Sometime ago, a big Chinese-American food franchise opened in the Philippines. Its menu was mainly good—Moo Shoo Pork, Chicken Lettuce Wrap, Dynamite Shrimps, Black Pepper Chicken, Kung Pao Chicken.
I remember having first tried these dishes as a student in New York.
Unfortunately the franchise didn’t succeed here. We can speculate about the reason; I have my own speculation.
Since many Filipinos frequent Hong Kong, we know what authentic Chinese cuisine tastes like. When the Chinese-American venture opened in Manila, expectations were high and comparisons were made on real Chinese food. After a few months, the franchise folded up.
In the Philippines, there are two types of Chinese food—the authentic Hong Kong version, and the Pinoy-Chinese version. The latter may be found in most restaurants in Binondo (Manila), Banawe Street (Quezon City), and Greenhills (San Juan).
The Pinoy-Chinese version has become so popular that it has come to be regarded as comfort food by people who enjoyed it from childhood.
The largest Chinese restaurant in Greenhills is now a cross between authentic and Pinoy-Chinese. It was not like this a few years back.
There are also authentic Hong Kong-standard restaurants that have mushroomed in Metro Manila. The good ones are at Makati Shangri-La, Edsa Shangri-La and in the Bonifacio Global City (BGC) area.
Worth visiting are Hai Shin Lou on Arnaiz Avenue (Pasay Road) in Makati, Crystal Jade in BGC, Oriental Palace on Tomas Morato, and Choi Garden on Annapolis.
King Chef Seafood Restaurant on Banawe may also be classified as authentic Chinese. With its cooks trained in Hong Kong, you can tell when you taste the food.
The chicken feet, my dim sum gauge, was good.
The Peking duck, served two ways, had its crispy skin wrapped in pancakes with spring onions and hoisin, and the minced leftover duck was wrapped in lettuce.
Next time, I want to try the second way—deep fried with salt, pepper and garlic.
The 8 Treasures Spareribs had tender morsels of crispy, mildly spicy pork loaded with fried chili and herbs on the side. Delicious!
The fried French beans with ground pork was outstanding. The beans were crunchy, the meat a bit salty though I’d like to think they’re healthy.
The sweet and sour pork I enjoyed with salted fish fried rice, which I like with a few drops of soy sauce.
I have also tried the salted egg-flavored French beans and they’re good, too.
The xiao long bao, though tasty, lacked the soupy liquid that oozes upon biting.
I guess all Chinese restaurants have their strong and weak points. In any case, the Pinoy palate has come a long way and we can tell which is authentic or not.
King Chef Seafood Restaurant, 989 Banawe St. Quezon City. Call 2825464.
My Japan food tour schedule: Fukuoka/Hiroshima, Nov. 5-10; Hokkaido, Nov. 19-24; Okinawa, Dec. 10-15; email email@example.com