To celebrate Flores de Mayo, I had flower-shaped puto and kutsinta paired with delicious palabok.
You see, palabok is a noodle dish that I have a penchant for. I can’t resist thin rice noodles soaked in a thickened annato sauce made divine by shrimp-head stock. Garnishing it with more shrimps, tinapa, chicharon, boiled eggs and spring onions makes it even more complex and so much more enticing.
I am imagining it just now, with calamansi and a light drizzling of patis, and it makes my mouth water.
Not all palabok are made equal, though. My latest discovery is cooked by Dennis and Trina Madrid of Tita Letty’s Pinoy Deli.
Their palabok is a refined rendition of the classic. It tastes of palabok but clean. On the finish, it is pristine.
The noodles are adorned with sliced squid, boiled shrimps and lots of half eggs (not sliced), exactly as Tita Letty and her family enjoy their palabok.
Tita Letty is the sister of Trina’s maternal grandmother, a gentle lady who loved to cook. Her specialties are native delicacies, her forte being kakanin.
Many of the recipes offered by the Madrids were originally Tita Letty’s that they adapted and made their own.
My personal picks
The deli started as a side business for the couple in 2013. Then, they only supplied puto and pichi-pichi to a restaurant that had a few branches.
When the pandemic hit, the restaurant closed and Dennis, a basketball coach, stopped working. It was then that the Madrids decided to sell their food products online and through social media.
Their flower-shaped kutsinta is not only pretty but very good, too. Just the right chew and sweetness. It tastes neat, and the lye water doesn’t overpower.
Their cassava cake is also delectable. It’s made from 100-percent cassava capped with lots of cheese.
Their puto is lovely. You can order them shaped like flowers, in pastel colors and in classic ube and pandan flavors, all stuffed with cheese.
They also have a kakanin sampler that’s perfect to pair with their palabok for merienda.
The best part is they do same-day delivery! Tita Letty’s fare is always made fresh, tastes clean and beautifully presented. (@titalettyspinoydeli on Instagram and Facebook.)
French breads baked to order
Meet the Croissant Lady, Donatella Chua, who juggles between being a seller of chef and restaurant uniforms and a baker.
The latter, she developed the skills for a year ago. She started making chocolate crinkles when she was younger, selling them to her brother who then had an internet café beside De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde.
Donatella has a more serious approach to baking. In her words, “Baking isn’t really my hobby but I do enjoy it when I get my hands on it. I love the science behind it.”
She added that it is cooking at home that is more of her passion. Not culinary school-trained, she learns by reading and doing.
Croissant Lady was inspired by the best pain au chocolat she tried—this was at the Farnham Estate Gold and Spa Resort in Cavan, Ireland, in 2019.
Three years after, she unlocked the secret to her own pain au chocolat.
Among her specialties are butter croissants, spinach puffs and her own creation, the Croissaymada.
The Croissaymada is a toasted ensaymada-style croissant topped with Parmesan cheese, brown sugar and pure salted butter. This was conceptualized one afternoon over a cup of Earl Grey.
Quality of ingredients
Donatella said, “A light-bulb moment came to me. Why not make my own ensaymada out of my butter croissant?”
With all the ingredients available in her pantry, she went to work and her efforts were greatly rewarded. A new and unique product was born.
I discovered that her strength is in the quality of her ingredients, which are all French. These come coupled with a promise made to her clients: to deliver breads fresh from the oven.
The Croissant Lady bakes a la minute. The process begins once the order has been confirmed and paid for in full.
It takes an hour from confirmation to freshly baked bread to her client’s doorstep.
Mini croissants and spinach puffs are also available. New flavors include peppered mushroom and apricot. You may, of course, opt to buy them frozen and bake them yourself.
It’s a wonderful way to wake up to Donatella’s baked goods. Her breads do not just make breakfast so much more appetizing, but makes the whole house smell heavenly, too. (@croissantladyph on Instagram.)
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