For the love of food, travel and social

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Hello! I just wanted to drop in and say that I’m still alive. My vacation is over and I’m getting into the full swing of the New Year. After spending the holidays in Manila, and 1 week back at work in Singapore, I flew to India for my friend’s wedding – my first ever Indian wedding! It was one week of color and chaos, aloo and masala, poverty and palaces. I can’t wait to write more about it but in the mean time you can check out my instagram @senorica where I’m still spamming pictures from my trip.

Work has been crazy busy, but the good kind. I’m handling social media for new clients in two of my favourite industries – food and travel. It’s a lot of work but I’m learning a lot and having fun. It’s hard to get off vacation mode when I’m writing content about beautiful destinations and crafting content strategy! I feel incredibly lucky to have this chance for my interests to intersect. I constantly look back, trying to connect the dots, but I realised that you need to have experience and exposure in order to form those dots in the first place. Then suddenly all the confusion, restlessness and hardships of the last few years makes sense because it has brought me here to this junction.

Anyway, I can’t believe January is over already. I hope the first month of the year has been a good kind of busy for you too.

A lesson on hawkerism

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The humble hawker center is the great equaliser. A public space that doesn’t give a damn about who you are and what you do, but only that you are hungry for local eats. Anyone, from the gray-haired auntie who sells tissue to the corporate ang moh during his lunch break is not only welcome here, but is also treated the same way. The only special care is given to the one commodity that can be enjoyed by everyone: food.

I’ve always admired how the love for affordable, yet delicious food transcends race or class in Singapore. Sure we Filipinos love our food, but our food is still segregated by the principle of the 99 and 1 percent. Not every sosyalite eats kanto food or grabs lunch from the sari-sari store, unless you’re in Boracay. And no, choriburgers don’t count.

While in Singapore this open-air food court is literally a melting pot of different cultures for different cultures.

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Endless stalls of dishes representing the 3 main ethnic groups in the country – Malay, Chinese and Indian. Chicken rice is for noobs and tourists. Pick your MSG poison in the other foodporn worthy dishes. Nasi Lemak. Beef hor fun. Ayam Penyet. Prawn mee.

Seating is first-come, first-serve, with absolutely no reservation nor pretension. Navigate your way through the maze of stalls during rush hour, past the tables that are marked by the packet of tissue paper – the local symbol for ‘this area is occupied.’ Never in your wildest imagination will you ever expect to feel the hangry rage towards the trivial tissue paper, which stands between you and ordering your food.

For the longest time I tried really hard to discover the other side of Singapore, beyond the manicured façade of Orchard and industrious skyline that expats and tourists flock here for. (Read: The Unlikely Character of Geylang)

I wondered who the Singaporean was without the kiasu, on their day off from work when they aren’t busy with being busy.

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One Sunday morning I finally discovered my answer at the tip of my chopsticks,  while devouring my plate of wanton mee and sipping my glass of teh tahrik. Hawkerism is the kind of consumerism that I can stomach. No politics or money. Only the love for good food.

The other crab of Singapore: the hairy crab

Chilli crab is the poster crustacean in Singapore. It’s readily available in every high-end restaurant or lowbrow hawker centre at every time of the day, drunk or sober, you name it. Over the last two years I’ve met the relatives of the chilli crab — black pepper, salted egg and butter (my favourite) crab. I thought I met everyone until just a few days ago.

Introducing the hairy crab — the crustacean visiting from overseas. I’ve never heard of or tasted this autumn delicacy before until I attended a food tasting at The Sheraton Towers for Lifestyle Asia. Apparently the hairy crab is a seasonal dish anticipated every October- November. Now I feel robbed of the last 2 years of living in Singapore without trying it.

Unlike Chilli crab, which I love partly because I get to dip my mantau bread in the chilli sauce, the hairy crab doesn’t need any condiments. You just suck up the rich and creamy crab roe found within the shell. Your heart will stop, partly because of the cholesterol, but mostly because it’s that good. It also has a cooling or yin effect on the body so they usually serve ginger tea to warm you back up afterwards.

The hairy crab definitely deserves a seat at my dining table. Try it out while you still can.

Me: Have you tried hairy crab before? Ed: Nope, I prefer my crabs well groomed.

Me: Have you tried hairy crab before?
Ed: Nope, I prefer my crabs well-groomed.

Braised King Prawn and Sweet Potato with Hairy Crab Meat and Crab Roe

Braised King Prawn and Sweet Potato with Hairy Crab Meat and Crab Roe

A weekend stroll in Penang (Part 1) #StreetArt

Georgetown is a quiet, charming town in Penang, Malaysia where time slows down. A place for art, coffee and food – the perfect ingredients to relax excessively without guilt. Thankfully, it makes a short weekend trip with my sister feel a lot longer than 2 days.

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We take leisurely walks under the hot sun, following the street art trail left by Lithuania-born Ernest Zacharevic and other artists. Zacharevic’s style is playful and distant. Unlike Banksy, whose satirical drawings provoke, Ernest’s paintings feel like an almost forgotten childhood. Memories that restlessly linger in the streets of Penang.

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We also shoot snippets of every day life along the way. A mundane street is like that quiet person people say you gotta watch out for. Detached from afar but infinitely interesting up close.  Every sight, sound, and shadow is a window to the city’s soul.

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Scribblings on a wall can tell you about the city’s hopes and dreams,

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struggles and frustration.

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Or give you a glimpse into their daily grind.

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As a tourist, I can either blend into the background,

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Luckily, in Penang I can be both.

This is the first part in a photoblog series about my weekend in Penang. Watch this space. Some pictures by Pia Facundo.

LIFESTYLE ASIA: A taste of Michelin-starred cuisine at The Cliff #Review

We enjoyed the hearty seafood flavours present in the soup in the style of menudo and pozole.

We enjoyed the hearty seafood flavours present in the soup in the style of menudo and pozole.

Eight-time Michelin-starred chef Saul Bolton from New York whips up some chef-d’oeuvres

There are many challenges of being a guest chef in a foreign kitchen — unfamiliar culture, and not knowing the source of local produce — and it takes a truly talented chef to master the odds to work in their favour.

One such chef is the Michelin-starred Saul Bolton, who makes an appearance at The Cliff at The Singapore Resort and Spa Sentosa this July. His restaurant, Saul, has held a Michelin star rating for eight consecutive years and is one of the top restaurants in New York.

Bolton tells us that preparing the special 6-course menu for The Cliff is like “arriving at someone’s house to cook your mother’s recipe, but they were the ones who bought all the ingredients.” He rose up to the challenge, and experimented with unexpected ingredients to create an unusual menu of global epicurean chef-d’oeuvres.

Starters inspired by flavours around the world

Among the starters we tasted, it was the chawanmushi or ‘steamed tea cup’ of sea urchin that stood out for its smooth texture and rich flavours of seafood, custard and warm black truffle vinaigrette. Unlike other thicker custards, the soup-like texture of Bolton’s chawanmushi blended the umami of the East and the musky earthiness of black truffle known in the West.

Saul Bolton’s version of the chawanmushi is a refreshing take on the popular Japanese dish.

Saul Bolton’s version of the chawanmushi is a refreshing take on the popular Japanese dish.

Then, the soup in the style of menudo and pozole  (a thick, hearty meat stew that’s popular in Mexico) transported us to the South. Instead of tripe or beef stomach, which is traditionally used, the broth is seasoned with fruits de mer, or an array of seafood. While the menudo was rich, it was a tad bit too salty for our liking.

Main meat: Australian Lamb

Foodies can choose between two mains — the Australian lamb with almond and currants or the North American hard shelled lobster with coconut rice and curry.

The Australian lamb has just the right amount of tenderness and the use of spices adds a zest to the dish.

The Australian lamb has just the right amount of tenderness and the use of spices adds a zest to the dish.

While lamb is usually devoured alone, Bolton provides the perfect companion of North African and Indian spices. Adding to that interesting combination is yoghurt on top of a risotto-like grain that was not too mushy. Those who love their lamb will not be disappointed, especially with an additional tender lamb shoulder on the side.

Delightful desserts

Towards the end of the dinner, we were treated to two yummy desserts. We liked how the use of creamy coconut complemented the mango and passion fruit sorbet with tapioca, strawberry and lychee, and the pleasant lingering taste of orange in the cheesecake.

This orange-scented cheesecake is fluffy soft, unlike the cloyingly rich ones that are usually served.

This orange-scented cheesecake is fluffy soft, unlike the cloyingly rich ones that are usually served.

Verdict

Bringing together various ingredients and cuisines from all over the world in a single menu is not an easy feat to achieve. When we asked him for his personal favourite dish, Bolton surprised us by revealing that he’s the guy who doesn’t like anything, even if it’s his own concoction. He admits there’s always room for more potential.

While his menu at The Cliff was not perfect, there were definitely more hits than misses to remember.

For details, menus and reservations please visit www.singaporeresortsentosa.com. Chef Saul Bolton is the third in a series of Michelin starred chefs coming your way at The Singapore Resort & Spa Sentosa. Look out for British chef Alyn Williams, who will be coming to the resort from 13 to 17 August 2014.

The Singapore Resort & Spa Sentosa,  2 Bukit Manis Road,  Sentosa, Singapore 099891, +65 6275 0331,www.singaporeresortsentosa.com

View my original review on Lifestyle Asia.

 

 

The hungry reporter

Vendors serving street food from Malaysia, Indonesia, etc. (Geylang Serai Ramadan Market)

“You’re like a hungry reporter” my colleague commented on my incessant scribbling and questioning about everything we ate. We were at the Geylang Serai Ramadan Market, a cultural cooking pot for foodie enthusiasts and people like me, who revel in the carousel of lights and street scurry.

Colorful sarongs, dresses, wraps, line to celebrate Hari Raya Puasa (Geylang Serai Ramadan Market)

One of my favorite things about a cosmopolitan city like Singapore is having access to multicultural microcosms such as this. It’s easy, usually free entrance (sans the price of food!) and a commute ride away. While there’s a growing foodie culture in Manila, places like Mercato Market or Salcedo are for people who can afford to indulge. In Singapore, it’s engrained in the daily life of the aunties, uncles and expats.

That’s why in between stuffing my face, I enjoy Googling people, usually my Malay, Singaporean and Indian colleagues about the difference between teh si (tea with evaporated milk) and teh oh (without milk) or prata and naan. In that way I feel like people can enjoy Singapore in bite-sized proportions: just enough to immerse you in its different cultures without having to travel all the way to India, Malaysia or China for it.

It’s also like having a personalized and interactive search engine. With an international group, it makes for some interesting table topics over lunch:

  • South Indian cuisine is characterized by banana leaf plates, spicy taste and curry and coconut dishes
  • North India is known for butter cream
  • While they both have bread-like qualities, naan is fermented dough made on the inner linings of Tandoor clay ovens while prata is pan fried.
  • What kind of food is your country particular about how it’s cooked? French: bread; India:curry; Philippines: rice; Chinese: noodles; etc

Other samplings:

Takoyaki is a Japanese snack. It reminds me of a mochi ball, but made out of flour and filled with cheese, prawn, mayonnaise, and Worcestershire-like sauce. It also comes in sotong (octopus) and crab. (Geylang Serai Ramadan Market)

Vadai is a fritter snack. It tastes like a donute, with uhm, a shrimp for a hole. (Geylang Serai Ramadan Market)

I wouldn’t mind having a dinner of appetizers in the guise of street snacks. Another one I tried was Keropok Lekor, a fish cracker originating from Malaysia. Imagine a bag of Tempura Crackers, but thicker, chewier, crispier and made from flour.

Butter crab is the hipster cousin of chili crab which is main stream in Singapore. Must try.

Crab swimming in a soup of butter!

Unexpected guest during lunch. Who knew that’s what you call a Japanese grilled mutton dish! We had a good laugh after discovering this.

Foodie for thought

Now that I’m officially on break expect a series of delayed microblogs about the past semester.  First up is Foodie Festival which was my first ACOMM project of the school year.

Last summer I was trying to think of a new project that would be fun and relevant for communication majors. It came to me while watching an episode of Junior Master Chef.  I don’t remember if it was just because I was hungry or how cool the kids looked chopping and sauteing with my penchant for food, but that was it. Food! Everyone loves food, especially with the emerging foodie culture in the Philippines! 

We were surprised and thankful when Mercato Centrale, the foodie haven, agreed to become our partner because we didn’t have a contact with them beforehand. Ah, the wonders of Twitter!

But we foodgasmed when Anton Diaz, the man behind the foodie culture himself tweets about the experience afterwards and your past presidents notice! Plus, on the day itself Rj Ledesma, one of the organizers said they wanted us to plan something similar for when they open in the South!


Anyways, the first part of Foodie Festival was a food blogging workshop given by Anton himself. He’s the founder of Our Awesome Planet. I always admire people who have the guts to leave a job of security to pursue a job of passion, especially a path that has not been traveled by society before. It takes guts to pursue, it takes heart to persist because there’s no one else to assure you that what you’re doing is right until you get there.


I’ve been blogging since middle school but even after almost 10 years I can still learn something new about my hobby. Generally, people think blogs are quite ego-centric and self -centered and vain (guilty haha). But if Heidegger was to describe blogging he  would say that we are blogs being in the internet with other blogs! In other words, we are personally writing the collective history of our generation and through our stories we affect each other.

That’s me, being ever so attentive during the workshop.

Food girl moment! Kevin, Ericka and Daphne and I with Anton Diaz.

The second part of Foodie Festival is the competition itself! I could not wait to get my hands on all this food! Neither could the rest of us. Hi Idge.

Xavi…. whatta long isaw you have there.

I would have bought my usual Manang’s Chicken but I decided to not be boring and try something new. Normally good babyback ribs are expensive and you order them in saucy places but my meal was cheap and saucy just the way I like it — all over my rice. P100 meal! I decided to double the carbo-load and order spuds for P50 on the side.

Kevin, on the other hand,  still wants his Manang’s and aint’ going to let anyone change his mind otherwise! Nomnomnom.

But the one thing I can’t resist buying over and over again  is Merry Moo’s ice cream! I forgot what flavor this was but they’re all good.

Mercato is not only about the food though. So, regardless of what you buy, it’s the company that makes everything taste better!
Don’t be selfish. Share the food.  Please Idge, please!
I hatchoo Idge. What was I thinking allowing myself to be “pushed” all the time by this guy?  
Just kidding.
Im so proud of Daphne. She was my project manager and despite our never ending problems with this project she was such a fighter. She stepped up and took charge of responsibilities that should not have been hers. Thanks Daph, from the bottom of my matakaw stomach.
Last summer I had this amazing idea for this project about food and blogging. The best ideas emerge from things you love and know to be true. All you have to do is take the time to look around and see it in a new light! There’s potential in everything if you just paid more attention.
Although i may have thought of it on my own, I would not have been able to realize the idea alone. Share your vision. Never do anything alone. Thank you guys <3
If you missed it, check out the post-project video.  Good eats, good friends, good vibes! :)

Calling all foodies!

I’m really excited for my department’s first project this year which is also the first of its kind. I love creating project out of things I love — food, blogging, and Mercato Centrale. If you love the same things, look below for the mechanics. Get a chance to meet Anton Diaz, get featured on his http://www.ourawesomeplanet.com blog and win thousands worth of Mercato GC’s :)

If you’re a foodie, especially if you find yourself taking pictures of what you eat, then this project is for you!


Have good times and good eats with ACOMM and Mercato Centrale’s Foodie Festival! We give you a two-part ultimate food experience:

1) Catch the owner of Mercato Centrale and OurAwesomePlanet.com, Anton Diaz as he gives a talk on the ins and outs of food blogging. (September 17, 10-12pm at SecB 201) Sign up here: http://tinyurl.com/Foodblogging

2) Join the photojournalism competition where teams comprised of one writer, one photographer, one videographer, and one taste tester try out Mercato Centrale’s stalls to create the best food blog entries. Winning entry gets featured on OurAwesomePlanet.com plus Mercato Centrale gift cards worth thousands! (September 24, 11 to 1 pm at Mercato)

To inquire about the mechanics and application details:
http://tinyurl.com/FoodieFestivalMechanics

This is open to ALL ATENEANS. Apply now and experience a food trip like no other!

Event page –> http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=211705668889402

<3 ACOMM

Foodie Funday at Mercato Centrale

On Dec 12 my friends and I decided to trade in Sleep In Sundays for a Foodie Funday at Mercato Centrale, The Fort instead! Since I have class on Saturday, Sunday is really the only day I have the luxury of not waking up to an alarm clock. The market is usually only open until 12pm, except when there’s a lot of people it extends till around 2pm so we had no choice but to get our lazy selves out of bed in the morning.

For a barkada hang out it was a nice change of scenery from the usual late nights, excluding our once a week lunch dates. How come our default gimmik setting is always at night?

Anyways, sometimes I forget how the rest of the world looks and feels like in the morning especially when you’re not busy scurrying along Katipunan to make it to your class.  Personally, basking in the morning air, watching the quiet hustle and bustle of passerby’s makes me feel so alive. The simplicity of the day – exploring the market for foodie finds, and chilling with friends is so relaxing and peaceful.

My friend Paco and I project-headed the gimmik. While we were chatting about the plans, we couldn’t help get excited at the prospect of food tripping!

But there are so many choices to pick from! Marji is overwhelmed haha.

It has 4 tents filled with an assortment of food from actual meals to desserts to food-combos-you’ve-never-heard-of-but-excited-to-try. One of my favorite parts is going around hoarding the free food samples!

Since we wanted to eat almost everything in sight, our food strategy was to divide, conquer and of course share! It’s best to go to these places with a lot of people.

I forgot the name of this stall but I was slightly disappointed with the burger. The main selling point was that within the burger patty was the mozarella which makes me salivate at the thought of it. Unfortunately, because everything else was too dry this mozarella bit became forgettable.

Because we were curious we tried the donut burger which was also a disappointment! Asides from the small taste of sugar from the krispy kreme bun that disappears almost instantly after you bite into it, it was nothing out of the ordinary. This goes to show that just because the concept is original and innovative, doesn’t necessarily mean the execution is anything great.

But all is not lost! My favorite out of the 3 dishes was the Manang’s chicken wings. I’m a sucker for sauces and the chicken was perfectly immersed in a sweet flavor that neither over or underwhelms you.

Another thing I’m a sucker for is ice cream. I’m a sweet tooth by heart but out of all sugary concoctions it remains to be my favorite indulgence! This love for ice cream runs in the Facundo side of the family. Without fail there’s always ice cream present in EVERY get together. I kid you not.

We tried Merry Moo Ice Cream which serves unusual flavors that you can’t buy at the supermarket.

This one is spicy chocolate. It was successful in marrying the spicy and sweet flavor and I enjoyed it. But it’s not something I’d have all the time.

When we were done eating, we did another thing we do best – camwhore. I couldn’t help it. The back ground with the bouncy castle looks kinda quite carnival-esque.

With my SLR camera and Fez’s hipstamatic iphone application…

I’m a hipster, bitch.

And so are my friends haha.

Overall, it’s really a great way to spend a Sunday morning. For more information about Mercato Centrale check out the Anton Diaz’s Our Awesome Planet’s blog.

The Battle of Katipunan’s Extension: Banapple VS Conti’s

This is my second food review and i’ve learned that writing about food is definitely a lot harder than it tastes. Nonetheless,  it’s still fun to do and my partner Lexie & I tried our best to get our inner foody out.  Click the link to see whether Banapple (Lexie) or Conti’s (Me) won!

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With new restaurants popping up along Katipunan every few months, Ateneans’ dining choices are endless. It’s certainly easier to stick to the establishments near school, but resisting the call of Katipunan Extension’s Banapple Pies & Cheesecakes and Conti’s Pastry Shop & Restaurants is becoming quite the challenge. They serve similar fare that satisfies both an empty stomach and a sweet tooth, but before you hop into the car or hail that elusive cab, g has the verdict on which restaurant actually deserves the trip.