Tag Archives: filipino

Mabuhay is worth a try

Years ago I wondered where all the Filipino restaurants were.  Now there’s one in Madison!  Mabuhay, at 1272 South Park in the same strip mall with the Taj, is a small operation, no waiters, just a husband-and-wife team and a small buffet. The atmosphere is very casual (mismatched plates, bottles of sauce still with the price tags on them from the supermarket) but the food is pretty serious.  Not fancy, but homey and good.   I liked a fried, smoky fish something like a big sardine, and the split pea soup with fish chunks and vegetables, but my favorite dish was a simple one, just little chunks of grilled meat in a sweet, dark brown glaze.  I could have eaten three plates of this stuff (where I hope it’s understood that  “could have eaten” means “did in fact eat.”)  None of the dishes are labeled so I don’t know what it’s called, but it looked a lot like the Filipino barbecue described here; if that’s what it is, then the glaze is made of soy sauce, brown sugar, lemon juice, ketchup, and a lot of 7-Up.

Now that is home cooking.

Update:  On my last trip I asked the chef and she confirmed, yep, it’s 7-Up barbecue I was eating.  While researching this point I also learned that 7-Up contained the mood stabilizer lithium citrate until 1950, which makes you wonder why they didn’t call it 7-Neither-Up-Nor-Down.

Mabuhay also sometimes serves laing, which is much better than the linked photo makes it look.

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Pinoy Twee

I was looking in vain for YouTube footage of Orange Juice playing “Moscow Olympics” and discovered that there’s a band named after the song.  You’d guess such a band would be pretty good, and you’d be right.  But you might not guess they’d be from the Philippines!  I didn’t know before tonight that there’s a healthy scene of Filipino bands making pop records that sound like they were made 15 years ago in Sweden — see and hear, for instance, The Wentletraps.  (I like the instrumental “Vignettes.”)  I’d like to hear their cover of “Just Like Honey,” but I can’t find it online.  OK, maybe you knew there was a Filipino twee pop scene — but did you know there was a Filipino Christian twee pop scene?  These guys can’t be the only Christian pop band in the world called “Grace Period” but I’ll bet they’re the best.  (Listen:  “Can’t Get Away From You.”)

Anyway, if this is all too bright and sweet for you, cleanse that palate with a really disturbing ukulele version of “Helter Skelter” by Karinne Keithley.  OK, I’ll concede this is bright and sweet too.  But in a “Helter Skelter” kind of way.


Update:  Hey, here’s the Wentletraps playing “Just Like Honey”:

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My day of eats, Bay Area edition

Just now back from a short visit to MSRI, where I spent four invigorating days collaring participants in this semester’s special program and asking them various algebro-geometric questions I’ve been storing up for just such an occasion.

Also, I ate a lot.  Wednesday went something like this.  I was meeting Akshay Venkatesh in the Mission to talk about Galois groups;  I set off the wrong way from the 24th and Mission BART, which had the good effect of bringing me past Dianda’s Italian-American Pastry, where I got a good and toothsome cannoli (but with a maraschino cherry lodged in the filling at each end — why?)  I met Akshay at the agreeably full-of-itself Ritual Roasters, where I had a fine, but not outstanding, swiss-dill-scallion scone.  I wanted a torta for lunch — Mission burritos are fine, but it’s a real Cal-Mex torta that I miss here in Madison.  But on the way I was distracted by something I’ve always wanted to see — a Filipino restaurant!  This one was called Kababayan and most of the offerings were big, gristly-looking pieces of meat swimming in various chafing trays.  I dodged those and got some pansit and an ukoy — the former a slightly sour dish of short glassy noodles, the latter a kind of shrimp latke — and ate them on the way.  Greasy, satisfying, but mostly of ethnographic interest.  The torta de pierna at La Torta Sabrosa, was tasty, but a little subdued, not offering the glorious sloppy excess I get from torta at its best.

That was all for the Mission.  On the way back to Berkeley I got off at the Embarcadero and wandered through the Ferry Building, which turns out to be 10% about getting on a boat to Sausalito and 90% about ultra-chichi food vendors.  My kind of place.  At the Cowgirl Creamery store I got a little crottin-sized cheese called Inverness, which, like everything else from CC, was terrific; pungent and direct but not a bit unfresh.  I chased that with a “salumi cone” from Boccalone, whose motto, “Tasty Salted Pig Parts,” is an accurate and essentially exhaustive description of the merchandise.  The cone was mortadella, sopressata, and of course a healthy slice of cooked pig’s head to provide some gelatinous crunch.

Then it was back to Berkeley and old favorites.  I met some friends for dinner at Gregoire’s, where I had a simple and delicious dish of fried, battered scallops.  I realized, just after we ordered, that Cheeseboard, the nation’s best pizzeria, was still open for fifteen more minutes; so I hustled across the street and brought back a slice with roasted tomato and gremolata in place of my usual appetizer of Gregoire’s magnificent frites.

We sat at dinner for long enough that, when we passed good old Crepes-A-Go-Go on the way home, I couldn’t resist stopping in.  It’s actually now called “Crepes Ooh La La” and apparently isn’t affiliated with the other store on Telegraph.  Anyway, their banana and Nutella crepe always ends a day right.  As it did this day.

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Where are the Filipino restaurants?

I read an intriguing description of pansit luglug in the Oxford Companion to Food today, part of the short article “Noodles of the Phillipines”:

This [noodles in a shrimp-based sauce] may then be garnished with flaked smoked fish, crumbled pork crackling, sliced kamias, sliced hard-boiled eggs, and calamansi halves, then garnished with fish sauce.

And it made me wonder — why have I never been to a Filipino restaurant?  According to the 2000 Census the U.S. Asian population is 19.9% Filipino — there are more Filipinos in the U.S. then there are Koreans, or Japanese, or Indians, Pakistanis, and Bangladeshis put together.  So why I have I never even heard of a place where I can get pansit luglug?

Obviously, Filipino restaurants exist — Google turns up a handful in Chicago, and there are plenty in LA.  But I want a superficially convincing sociological explanation for their rarity.  Readers?

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