The pandemic has spurred creativity in many homes. One need only look through social media to find images of ube-cheese pan de sal, sushi bakes and other homemade food.
What they have in common is how they all somehow fall under the category of comfort food. Whether sweet or savory, they make us feel good.
In the case of Bench stylist Noel Manapat, the lockdown made him recall dishes he grew up eating in Pampanga. With his sister, he opened last month the online food store carmen&consorcia community kitchen, named after their grandmothers (tel. 0961-5392734) that sells cooked and uncooked items made from heirloom recipes.
When it launched in June, the menu listed traditional items such as tamales from Candaba, a savory rice cake made of galapong (rice flour), roasted and ground peanuts, coconut milk topped with boiled peanuts, chicken and sliced salted egg; and three types of longganisa, garlic, Macao and hamonado. Manapat also sourced salted duck eggs, the kind that are clean-tasting and less salty than those dyed red.
The organic chicken and pork embutido (P220 per 500 g roll) is ready to eat and delicious with steamed rice. Slice it diagonally and steam or fry it in a bit of oil.
“Specialties like homemade embutido are kept secret in Pampanga because they’re often given as gifts to relatives and friends,” Manapat said. “Ours have cheese to make them creamier and richer.”
An aunt shared with Manapat and his sister her source of embutido when they explained to her the concept of the community kitchen.
We tried both types and found them tasty alone or with a smear of banana ketchup or sweet chili sauce.
Manapat recently added to the menu Dulce Prenda baked by food historian atching Lillian Borromeo (“Atching” is a term of respect). Made of arrowroot flour, eggs, butter and lemon rind, the pastry is pressed using a wooden mold carved by artisans from Betis, and has a filling of grated kundol (wintermelon). The designs mimic the leaf and floral patterns found in the vestments of Our Lady of La Naval.
“Dulce prenda adorada” is a line from “Despedida de la Virgen,” the closing song of the annual October feast of Nuestra Senora del Santo Rosario, La Naval de Manila.
A recent discovery in Quezon City—although apparently they’ve been there for 23 years—is Lei’s Fresh Lumpia (17-A Langka St., Project 2; tel. 0908-3675147). Owner Leila Lantin-Ignacio is the eighth of nine children of the late Sy Ching. The Chinese-style fresh lumpia is made following a 1956 recipe of their father.
Back then, the lumpia and other short-order items were sold at the Globe Lumpia House in Quiapo. Each lumpia (P34) is around 6 inches long and filled with finely chopped coconut pith, singkamas, sayote, carrots and tofu. For around P100, you get three delicious lumpia that can be enjoyed with or without the sweet sauce. Since the mix already has sugar, the sauce is superfluous.
One friend downs two or three for dinner when he doesn’t want to cook in his condo.
‘Pancit palabok,’ popsicles
Those who miss the pancit palabok at Red Ribbon—they stopped serving short orders a while back to focus on cakes and pastries—can try the next best thing at Mang Inasal. Another friend couldn’t stop raving about its pancit which is available in takeout trays for P200, good for four people.
“The taste is very similar to the one that used to be sold at Red Ribbon. It’s become one of our go-tos at this time,” he said.
A personal favorite and one that often caps our Sunday lunches at home is Aice ice cream. The brand has been available for a while but we got to try it only recently.
The quality is very good; its melon milk variant at P12 is almost identical in flavor to the Melona brand from Korea but at a fraction of the cost. Aice’s watermelon popsicle (P10) is shaped like a watermelon wedge, pink with black “seeds” (like crispy rice) and a green rind.
The mango slush (P20) variant tastes exactly like a rich mango shake but in the tropical fruit’s unmistakable shape.
We could all do with some comfort in this time of unease.