Saturday, June 19, 2010

You’re Not a Thomasian…

I grew up in UST, having gone to elementary, high school and college there. It’s been said that you’re not a Thomasian if: a.) You never experienced the floods of Espana, Gov. Forbes (now Lacson Street), Dapitan and P.Noval; and b.) You’ve never tasted Beef Pares at the Original Pares House along Espana (cor. Maceda Street).

I know pares houses are a dime a dozen, but as far as I’m concerned, nothing beats the original.

Pares is a combo meal of garlic fried rice, a complimentary soup, beef kemchi which I think is similar to asado but not as sweet and the sauce is not as thick and packs a lot of star anise flavor. I never really bothered to find out how they cook this.

I got a chance to experience Original Pares House again after one of the many get togethers with my elementary batch mates, quite fitting don’t you think?
It still looks and smells the same and the prices are still dirt cheap, 65 pesos for a beef pares. They have more items now but I was there for the original beef pares.

And the taste, total nostalgia. I remember being first introduced to this place by one of my Titos, I remember the high school lunch outs with my girlfriends and I remember when Pares became my first official hangover food.

The beef is tender, the best part about this dish is the litid which has a little bite. It goes perfectly with the garlic rice. What I consider as a perfect bite is garlic rice topped with laman, a little litid and a lot of sauce. Each spoonful is a garlicky asado goodness that I grew up with. The addition of chili garlic oil with calamansi and toyo takes this perfect bite to new heights.

I don’t think there’s really a way to describe a certain taste that has been ingrained in memory. I’ve tasted better food and I’ve been to places with better ambiance. But Beef Pares at The Original Pares House will always be one of those dishes that makes me smile and proudly declare, I am a Thomasian.

Friday, June 18, 2010

A Ratatouille Moment at Chicken Mami House

The first time I saw Chicken Mami House at Trinoma I thought it was kind of weird to see it along the rows of fastfoods you can takeout and eat inside the cinema. Mami after all is not considered "movie food". But it is always fully packed, mostly with Chinoys enjoying siopao and mami.

One day I spied a vacant table and decided to give it a try. My sister and I ordered Chicken Mami, Asado siopao and Kikiam on the recommendation of the waitress, apparently this is one of their specialties aside from mami.
I had a Ratatouille moment when I bit into the siopao. It was like the siopao of my childhood. The asado was meaty, sweetish, slightly salty with a hint of soy sauce and saucy with bits of fat like the siopao of old. Even my sister had the same reaction. We joked that it tasted like the “urban legend” siopao that was made of wandering cats.

Then came the piping hot Chicken Mami. The soup was good, nothing great though and the noodles were a bit overcooked. But it went well with the siopao which we consider the star of the show.

The kikiam is a surprise discovery. It was nothing like the kikiam of today where there’s hardly a trace of meat. The skin is crispy with a meaty center and flecks of fat here and there. It tasted strongly of ngoyong (Chinese five spice powder) and is reminiscent of the kikiam that Mamu used to make. We enjoyed this so much that we decided to order another one to take home to Mamu. Maybe she'll be inspired to cook her kikiam again.