Archive for December, 2011|Monthly archive page

ziggurat. a delicious find at the corner of tigris and euphrates

In eating in manila on December 22, 2011 at 5:42 pm

it isn’t the easiest thing, finding ziggurat. but follow these instructions: from makati avenue, turn into burgos. on your left you’ll see a bar called bottoms, turn left on the street after – that should be durban street. don’t go too fast, on your left you’ll see a narrow street, turn into it. on the next corner of that street you’ll find ziggurat. it is, literally, at the corner of tigris and euphrates (streets). the entrance to the restaurant isn’t too big, so keep an eye out for it

once inside, the ambience strongly signals what’s in store

the theme of the restaurant is the cuisine of the islamic world. and instantly, we love the idea. it is what we think is best about food – learning about cultures and peoples through their cuisine. we try a number of dishes (we went twice in a row), but – at least for now – the ones that stood out were

the mango curry

this is a dish that made me realize how tiny my existing culinary world really is. a curry with mango subbing for the protein/vegetable? how would that taste? well, it was extraordinarily good. a perfect balance between the spice of the curry and the sweet of the mango – pulling off a delicate balancing act to make sure that in the end this was still a savory dish.

we had this with the injera bread

native to ethiopia, it’s a nicely spongy bread. not brimming with flavor, but just what you want to sop off all that curry in the bowl.

we washed down our food with chili beer and honey beer. fantastic stuff. the beer alone is worth going back for.

and the desserts. kulfi

and the gulab

i’ll say this. i never liked indian desserts. until now. i’m convinced that – at least in the philippines – only ziggurat can do these two dishes in a way that are actually yummy.

these dishes are just the tip of the iceberg. the menu of ziggurat is daunting at first with a food list covering an area as big as a newspaper spread. the first time we were there, the whole experience blew our minds. the boldness of the flavors, the headiness of the spices.

we knew this was a place we had to keep coming back to. we spent about P1,000 each for an appetizer, a main course each, and dessert. though this isn’t particularly expensive given the richness of the culinary experience, it’s still not something we can afford to do regularly.

but we will be back, many many times. each time we will try something different. and each dish, we know, will expand our lives.


siopao at mami – the last beijing post

In places on December 15, 2011 at 4:54 pm

at the corner of our hutong street, on the way to the bus station, we noticed a hole-in-the-wall place that had familiar steamers. dimsum! and it looked like a rather popular place too. the thing was, nobody in there spoke english and the menu had no english translation either. so we just pointed to an order that was coming out and asked for two of those.

it was a noodle soup with tomatoes and scrambled egg.

the noodles were roughly cut, more like torn strips from a sheet of dough – but we liked it because it made the whole thing more toothsome. the soup was not bad, but a little on the bland side. that’s because one has to season with black vinegar and this

with the condiments in, the soup became quite divine. at the door, we asked how much our bill was. the proprietor wrote down 12RMB. P72. for two huge bowls! neither of us managed to finish ours. this place was a true find.

while we were there, we noticed people taking out large amounts of something from the steamers. and so on our next trip, that’s what we ordered.

they were little siopaos

each about 2 or 3 bites and filled with a very tasty meatball. again, we were floored at how cheap it was. 5RMB or P35 for an order containing 10 pieces. no wonder the people were buying as many as 10 orders at a time.

we’ll actually never know what’s in those buns, but it really doesn’t matter – they were that good.

a love affair with hunan food (another beijing post)

In places on December 9, 2011 at 11:26 am

one restaurant along the hutong street where we lived specializes in hunan and szechuan cuisine. this type of cooking is actually quite popular in beijing. we think it’s because mao was from hunan. but that’s a good thing, because this sort of food is really quite delicious. we tried that nearby restaurant as soon as we could (and went there again). the first time around we had hunan-stye diced chicken (22 RMB, P145)

this was the first tantalizing taste of hunan cuisine and we found it bold. moderation is not a key word here. the food was salty, oily, spicy, robust, and we couldn’t get enough. and so we kept coming back and tried green beans with ground pork (12RMB, P80)

and hot pot duck (25RMB, P175)

the hot pot is quite popular (literally a little wok on top of a burner to keep food hot, especially during fall and winter) and made for quite an enjoyable dining experience. and the warmth from the burner really helped us survive the cold.

one other restaurant in the area, called friends cafe, also serves hunan food and from there we tried something called mao’s favorite pork dish (30RMB, P210)

this is basically braised pork with vegetables. nothing spectacular, but it was worth trying just to get an idea of what family food was like. we preferred the other dish we had which was stir fried cabbage served on a hot pot

this had the fiery, salty, greasy quality we’ve come to love.

among the main ingredients, we noticed, were dried sili and pink peppercorn. happily, these are easy to find locally and so we’ve begun attempts to replicate at least the vegetable dishes. we’ve had some success. all we need now is the hot pot.

beijing hutong street food

In places on December 5, 2011 at 9:35 am

there were a number of food stalls in our hutong – and all were very tempting. so for one dinner, we decided to just do a little crawl of the street and eat whatever caught our fancy.

first up, stinky tofu (5RMB, P35)

a dish that truly deserves its name. fermented tofu topped with a chili sauce and lots of wansoy. smells like feet but is very very good. one serving is a good snack. and this is very popular – i love how the chinese kids go nuts over this.

in the stall beside this was takoyaki balls

not drastically different from the takoyaki balls here, but for something coming from a street stall, it was remarkably fresh.

the other very popular stand was one that sold skewered meat (photo here isn’t ours)

this went for 10RMB (P70) for 3 sticks. choice of lamb or chicken. they were indeed very tasty. the texture though was a little odd, particularly that of the lamb. it had the mouthfeel of gluten or veggie meat. so we’re not exactly sure how it’s done, but it’s also crazy popular and very yummy.

one favorite of ours was curry balls

think of your regular squid balls and fish balls (better than regular though, can actually taste fish) and soak them in a thick spicy curry broth. fantastic. and the menu had an english translation so we theoretically knew what we were eating. not particularly cheap at 25RMB (P150) for a set of lobster, squid, and fish balls, but oh so yummy.

at any given time, these stalls would be mobbed by kids going to the hutong to hang out. we have yet to try some other things like chicken wings or skewered mushrooms. which is good – we have new stuff to try next trip