Is this the best Chinese restaurant in Manila?

Well, the All China Federation thinks so. Recently Marco Polo Manila’s Lung Hin Cantonese restaurant received the prestigious Golden Horse Award at the 16th China Hotel Industry Golden Horse Awards Gala. The award is given to the best Chinese restaurants outside China. That says a lot.

tofu and seaweed salad
Deep-fried tofu and seaweed salad

Knowing Filipinos, we know good Chinese food. This oriental cuisine is in fact, comfort food to Filipinos. I grew up dining at Chinese restaurants, from Cubao to Binondo, which is the oldest Chinatown in the world. It is the go-to place for authentic and good Chinese fare. Two of my favorite eateries are Toho Food Center and Wai Ying Fastfood, both hole-in-the-wall restaurants.

Basically, back then, you only have two choices when dining out—Filipino or Chinese. There were few choices then unlike now; it’s hard to pick where to eat because of the bajillion restaurants out there. And not just restaurants, award-winning restaurants.

fried beancurd skin and leek rolls
Fried beancurd skin and leek rolls

If you love Chinese food, specifically Cantonese cuisine, you should try Lung Hin.

Aside from traditional dishes, the resto serves up modern and exquisitely done Cantonese cuisine. Located on the 44th floor of Marco Polo Ortigas, it is Chinese dining at its finest. Recently, the restaurant introduced its newest executive chef, Leung “Ken” Chi Kwan. Che Ken is from Hong Kong and specializes in Cantonese cuisine.

Some of the must-try dishes of the restaurant are: the light but very flavorful deep fried tofu with seaweed salad. The salad is made up of cubes of fried tofu, thin slices of seaweed, shredded cabbage, taro, carrot, and then dressed with a nutty sesame dressing. The fried beancurd skin and leek rolls, on the other hand, is a crunchy appetizer with minced pork and garlic chives.

fookian misua
Fookian misua

For the mains, the traditional pork spareribs is served with a special black vinegar sauce. The crystal prawns with broccoli is a light dish for health-conscious diners. One of my favorites is the Fookian misua, soft and thin misua noodles with veggies , egg, and meat. It’s not your typical pancit because it doesn’t look like it. It doesn’t have the typical dark soy color, but has this almost white sauce. Despite its dull color, it is very flavorful.

Read my Manila Bulletin Lifestyle article here.

Marco Polo Ortigas Manila, Meralco Ave. and Sapphire Street, Ortigas Center, Pasig City / www.marcopolohotels.com / Facebook.com/MarcoPoloOrtigasManila / Twitter and Instagram @MarcoPoloManila

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Recipe: Five-Ingredient Filipino Roast Chicken

Turbo broiler is such a popular kitchen appliance here that every household has one. One dish that we always cook in this round oven is roast chicken. Traditional means of cooking is rotisserie (constantly rotating the chicken over hot charcoal) but the turbo broiler has made it easier. It is so common that Filipinos even call the dish “turbong chicken.” This recipe, which I grew up eating and making is easy and uses a few ingredients. This roast has a darker and slightly crispy skin. It is usually accompanied by the traditional Filipino roast chicken gravy which is a thick liver sauce but in this recipe, I made a basic gravy. TBH, you can eat this roast without any sauce.

Ingredients

1 whole chicken (1250 grams or 2.75 lbs.)
½ cup soy sauce
10 pcs. calamansi (Philippine lime)
3 stalks lemon grass
2 tbsp. osyter sauce
Ground black pepper

For gravy (optional)
1 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. Flour
1 chicken bouillon cube
1 cup water
Drippings

Procedure

1. Prep the chicken by cleaning it and patting it dry.
2. Trim the tops of the lemon grass by removing the long green parts. Bash the bulb part enough until it splits open. Do this to all three stalks then tie them into knots. Then push them inside the cavity of the chicken.
3. In a large bowl, pour in soy sauce and squeeze in the juice of all 10 calamansi. Add ground pepper into the marinade. Put chicken in and scoop some of the marinade inside the cavity of the chicken. Marinate for at least an hour, occasionally flipping chicken.
4. Remove from marinade then rub oyster sauce outside the chicken. Then put the chicken inside the turbo broiler and cook for 35 minutes at 250° C (480° F).  After the time, flip the chicken over and cook for another 25 minutes. When done, remove the chicken, set aside, and let it rest before chopping. If making gravy, collect drippings.
5. Melt chicken bouillon cube in one cup of hot water. In a sauce pan make a roux, do this by melting butter and adding the flour. Let the flour cook for a couple of minutes. Then add drippings to the roux, stir well. Then slowly add chicken broth. Wait until it boils, this will allow the sauce to thicken. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with chicken.

Serves 6

turbong chicken 02
Filipinos don’t carve roast chicken, we chop it.

Elevating Filipino chocolate

Filipinos are very lucky. Why? Because the location of our country makes it one of the perfect places on Earth to grow cacao. Yes, chocolaaaaate.

Traditionally, Filipinos have been drinking and using chocolate in dishes. Like our Mexican brothers, chocolate is an important part of our diet. If Mexico has its mole sauce we have our tablea. Tablea is a chocolate product of different provinces of the Philippines, from Cavite to Cebu to Davao.

Tablea is a processed cocoa—a small puck-like disc made of compressed ground roasted cacao beans. It is used for tsokolate or traditional hot chocolate drink, our version of hot coco. Tablea is also used to flavor champorado, a chocolate rice porridge served during breakfast or afternoon merienda.

IMG_2852
‘Chocolate Queen of Cebu,’ Raquel Choa

Today, the humble tablea’s use is not only limited to tsokolate or champorado because it’s now also used in more Western chocolate desserts like truffles, cakes, and bars. There is one Filipina who is bringing this traditional local product to greater heights. Known as the “Chocolate Queen of Cebu,” Raquel Choa is using traditional tablea in artisan treats that elevates the Filipino chocolate.

Choa, who owns Ralfe Gourmet, Casa de Cacao, and The Chocolate Chamber—all located in Cebu—has been churning out chocolate treats out of tablea. Her shops actually one of the stops during the APEC Summit. Since then, her shops became more popular and her truffles are selling more and more. She also offers regular Chocolate Appreciation Tours to tourists.

IMG_5205
Raquel Choa touring APEC delegates inside Casa de Cacao.

The “Chocolate Ambassador” first learned how to make chocolate through her lola. When she was younger, she lived with her grandmother whose livelihood was making traditional tablea. Her grandmother’s house was located in the mountains of Balamban, Cebu, which she also considers as a mystical place. Her lola told her the legend of Maria Cacao.

“I believe that tablea making is a Filipino treasure especially in the Visayas but it hasn’t been given much importance. That is why I elevated it. It’s not only for sikwate (hot chocolate drink) or champorado, I elevated it to other chocolate products,” Raquel says.

One of her best selling products is the hand-rolled chocolate truffles. Two truffle variants I was, which came straight from Cebu were the Ganache Truffle (made of tablea ganache, sprinkled with cacao powder) and Caramel Truffle (tablea caramel garnished with pure cocoa nibs). Both were really good. The chocolate has a mild bitterness and not overly sweet—it’s perfectly balanced.

truffle box
Ralfe Gourmet’s hand-rolled truffles

I’m just very happy that there are more Filipinos who are taking local products to higher levels. I guess entrepreneur Richard Sanz (I’ll post a story about him soon) is correct by saying that local brands are upping the ante because Filipinos are getting more sophisticated and more international brands are making the market more challenging.

Read my detailed Manila Bulletin Lifestyle article here.

Ralfe Gourmet, 3349 Topaz St., Cebu City (www.ralfegourmet.com)/ The Chocolate Chamber, 22 Pres. Quirino St. Villa Aurora, Cebu City

Is everything really big in Texas?

Okay, I didn’t ask that to a Texas Roadhouse exec when I met one during the media preview of the US restaurant last April. Why? Well, it would sound like an innuendo and that would be awkward as hell. I mean, imagine yourself asking that question to someone. Right?

Anyway, I know this post should have been published months ago but I’ve been busy. Deal with it. LOL.

22 oz bone in ribeye
22 oz. bone-in ribeye steak (P2,725)

When I was assigned to cover this event, I didn’t know about the brand, TBH. There are so many brands coming in the Philippines that even restaurants I haven’t heard of will suddenly open its doors at one of the new malls or commercial places in the metro. Some open with big fanfare while others keep it low key.

There’s actually a local restaurant named after this brand from the US. I think it changed its name now? Well, it better because the real deal is here. Texas Roadhouse is one of the big restaurant chains from South (US). Founded in 1993 by Kent Taylor in Clarksville, Indiana, it has now 425 branches in the US.

ribs
Barbecue Ribs (Half, P695; Full, P995)

The restaurant serves good ‘ol Southern food. No, it’s not Tex-Mex, as Texas Roadhouse VP for International Operations Hugh Carroll clarified—it’s authentic Southern comfort food. In fact, there’s only one dish on their menu that uses jalapeño and that’s the Rattle Snake Bites.

“It’s Southern American cuisine, no nachos, no tortillas. Sometimes, people who don’t know us think that we are Tex-Mex. Texas Roadhouse food is Southern style and comfort food,” he said.

No nachos? Bummer. But the potato skins make up for the lack of the famous Mexican chips. This appetizer is a favorite—baked potato skins topped with melted gooey American cheddar and crispy bacon bits, served with sour cream. I mean.

appetizer combo - potato skins, rattle snake bites, and buffalo wings
Combo Appetizer (P525)

Since this is an American eatery, there is steak, lots of it. Texas Roadhouse has a 6 oz., 8 oz, and 11 oz. Sirloin; 6 oz. Dallas Fillet; 10 oz. and 16 oz. Ft. Worth Ribeye; and the massive 22 oz. Bone-in Rib Eye. They use aged (21 days minimum) USDA Choice steaks. The uncooked steaks are on display when you enter the restaurant premises, giving you a peak of the amazing marbling of these premium streaks. Of course, they also have “award-winning” barbecue ribs. These are all must-tries.

Going into the Philippine market, the resto execs and Bistro Group—the local company that brought in the brand—knew that serving sizes had to be cut down to fit Filipino preferences. The restaurant, however, is not scrimping on the food because its serving size is still big, especially the Texas-sized platters. It offers a combination of different proteins, from ribs to roast chicken to beef tips to shrimp, served together over rice or mashed potato. The platters are good for four persons.

smokehouse burger
Smokehouse Burger (P475)

Since this is an American restaurant, its menu won’t be complete without buffalo wings, country-style chicken, and burgers. A must-try is the 18 oz. frozen margarita, which is refreshingly fun. Expect a menu and flavors we are already familiar with.

My Manila Bulletin Lifestyle article is here.

Texas Roadhouse is located at the 4th Floor of Uptown Mall, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City