believe translates to “coffee shop”) place near our hotel. It was open 24 hours, so it was a good spot for us to grab something to eat when hunger pangs striked. The food was laid out carinderia style, but you can always order rice meals off the menu on the wall.

First meal in KK

I don’t remember the names of the dishes that we ate. We had noodles, hainanese chicken, some cold cuts, and a dish of pork innards that went really well with the noodles. For drinks, we immediately got teh tarik, the famous pulled tea that Malaysian food is well known for. Over ice, it was refreshing.

First meal in KK

Of course, no one really told us that the area we were stayingin had a somewhat seedy reputation, which was probably why some people looked at us funny when we went there for a midnight snack. Anyway…

Tanjung Aru Beach
According to our friend and erstwhile guide, Tanjung Aru Beach is the to-go place for everyone who grew up in KK. Think of it as that resort everyone has to go to at least once in their lives. We went there to complete a mission for Ingress, but as it began to rain we decided to hang out for a while and let it pass.

Tanjung Aru Beach 1

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Cafe Shibuya: No Ordinary Toast

My sister asked me to accompany her while she ran some errands. After paying some bills, we headed to National Bookstore in Katipunan so she can buy some pens. There were some specific pens that she was looking for, so we had to go there.

Afterwards, we decided to check out the newly opened U.P. Town Center. It’s easy enough to get to, but because we were coming from the opposite side, we had to go back to the jeepney terminal first. It was a rather roundabout way to get there.

There were still plenty of stores that were not yet operational, and some of those that opened were not yet 100% functional. There also seemed to be a quite a few Japanese establishments (Family Mart included). I also saw a Filipino restaurant, a Vietnamese restaurant, a steakhouse and a pizza parlor.

After shopping, decided to try Café Shibuya, just because of the Japanese sounding name. As our luck would have it, there was a group of PR/media people going about the open stores, checking out what they had to offer. I felt sad that they didn’t finish the stuff that they ordered (I jokingly told my sister that maybe I should ask if I could have them to go).

Cafe Shibuya Menu

We ordered the bestseller, Shibuya Benedict, and Chocolate Green Tea frap. Shibuya Benedict is their take on the classic eggs benedict: poached eggs on top of a thick slice of buttered toast and ham, topped with creamy white sauce and slivers of shitake mushrooms. A side order of crisps with a Japanese mayo dip completes the dish.

Shibuya Benedict

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Hot soup on a warm day

As the hot summer sun beams down on the metro, I suddenly had the yen for some shabu-shabu. Perhaps it was the arctic chill of the office air-conditioner that had me looking for something to keep me warm, short of a blanket or the arms of my latest crush around me.

I had the following choices: a bowl of instant noodles, or a serving of a hot-pot special, both of which can be had at the nearby 7-Eleven. My third choice was a DIY bowl at the Robinson’s Supermarket Healthy Selections.

I spotted this a few days ago, when two Korean girls eagerly purchased a large bowl for their lunch. You have a choice of vegetables and some dimsum, which are then blanched and placed into a bowl with one egg, some glass noodles, carrots and corn. Hot, savory soup is then poured over this mix. Leave for a few minutes to let the egg cook and dig in. Be careful not to scald your tongues.


My shabu-shabu had shiitake mushrooms, crab sticks, baby corn, broccoli and some other dimsum, all for P60. Methinks I made the right choice picking this over the instant noodles and 7-Eleven hot-pot.

It certainly helped warm me up and fill my growling stomach.

Note: I was not sponsored by either 7-Eleven or Robinson’s. 😛

Homemade chili flakes

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What to do with ripe, red hot peppers? Not being a fan of hot foods, these little fiery spices have no use to me. Yet I can’t resist plucking these siling labuyo off the many bushes that grow wild around the house. At the most, my dad mixes them in bagoong, toyo or suka, but on the whole, it dries up without being used in any of the dishes we’d prepare.

My brilliant idea (born out of boredom) was to dry the chilies and pound it to flakes. Though I often opt to keep my food on the opposite side of hot, I don’t mind adding a dash of it to my pizza every once in a while. Hence, the brilliant idea. Given that the weather the past few days had always been warm, bright and sunny, it wouldn’t take long for my small harvest to dry.

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Every day I’d pick a handful of chilies, and add it to my growing pile on the bilao. I’d place it on top of the kalan’s roof, away from chickens who would feast on it. A few days later, the batch is dry and crumbly. I remove the stalks, and use a mortar and pestle to turn them into flakes (A process which takes a while). Watching a movie or reading a book helps pass the time, while the action of pounding the chilies helps relieve stress.

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My efforts were rewarded when later I had a nice amount of chili flakes, enough to fill a standard sized McCormick spice bottle. It smelled pretty good, and packed a pretty nice punch. Mama used it for the kilawin we had for our beach picnic lunch the next day, and while it wasn’t that hot to make me cry, it was enough to add a little kick in the flavor.

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Better than the dried pepper flakes you get at the market. The color is so much better too, and it didn’t cost me a centavo. I love it.

Max’s Restaurant offers three new dishes for Lent

This post is part advertorial

It’s always nice to go to Max’s Restaurant for a meal. They’ve been around for generations and are known for their “sarap to the bones” fried chicken. My tita never fails to have a meal or two at Max’s when she’s here in the Philippines. I too have fond memories of parties and celebrations held at Max’s restaurant. They have grown so much over the years.

This year, Max’s adds a three new dishes to their menu in time for the Lenten season. We all see this time as a testament to our faith, and we all know how hard it is to stick to the “panata” of not eating meat. Max’s understands this, so their new dishes will definitely work well for us.

There’s the Sizzling Seafood in Honey Bagoong Sauce. The sauce got my attention from the get-go, being a bagoong fan and all. I was a little skeptical about how it would taste, but it worked well with the crispy breaded cream dory, shrimp and squid rings. The sauce was sweet, but you an definitely taste a hint of the saltness associated with bagoong.

Kids rarely eat tofu, mostly because it’s so bland. But Max’s Adobong Kangkong Stuffed Tofu is a twist to our regular adobo, minus the meat. Fresh kangkong leaves, button and shitake mushrooms are mixed with sweet adobo sauce and stuffed in to deep fried tofu blocks.

The pièce de résistance for me is the Cauliflower Puffs. Had I not known what they’re made of before I tried them, I would’ve thought it was shrimp or fish. Cauliflower dipped in special batter, then fried to a crisp and coated with a special sauce. A lot of the kids at the restaurant happily ate it with no complaints.

The best thing about these dishes is that they’re not expensive, and each serving is good for 2-3 people (unless they’re gluttons hehe). So if you’re craving for good food but you want to keep your “panata” of not eating meat, give these dishes a try.

Many thanks to Bright Idea Events Management and Sir Bobby of Max’s Ad Circles Inc. for the invite to try these dishes (as well as the photos, because the ones I took didn’t look quite as nice). Babalik ako!

Going back to Binondo

No matter how many times you come back to Binondo, there is always something different. Everyone can go on a food tour, but with the sheer number of places to eat along Ongpin and its side streets, each visit is always new.

Last Sunday, I joined my new friends Nalani, Jonats and Marjorie for a food exploration in Binondo. Costs were divided among the four of us and we added P5 each for tips.

Stop 1: Dong Bei
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Dong Bei’s one of my favorite places to go to when I’m in Binondo. It’s a small dumpling place off Ongpin. Here you can see the attendants make the dumplings and cook them in a pot of boiling water. You can be sure that what you are eating is freshly made. We shared a plate of the mixed dumplings, popped open a can of Wai Long Kat and got to know each other better.

Cost: PHP 65

Side trip: A bakery along Carvajal
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We were going to Quick Snack along Carvajal but it was closed (along with most of the establishment along the esquinita). We passed by this bakery where I bought some tikoy bread from during the Chinese New Year. I didn’t buy anything, but everyone else did. Everything was freshly baked, which added to its appeal.

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The Macaron Search

A few months back, I wrote about the macarons my best friend brought for me from Paris. It was my first time to taste the treat and became my standard for every macaron I tasted afterwards. Macarons are widely available here in Metro Manila, and I decided to try as much of them as I can.

La Patisserie
My cousin once told me of giant macarons that were being sold in the Salcedo Market. I managed to find it and grabbed three. Their macarons are about thrice as big as a regular macaron and came in chocolate, pistachio and vanilla (I think). I found it a little too sweet, and the texture of the macaron is a little rough compared to Lenotre’s. The big size also made it more difficult to eat everything in one go, but it’s good for sharing.

Verdict: So-so. I couldn’t quite differentiate the flavors of each macaron, and I didn’t really enjoy eating it so much.

Bizu is the store that readily has these treats available. Each piece costs P45, and comes in a wide variety of flavors. For my taste test, I got four flavors: Chocolate and mint, vanilla, rose and lychee and raspberry.

My favorite of all four is the chocolate and mint. It’s colored a funky blue with chocolate ganache. The mint flavor is strong and the sweetness is just right. I couldn’t quite taste the vanilla and I found the raspberry somewhat on the bitter side. The rose and lychee is quite nice, but I wasn’t quite sure what rose was supposed to taste like.

Drew said it was a little on the gritty side, which meant that the almonds weren’t that finely ground. Still, it tasted better than La Patisserie, but still not quite up to Lenotre’s level.

Empire macarons got the top marks when I went searching for macarons online. However, I had trouble getting them because I had to order from their store. Thankfully, they set up a booth during Eastwood Mall’s Gourmet Market last December and I got to buy a box of mini macarons. For P200, you get about 12 to 14 pieces.

The mini macarons aren’t that small, despite its name. It’s probably about three-fourths the size of a regular macaron, so it’s still substantial. On the Empire site, these are the available flavors: Original would be White Chocolate, Triple Chocolate, Hazelnut (Nutella), Pistachio, Strawberry, and Cookies and Cream. For the special flavors: Lemon, Salted Caramel, Mocha, Candied Rose, Milk Tea, and Chili Chocolate.

If I’m not mistaken, most of the flavors available were the special ones. I clearly remember tasting the lemon, salted caramel, milk tea, candied rose and the chili chocolate. The chili chocolate was quite a surprise because I immediately felt the kick of the chili as soon as I bite the macaron. Not really my favorite, but unforgetfull nonetheless.

Verdict: Empire claims to make their macarons with no shortcuts, and I believe it. Of all the macarons I’ve tried, it’s the one that comes closest to the ones from Lenotre. The macaron shell is smooth to sight and feel. The sweetness is just right, and the flavors that each macaron is supposed to have is distinct. The price is reasonable and the miniature size is just right for a decent dessert. Empire’s macarons are easily my favorite.

One thing I noted with all the macarons here in Manila is that they are less round than the ones from Paris. I read somewhere that it has something to do with the humidity in our air, which doesn’t make the treats rise as they would in colder climates. Apparently, it occurs even if you are in Baguio.

I have yet to try French Baker’s macarons. There is also another bakeshop that was at the Gourmet Market but I wasn’t able to get the name. I didn’t like their macarons either, as it was too mealy and gritty.

Note: This post was originally written on February 2012, but just now posted. Pictures to follow.

Enter the Dragon

I’ve been a member of Couchsurfing since February 2010 but have yet to participate in anything the local group would organize. With all this free time in my hands, I’m eager to join in activities that sound like fun and do not cost much. When an invitation to join the group in Binondo to celebrate the Chinese New Year appeared on my dashboard, well, I couldn’t pass it up. I dragged Anne, my usual partner-in-crime for such adventures and off we go.

Getting lost, sort of
I’ve been to Binondo many times, and I was confident that I knew how to get there. However, I would normally come from the Sta. Cruz church side and walk up to Ongpin. I forgot what jeep I should ride if I wanted to arrive in front of Binondo Church. In the end, I walked a long way just to get where I was supposed to meet Anne.

The Philippines has a long and rich history with the Chinese. Business relations had been on going long before the Spanish set foot in the country. The establishment of the Chinatown here was in the 1500s, making the the oldest recorded Chinatown in the world — outside of China, of course. An interesting read about Binondo can be found here.

Filipino-Chinese Friendship arch

Meeting the Couchsurfers
Anne and I have the shyness gene so it took us quite a bit before either one of us had the gumption to ask the group of mostly red-shirted people in front if they were the CS group. Thankfully, we got it right the first time and a flurry of introductions began.

Street Party
The festivities had already started by the time our group of (my estimate) 40-plus people made our way through Ongpin. The street was clogged with people (tourists and locals alike) watching the dragon and lion dances. Hawkers lined the street selling lucky charms. Some shops were closed but many were open like a regular working day. It was easy to get separated from the rest of the group, which was what happened to me several times during the day.

After the fireworks and dance, the proprietors of a grocery store threw candy and other giveaways to the crowd. It was scary as people clamored to get something. To avoid getting crushed, I immediately left the area.

The colorful crowd scene

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My macarons from France

I always thought that French macarons are the same as the coconut macaroons I learned how to make back in elementary. It wasn’t until I saw these little, colorful confections did I realize they were two different things.

Despite seeing these around the metro (particularly in Bizu), I never bought any. Perhaps the per piece price tag was too much for me, particularly since it will be gone in one bite. In Malaysia, I saw these lovely creations in Harrod’s and was about to buy some when Belinda said I should wait until she comes back from Paris to try one. So I waited.

Yesterday, I got my pasalubong from my best friend Carmenez: lovely Lenôtre macarons handcarried all the way from France.

Oddly enough, despite my cravings for this sweet, I know next to nothing about it. I always thought it was sort of a meringue, or a cookie sandwich. It was something of a hybrid. It also has one thing in common with our macaroons: The origin of their names from the Italian word “maccarone”.

All too quickly, I ate my first piece. It was crunchy on the outside with a chewy interior, much like the the cheap colorful merengue my sister and I brought at the market a few months ago. The filling is sweet, but not overly so. The green color apparently is for pistascio. I don’t know what the others are. No, I’m not sharing.

I am determined to make this last until the end of the week, and I shall scour Manila for great macarons (aside from Bizu). Those I shall share.