Food Review 3: The Street Food Trip Edition
I have been to some of the city’s best fine dining restaurants, and I have been to a lot of formal functions and banquets in hotels and ballrooms, and have taken a taste of the best dishes served by some of the country’s best cooks and gourmet experts. But none of these experiences can ever compare to the gusto and delight brought about by a totally different way of eating—in the streets.
Even as a kid, I would go to this place for an afternoon affair with the best that meager pockets can afford and empty tummies are craving for.
This is M.Roxas St., in Sta. Ana, Manila. Located in this street is the Sta. Ana Elementary School, one of the largest elementary schools in the city of Manila. Every day for both the morning and afternoon shifts, more than 8,000 students flock out of their classrooms and congregate here, as the entire street is closed up from traffic, to buy all kinds of merchandise. Awaiting them is an entire battalion of food peddlers with various kinds of cheap snacks and other food items.
While the kids buy more of the plastic toys and the many Pinoy game paraphernalia, I spend my time stall-hopping, moving from one food cart to the other, to sample the many food items being sold.
First in the list in my head is Mang Sonny’s fishballs. What’s unique with what he cooks is that he actually mixes the fishball batter right in front of the customers and cook them right there. Aside from the packed raw fishballs scooped out of the supermarkets, he still brings with him a big bowl of pre-mixed fishball batter, scoops a half teaspoon of mix, drops it into the frying pan, and in just seconds, scoops it out again, but now it’s golden brown and crispy. You then put four of them through a barbecue stick, dip them into the sweet mix sauce, snag it into your mouth, and… voila! You can even try closing your eyes as you savor the tender meat dissolving in your mouth as your teeth work their way munching through the four pieces. I’ll bet you’ll be sticking for more.
Just beside Mang Sonny’s food cart is Mang Rio’s Cheese Corn. This one’s a Pinoy rendition of the American corn nibblets taken out of the cob and served in a cup. Ours is added with a mix of cheese powder, sugar and butter. A half teaspoon of hot water is added to dissolve all three ingredients that add the tang of the corn. For only 5 pesos, you have a heaping cup of pleasure already. Bring two more five-peso coins, just in case you crave for more.
Crossing over to the other side of the street is Bon’s Japanese Cakes. I’ve seen this delicacy sold in supermarket food courts, but for a price 5 times the regular price that Mang Bon sells it. You can even actually see the batter being cooked in heated round slots, and when one side is cooked Mang Bon turns the one side over and pours the other half of the cake. Inside you’ll taste two small cheese cubes that melts just as the cakes are cooked, making the cheese’s flavor flavorfully mix with the sweet tasting batter.
Beside him is Aling Virginia’s “Sebo”. By the name of the food you’ll know it’s all fat! For only five bucks, you’ll get a half cup of pork flesh, which was allowed to wallow in fat for 2 hours, and then cooked, again, in oil in deep fry fashion. Sprinkle a few drops of vinegar, and you’ll be on your way to enjoying “fat in fat in fat.”
The last of the day’s food trip is Mang Boy’s Scramble. This Pinoy version of the snow cone, I believe is far more innovative and delicious than its stateside counterpart. Aside from the fruity flavors deep frozen with finely shaven ice, mang Boy adds to it a tablespoon full of chocolate syrup, condensed milk, and marshmallow bits. These four ingredients join forces to give you the best refreshment to cap off a wonderful afternoon of food trip in the streets.
A word of caution, however: if your tummy’s not up for the challenge, be careful. While they maybe delicious, some are considered health hazard by medical experts. So if you;ve got sensitive gastric juices inside of you, try not to indulge in these food items. Your health is still your priority. Plus, since they are all easy to prepare, you can actually enjoy these wonderful street foods in the comfort of your own kitchens, where you actually see and do the preparations.
But for me, life can be just as simple as enjoying these street foods every afternoon.