Category Archives: Food

Tastes of Saipan @ the street market

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ALL roads lead to the Fishing Base in Garapan on Thursday nights as the mouthwatering aroma of food and the lively music from the stage lure locals and tourists for the weekly street market.

Beginning around 5 p.m. the Street Market feast begins and the place is transformed into a destination where one can have the ‘taste of Saipan’ all in one place. The street market runs all the way till 9 p.m.

At the street market, rows of stalls owned by popular restaurants specializing in a variety of cuisines from Chamorro, Thai, Chinese, Filipino, Korean, Japanese and more offer very cheap food. Majority of the food stalls sell five choices for $5, a complete meal you usually can’t have for that amount on any given day.

Get your fill of grilled barbecue, fried fish, squid grilled as you watch and breathe in its irresistible aroma.

Here is where you can find the widest selection of local favorites, like desserts that are not usually found on any day at the stores. You can buy fresh fruits whole or sliced, drink coconut juice straight from the shell for a dollar, go for healthy pearl shakes and fruit juices, or munch on a stick of chicken or pork barbeque sold for a dollar.

Kids can enjoy ice cream cones or colored cotton candy.

At the other side of the food stalls, one can buy souvenir items, trinkets, dresses and shirts, paintings, handmade jewelry, local art products and other crafts.

At the center of the street market grounds are long tables and benchstreetmarketes where people can eat their food and watch the performers on the makeshift stage. The entertainment varies from live bands, musical numbers, stringed instruments, and cultural dancers. At special occasions, visiting performers from Korean, Japan, and other countries grace the stage to the delight of the audience.

The street market has become very popular especially with the tourists, and has become one of the must-not-miss events if they happen to be on island on a Thursday.

It is by far the best place to go to sample the island’s diversified cuisine very cheaply. A lot of local residents flock to the street market for dinner and even buy extra food so they won’t have to cook when they get home. The street market is a family-friendly event and alcohol consumption and smoking is prohibited within the street market premises.

As a special bonus, the street market area is one of the best spots to witness Saipan’s most spectacular sunsets.

(First published at the Marianas Variety Guam special Sunday edition for January 25, 2015 page 8 HERE)

Grilled Isaw

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Isaw is one of the most popular street foods in the Philippines. It is made from barbecued pig or chicken intestines. The intestines are cleaned, turned inside out, cleaned again and again for several times before they are boiled, or grilled on sticks.

Isaw is best eaten with your hands, dipped in vinegar or sukang pinakurat, a Filipino version of vinegar with onions, peppers, garlic and other spices.

Isaw is usually sold in the streets especially during late afternoons and at night but I had this stick of isaw at Bacolod Chicken, one of the restaurants at the Mall of Asia in Manila. This stick costs 45 pesos but you can get this around 10 pesos in the street sides. Dare to try it?


Crocodile ice cream anyone?

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DAVAO CITDSC03570Y—After months of seeing photos and reading about the crocodile ice cream from local, national and international publications, I finally had the chance to try this classic dessert with a unique (spelled scary) dessert some weeks ago at the Crocodile Park, one of the most popular attractions in Davao City.

I was looking forward to try this crocodile ice cream whose popularity has already spread far and wide, but when I saw the photo of the crocodile standing up and holding a cone of ice cream at the green hut with hot pink stripes, I begin to have second thoughts.

The mind is a powerful enemy, and images of bits of crocodile flesh and scales sticking out of my ice cream or if I’m lucky to dig out a tooth or a nail made me walk slower but my companion and I were on a dare. We were not going to go leave the Crocodile Park without fulfilling our mission, and that is to eat crocodile ice cream.

Ok, so be it! I convinced Rox to get the crocodile pandan ice cream, promising her I will take a bite from her scoop. I ordered the ostrich vanilla, trying to shake away the feeling that I was going to take a bite of an ostrich in a cone.??

There is nothing extraordinary or scary about crocodile ice cream. My ostrich ice cream which is made from ostrich eggs looked nothing out of the ordinary too. With its light brown color, it looked like ordinary ice cream.

I studied Roxanne’s crocodile ice cream for long seconds but I didn’t see any bits of flesh or meat or scales in it. Except for the extra creamy and smooth texture, we were eating ordinary ice cream, or was I just trying to convince myself?

We learned later that crocodile ice cream is actually made from a combination of milk and crocodile eggs. Each crocodile egg is about (80 percent egg yolk which makes the ice cream creamier and thicker than regular ice cream, but contains less cholesterol and gives more protein than an ordinary chicken egg.?????? H

The Crocodile Pandan ice cream and ostrich vanilla sells for 80 pesos per scoop. Durian crocodile ice cream is also available and this one you should try—especially if you haven’t tasted durian yet. The funniest description of durian I encountered yet is “a porcupine-looking fruit with a smell that stinks to high heavens.”

I love durian, but only the native species so there was no need for me to try it. Other traditional flavors available are maple bacon, coffee rush, strawberry and mango mazing for 60 pesos, langka, cookies and cream at 50 pesos per scoop, and chocoloco and cheese cheese at 40 pesos a scoop.??

With the growing popularity of crocodile ice cream, isn’t it time time for the horses, camels, lions, unicorns and other wildlife to start hiding? Just thinking…

Lick the soft creamy coolness of the crocodile ice cream and forget about visions of biting a crocodile. On another note, why not? The chance to bite a crocodile doesn’t come to anyone’s way often.

Pastil: budget meal on a banana leaf

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Pastil is steamed rice wrapped in banana leaf and topped with shredded chicken, and one is enough for a regular meal,at least for me.

pastil2PASTIL was one of the first food items that I looked for when I finally got back to Davao City last month, after over six years of being away. Pastil is one of the most popular delicacies in Maguindanao and Cotabato, particularly at public market areas and at restaurants.

It is not that common in Davao City but I remembered a couple of food stalls sell it near Ecoland Bus terminal so off I went scouting for pastil. I found it at a very unlikely place—a bakery. It was on a plastic tray and there were only two pieces left. I bought one for P15 and off I went looking for my favorite partner for the pastil which is hard-boiled egg and soy sauce or better yet bagoong with a piece of sili.

Pastil is steamed rice wrapped in banana leaf and topped with shredded chicken, and one is enough for a regular meal,at least for me. Maguindanaons serve pastil at any time of the day either as regular meal or snacks, so it is always available the whole day through. Sometimes they use shredded fish but I like shredded chicken better, and you can make it extra special by adding slices of hard boiled eggs.

The banana leaf is wilted over hot embers to make it soft and pliant and then folded and sealed on both ends. It resembles suman but only it’s a bigger and flatter version.

It is considered as a budget combo meal especially by the Maguinadaons. If you travel from Davao to Cotabato City, this becomes commonly available in the towns of Matalam, Kabacan, Pikit, Midsayap, Pigcawayan and in Cotabato City.

If you are in non-Muslim areas, try looking for Halal restaurants and chances are pastil is available.

Pastil is best eaten with your hands but I use a spoon and fork. Pastil reminds me of my childhood days when our lunches were packed in banana leaves. It smells so nice, unlike the commercial smell that comes with the Tupperware and disposable lunchboxes people are using nowadays. I’m on my way to look for banana leaves. I’ve already shredded some chicken for a homemade pastil. Want to have some?

Tikod amo: A bite of a monkey’s heel

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IT’S usually monkeys who bite people, but if you go to Surigao del Sur, you have a chance to bite a monkey—and right on its heel too.

However is not what you think. Visit Erve’s Fastfood in Lianga, Surigao del Sur and try a rare and exotic dish that has drawn thousands of visitors from different parts of the world to try it.

It was the first day of  our three-day trip to the province of Surigao del Sur and Erve’s Fastfood was our first stop for a very late breakfast.

As expected, a rich seafood feast was set for us on a long table. When we say seafood and you are in Surigao del Sur, think of the biggest crabs, lobsters, prawns, shrimps, slipper crabs, fish, seaweeds and an abundance of the rich marine treasures that only IMG_0123Surigao del Sur can dish out, but there was more to the feast.

At another table were two pairs of rough and spiny shells that Erve’s Fastfood owner Ivy Doguiles have set up, propped with a piece of glass to hold the covering shells in place. It was called Tikod amo, the local dialect term which literally means monkey’s heel is an edible rock oyster found in the deep waters of LianggaBay in Barobo Surigao del Sur. She said it is named Tikud amo because it closely resembles the ankle of an ape.

You cannot see Tikod amo displayed at the shelves or at the fastfood’s daily menu because they are not that easy to get. Doguiles said they are only served to a lucky few people and divers oftentimes go up empty handed because of the dwindling supply of Tikod amo.IMG_0133

Doguiles said it is also believed to be an aphrodisiac, which made the product all the more in demand.

I did not try the raw meat of the Tikod amo she prepared plain for us, but I nibbled on a small piece of the adobo version just to try..

To collect a kilo of Tikod amo meat, she said a diver has to dive at least more than five times and the task involves prying open the shell with a knife, collecting the meat inside and resurfacing before his lungs burst.

Doguiles said her grandfather Moises owned the fastfood which she inherited from her parents, and her grandpa had been preparing Tikod amo using their family recipe even before Tikud amo became popular, and very expensive, surpassing the price of all the other oyster meat available in the market.

Surigao del Sur is known as the “Shangri-La by the Pacific” for its famous attractions including the Britania Islands, Tinuy-an Falls, the ever famous Enchanted River, pristine beaches, caves, waterfalls, and other attractions both manmade and natural but don’t miss the chance to bite a monkey’s heel at Erve’s Fastfood. It might be your only chance before an ape bites you.

Puto maya and tsokolate

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There was this story of a man who drank a cup of tsokolate, not thinking that it was hot. He tried to bear the scorching of his mouth and when he saw that no one was looking, he spitted out the tsokolate right on a plant outside. The plant just withered and died before his eyes. Of course I believed that story as a kid although I learned later that was just to emphasize how deceiving hot a cup of tsokolate is but I never learned that lesson.

DAVAO CITY, Philippines–Puto Maya is one of the all-time Filipino favorite delicacies made from pilit or sweet, sticky rice soaked before being cooked with thick coconut milk and mashed roots of ginger.

And who doesn’t know what sikwate or tsokolate is? It is that rich thick hot beverage made from tablea, a round tablet of locally made chocolate from the cacao. Tsokolate comes out best if prepared in the Filipino traditional way–boiled in a batirol, a cast metal shaped like an urn which comes with a  stirring rod that can be rotated using your palms. It helps keep the consistency of the tsokolate rich and thick.

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