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DJ Bibingkahan - Filipino food that moved me

Sister Y Feb 15, 2007 10:16 PM

I was unexpectedly called to Carson yesterday to help out with a sort of work emergency. After an incredibly long, uncomfortable, exhausting day that involved consuming nothing but candy hearts and coffee, I finally got a brief snack break at around 6:30 p.m. I walked across the street and scoped out the strip mall across East Carson from the Civic Center. There's your Subway, a pizza-by-the-slice place, a Filipino baker and a tiny Filipino restaurant, but set off from the strip mall in the place of honor near the street is DJ Bibinkahan Restaurant. I went in and looked around - no menu on the walls, people eating, and loads of really exciting food on the steam table. After convincing the server that I did, in fact, eat Filipino food, I used the point-at-stuff-that-looks-good method, and ended up with a beautiful chicken skewer, some deliciously fatty roasted pork (belly?), and a dish of greens.

(Before I ordered the greens, I pointed and asked the server what they were. She said, "staro lips." I had her repeat it and I think whatever it was sounds like staro lips. I said I would like to try it, meaning I wanted to buy some, but she actually gave me a tiny dish to taste! I ordered some immediately - the dish consisted of delectable greens, stewed with chicken, coconut milk, spices, and something (stock bones? okra?) that gave luscious, fatty body to the dish.)

The skewer was the thing that moved me. After my horrible day (one of my colleagues ended up fired, if that tells you the kind of day it was) I bit into this chicken skewer and tears welled up in my eyes, because it was immediately clear that someone loved me. Something about the slightly spicy, slightly sweet, sticky sauce, or the perfectly juicy chicken, made me instantly sure that there was still beauty in the world.

So I know that's kind of a personal story, but you should go there. They have several branches, though I can only vouch for the Carson branch. I used to think I hated Filipino food in general, because the only place I'd eaten was Barrio Fiesta (the only time I went there I had to spit things into my napkin so my companion wouldn't know I wasn't enjoying the meal). Then I tried Max's and realized I was an idiot, and that Max's is one of the best restaurants in Glendale and best source for fried things anywhere, and that Filipino food is one of the best comfort cuisines in the whole world. And that has been confirmed by this experience.

The website says that they have goat.

840 B. Carson St.
Carson, CA 90745
Tel: 310.835.9190
http://www.djbibingkahan.com/

  1. SauceSupreme Feb 16, 2007 08:25 AM

    Save room for bibingka next time, too.

    1. Sister Y Feb 16, 2007 08:41 AM

      I will - what's it like?

      Is "Bibingkahan" something like "place for awesome Bibingka"?

      1 Reply
      1. re: Sister Y
        SauceSupreme Feb 16, 2007 12:40 PM

        Pretty much. Bibingka is a dessert made by adding sugar, glutinous rice, and condensed milk together and baking it. It can be darkened with brown sugar also. Best when it's served hot and at its gooey-est.

      2. c
        charmo Feb 16, 2007 01:23 PM

        Seeriously, I fall into a big gooey mess of a person after I eat filipino food. Ahh, home.

        but DjB doesn't sit well with me. Not because I'm picky, but the last time i was there .. it was hot lamp madness. Yum.

        1. r
          rockwell Feb 16, 2007 11:53 PM

          =( i guess its good to eat for the sake of eating but as someone pointed out earlier, its nothing but hot lamps and gets kinda nasty towards mid-day since they open at 9 with the same food. haven't been to the carson site, but i live in walnut so i've been at the west covina site one to many times...others that are better that come to mind, although a chain would be manila sunset and goldilocks since their food is made to go.

          yet, the best filipino food is homemade by a mom or grandma (lola)

          3 Replies
          1. re: rockwell
            SauceSupreme Feb 17, 2007 12:16 AM

            I always told my mom that if she sold her lumpia for 0.50 cents each, she'd make a killing.

            1. re: SauceSupreme
              Veggietales Feb 17, 2007 12:45 AM

              that's what my nanay did! She catered out of our home when I was a child. That's was the beginning of being a hound... grating coconut for puto, and making lumpia wrapper for fresh lumpia by the hundreds by age 9. My Nanay, by far, makes the best longanisa, embutido, and empanadas in the world.

            2. re: rockwell
              Mr. Roboto Feb 17, 2007 04:11 PM

              EWWWWW!

              YUUUUUCK!

              I tried the DJ Bibingkahans in Panorama City & W.Covina with a couple of filipino friends and found the food nasty too. There was a least 0.5" inch of grease sitting on top the dishes, especially the one in PC. All the meats dishes are overdone and stringy at both places. The kare-kare was made with what seemed like leftover stew meat instead of oxtails. Also, there seemed to me too many dishes on the steam table (W.C. location, my most recent experience), I think if they cut it to half the amount of dishes, took more time to prepare them, and used better ingredients, the quality would improve.

              They had cooked food items that weren't even in the steam table, they were just sitting on the counter. It was about 95 degrees (F) that day in the SGV and the place didn't even have air conditioning (or at least they were too cheap to turn it on)!! They had about a dozen floor fans going at high speed throughout the restaurant.

              I agree that the best Filipino food is prepared at home, I can't believe how its quality drops to the bottom of the barrel at a place like this and yet the place was almost full and 99% Filipino.

            3. z
              zariaboy Feb 17, 2007 12:48 PM

              Staro Lips...LMAO ;-)

              Let me translate that to non-Filipinos, I believe the server meant to say Taro Leaves and the dish that Sister Y had is called Laing (pronounced La-eng). The meat in it is most likely pork and is one of my guilty pleasures when eating at a Turo-turo (point-point) restaurants.

              1 Reply
              1. re: zariaboy
                Sister Y Feb 18, 2007 01:09 PM

                Thank you so much! I am totally going to try to acquire some taro leaves and cook the hell out of them with coconut milk and pork.

                (My boyfriend Thi N. is cracking up because I constantly tease HIM about his mis-hearings of things.)

                About the steam table-ness - the things I had looked pretty fresh, but then again, I used the point-at-what-looks-good method. Normally I wouldn't be excited about steam table food, but the steam table food at DJB in Carson was about a thousand times better than the freshly-prepared stuff at Barrio Fiesta, and the steam-table food at the various Manila Good Ha establishments is pretty decent.

              2. Rodeline Feb 18, 2007 05:40 PM

                My Nanay also used to catered out of our home. From time to time her old friends would ask if I took over the business. Unfortunately not. Although helping by her out, by also making those fresh lumpia wrapper, the reason for my asbestos hands now(j/k), I have learned how to cook filipino food. Once in a while I would try to cook it and also fuse it with other cuisine, last Thanksgiving, I made stuffing inspired empanadas, and pumpkin pie enseymada. Cooking filipino food is not an easy task, which is why DJ's is thriving. Just drive over and order what your mom use to cook when you we're living at home. Also, filipino cuisine uses pork in many dishes, which explains the grease.

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