Have you ever been asked to join a 15-hour food trip? By the way, that’s not a typographical error, I really said “15 hours.” Well, I have been and I had to wrap my head around the fact that I’d be spending one whole day eating nonstop. You see, I was one of the lucky few who were invited to join the World Streetfood Congress’ (WSFC) 15-Hour Street Food Frenzy Safari with other food and travel bloggers and members of the media from different nations last Saturday, February 20, 2016.
Actually, I wasn’t able to complete the 15 hours, because the trip began as early as 6:45 AM at Recovery Food and I woke up late. Because of this I missed the first half of the event, which involved breakfast at Recovery Food and a foodtrip to Pampanga where the delegates were taken at Everybody’s Cafe, Aling Lucing Sisig, and Cafe Fleur.
I joined the gang when they finally arrived at the Diamond Hotel where a short press conference was held. There, I learned that the WSFC 2016 would be held from April 20-24, 2016. The Philippines has been voted as one of the most exciting culinary cities to watch for by CNN, hence, it’s been selected as the host country of WSFC2016.
WSFC has three events:
- The World Street Food Dialogue
- The World Street Food Jamboree
- The World Street Food Awards
To further explain, here’s a bit that I got from the press release:
“WSFC is a symposium, conference and a mega street feasting festival that celebrates and seeks opportunities and possibilities for the world’s most popular food culture – heritage and comfort street food. The WSFC is not just about comfort food and deliciousness. The WSF Dialogue component is about addressing issues of preservation, sustainability, relevance, and the world of opportunities we can create tomorrow. The third installation of the WSFC2016 sails from Singapore to the Bonifacio Global City (BGC) in Metro Manila, Philippines, after two successful runs in the Lion City (2013 and 2015).”
After some introductions care of KF Seetoh, Chef Wongso took us to the kitchen where he cooked two Indonesian dishes, Sate Lilit Bali and Pindang Serani Salmo. Sate lilit is minced Balinese spiced fish cake saté wrapped in lemongrass sticks (but they used wooden sticks in the event) while Pindang serani salmo is clear aromatic salmon soup that shares some similarities with our local dish, “sinigang.”
After the shortest presscon in the world, as described by KF Seetoh, we all went down and rode this big black bus that took us to the next stop, Binondo.
One of the best places to go food tripping in the Philippines is Binondo where you can find the oldest Chinatown in the world. We were assisted by a famous tour guide, Ivan Dy in a tour he aptly named, “Binondo Food Wok.” You see, this was no ordinary “walk” around the city, it was three hours of non-stop culinary decadence… around the most intimate alleys of Binondo.”
Our first stop, Quik Snak, was built in 1967 by a 60-year old woman named, Pilar Ferrero Lim Glok Ki. The restaurant offers Hokkien food laced with other Asian flavors. We were able to try four of their best dishes, Indonesia Tauhu, Fresh Lumpia, Sate Beef Mami, and Empanada.
The Indonesia Tauhu is basically tofu sitting on top of sweet sauce, topped with herbs and drizzled with peanut and brown sugar. It was not as good as the tofu dish that I had in North Park, nevertheless, I still think it’s delicious. I didn’t like the fresh lumpia until I dipped it in vinegar. The lumpia is thick, the wrapper is practically bursting with the generous stuffing. I would have finished it if it weren’t for the fact we still had 3 more restos to go. What I really loved though is the Sate Beef Mami, swimming in spicy, heavy sauce that reminded me a lot of my other favorite noodle dish, lomi. I loved it so much, I almost asked the other delegate to hand me her plate because she didn’t touch it.
Sincerity Café and Restaurant
I’ve heard so much about Sincerity chicken, I thought it’s the name of the place (I mean the chicken included). It took this food trip to strip away my ignorance. Anyway, given the fact, this restaurant is popular, I had a feeling it’d be included in the itinerary and I was right. Sincerity, as Ivan puts it, has an interior that looks like any typical Chinese home; there’s a Taoist altar and some Chinese art on the wall.
In this restaurant, we were served with their bestsellers; Buttered Chicken, Oyster Omelette, and Kikiam. I’m not sure if it’s from the fact that I was already full from all the food that we had that I wasn’t able to really taste the famous buttered chicken. But I did like the oyster omelette, which in the beginning tasted a little weird. Thankfully, it didn’t take me long to acquire the taste. I also appreciated the fact that it’s not oily. The kikiam, on the other hand, is how kikiam would taste and look if it’s served right (if you know what I mean).
Dong Bei Dumplings
The look of the place leaves much to be desired, it’s small, hot, no consideration whatsoever about improving the ambiance. But the people love going to Dong Bei Dumplings so I figured they must be onto something. In fact, in the daytime, it is always packed to the brim. When I finally got in and sampled their dumplings, it felt like I’d been enlightened. Don’t mind the ambiance, the dumplings here rock!
My companions seem to think so too. In fact, I saw two Singaporeans picking the dumplings off the plate like there’s no tomorrow. I liked the steamed version than the fried because I find it more appetizing. But the night was still young, so I only helped myself with two pieces.
Eng Bee Tin
And the last stop of the Binondo Food Wok is the home of the best hopia, Eng Bee Tin. EBT is close to my heart because it was a favorite of my late father. When he was still alive, he would always come home with a box of their ube-flavored hopia.
The place hasn’t lost its charms and I still think that if you want great hopia, you have to go to EBT. It almost felt like a homecoming when I went inside the store and ate some of these delectable hopias. By the way, they also have the hopias that are served cold like the custard flavor with coconut; it was delicious beyond words. But of course, nothing beats the ube hopia that my father so loved.
Bonifacio Global City
I was already sleepy and too full to move but the night was far from over. Our next stop is BGC.
Back in the bus, Anton Diaz informed us that there is a province that questions Pampanga’s claim as the center of Philippines’ culinary cuisine. That province is Negros and in our next stop, he posed a challenge that we find out for ourselves, which is better Kapampangan or Ilonggo cuisine?
We went to BGC and stopped at Sarsa Kitchen+Bar, a restaurant known for delectable contemporary Filipino and Negrense cuisine. Here the food was served in a boodle style. The foreign guests didn’t feel like using their bare hands for eating, so they grabbed some spoon and fork. But this time, I was already so stuffed, I could barely taste the food. So I went easy on eating, in fact, I was only able to try the chicken skin out of all the barbecues that we had on the table. I also helped myself with a little serving of Batchoy and had a few bites of Sisig Kansi and Kinilaw.
I was quite amused upon seeing the delight on the face of one of the foreign guests when he tasted the sisig kansi. I really couldn’t blame him, that dish is perfection. Kansi is one of my favorite Filipino dishes and it was truly fascinating for me to see and taste it in a different way. I mean who would have thought it would be great as a sisig?
My other favorite, which unfortunately I wasn’t able to finish because everyone had gone out already was the Piaya Ice Cream. That’s right, some genius thought of using piaya to sandwich ice cream, and what he created has got to be one of best desserts I’ve ever had in my life. There are three flavors, ube, cheese, and vanilla.
To cap off this 15-hour food frenzy, the group went to Mercato Centrale Night Market. It is the biggest night food market in the Philippines where you can enjoy gastronomic treats by home-based food entrepreneurs. A small talk was given by its founders, Anton and TV personality, RJ Ledesma. It also signaled the end of the event, where everyone was able to receive a certificate. Of course, there’s still food. We all shared this stuffed lechon de leche that was so delicious, I felt so sorry that I was already very full.
It makes me sad whenever I hear foreigners complain about the Filipino dish. As a fan of our local cuisine, I wonder what’s missing in our food that it is not as popular as those in our neighboring countries. Hence, I am happy that through WSFC the Philippines is given a chance to show the world that we’re not just an excellent travel destination but also a wonderful foodie destination.
For more information about WSFC 2016, visit www.wsfcongress.com
Special thanks to the Tourism Promotion Board Philippines for the invite.