Tag Archive for Food

Amazing sweets and desserts of the Philippines

Filipinos have a major sweet tooth, which I can totally get behind. Since I got here, I’ve been working on sampling the local cakes and sweets, so I thought I’d make an illustrated guide, in case you ever find yourself in the Philippines and in need of a serious sugar injection. Let’s call it “great things I ate and you didn’t”.

Ube Cake1. Ube Cake

Ube (purple yam) is purple, so at first I thought it was the same as taro, which is also purple. Apparently it isn’t. It has a sweet and subtle flavour, which was especially subtle in this cake, which tasted much like creamy sponge cake.

 

 

 

Banana-Q2. Banana-Q

My introduction to the Philippines as a kid was a book about bananas, which had in it a lot of stories from the Philippines, alongside the interesting trivia about how many types of different bananas there are here. ¬†Apparently, quite a lot. These little bananas are not the kind I’m used to back home, but they are roasted on the BBQ. I’m not sure they are really called banana-q but the name makes sense. They taste sort of like a cross between a banana and a plantain and are coated in something very sugary. This skewer originally had 2 on it, but I ate one.

Coconut bread3. Coconut bread

Lovely buns with fluffy dough and a sweet and sticky coconut filling that’s more sweet than coconutty. This one may not look amazing in the pic, but I assure you I’d have eaten a whole bag of the stuff if it weren’t for the fact that I was already stuffed full of bananas on a stick.

 

 

 

Halo-Halo4. Halo-Halo

Literally “mix mix”, I think, this is the local sundae and is the king of Philippine desserts. You can get other sundaes here, but I don’t think anything gets better than this. It’s got ice cream (I chose ube flavour), ube jam, pieces of leche flan, shredded coconut that tastes like coconut and feels like noodles, cornflakes, jelly, crushed ice and, perhaps surprisingly, sweetcorn. It might have other bits in it, for all I know. This one comes from Ice Castle, which is apparently the best one. I think they are all over the Philippines.

Sweetcorn, by the way, is eaten as a dessert here and so is avocado. A bit of an unusual context for me, but the sweetcorn kinda works.

A vegetarian in Hong Kong part 2

When I was reading up about Hong Kong, the best piece of advice I got (in hindsight) was that the best option for vegetarians here is to eat at the specifically vegetarian restaurants. While this is not 100% true, it does make life a lot easier and saves a lot of legwork, menu reading and disappointment. My brother, who’s not a vegetarian but happens to dislike a lot of the more common meat and seafood offerings here, tends to eat mostly Western food (in particular, fast food), which is very common here and does occasionally offer more in the way of a single veggie option on the menu. I don’t eat fast food at home, though and I wouldn’t even go into a McDonald’s to piss in their toilet, so I’ve had to do a bit more research. Frankly, the “research” involved looking at Happy Cow and reading my copy of Lonely Planet Encounters. Considering LP is like the McGuide, I’m actually really impressed with the food choices.

Here’s a rundown of some places I found:

The first dim sum I had was actually at Din Tai Fung a Taiwanese place on Canton road in Kowloon that happened to be the first restaurant for the area in my little Lonely Planet guide. Canton Road is sort of like Fifth Avenue. It’s so packed of expensive stores like Tiffany’s and Armani that even labels like Miu Miu have to be tucked down a side street from there.
The book made the restaurant sound almost like a fast food joint, so we assumed it was further down the road, where things stopped looking so diamond-encrusted, but when we found it, it was in the poshest shiniest shopping centre and each table had 5 different waiters and waitresses looking after it with security-staff-like earphones and an endless supply of water and tea to fill up your glass with as soon as you’ve taken a sip. Not quite the food court we’d envisioned, but we went for it anyway.

Menu

Pick your poison

The menu helpfully has little drawings of the type of thing that went into the dim sum – tiny little brown pigs, shrimp, fish, etc. and little green leaves for me.
There were two different types of veggie dim sum, at least 5 different types of lovely sauteed greens, plus some interesting fried cucumber dish I never got around to trying.
They also had amazing desserts. We flipped a coin to choose between red bean paste buns and taro paste buns. The universe chose taro and the universe is never wrong.
It wasn’t even that expensive, surprisingly, especially considering how much we ate. We also managed to miss the rush. The place gets insanely busy at times and people were queuing up outside the entrance when we left.

Waterflow

Hide your shame!

 

The ladies’ toilet also had this awesome device, which I’m guessing is used to hide your toilet sounds by playing a flushing sound. I thought that was how you flushed, to begin with but only a tinny watery sound came out. Very confusing.

 

 

Fancy a swim? The famous power station beach on Lamma Island

The Bookworm cafe is on Lamma Island, the island known for its pretty beaches and giant power station. There are no cars allowed on the island, just bicycles and these little mini tractor cart things.

There was a big sign advertising it as I left the ferry saying it was purely vegetarian and organic, so obviously I had to try it.
The place is bright and lovely and does have used books for sale in both English and Chinese. Most of the English books are your usual blend of abandoned travel guides and traveler fodder. The food all looked amazing, though I was a bit disappointed that it was mostly Western-inspired stuff. There was a healthy amount of fusion, though, I’m guessing because of the ingredients that are available.

Soba noodle pasta salad

Yummiest salad at the Bookworm Cafe

There are lots of vegan options on the menu, but I went for this “pasta salad” that had feta cheese in it, as well as soba noodles and loads of veg. I had a ginger, honey and lemon tea (memories of Mcleodganj…) and this version also had cloves, which was nice. This was one of the best meals I’ve had in months. Lamma Island was the perfect day out anyway, because it’s sunny and green, but I would actually go back there just to eat at this place again.

Veggie noodles at Po Lin Yuen

The next place I found is ¬†Po Lin Yuen right next door to the building where my yoga place is, which is about 2 minutes from home. It’s some sort of Buddhist place that looks sort of like a worker’s canteen, but with the round tables that seem to be popular even in proper Chinese places at home. It’s super cheap and seems to be into the Chinese equivalent of fake meat dishes (veggie shark fin soup, veggie pig’s intestine dim sum). The food wasn’t the greatest, but there was plenty of it and a huge amount of veg I couldn’t finish. It sort of reminded me of Chinese takeaways at home in London. I brought the rest home and my brother loved it. It’s encouraging to know that we can both eat one dish there and save even more money.

 

Up next – possibly my favourite vegetarian restaurant in the world. It totally deserves its own post.