Where Am I?

Hello there. If you’re a regular visitor here, you might notice the “slightly” new look. Well, my below average photoshop skills were thankfully not used in editing the new header photo above. It’s just me, my trusty Panasonic GF1, and a day in the life of a culinary school student.

If I’m being totally honest, I’ve felt disconnected from my blog more than once. My priorities have somehow shifted. I’m a living irony. Here I am, kicking ass and getting my ass kicked in cooking school, and the blog doesn’t have a lot to show for it. But I’m not apologizing because I’d like to believe there are a lot of pressing matters that need my attention more, like: sleep, online food deliveries and averting failure.

But I miss it. I miss having time on my hands to just peruse through food blogs to extract inspiration. I miss the regular people who make their presence felt each and every time (I’m talking about you, J. :D) And most of all, I miss the comforts of cooking at home. Don’t get me wrong…moving and shifting my career did me so much good, but you get what I mean. I hope.

I’m a guy who likes to connect residual memories with an item’s face value. The old “look” THG had was a picture of easier, more convenient days doing nothing but cooking and baking. Everything isn’t the same anymore.

I had a bad day today. We all have bad days, I keep on telling myself that. And the funny thing is, instead of sleeping on it, I decided to write again, because I know this is probably the only way I can feel something familiar again.

What you have before you know is probably an indicator of things to come. The ground I’m walking on right now is shaky. The blog feels the disorientation because when I think about what to post, I feel like a noose is trying hard to suffocate me. I’m trying too hard. That’s probably the point I’m driving at.
Maybe I’m just lost right now. But that doesn’t mean I’ll never find my way back home. I’m in pain (literally, because I burned my hand), but that just means I’m alive. That’s gotta count as something good, right?

Speaking of home, the photos were from a family outing at the beach when I went home a few months ago. I also made clam curry, and my dill weed became a tree. I know, the photos don’t mesh well but I just miss home so much.

Clam Curry

I’ve taken it upon me to download whatever torrent file I could get my grubby hands on when I was home a few days ago. Having lived for two months with a plug-it that’s mediocre at best made me more appreciative of the blazing fast internet I have at home. It’s good for the soul, coming home to country comfort.

My mom and I went to the wet market on Saturday to buy some ingredients we need for a little picnic the following day. Before I left, I wanted to have a picnic with my family but things got in the way and it didn’t happen. This time, we made sure that our schedules were wide open. Anyway, there were mounds and mounds of clams in different sizes, (around 5 – 8 per mound) for sale that morning. I didn’t pass up the chance to buy around two mounds because I was inspired by Kumar (of MasterChef AU fame) to cook clams with curry. I’m a big fan of MasterChef Australia, so much in fact, that this blog has thrived after feeding off the show’s happy juju. Thanks to incredible download speeds, I was up-to-date with this season’s offering. The latest season is an All-Stars edition, pitting 4 fan favorites each from season 1 – 3 against each other for charity. In one of the challenges, where it was season 1 vs 2 vs 3 in an all-Indian challenge, Kumar from season 3 cooked mussels (tahong) in coconut milk flavored with a homemade spice mix. We don’t get a lot of really good mussels but clams were in abundance.

Clams and mussels taste like the sea so much that the flavor is unmistakable. It does wonders to soups, rice and now, I can curry to the list. Like most of my kitchen experiments, it was the first time I cooked clams with curry so I just went with gut feel on taste and seasoning.

The garam masala was still in the pantry, albeit a little milder in flavor, and mom always keeps a supply of coconut cream in tetra packs for convenience. I was home…and it was game time. Another home run for the clams.

Clam Curry (serves 2 – 3)

  • around 15 clams
  • 400 ml coconut cream
  • 3 tablespoons curry powder (what I used: 1 1/2 tablespoon garam masala + 1 1/2 tablespoon turmeric powder), or more to taste
  • one 1-inch knob of ginger, minced
  • 1 lemongrass stalk, chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • half a bulb of garlic, minced
  • 1 large white onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 bell peppers (preferably 1 red and 1 green), sliced into thin strips
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 bunch pechay or bok choy, roughly chopped
  • 1 finger chili, sliced, or red pepper flakes (optional)
  1. In a medium-sized pan or sauce pan, preferably with a lid, add a splash or two of oil over medium heat.
  2. Add the garlic and ginger. Allow to toast until fragrant then add the onions. Cook until onions start to go limp. Add the lemongrass and bell peppers and stir everything together.
  3. Add the coconut cream and the spices (and if you’re using it, the chili). Mix everything together until well incorporated. Season with salt and pepper and allow to simmer.
  4. Add the clams and cover the pan.  Allow to cook, making sure to discard the clams that do not open.
  5. Add the pechay at the last minute, stir everything together , let it cook for a bit then remove from heat. Serve warm and enjoy!


The ‘Turo-Turo’ Barbecue Experience

Our first night in idyllic Dipolog – Dapitan – Dakak saw us at Dipolog’s boulevard looking for a place to eat just as the sun was about to set.

Fast facts: I’m from Zamboanga city, a relatively large city that is part of the Zamboanga peninsula, at the western tip of Mindanao. Dipolog city is the capital of Zamboanga del Norte, and a 6 – 8 hour drive from Zamboanga City. In order for you to get to Dapitan city, you have to pass through Dipolog. I once assumed that Dapitan is a part of Dipolog, only to be mistaken. Dapitan is famously known as the place where the country’s national hero, Jose Rizal, was exiled. Dakak is the beach resort where we stayed, and you have to pass through Dapitan to get to Dakak (say that really rough: Da-Kak). You seriously need transportation to get you from one place to another – walking won’t cut it.

People flock to Dipolog boulevard to enjoy the really great view of the sunset without any impediments from rowdy crowds, trash dotting the shoreline, and the fishy smell that the sea can sometimes have . The people sure know how to keep it clean and orderly.

When night falls and there’s not much of the sunset left, people also flock to the nearby barbecue ‘plaza’ for dinner. The perfect word to describe it was ‘beautiful chaos’, similar to the vibe you get from hawker stalls in Hong Kong. You know what to expect: it’s nothing fancy, it’s not always clean, but the food is always good.

Barbecue vendors call out to you to choose their stall, each one declaring that their barbecue sauce is better than the rest. It’s probably the only thing that will give them an edge..because observing stall after stall, nothing really sets their barbecues apart – they all have the same items, same tinge on the meat, and you would assume that they’ve been marinated in the same way.

The skewered meat items are still raw, and this is where the ‘turo-turo’ comes in. ‘Turo’ can either mean ‘teach’ or ‘point’. In this case, customers choose or ‘point’ at the meat they want grilled. The fare includes the classic pork (skewered or belly slices) and chicken, innards, hotdogs (yes, hotdogs!), tocino (cured pork), longganisa (ground cured pork in sausage casings), and – wait for it ——- taba ng baboy/pork fat! Yes, you read that right, cubes of pork fat. It’s absolutely delicious when grilled. I’m not ashamed to say I love eating it, though not everyday. (I might be lying)

Each cup or half-cup of rice is individually wrapped in dried woven coconut leaves, and is called pusô. You absolutely can’t eat barbecue without rice!

Once your order has been taken, taking your seat can be a challenge because the place may be packed. Customers can sit wherever they want to, and each stall has a ‘little helper’ that can act like a homing missile that can easily locate you when they serve your order. I call them little helpers because when we were there, they were all children! I assume they were family members of the people manning the stalls, so no harm done (I hope).

The place isn’t really well-lit – just a few incandescent and fluorescent bulbs here and there, but that’s part of the experience of (almost) ‘dining in the dark’.


Now, I assume that their pork and chicken barbecue have been marinated with the usual ingredients: soy sauce, vinegar/calamansi juice, ketchup and sugar. The savory – sweet barbecue arrived and we attacked it with a ferocity that only hungry travelers can have. I don’t like calamansi (native Philippine lemon), but I couldn’t resist dipping the pieces into a mixture of soy sauce, vinegar and calamansi juice because they went well together.

They offer the optional eating utensils, because let’s face it, the Filipino habit of eating with your hands just makes food taste so much better. Not every Filipino dish should be eaten with the hand (some may disagree with this!), but grilled food just begs to be eaten ‘kamayan-style’ (kamay=hands).

I might have just died with pleasure.

When you’re hungry, food tastes so much better. That was the case here. But I’d suspect that even if I’m not that hungry, I might wolf down more than one (or five) sticks of barbecue with the same gusto.

Where do you wash your hands? Each vendor has a portable water dispenser that their customers can use to wash their grubby hands after eating. You might be uncomfortable doing this, but suck it up – the food was great after all.

And yes, if you’re wondering…I did order more for takeout: a few sticks of grilled hotdogs and a stick (or two..or three..I’m not telling!) of pork fat. I finished all of it in the car even before we arrived at the nearby grocery to replenish our water supply. That’s how much I love barbecue.

You may or may not know this but I hate (with a passion) road trips..but sinking my teeth into experiences like this one made the trip worth it and probably offset whatever ill-feelings I might have had on the way. Yes, the taba ng baboy saved my day. And I cannot be swayed to believe anything else.

Now..if I would rank the barbecue I had in Dipolog, it would probably take the third spot on my list. Where is #1 and #2? Here in Zamboanga of course! I’m not being biased here because seriously…there’s gold in them hills. Stay tuned, I might feature my favorites one of these days. Trust me, I’m just getting started. 

MNL Snippets

It’s been a few hours since I got back from Manila, again. More pleasure than business this time, though I managed to squeeze in a day of productive school and accommodations inquiry. But I won’t go into the details, because nothing’s set in stone. But I am hoping, with fingers crossed, that the words ‘career shift’ will make 2012, my year.


I might as well post photos of what I ate, since at this unholy hour, photos and food are more interesting.

first stop: Congo Grill at SM Mall of Asia. A nice family resto that serves reasonably priced and portioned food. Don’t forget to try their SISIG – laced with chicharon/pork skin cracklings, drizzled with a light and creamy white sauce that’s still, but also not quite, mayo.

Random note: their iced tea is orange flavored. I didn’t like it, even if I knew it was Nestea.

The next day: Cafe Via Mare at The Landmark. A restaurant inside a department store is ingenious. A plus considering it shares the same floor with the ladies’ dep. Dad and I were perfectly comfortable perusing the menu while Mom was busy enjoying the chaotic ambiance of sales and shoes.

Noteworthy: Adobo flakes. Crispy and full of that salty-sour adobo flavor, this “all day breakfast” fare tasted pretty good; perfect for a hungry shopper. Ambiance was great. Basically any resto that serves great Filipino food is a winner in my book.

The Ensaladang Bagnet/Bagnet salad was also great. Bagnet is deep fried pork belly, and the salad is a mix of mustasa/mustard greens, tomatoes and onions. Normally with a distinct bitter taste, the mustasa was pleasantly mellowed by the dressing and went really well with the other ingredients. I need to replicate this.

Not to be outdone is their bibingka topped with salted egg. For some strange reason I needed to have my bibingka fix. Served hot, this heavy ‘dessert’ is perfect as it is.

Also ingenious: Chatime sharing the same floor with Via Mare. I ordered the Original Roasted blend, Taro and Matcha Red Bean. Though I still think Gong Cha and Zensonita are amazing, Chatime’s Taro was a surprise. It was rich, dense and definitely starchy, like a heavy smoothie. All of these had half the amount of sugar. I think I should have ordered the full.

The next day dad and I were left to our own devices. After checking out a school in Makati, we went to Lutong Macau, a Chinese restaurant that caters to Jupiter Street’s busy professional strip. It was a good thing we went there before lunch, because we were told that place becomes packed pretty fast when the clock strikes 12.

To say it was a heavy lunch was an understatement. We each had a small plate of dim sum as an appetizer. Looking back I think it was a bad call because we almost had no room left to finish our meals.

Noteworthy: Pancit Canton and Lechon Macau. Though I’ve tasted my fair share of pancit canton, I can’t really say that theirs was a dish I’ve already tried (that’s a good thing). I like my pancit canton dry, but I made an exception for their ‘soupy’ variety. They served it with kwek-kwek/breaded, deep friend quail eggs, which was definitely Chinese.

The lechon macau, pork belly with a crispy skin, with just a hint of five spice, was deliciously sinful. I couldn’t finish the rice that came with it. It’s funny that I only had lechon macau here in the Philippines and not in Macau, where it’s supposedly from.

On our last full day in Manila, we found ourselves stranded at Bonifacio Global because of the heavy rain. And I couldn’t think of a better way to while away the time than to spend it at Fully Booked’s Starbucks outlet.

Cozily tucked inside Fully Booked’s 3rd (or was it 4th?) floor, it was a comforting haven for readers who enjoy the experience of spending precious uninterrupted time with a good read.

What made it even more comforting was their crew, particularly the barista who took our orders. I’ve officially met the friendliest barista in the world. The way she carried herself with ease, and showered with attention everyone who came in really made the place better. And here I am gushing.

A cup of hot coffee, books, bed weather and friendly people – I couldn’t ask for anything more.

That night, in another location that can’t be disclosed, I finally took a picture of a friend that took to me pretty well. I was sitting down as he approached me, rested his head on my lap, and looked at me with those big doe eyes. He doesn’t take too kindly to strangers, I was told. I think the massage I gave him helped quite a bit.

A few hours later we were boarding the plane that would take us home, and here I am a few hours later still sleepy but with enough gumption to post this. If I waited longer the memories might go stale and it wouldn’t have been as ‘freshly pressed’.

I think I wrote enough for one day. I need to give my brain enough time to catch up. To reach this point and not click on ‘save draft’, is a tiny miracle.

Oh, the smudge you see here was supposed to be a plane. It just goes to show that my skill at capturing the moment is also extremely noteworthy (haha).



What I Ate @ Sambo Kojin

“Because I’d like to believe it’s important to tell the world what you ate for breakfast, lunch and dinner”

Just because I told you that my Manila trip was more business than pleasure doesn’t mean that I didn’t have fun one way or the other. Because I had a few high school classmates living/working/studying in Manila, we just had to meet up a few hours before my flight home. Going to the carnival was at the top of my friend R’s list of things to do before leaving.
But since it was too much of a stretch to carry our bags to Star City then to the airport, we decided to join the rest of the people at Eastwood’s Sambo Kojin – a grill-all-you-can Yakiniku resto.

My stomach wasn’t cooperating with me when we got there. I didn’t even know it was a Japanese resto. When we sat down and I took in the spacious surroundings filled with families, friends and everyone in between, I had the feeling this place was a crowd favorite. But they didn’t have hot tea on the menu to quell my stomach, so that was hopefully my only disappointment.

Normally my love for Japanese food is limited to California Maki and Ebi Tempura. When I saw the spread – there was a lot of raw meat and seafood.

“Are we supposed to eat all of this raw?!” “Why is there so much raw BACON?!” “Do the Japanese actually eat RAW BACON?!” I mentally cursed.


But then I was relieved to find out that the tables all had a smokeless grill. Sambo Kojin was a smokeless grill resto afterall. I put two and two together and inwardly gave myself a facepalm. Yes Virginia, you use the smokeless grill to cook the raw food.

I didn’t know/recognize 97% of what I got from the spread. But let me just put it out there: Sambo Kojin made me feel like a kid again. I had the time of my life with the smokeless grill. You can actually ask my friends; they felt my joy.

I had so much fun using the smokeless grill that I didn’t even bother to eat the raw fare. Looking back on the experience I should have appreciated their sushi and sashimi more but the grill takes the cake.

After getting over my initial ‘eat it raw’ scare, I happily filled my plate with the different kinds of raw marinated meat. It was too bad there was so much of it spread out and they didn’t even have labels to distinguish one from the other. That would have been so helpful for a newbie. This was probably my second disappointment.

But grill the meat I did and that was a great way to start our course. The meats were perfectly seasoned that I didn’t even see the need to dip it in their sauces. I was practically smiling on the inside.

But another revelation that I had was their ebi tempura. Now it can be said, that the bar for an absolutely amazing ebi tempura has been raised, and Sambo Kojin takes the top spot (!). Theirs was all about the shrimp. It was perfectly cooked and so tender; light years away from ATOA’s version, which I can now describe as eating leather (I’m sorry, ATOA). Sambo Kojin’s tempura was like cotton. The shrimp sizes were reasonably smaller than ATOA’s, but the taste made up for it.

Another equally satisfying dish was the skewered fish belly. I didn’t know what kind  of fish it was and I just assumed that I was fish belly because it was so fatty. I only had two skewers before I surrendered. Like the meat, there was no need to dip it in sauce because it tasted great on its own. Fatty, but extremely satisfying.

The last surprise that we had at the end of the meal was that we got more food than we can finish! There was still a plate full of meat rolls that was left untouched. I regret not getting a little of everything and just go back to the buffet if we need refills.

You pay 595php (exclusive of drinks, their bottomless iced tea was pretty pricey at 92php) not just for the food but for the experience as well. Dining there made me think of more possibilities that can ‘nurture’ an appreciation for Japanese food. If only I can master using chopsticks to pick up food instead of using it to skewer meat.

But thinking about the experience, it can wipe any form of regret off your plate. Sambo Kojin had a lot of options to share, and if resisting the natural impulse to get what looks safe and familiar can be helped, then I believe it can make a fan out of you.

And strangely enough we weren’t charged for the leftovers. Lucky us. But instead of taking the risk, take only what you think you can consume. The buffet isn’t going anywhere. We went home extremely full and satisfied. We were happy campers that night. Never mind that they didn’t serve hot tea.


Class picture

I didn’t just fall in love with Sambo Kojin – I married it that night. And so the long distance affair has begun.

Hello Hong Kong (part 5)

The weather’s gloomy. Like my mood. It’s our last day in Hong Kong and a part of me doesn’t want to leave. A part of me loved the metropolis that was fast paced like the movements of people in and out of the MTRs yet interestingly slow, like steamed dimsum…as you open that bamboo steamer, a soft cloud of steam billows and blankets you with that distinct scent that I couldn’t really put my finger on.

But I wasn’t sad anymore when we went down to the buffet area. The hotel’s breakfast buffet was amazing. The croissants were freshly baked – flaky, like Macau’s egg tarts. That taste will linger in my tongue for a while. Buttery, velvety, melt in your mouth awesomeness. Google, give me a recipe already!

And this time, I won’t really rave about Hong Kong Ocean Park per se. I didn’t really experience the rides that much because all of us were tired and it was blisteringly hot.

I’m just happy that we went to the The Panda Cafe because I HAD PEKING DUCK AGAIN! This time it was a combo with the poached chicken (pictured here).

And these panda shaped custard cakes were nice to look at, but I didn’t really care for the taste.

It was a physically exhausting day. We were riding the MTR on our way to Austin Station when we were contemplating on going to Mong Kok to shop for cheap clothes. But no, it was too much for us already. Luckily the guide at the hotel told us that we just had to walk out of the front doors, go straight and we’ll be at the Temple Street night market in no time. So at least it was a good alternative. I was glad that we had the chance to experience that facet of Hong Kong – hole-in-the-wall restos and the bustling retail air.

The hole in the wall we went to was pretty amazing, simply because a single family owned the whole expanse of the area where food was being served.

Cream Soda – if only I got to take a 6-pack of that home with me. I could make butterbeer in no time.

Scallops with black bean sauce. This was so good. It was my first time to try scallops and it had this meaty texture that I liked. It wasn’t slimy at all.

And I forgot who insisted that we have the Sweet and Sour pork – something to remind us of home. Pffftt fine.

Yang Chow fried rice. In hindsight, it was oily and bland, but we were so hungry. So it tasted absolutely delicious.

And yeah, we bought a few things here and there. But I wasn’t really impressed with the night market finds since the items among the stores were a bit repetitive. And one store actually had this interesting sales person.

And that’s basically it for the night. My last night in Hong Kong was a good one. Heck, every day was amazing.

So what did I choose to do to cap off the experience?

Of course, I just had to drink milk tea! I had the Green Tea and my mom had the Earl Grey. I liked the Earl Grey more – it had this nutty flavor to it that was nice and smooth. But I’m still a believer of all things Green Tea.

It was a great four-day vacation. We managed to squeeze in the things we needed to see and do. Though we couldn’t really explore what other wonders Hong Kong had to offer but the four days were a wonder in itself.

And I went home with so many pictures and so many memories. The best part about it was that the tastes of what I ate still lingered in my mouth. I miss the Peking Duck already, the meat of which felt like I was eating lechon. I’m still craving for the stir-fried eggplant I had at the Plaza Inn in Disneyland, which I think I can replicate. And I’m obsessed with the flaky texture of Macau’s egg tarts and the croissant I had for breakfast.

Despite the trip being physically exhausting, the beauty of it was that at the end of everything, there I was – a wide eyed little child, taking in the sights, allowing the milk tea to soothe my bones and spirit. The feeling still lingers.

And the scent I keep talking about? Well, I finally found it. At least, I hope I did. It was a light bulb at the same time a “no duh” moment. When I opened the spice package and smelled it, I knew that was it.

And it’s called Chinese Five Spice. Go figure.

Hello Hong Kong…and Macau (part 4)

Getting there was slightly hazy. I remember a bus ride, going inside and not seeing a hotel lobby but designer stores in its place. The next thing I knew, we were whisked outside where it was already dusk and lo and behold, more designer stores (and designer stalls/carts) and the famous Venetian (almost) gondola rides.

My mom was wondering what will happen to the stalls when it rains because we couldn’t see any form of protection from the elements. And we were floored when our tour guide told us that the sky isn’t real. It’s still the ceiling, and the plaza was in perpetual twilight. Wow.

After taking the scene in, I was immediately drawn to the gondola rides. The ones manning the boat were not Italians, but I could hear them belt out the lines of “Un Sole Mio” pretty well, like how an Italian would do it, albeit a notch lower.  We just had to try it. We were in a gondola together with this young Japanese couple on vacation, and it was a fun ride with them. The girl was so upbeat and jolly and so….Japanese. (haha)

After the gondola ride, we were pretty hungry so we just had to find a relatively cheap place to eat. And relative to every resto there, McDonald’s it was. They served a Grilled Chicken Barbeque burger which isn’t available in the Philippines so there was a definite need to try it.

I thought it tasted ok. It wasn’t that sweet as I expected it to be; it was more spicy and savory. But it was filling enough.

The experience of going to Macau itself was amazing enough, but alas, we had to go back to Hong Kong. Tomorrow was going to be our last day.

And I really don’t know what’s the best way to end my series, so need a day or two to compose the final part. :)

To be continued

Hello Hong Kong…and Macau (part 3)

First off, I’m sorry for my lag between posts. I’d like to believe that there’s still the continuity with my posts, despite being held back a day or two. So where were we?

Ah, yes. The Best Part.

I woke up shivering. The AC was turned up to the highest point, and I think it rained a bit during the night. So the window was foggy and covered with dew from the outside. But that only fazed me for a minute, because I know today would be a great day.

We decided that for today, we’ll go visit another Chinese territory: Macau/Macao. I was psyched because my mom told me it’ll be like travelling from Singapore to Malaysia – we have to go through the process of long lines at the immigration counter, since apparently Macau and Hong Kong are two special administrative states which are autonomous-ish. Go figure.

Since we were billeted in a hotel that had a view that was basically city on one side and water on the other, it was natural for the harbor to be located a block away from where we were staying. We just had to walk to…..of all places, a mall, which housed/had the pier for the ferries that leave for Macau. I don’t really have anything to say about the ferry except for the tiny detail of me feeling sea sick. Do not take the First Ferry, take the Cotai Jet if you’re high maintenance (haha), and stay calm while you’re dealing with ticket operators which don’t really have patience for people who can’t speak Mandarin. They can go semi-ballistic so keep your poker face ready.

We arrived at Macau, extremely hungry. It was around 2pm and we still didn’t get a proper meal for the day. So our tour guide (Yes, it was necessary to get a tour guide in Macau, and no, we didn’t have a tour guide when we were in HK) took us to a hotel (I think it was called Mocha) which had a food court in one of its floors. Apparently hotels are the lifeblood of Macau – there are exhibits, casinos, stores and food courts all rolled into a building.

And what could be better to quell my hunger than to have a bowl of rice, topped with what I have been waiting to devour since I got to Hong Kong: Peking Duck.

That was a meal to remember. It was amazing. Basically Peking Duck is roasted duck, hung out to dry, marinated with flavors I have yet to comprehend (please, somebody help me!).

The skin, was juicy, slightly crispy and fatty and had this intense flavor to it that came from the flavorings used. As for the meat, well, ironically it didn’t taste like chicken. It had an earthy flavor to it, it was succulent, very meaty without a lot of fat.

And I realized what it reminded me of – lechon meat. No, not the fatty meat, but the lean meat without a lot of fat. It wasn’t tough at all. It had this slightly chewy yet soft texture to it. I heard that overcooked duck meat is leathery, so I was glad it was not that all. And they serve it with a side of Bok Choy (not in picture), which was a nice addition as well.

Forgive me for just posting the rest of the pictures of what my mom and ninang ate. Nothing could top the epiphany my mouth just had.

Next stop – The Ruins of St. Paul’s cathedral. Getting there was nice because we had to pass through a slightly narrow street jam-packed with people. The buildings were an eclectic mix of Spanish and Chinese, from run-down to modern.

The cobbled streets really made me feel that even if nothing escapes time, there are just some things that will never go out of style. And it was lined with stores selling everything from food, souvenirs to clothing. It was lovely chaos.

Despite the fact that I’ve just been to one of Macau’s most iconic landmarks…there was one icon that I was more excited about:

Go figure. I just had Peking Duck, I was on a roll.

Now, let it be known to the world, that Hong Kong Disneyland’s egg tarts could never hold a candle to what I just ate. It was….just so good.

The egg custard filling was soft and velvet-y with just the right amount of sweetness. And like HK Disneyland’s egg tart crust, Macau’s was puffy, crumbly and had this melt in your mouth deliciousness.

Now it was time to go “hotel-hopping”. I mentioned awhile ago that hotels were the go-to places when tourists visit Macau. I like that idea of swanky snooty hotels being built to offer attractions and free admission for people who just want to look around.

One of the hotels, I’m not sure if it was the Wynn or The Grand Lisboa, had the Dragon of Fortune show. There’s basically a large circular area with a big dome in the center. When it’s time, the dome opens, smoke billows and out comes a larger than life mechanical dragon.

And the ceiling, which we thought was just for posterity, opened to reveal a digital fire show.

Our tour guide said we didn’t arrive in time for the better show: the Tree of Prosperity which was according to him, more beautiful than a larger than life scary dragon.

At the end of the day, the highlight of the trip, aside from the Egg Tarts, was most definitely…..the Venetian Macau.

And this is where I scream “cliff hanger!!!”

There’s too much for me to talk about that I didn’t have it in me to cram all of it into one post. So…

(please don’t hit me)

To be continued.

Hello Hong Kong (part 2)

We woke up with a great view of Hong Kong in all its, well, morning glory.

So what was in store for us today? It wouldn’t be an authentic trip to Hong Kong without experiencing what it’s like to take the MTR/Mass Transit Railways from point A to point B. We were a few short steps away from Jordan station. To get there, we had to pass by this bakeshop which had these……cute little treats. My regret is that I didn’t even get to taste it. We passed by this bakeshop almost everyday. And I didn’t get to taste a single mousse. F***.

Tricycles are our mode of transportation here in Zamboanga, and I don’t really have the luxury to go to Manila just to ride their MRTs (haha), so the naive little child in me was looking forward to the beautiful, fast paced metropolitan chaos that is the Hong Kong subway.

So our destination for the day: Hong Kong Disneyland. Getting there was interesting, to say the least.

Before I actually set foot in its hallowed road, I had this idea that Disneyland is so overrated, that it’s just an amusement park with rides that I don’t really get to appreciate since I have been cursed with easy motion sickness.

But lo and behold, it’s not overrated at all. And I know the cliche lives on when I say that I felt like a kid again. Really, there’s truth to the magic.

Surprisingly, I managed to overlook the fact that it was so hot and that the crowds and queus never end. Because for a day, I was like a little child, left alone in the toy store. I felt like I was reliving the magic moment when Disney channel was a major chunk of my childhood. Yeah, I was that wide-eyed and naive.

Our first stop was the souvenir shop, and it was a deluge of Disney. For a moment, I just had to restrain myself from grabbing everything they had.

My favorite souvenir?

Need I say more?

It was my ninang’s birthday that day (she celebrated her birthday in HK Disneyland, pretty cool), so we were treated to lunch at The Plaza Inn. According to the brochure it’s the resto inspired by the movie “Mulan”, so it’s basically authentic Hong Kong cuisine, albeit expensive.

Noodles on top of fried noodles was a first. I actually enjoyed the dish. It had a subtle savory flavor that I really liked and if I could order it again and again I would.
The braised eggplant was tasty as well. Actually the noodles and the eggplant had the same flavor. Its sauce reminded me of the Chinese Nido/Egg Drop soup sold in powder form in the markets; well, I think it actually was Chinese soup.

And it was my first time to try soft shell crab. They served it with a powder that really tasted like salty shrimp chips. The texture was great, and looking back, it was the first time that I managed to really eat a whole crab. The last attempt was not so stellar.

And these pork dumplings were supposed to look like goldfish. They looked way better in the menu card though.

My pet peeve with the experience of dining in Hong Kong is that it was the second time that we used small plates! I’m huge, I don’t appreciate eating in small portions!

After lunch, we went outside and we were just in time for the parade. The parade at noon was apparently something that shouldn’t be missed as well. It was sweltering hot so we just armed ourselves with plenty of sunscreen, but I think it was to no avail. The instant tan was worth it in the end though – the parade was fun.

After we bathed in the noonday sun, we went to the corner bakery and lo and behold, the desserts were practically Mickey Mouse on a plate.

PLUS, it was my first meeting with the famous Egg Tarts, something that I’ve always wanted to try apart from the amazing Peking Duck.

The verdict on the egg tarts? The tart that I tasted was kind of undercooked – the filling was still a bit runny and it was more tart than it was sweet. On the other hand, the crust was amazing. It was a puff pastry that just crumbled and melted in my mouth. But little did I know at that time that it was Macau’s egg tarts that would rock my world.

The New York cheesecake was pricey, but good. I was halfway through devouring the little mound of Mickey when I already felt full and couldn’t eat anymore. But as usual, I go the extra mile, even when I’m full. :)

An interesting fact: the castle in the center isn’t actually Cinderella’s, it’s Sleeping Beauty’s! Thus the iconic castle we see in the beginning of Disney movies is not a fixture of HK Disneyland. Go figure.

So when we went through the castle and into Fantasy Land, I realized that the park’s area is pretty small. I’ve always had this idea that it stretched on and on, but actually, you can walk around the whole park in just a few hours.

We didn’t really go to Disneyland for the rides, except for Space Mountain. Space Mountain was amazing, but traumatic and I swear my brain was jarred because of all the twists and turns. I’d be crazy to take pictures while I was suffering.

We just had to reward ourselves after surviving Space Mountain with ice pops. I had the green tea ice cream pop. Because I have this obsession with green tea in milk,  I really felt good after eating that.

Now for the attractions: the only things that I can really really really rave about are the Philharmagic in 3D and the 9pm fireworks display.

The Philharmagic in 3D basically follows the exploits of Donald Duck, as he accidentally activates Mickey’s magic baton/wand that transports him through time and space and into the iconic scenes of different Disney movies. It’s funny that I had my first 3D experience outside of the country; I didn’t even get to try IMAX yet (haha).

Disneyland at night is something that must not be skipped. The streets look amazing, with all the bright lights and bustling activity. I didn’t have trouble taking pictures since there was enough light.

Basically the moment that tourists all stay for is the fireworks display at Sleeping Beauty’s castle. At around 7pm you can see people sitting on the street infront of the castle, all wanting the best seat in the house to view the pyrotechnics. We sat on the benches near the fountain, practically infront of the castle. So I’d like to believe that we had the best view.

The fireworks display goosebumps-worthy since it was choreographed along with music. The first few lines of “A Whole New World”, sung by a children’s choir (not physically there though, just the music) punctuated by the first few explosions of color in the night sky was breathtaking – I had this wide goody smile throughout the presentation. I didn’t even notice anything else; time just flew by.

The little kid, at the end of the night, was happy. :)

To be continued….

Hello Hong Kong

It’s not everyday that you get to travel to another country, so here I am, milking the moment to talk/write about it for what it’s worth.

My uncle told me that if you want to travel, travel and see your country first, then Asia, then the rest of the world. I had my fair share of travels around the Philippines and so it’s time to visit my neighbors around Asia. So a few months ago, around June while I was still reviewing for the board exam, my mom and I, together with my ninang, booked tickets to Hong Kong. Then we flash forward to August 20th, when I learned that I passed my board exam (!). Then three days later we were on a plane to Hong Kong, to celebrate my RN status, among other things. Time went by sooooo fast!

Arriving at the airport and taking it all in, I could really tell that the people were warm, friendly and inviting.

Well, most of them.

From the airport we were supposed to be fetched by a car from the hotel we stayed at, but it was a no-show. So, the friendly people at the information desk provided us with an option to ride the bus which leaves in 30 minutes. OR a faster way to get there, which leaves whenever we were ready. It was cheap too. And I say that with all the sarcasm dripping from my mouth.

That will be the first and last time I’ll ride a limo, so for a moment there I was giddy.

I can’t get over how clean, organized and amazing my view of Hong Kong looked, especially at night. It’s a far cry from what I’ve been accustomed to see here in the Philippines, but of course, I’ll come back to the chaos in a few days time, so I took in every single detail.

We arrived at around 8:00 pm and we were so hungry. So we strolled along the busy streets filled with activity and found a 7/11 where we bought some supplies for our stay

And if somebody could tell me what the hell this is, please, indulge me.

And a few meters away we found our spot: a quaint, really small diner that served, well, local (and slightly cheap) Hong Kong cuisine. I forgot the name but I was so hungry at that point that I was cranky and didn’t really care about anything but the food. So was my mom apparently. :)

It’s customary to serve with meals with warm tea, but I think the second part of the custom is to have it only after you’re done eating your meal. So we didn’t really follow that part. :)

I ordered the lemongrass spareribs

While my mom had these weird noodles that reminded me of buco/coconut meat shreds.

And my ninang had the seafood fried rice.

I was underwhelmed with the spareribs. It tasted bland. I’d say the same for my mom’s noodles. The runaway favorite was the fried rice. I think Hong Kong food isn’t generally big on toyo/soy sauce. Their philosophy, I guess, is to let the food cook in its natural flavors or what not with minimal flavoring from condiments, because I noticed that pattern during the rest of my food trip. I’m not saying that my food experience was not short of amazing though.

Of course, maybe that’s just my palate still hard-wired to appreciate salty greasy Filipino food (and I say that with respect!). Plus, I know people who’ve been to Hong Kong will relate with me when I say that from the hole-in-the-wall eateries to the finest fine dining areas, all restos have this particular scent that doesn’t smell bad, but it’s really intriguing that I couldn’t really place my finger on what that smell is or what particular spice/ingredient it comes from.

But still, I enjoyed my first meal in Hong Kong and went back to the hotel satisfied. Plus, our room had a great view of the HK skyline so I was a happy camper at that point. Sleepy, but satisfied.

And of course, it gets better (To be continued…)