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Feb 13, 2009 04:09 PM

Manila trip report

I am planning to post about a few of the good things I ate in Manila, since I had tried to find such info on Chowhound earlier and there really wasn't a lot. I hope this info can help someone out in the future.

I didn't go any place really pricey, with a sprawling group of 11, it was just easier to stick to smaller places. Plus who wants to spend $35+ for a meal when you can get something tasty for $3-4? I'm sure Aristocrats, Lolo Dads, all those places are good, but I want to provide info for the less-wealthy readers like me. We stayed at the Renaissance Hotel in Makati (got an unbelievable deal), so we ate mainly in that area.

Salcedo Market - First of all, people recommended the Saturday morning Salcedo Market and wow, was that a great find! We had to ask around a lot before finding someone who knew where it was. But the search was worth it. It's like a small farmers market but with all-Filipino food. I wish I hadn't been stuffed from breakfast because there was a big hot-food section selling all kinds of freshly-grilled meats and seafood. My nephew bought lychee sorbet for like 50 cents from this woman making it fresh in a metal canister set in ice in a big wooden bucket, and he said it was awesome. There are all kinds of fun fruits and grilled whole cow/pig to look at. I bought tasty butter cake from Vargas Bakery to bring home and my family loved browsing.

I'll add more later... !

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  1. Thanks for the report.

    However, the last time that we spent greater than $4 per person at Aristocrats was, well, NEVER. It's always a great place for those of us that reminisce the Manila taste, and btw their chicken bbq with rice and atsara have always terrific and I don't recall it costing much more than $4 or $5. Since it's been a while since we've visited, how much is this dish at Aristocrats nowadays?

    1. Please do share your Manila dining experiences. BTW, I loved Lolo Dad's, too (Ariel Manuel must be one of the most talented chefs in Manila, IMO). It's been a while I was in Manila, and I heard that Fernando Aracama has closed Uva (pity!), but Pepato at Greenbelt 2, Ayala Ctr, and Sentro 1771 in Greenbelt 3 have filled the niche there somewhat.

      I'm planning a trip there later this year (attending a wedding), and had gotten some recs to try - but mainly restaurants like Abe (Bonifacio City, Taguig), Cafe Via Mare (Greenbelt 1, Paseo de Roxas, Makati), Chef Laudico Bistro and La Cocina de Tita Moning. Would really be interested to find out more about cheap eats, e.g. foodcourt options, markets, etc.

      1 Reply
      1. re: klyeoh

        If you find the right mall, I was really surprised by the quality of the food courts. There are some that only have junk food like here in the US, but Greenbelt had more than decent food.

      2. Someone gave me the impression that Aristocrats was expensive, I don't remember where I read that.

        Anyway, I was pleased to find that a great place for food was right across the street from our hotel in the Greenbelt shopping center. With a group our size, it was best to have someplace close at hand whenever the kids got hungry. There were a variety of restaurants in all the Greenbelt buildings, but I would stick with the Filipino food. We went to some Italian place once and though still cheap, had an unpleasantly heavy hand with the fatty sauces.

        There's a second-floor area, I think in Greenbelt 3, that had a row of cheap restaurants that I found mentioned on the Market Manila website. I liked Recipes and Bola. Filipino casual cafe-type places in a modern, hip setting and most dishes were $3-5. At Bola, I was in the mood for comfort food and had corned beef and egg over garlic rice.

        At Recipes, they had something weird called Adobo Flakes. I had no idea what it was, so I ordered it of course. Bits of pork and chicken adobo chopped up into tiny pieces, then somehow breaded in panko and deep-fried. It was pretty salty and the crumbs all break apart in your mouth. Kind of unpleasant, until you wise up and mix it with the over-easy egg and garlic rice (I sure ate a lot of garlic rice in Philippines). Total comfort food. I wish I could find it in the US!
        The crispy tilapia at Recipes was also good. My brother did not like the Korean shortribs. Again, it's best to stick to Filipino food since that's what they do best. Servings were not US-size, but a normal serving size.

        In Greenbelt (4?) we also went to Masas. The food was a bit more expensive. Good, but nothing out of this world. I was also disappointed because I wanted to try their halo-halo because it had the most impressive-sounding list of ingredients, but apparently they were out.


        In Intramuros, we all really enjoyed the meal at Ilustrado's Cafe (not the restaurant). A great air-conditioned place to relax after tromping around on a tour of the Intramuros sights all morning. I don't know an address, but it's next to the souvenir store Silahis.
        Pretty generous servings of sandwiches, pasta, pancit, rice dishes, soup, etc. My family members were all really happy with what they ordered and they even accommodated my nephews' special pasta orders. Ilustrado is also the place that serves the famous sampaguita ice cream (jasmine). My family liked it, though I don't care for flower-flavored foods. Again, everything was about $4 each. The coffee was also really good and they give you one of those big trays with cream and all the different kinds of sugars. I'm a sucker for that stuff.

        1. just a quick addition to the Saturday morning Salcedo Market find, there's a similar Sunday morning market in Legaspi Village. same concept but handy if you find yourself in Makati on a Sunday morning rather than a Saturday. parking is much better too.

          1. Did you find anywhere good to eat tocino and longganisa?

            And some good old-style ensaimada?

            I'm heading there next month, and I'm looking for comfort food!

            22 Replies
            1. re: prasantrin

              What distinguishes old-style ensaimada?

              1. re: CookieEater

                Less spongey airy than a lot of the new versions. More break-like, less cake-like.

                Pan de sal is different, too. The old style was more like a Spanish or Portuguese hard roll that was a little salty (hence the name). But over time it developed into an eggy buttery sweet thing. Good, but not the same thing, and when I found an old recipe for pan de sal and made it for the first time, my lola was in heaven.

                1. re: prasantrin

                  Hi, prasantrin, it's nice to see that there are people who appreciate the difference. Too many commercial bakeries seem to think that adding more air and sugar to everything is the way to go. While that may work with souffles, it's a bad idea for traditional breads.

                  Will you have time to go to the Salcedo Saturday morning market in Mankati? If you do, you'll find two of the best enseimada in Manila, from the Mina and Pamangan stands. Go for brundh, and go hungry--you'll find regiional comfort food like mangrove crabs cooked in coconut milk, lechon, chicken inasal, and kesong puti (fresh buffalo milk cheese that will make you forget the best mozzarella) that will make any food lover's trip. But go early--preferably before 9:30 am--if you want to be sure to get the enseimadas and lechon while it's still hot.

                  1. re: pilinut

                    Salcedo Market is definitely on my list, but I'll only have one Saturday in Manila (arriving on Sunday, leaving two weeks later on Saturday), so I'm not sure if I'll actually be able to go. We're taking at least a day-trip to the Pampanga area, and that may be on Saturday. I read somewhere (maybe Market Man's blog?) that there are some bakeries in Pampanga, too, so if I can't get to Salcedo, at least I know I'll get some good food in Pampanga!

                    But I really want to go! I want some of that kesong puti! My mother's family is from Bacolod, so I've supposedly had good chicken inasal before, but I want some good lechon and crabs, too!

                    Could you tell me what time the market opens or what time the lechon comes out? We're early risers, so arriving before 9:30 won't be a problem, but we'd like to make sure we get the good stuff! Do you have any specific stalls you prefer (or is there only one stall for lechon, one for crabs, etc)?

                    1. re: prasantrin

                      Unless you have something really special lined up in Pampanga, I'd say the Salcedo Market is more rewarding. Then, again, if you can do both, all the better!

                      The market officially opens at 8:30, I think, but I know that some people go even earlier. (I've gone at 8:35, only to see other people already departing with market baskets loaded.) Don't eat anything before going over because you'll want all that valuable internal real estate for the stuff at the market. For people like me, whose visits never seem to be long enough to enable me to eat everything I want, the Salcedo Market is ideal because so much of it is there, and is of very good quality. And what I can't eat there, I can often bring back for lunch or dinner. And it's a great place to buy presents to bring back to the U.S., too. I often buy things from couple who sell wooden bowls and platters, and the stall next to them sells some nice cotton kitchen towels from Ilocos, as well as basketry. Then there are the stalls at one corner of the market that sell Vargas' butter cakes, ube and pandan puto (which freeze nicely), and the excellent banana chips in the green and purple packaging--Michelle's is the brand.

                      I don't buy lechon at the market, though there are at least 2-3 stalls that sell it. I usually get together with a few friends and we special order one and tear it apart in private, in a most unladylike manner. If you want a couple of phone numbers for lechon, let me know. You need to order a day in advance, but many places will deliver. Cost for a 15kg (liveweight) pig, Cebu style, is less than $100, and it will feed 10 people like my friends and me, or 20 normal Filipinos.

                      You have to get the quesong puti wrapped in banana leaves. Don't bother with the stuff in plastic bags, which is what you find in most supermarkets.

                      1. re: pilinut

                        Thanks again! My flight leaves on Saturday, but it leaves in the afternoon so if I can't make Salcedo the weekend before, I can go for breakfast, then head to the airport! We're also going to the Legaspi Market on my one Sunday there, I hope, just to look around.

                        I'll let you know about the pig. We're not planning on having any big parties while we're in Manila, but it would be great having our own pig! I could sneak some onto the plane with me, too! (I'm planning on bringing my mini-vacuum pack machine with me :-) ).

                        1. re: prasantrin

                          What is a mini-vacuum pack machine? How big is it? I think I want one to travel with, too! What are you going to use it for, if you don't mind my asking? Quesong puti?

                          But be warned: you'll have to eat all your leftover lechon or other meat products before you arrive in the U.S. Those sniffer beagles are cute, but they could cost you a LOT of money if you bring in meat you don't declare. (And, if you do declare it, it will probably be ditched before your very eyes.) Fish and other seafood products are okay, though. And there are a couple of places in the Salcedo Market that sell very tasty big, fat, tinapang bangus (smoked milkfish) in vacuum packs. I prefer the large center-cut pieces to the whole fish--no wasted luggage or freezer space. And the bangus is so easy to prepare, too. Just warm it up in a toaster oven or even a microwave and you have the basis of a very nice Filipino meal.

                          The Legaspi Market is not bad, though the pickings are not nearly as rich as the Salcedo Market. There is a good deal of prepared food, and it's not as crowded as the Saturday market, so it's not a bad place to have Sunday brunch, or to load up on stuff to take home with you. I remember getting some good vinegar over there and lugging it back to California.

                          Enjoy your trip and eat at least a couple of those beautiful mangoes for me!

                          1. re: pilinut

                            Ugh, bang head, ugh, bang head, ugh, bang head, NUT, don't remind me ... tinapa was one of my favorite foods in the Philippines! There is so much salted fish, and so little smoked! I always bought some and just ate it with hot kanin!

                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                              Well, Sam, I always have a couple of nice, big chunks of fatty tinapang bangus in my freezer in the Bay Area. If you ever find your way over here, I shall cook some kanin (Japanese short grain, Thai Jasmine, or--if you're really lucky, and I've just returned from Manila--I may have some Philippine Dinorado) and you shall have some tinapa with a tomato and salted egg salad on the side. Say when.

                              1. re: pilinut

                                Maraming salamat po! I WILL let you know! With gohan!

                            2. re: pilinut

                              I have this one for travelling and small-batch purposes

                              The bags aren't as thick as Tilia ones, but I figure if I wrap in plastic wrap and/or aluminium foil, then single or double bag vacuum seal, it should be OK.

                              I'm actually based in Japan, and they can be even stricter here, but for some reason I've never had any kind of problem. I"ve even brought in sweet potatoes, Chinese sausage, and other assorted goodies from Canada, and once brought in a whole salted threadfin from Thailand (that was in my pre-mini-vacuum pack machine days, too). If I get caught, I can always pull the "Oh, I didn't know, I'm a foreigner" routine. It usually works for me--I look so non-descript and non-threatening!

                              I'll probably use it for some breads (if I can find good ensaimada and pan de sal, I'll freeze them, then vacuum pack to preserve a little longer), whatever meats I can find that I want to bring back (cooked meats, of course), and anything else that strikes my fancy. If I can get quesong puti, I'll probably lightly vacuum pack it (i.e. I won't suck out all the air, just enough for a loose seal), just for the flight back, then unseal it asap.

                              I might also bring a wine carrier with me (styrofoam thing that I bought at Bev-Mo in California) in case I find anything in a glass bottle. I like buying local honeys when I travel, and those are usually in glass.

                              Not bringing so many clothes. Need to preserve space for the return for food!

                              1. re: prasantrin

                                Thanks for the link! That vacuum sealer is a neat idea. I'll check it out at Target tomorrow. I'd be tempted to use it for the next box of ube puto and a couple of dozen mango tarts. Hmmmm. . . . maybe a sansrival (alternating layers of cashew meringue and buttercream).

                                It would be really nice to have some leftover lechon in one's freezer! I hope you can do it with no problems.

                                For the enseimada, I suggest you bring or buy some kind of box with compartments so you can place the enseimada in your suitcase. (I usually bring back around half a dozen, so placing them in my hand luggage is not an option.) It's a good idea to pack the enseimada with newpaper or bubble wrap to keep them from shaking around and getting squashed.

                                Aside from the Medina and Pamangan enseimadas at the Saturday market, there's the excellent one from Pasteleria Mallorca which you can order a day in advance. It's every bit as good as the other two, and you won't have to wait until Saturday. It's the proper, old-fashioned kind you mentioned. Their phone numbers: 3732789 / 3732790. You'll have to arrange to pick up your order, though, at 18 Scout Fuentebella in Quezon City. If push comes to shove, there's always good old Hizon's, which is the best of the commercially available enseimada.

                                Enjoy your trip and all the food!

                                1. re: pilinut

                                  I love sansrival, too, but it's easy enough to make (time-consuming, but easy), so I can't reserve some of my piddly 20kg luggage allowance for it. :-(

                                  Do you by chance know where one can get carioca in Manila (or Baguio or Pampanga--those are the other places I'll be visiting this time around). I love carioca, but it's so hard to find nowadays.

                                  Apparently it goes by other names sometimes depending on the area, but it's these things.


                                  1. re: prasantrin

                                    So you're another burntlumpia fan!

                                    You're right, it's one of those disappearing kakanin (generic name for rice-based snacks--I think) I've had carioca only a couple of times in my life, and the most memorable one was from a tiny place by the road near Calamba, Laguna. Sorry.

                                    You may want to try consoling yourself with the Pichi-pichi (sticky-gelatinous rice dumplings rolled in freshly grated coconut) from Amber restaurant, which also has good Pancit Malabon. Or the Puto Bumbong (steamed purple-rice cakes served with coconut, raw sugar, and cheese) at Via Mare.

                                    1. re: pilinut

                                      I'll try to check out Amber and Via Mare, but I really really want carioca. There was a Filipino supermarket in Winnipeg that sold them, but the maker who was making them out of her home was shut down, so we can't get them anymore. Darn health department regulations!

                                      I guess I'll try to make them on my own. It doesn't seem that hard, though the syrup in the recipe burntlumpia posted seems different from the one on the carioca I used to buy. Oh well, I'm sure it'll still be good!

                                      (I do read burntlumpia, but mostly Dessert Comes First and Market Manila--especially the former in preparation for my trip! She goes out to eat a lot! And of course 80 Breakfasts, etc. etc. Funny because I didn't eat a lot of Filipino food growing up except during the one year I lived there--my dad is Thai, and my mother doesn't really know how to cook many Filipino dishes--even her adobo is a little odd, but I guess that has made me more interested in learning about Filipino food )

                                      1. re: prasantrin

                                        Sounds like you're all set! The information on those blogs should keep you running from one delicious meal to the next--only stopping for snacks on the way. Please do post about what you find.

                                        Your background is interesting: growing up in Manila, one of my oldest friends had a Thai mother and Filipino father, and she used to bring an occasional odd dish (e.g., steamed egg), but I never recall having had Thai food at her home. Then again, I was never very interested in Filipino food until I moved away from the Philippines. Now I'm belatedly learning to cook the dishes I grew up taking for granted, and realizing how crucial a link to one's heritage food is.

                                        Good luck and happy dining in the Philippines!

                                        1. re: prasantrin

                                          i just saw this now, but if you still want to eat carioca, these are readily available in UP Diliman campus. Just go to the Shopping Center (SC) and ask the food stalls there which ones sell carioca. :)

                                          1. re: happyislandgirl

                                            Thanks! I'll take note for my next visit. :-)

                                            Thanks to pilinut I have a recipe to try to make them at home, too.

                                2. re: pilinut

                                  My mom brought home three HUGE bags of bangus. We pretended not to know her on the airplane.

                                  1. re: CookieEater

                                    Are these something that's allowed to be brought in to the USA by Customs?

                                    1. re: EGoldberg

                                      You can bring in fish and other seafood, with no problem. I bring in smoked bangus, bottled sardines, bagoong--and declare it. But all meat products are strictly forbidden. One December, I saw Customs confiscating several large, foil-wrapped bundles of what looked like a home-cooked ham, embutido (a type of meatloaf, but much more work), longganiza. . . It had obviously been intended as a big family Christmas feast. Very sad.

                                      1. re: pilinut

                                        I would have cried if that had happened to me! I almost did cry when my mother willingly gave up a pack of Chinese sausage to Japanese customs officers ("Do you have any meat?" "Yes, I have a pack of Chinese sausage in my purse.") Luckily for me, she had another pack in her check-in bag!

                                        Like pilinut said, fish and seafood are usually OK (though sometimes country of origin plays a factor), but meat AND meat products are forbidden. By meat products, they also mean anything made with meat--that includes things like instant noodle packs which include beef extracts, etc.

                                        Although I have brought meat into the US (usually from Canada, and meat from Canada is mostly OK), it's really not something that should be taken lightly. If caught, at best your stuff will be confiscated, but you could also be fined heavily.