Saturday, July 12, 2008

Blissfully Clueless

I was on my usual pointless foot trip one day when a heavenly scent abruptly penetrated my nasal passages and nearly sent me into a pleasurable seizure of epileptic proportions. The scent held characteristics that betrayed its edible origins. Being the gustatory slave that I am, I had considered ending my agony and letting my nose lead me to whatever secret sanctuary was sending off the irresistible aroma. But I had to hesitate. There were precious few establishments in sight that I could suspect of being the source of the olfactory signal. It had to be the popular street kitchenette that had been around for ages.

A recent paint job has given the kitchenette a makeover. In its old unpainted version however, I remember getting a glimpse from the street of an old yellowing counter over which rows of dishes covered with plastic bowls were arranged. To the left of the counter was a kitchen, viewed on the outside through a small, screened, decrepit window that looked more like a dust and insect filter. A casual peek revealed a couple of men in various states of dress and undress, sweating over mysterious dishes that sent off divine-smelling smoke.

The rest that was and still is unseen is left to the imagination. My husband’s friend sums it all up by concluding that this is the place “where people are clueless.” Rumor has it that the kitchen has assistants that have more than two legs, are each less than an inch tall and are gray or brown in color. They say that these assistants hold the secret to the oh so yummy goodness of every dish served by the kitchenette. The loyal patrons of the kitchenette however don’t seem to care or to want to know the place’s culinary secrets. It’s enough that they get their fill of cheap delicious food.

I suppose this kitchenette isn’t the only one of its kind. Take for example the old chicken stand somewhere in Cebu that’s shrouded in darkness and is accessible only through a single narrow foot path. Their delectable chickens have bones that can glow in some spots if you happen to catch a glimpse of the slim white crawlers that have been burrowing through the meat long before your first bite. And then there’s that little eatery somewhere in Manila that’s almost like a makeshift sauna in the middle of the day because of its plain, heat-enhancing corrugated roof. Their house specialty is THE BALLS of cattle immersed in oil-saturated broth and mixed with pepper and other unidentified animal parts. I can go on naming other delightful culinary pit stops but there are places and dishes that defy description.

But therein lies the beauty of Philippine underground cuisine. It’s an adventure to remember, full of flavor, mystery and opportunities to eat all you can of creatures you normally wouldn’t even think of licking. If you are a foreigner, a balikbayan or a local aristocratic snob, then dimly lit street eateries should be your next stop as soon as you’ve hurdled the balut challenge. These are perfect venues to train for the next million dollar Fear Factor-ish reality show. (Incidentally, I always thought that, with the kind of food our humblest of citizens eat, we would have won any Fear Factor food challenge in a heartbeat).


  1. I once watched an ep of Surivor where they had to eat balut. Haha! The contestants looked so 'stricken'!

    Just for the record, I've never eaten balut yet.

    Ma'am G, have you heard of Goldy's? Sa Cruz Taal dapit? Beside Cedie's Dress Shop? La lang, it's my parents' tambayan. Hehehehe.

  2. hehe. i'll drop by that place. does it serve strange food? do your parents eat strange food? hehehe

  3. Hi Gracemags,
    Thanks for visiting my blog and for the meaningful comments you left behind. Your article about culinary secrets and hole in the wall restaurants is very descriptive and interesting. You have a way with words. Thanks for the post. God bless.

  4. thanks for dropping by mel and for leaving your footprints :)

  5. when you said assistants with more than 2 mean?? un??

    naaalala ko tuloy yung mga nagtitinda ng siopao..ung nka-bike.. nabili ako dun dati tas cnasbi nila...pusa daw laman nun...ewww!! pero masarap xa in fairness (indi n ko nbili non btw).. for the balot...and kinakain ko lng dun yung dilaw..

  6. oo. assistants with more than two legs... yun yon sila. hehe. kakadiri isipin pero marami na talaga nag sabi na masarap daw talaga sa eatery na yon.

    naalala ko pa yung siopao na cat daw ang palaman. hanggang ngayon di ko talaga alam kung totoo yun. hehe

  7. whaha... nice article..

    masarap ang pusapao..sabi nila :) thinking now if i ate one w/o me knowing..waaa!

    nothing beats pinoy street side cuisine!yebah! pero syempre un sa safe at malinis.. and of course BALOT! sarap ng sisiw.. masakit lang sa batok pag nakadami.. :D

    you may also try kalderetang itik. or kalderetang kambing or kinilaw na kambing. yummy!

    walang ganyan sa states..ONE PRIDE!

  8. wohoho. di ko pa na susubukan ang kinilaw na kambing ah. hehe. ibang klase rin yan. ipapa taste test ko muna husband ko. hehe

  9. ahahah..oo cge nun ojt kasi nmen sa contruction site sa cavite, nagpadugo ng kambing un mga engr para sa mga poste..un nilantakan for lunch..kaya masarap! :D

    happy eating!

  10. Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

  11. Lots of beneficial reading here, many thanks! I was browsing on yahoo when I observed your publish, I’m going to add your feed to Google Reader, I look forward to more from you.


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