Sunday, October 23, 2005

Lasang Pinoy 3: Tondo Streetfood

[Chicken Arroz Caldo]

A very good friend, an adventurous cook and passionate foodie, is my special guest today. Rinna Carlos De Guzman always brings new creations to our potluck parties that she is a constant source of fresh and innovative cooking ideas. I am so happy that she found the time from her law studies to write about the streetfood she grew up with in Tondo, Manila.

LP3 button courtesy of Iska. Salamat!

A Spoonful of the City
by Rinna De Guzman

I grew up with the proverbial spoon in my mouth - serving spoon - that is, not the silver one! Consequently, I can tell what good street food should taste, smell and look like, whether or not they are served with a spoon. You see, I grew up in the heart (or is it the gut?) of the city - Tondo, Manila - where one can see, taste and savor the aroma of all kinds of street food imaginable (and unimaginable)!

The best time to experience the ultimate street food extravaganza is on the third Sunday of January, when the Feast Day of the Santo Niño (Holy Child) is observed and celebrated. Every one in Tondo celebrates the Fiesta. Every one gets out on the streets either to hang buntings, reserve parking slots, offer to watch your car, set-up a sound system, to eat at a neighbor’s house, drink and huddle on a street bench, or do karaoke right out on the streets.

The Tondo Fiesta is not for the faint hearted. To the uninitiated, going to the Tondo fiesta is like going through survival camp. First you get stuck in an hour long traffic jam, and when you do get to budge, you get lost in the rerouting schemes and detours to make way for the procession. When you finally get within a few meters of your destination, you can then attempt to find a parking space, and pray for the courage to leave your car there.

For a place known for its citizens' belligerence, toughness, etc., you’d be surprised that the Fiesta celebration begins and ends in church. And the road to church is paved with street food. The streets enroute to the church are identified by the street signs, but they might as well be identified by the kind of street food they are known for!

Our point of origin is Pavia Street, where my grandmother’s house is. It is otherwise known as “bilihan ng arroz caldo at sopas ni Aling Maring” – our favorite breakfast fare. There is nothing like Aling Maring’s rice porridge cooked in real chicken broth. Its aroma wakes us up across the street and greets us with a garlicky, chicken-y, “Gising na!Aling Maring serves her arroz caldo with hard-boiled egg or chicken meat or well-cleaned-turned-inside-out chicken intestines. The sopas is a viable alternative to the arroz caldo. Served with milk, chicken strips, garlic and spring onions as toppings, you will feel all the motherly love Aling Maring brings to her sopas! Since it is breakfast fare, Aling Maring only serves her porridge and soup until 10:00 am.

For morning merienda, you just take a walk to the corner and there you won’t miss the big sign, in post-liberation style, “Liberty.” It is our local bakery where they make the tastiest, lightest and fluffiest mamon. The soft and sweet mamon, and my favorite cold chocolate drink, is the only combination that can satisfy my hunger and soothe my anger, after having a painful tooth extraction. (I can remember those toothaches so well that I can taste the toothache drop in a cotton ball now in my mouth.) The mamon restored my faith in dentists and saved me from childhood toothache traumas.

Liberty Bakery initiated me into the wonderful world of baked goodies. Egg pie, ensaymada, empanada, pianono, and pan americana – I learned how good tasting baked goods should taste like, sans the mascots, commercials and gimmicks. This bakery, with all its quality baked goods, has kept from spending money on advertisement, which we all know raises the price of flour, eggs and sugar by multiples. And to me, that is the best non-ingredient that goes with their baked goodies.

From the local bakery, you turn to your left and the facade of the Cathedral looms, you cannot miss it. On the next corner where a Benz might be parked side by side a cariton, you will pass by a strategically located puto-bumbong and bibingka stand. Of course, you get your free salabat, just be sure to bring our own mug or thermos, even!

The nearer you get to the church, the more street food stands you will see. Pink popcorns, freshly popped multi-colored chicharon (pork skin cracklings), adobong mani (fried peanuts with garlic), cornik (corn kernel crunchies), quail eggs, good ol’ fishballs, chicken parts, and the tantalizing caked chicken blood. I have always wondered how they all tasted like, but never worked up the guts to try them on the street. Is the Tondo girl in me slowly being diluted by all the expensive franchised coffee I’ve been drinking or by the green pasta I’ve been eating?


Nick Ballesteros said...

Hi Rinna! Like yourself, I do not necessarily see myself getting adventurous all of asudden and eat anything in sight! :-). I have tried IUD (chicken intestines), but I don't think I will venture taking a bite out of betamax (blood cubes) anytime soon :-)

Anonymous said...

Hi Rinna, (Hi Kai)...I am simply salivating because of this arroz caldo picture with calamansi! yummy!!

wow, that was one feast in Tondo. I wish I have experienced such. Thanks for sharing.

please do try the cornik ;)

Anonymous said...

Hi Rinna, Kai, that arroz caldo brings up memories of me working late, somewhere in ayala avenue, and coming out of the building at close to midnight, to be geeeted by all these street vendors with their baskets of suman, bibingka, cornik, balut, and of course, boiled saba...ayahh! There is such soul in Pinoy food, and food in the Pinoy soul! Sorry I missed LP3 -- life interfered. Great roundup you guys got :-)

admin said...

haay...memories of my after disco (spirits discotheque!) nights when i was in uni!!! yum!

ting-aling said...

I grew up in a community where there were no fiestas observed so I do not actually know how an actual fiesta is observed. However, I felt like I've been to a Tondo Fiesta just by reading about Rina's story.

Nice one Rina..thanks Kai

Anonymous said...

Hi Rinsky!
We miss you! Looks like you really had memorable childhood years in Tondo... your arroz caldo looks so inviting... hmmm..yummy!

MikeMina said...

hi rinna, kai . . . i'm not a big fan of arroz caldo as it reminds me of the lugaw we'd have pag may sakit kami when we were kids. hehehe . . . but this one's making my mouth water now! looks yummy!

Anonymous said...

rinna and kai, what an incredible lineup of streetfood goodies! an entire cookbook could be written inspired just by this entry. salamat for joining us for LP3!