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Apr 19, 2009 11:21 AM

Adobong Pusit and Special Halo Halo at Hayward’s Taste of Manila

My second day in Hayward I had a little more time to explore and drove around a bit before picking a lunch spot to check out. In a nondescript, half-vacant strip mall in the middle of a residential area off of Hesperian, Taste of Manila holds court at lunch time and through the afternoon.

The menu, priced at $4.50 per entrée with rice and soup, changes daily. The day’s offerings included: beef nilaga, chicken/pork adobo, pork binagoongan, pancit bihon, adobong pusit, and the two standing dishes, BBQ chicken and palabok. I admired the trays of dessert in the counter display case, and learned that these change every day too. The sweet Filipina grandmother took my order at the counter, relayed it to the kitchen, and then brought my food to the table.

New to me was the Adobong Pusit lunch special with soup, $4.50. So of course I had to try that. Most of the lunch entrees include rice and soup, but for this one the side of rice was $1.25 extra. The fresh squid, including the tentacles and roe sacs, was cooked in its own ink with a touch of vinegar, onions, and topped with fried garlic. The squid was thoroughly cooked such that the texture became tender again and the roe was firm. The briny, black-as-night saucing was delicious with the lively acidic lift and garlicky aroma.

Then for dessert, the Special Halo Halo, $4. Topped with small scoops of mango, ube, and avocado ice cream, this had everything I could imagine and probably then some for the most fully packed and colorful example I've run across. Young coconut, cubes of leche flan, jellies, some barley-like grain, jackfruit, sweetened condensed milk, tropical fruits, and more. All eyes in the small dining room were watching me try to figure out how to eat this, and a couple other patrons called out to me to mix the crushed ice with all the goodies on the bottom.

The grandma came over to my table to check on me. She said that the adobong pusit isn’t on the menu often, maybe a couple times a month when she can get fresh squid, so I was lucky to stumble on it. She explained that the halo-halo is always available and what Taste of Manila is known for. If I returned around 2:30pm, she said there would be a line every afternoon for halo halo orders. She was quite proud that this is a regular stop for tour groups and long-time customers come here from San Jose and San Francisco with ice packed in chests to take multiple orders home with them.

Only open from noon to 5pm, closed Mondays. Cash only.

Taste of Manila
2619 Oliver Dr, Hayward, CA 94545

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  1. Thanks for the report Melanie. Adobong pusit is something my mother used to cook and I never knew it was an adobo variation until you mentioned it. Glad you enjoyed it!

    1 Reply
    1. re: DezzerSF

      I asked Gramma if adobong pusit was from a certain region, but she said that Filipinos all over the islands make the dish. This was the first time I've had the roe fully cooked like that, it turns firm and sort of cottony in texture.

    2. Melanie, you are an adventurer - pusit and halo-halo. It sounds like you had the most down home Pinoy lunch experience I've read about in a while, and that includes a recent dinner at my sister's house. I can't wait to try this place next time I'm in the area. Thank you for the report.

      2 Replies
      1. re: fresnohotspot

        It's been a while since i've ventured in a Pinoy place. Always fun for me because the folks always assume I'm filipina too and address me in tagalog. Here when they figured out that I was not one of the tribe, everyone was staring at me to see if I liked the food. It's a small place with maybe 5 little tables. I didn't have to fake my enjoyment!

        I think that the cook might be the daughter, don't know if they own it jointly or if one is the owner. Another daughter came in with her kids and husband to have lunch, and grandma told her son-in-law that he was getting fat from eating too much spaghetti and should be eating this cooking instead. Can't get more down home than that.

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          great photo of the halo halo - shades of Willie Wonka!

      2. Colorful indeed! I particularly liked the purple-striped rolled cookies.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          Thanks for pointing them out, I thought the ube-colored cookies were a great touch. And, taste-wise, I appreciated that they were not the filled kind, just pure crunch.

          It was fun to take a look around Hayward again, but I only spent 1.5 days there.

        2. Melanie,
          hard for me to tell from the pic, but the 'grain' that was included in the Halo^2 was likely Pinipig: toasted rice. A common add-on to this and other desserts. Glad u enjoyed! I'll have to check out Taste of Manila myself when I'm in the area.

          6 Replies
          1. re: pushslice

            Thanks, was certainly wishing I could have a halo-halo from ToM when I was sweltering in 90 degree weather in normally cool and foggy Monterey yesterday. Do keep in mind the rather limited hours here . . . when I asked grandma what the opening times were, she smiled and said she doesn't like to work too long.

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              Melanie, I've read your reviews on so many Filipino places on here the past couple of years. I Just wanted to thank you for always spreading the love as Filipino cuisine doesn't get that much attention from the general public.

              I love the little anecdote towards the end about eating the halo-halo. I think it would be cute to see someone looking so confused at their dessert. But through all the times you've had Filipino food, this certainly wasn't your first time eating halo-halo, was it?

              You should try making your own at home (if you have an ice shaver, even better!). They're awesome during the summer!

              1. re: westcoaststyle

                Hi there, no not my first time with halo-halo. It was packed with so many different things, I was trying to figure out how to excavate some of them to taste separately before they got lost mixing it up. Those balls of ice cream were quite precariously perched on top too and I was worried they'd topple over.

                Any other places you recommend that specialize in halo-halo like this one? Oh, the grandma told me that the Japanese tourists call it olah-olah, reading from right to left. (g)

                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  I know what you mean: sometimes, I ask for a small bowl to hold excess ice or the ice cream. (I'm a purist that way--ice cream doesn't belong mixed into halo-halo, though I will happily eat it separately. Just milk, preferably a good evaporated one, or better still, coconut milk.) But that halo-halo of yours looked really good. Let me know the next time you want a halo-halo and I'll join you!

                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    Off the top of my head are some of my favorite places to get it:

                    Max's (both in SSF and Vallejo)
                    Kuya's Asian Cuisine (San Bruno)

                    Also, Patio Filipino has their own version of the halo-halo served in a young coconut shell. DELICIOUS.

                    And, even some fast food Filipino places like Chowking and Jollibee have good halo-halo (Chowking, especially).

                    And that's a cute little anecdote about the Japanese tourists!

                    Patio Filipino
                    1770 El Camino Real, San Bruno, CA 94066

                    Chow King
                    3495 Sonoma Blvd, Vallejo, CA

                    Max's of the Philippines Restaurant
                    1155 El, Camino Real S San Francisco, CA

                    460 San Mateo Ave, San Bruno, CA 94066

                    Max's of Manila
                    3555 Sonoma Blvd, Vallejo, CA

                    1. re: westcoaststyle

                      Ditto on Patio Filipino's version: I go there just for that! Come summer, we should organize a halo-halo crawl: Patio, Tribu, Kuya, Intramuros, and a few other places are all within a few minutes of each other.

            2. I was running an errand nearby at lunchtime and Google Maps found this place. We almost missed eating there because it's semi-hidden next to a video store.

              I haven't had a lot of Filipino food but this is by far the best I've had, felt like I was a guest at . Fresh lumpia (vegetarian except for the optional dried pork sprinkled on top), some kind of chicken braised in a sauce, some kind of chopped meat with quail eggs, a great vegetable dish with bitter melon, okra, and dried shrimp, simple stir-fried noodles, a rendang-like beef dish flavored with smoked sausage, all really good. That was enough food for four, total cost with two cans of kalamansi drink ("not from concentrate") $36.

              This is a really easy stop off 880 or 92. They said they'll stay open a little later for people to pick up orders.

              6 Replies
              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                I'll have to try it. My son likes the one with quail eggs.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  The veggie dish is likely 'Pinakbet'; definitely a staple of pinoy cuisine; glad u liked it, it can often take newcomers aback.
                  Fresh lumpia is great to see on a menu; many of the smaller mom-n-pop places don't serve it, for whatever reasons. It would be great, imo, if more people got to try it and learn that lumpia isn't always the ubiquitous little fried 'shanghai' style variety.

                  1. re: pushslice

                    The menu included "tamales," but they were out. What would those be?

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      Filipino tamales are made with ground rice with coconut milk instead of the ground corn in the Mexican versions and the filling is usually pork or chicken, often cooked in an achiote-laced sauce. The wrapper used is usually banana leaf.

                      I have heard that ground rice is used in some places in Mexico and I wouldn't be surprised if ground corn was used in some places in the Philippines.

                    2. re: pushslice

                      "The veggie dish is likely 'Pinakbet'; definitely a staple of pinoy cuisine; glad u liked it, it can often take newcomers aback. "

                      probably because of the bitter melon and bagoong

                    3. re: Robert Lauriston

                      I'm glad to hear that someone else has tried it. Yes, there's a sense of home here, hosted by a really good home cook.

                      You didn't indulge in the halo-halo?