With everything on it—that’s the best way to describe Ana Ong’s lugaw (congee) buffet.
When Ana cooks, she spares nothing, which is why I have not come across congee as fabulous as hers. I have never had congee and been so satisfied.
Her congee base is neutral—thick without being overly so. It tastes clean. It has consistency. It does not turn watery.
The rice grains are intact after hours of cooking yet melt in the mouth. It is a skillfully prepared base (much like a well-prepped canvas). You can add just about anything on it.
Her buffet choices are limitless—she jokingly calls her add-ons and condiments the “8 Principal Sponsors” (pork, beef, shrimp, chicken, tito [pig stomach], fish-fillet (lapu-lapu), meatball and crab ball.
There’s also “16 secondary sponsors”—leeks, wansoy, fresh cucumber and pickled cucumber, century egg, salted egg, jelly fish, crispy garlic, fried shallots, mushroom, pork blood, fresh egg, fried wanton wrapper, nori, tong chai, crispy tofu and ginger.
Then the 10 seasonings: sesame oil, soy sauce, fish sauce, white vinegar, black vinegar, lemon juice, special sauce, chili sauce, red vinegar and hot sauce.
You think the eggs are cut into eight thin wedges and the crab balls thinly sliced? Think again.
Her sponsors, both principal and secondary, are generously prepared and are of premium quality.
I even told her to chop her cilantro smaller—she seems to serve them whole, like a plant. Imagine the cost.
Given all these to choose from, it was easy to justify why I went for three servings. I did my own mixing and matching and each time, my bowl of congee tasted brand new, each bowl was of different character.
What I had was really a hefty serving of chunky principal sponsors, with generous helpings of secondary sponsors. The lugaw became the sahog or mere ingredient.
When she does catering, she goes full throttle. Aside from the congee, she throws in noodles and soup stock to keep the non-congee but noodle lovers happy.
On the other end of her buffet is a Chinese fresh lumpia station, again with everything on it, being rolled on the spot, just when you ask for it.
She also has a dim sum station for steamed and fried dumplings, also cooked on the spot to retain its freshness.
She caps the whole merienda experience with a do-it-yourself halo-halo bar.
Anna’s style allows her clients to choose what they want, catering to their preferences. Her goal is simply to make her clients happy. I discover they are not just happy but elated, especially when the bill comes.
I asked how much the whole generous spread costs—congee/noodle, fresh lumpia, dim sum (siopao and siomai) and halo-halo. It’s P300 per head, with iced tea, and complete buffet setup—chafing dishes, plates, cutlery, cooks, buffet servers and waiters. Minimum of 100 persons.
Her congee/noodle, siopao/siomai buffet is P250/head: 100 sticks of assorted balls (fish ball, lobster ball, fish tofu, squid ball), fried or boiled in stock, cooked on the spot, served with three sauces of your choice: sweet chili, curry sauce or hot sauce. Also with halo-halo and iced tea.
For your holiday catering needs; food orders with buffet setup or without; Chinese packed lunches that start at P100 per head (fried rice, + Chinese fried chicken or beef or pork Chinese-style with sauce + chopsuey and juice), call 0918-9235879.
If you want to rent tables and chairs, or if you need balloons, tents, there’s JB Toy Balloons, tel. 0917-8223863.
For my new cooking class schedules, call 0917-5543700, 0908-2372346, 4008496, 9289296.