My brother, Manong Boy, has a penchant for bread.
When he brought home recently two super-soft loaves of sandwich bread in regular and ube flavors, my curiosity was roused. I could not resist the loaves that were on our dining table. I had to try them, and I was very happy!
They were nice and soft—the regular loaf creamy, milky and sweet, while the ube had the earthiness that can only come from the tuber and not from flavorings or powders.
I immediately boiled one chicken breast, flaked it fine and combined Japanese mayonnaise, a pinch of sugar, a bit of Madras curry powder, a lot of chopped yellow onions, celery, salt and pepper, mixed them well and, with two crunchy lettuce leaves, sandwiched the spread between two slices of the bread (called cotton soft loaf, I learned).
I still haven’t figured out what would go well with the ube loaf but is thinking of maybe cheese pimiento: Mix 2 cups grated cheddar cheese, ½ cup roasted bell pepper, peeled and chopped, ½ cup cream cheese, 2 tbsp softened butter, ¼ cup condensed milk, 3 tbsp mayonnaise, 2 tbsp sugar, salt and pepper to taste. Will try this out soon.
To my surprise, the delicious loaves are made by North Park, but sold at Kopi Tiam, a house by an acacia tree along 3 Benitez St., Horseshoe Village. Both establishments are owned by the Soon brothers.
I immediately called my dear friend, Hong Kong-tutored chef Raphael “Paeng” Soon (who, alongside his Les Roches-trained brother Gabby, opened the famed North Park in 1994) to laud him on yet another delicious masterpiece.
From him I learned that Kopi Tiam is a place where they showcase their collection of family recipes, their little playground where they experiment on things they like to eat. The coffee shop is intended to be a kitchen away from home, or your neighborhood kitchen.
“That is why we made our menu a bit international,” says chef Paeng. “Kopi Tiam in Fookien means coffee shop. We wanted a place that’s more welcoming and unpretentious. This is where we cook comfort food for our customers and bake our own bread.”
A few days after tasting their bread, I dropped by Kopi Tiam to pick up some more. Unfortunately, I learned that one must call in first. So, I had coffee instead.
“We are very proud of our coffee,” says chef Paeng. His pride is justified. I must say the coffee is very good—perfectly executed “kopi” mixed in perfect proportions, where every ingredient balances itself off. You taste the sugar—amount just right, not too sweet—and then the milk, distinct but again not too rich. The robustness of the coffee kicks in on the finish. Delightful!
I could not resist the deadly tablea chocolate cake, served warm and oozing. It is like eating a molten chocolate bar, the consistency a cross between a cookie dough and a thick cake batter—thick, gooey, fudgy, deadly and sinful! A must-try!
I love laksa (a Peranakan spicy noodle soup) so I had to have a taste of it, too. It was good. Well rounded—rich, creamy, spicy, tasty. Again, executed to perfection, keeping the flavors balanced and in perfect harmony without one outshining the other. This laksa comes complete with laksa leaves, which I learned the Soon brothers pick fresh from their grotto where the plant grows like weeds around Mama Mary! Every component of the laksa is homemade, from the noodles to the fish cake. No wonder it tasted so good.
Kopi Tiam even has its own rendition of amoy lumpia, which tastes so fresh. It has bit of ground pork, but overall, it’s very healthy. The vegetables are cooked very briefly, leaving you with a hefty lumpia filled with fresh leafy greens in their natural hue, with lots of chunky fresh kinugoshi tofu. It is served with garlic cream and amoy lumpia sauce. If you wish to start eating healthy, this lumpia is a great first dish to start.
Close to 18 years after I first tasted North Park’s fried prawn dumpling, chefs Paeng and Gab have not stopped amazing me with their innovative cuisine and their own personal renditions of well-loved, old-time favorites. This is perhaps why the Soon brothers have managed to stay in business years after many others have hung their gloves—or their cooking mitts, in this case.
(Kopi Tiam tel. 7235674/ 7227946. They deliver!)
Remember the taho supplier I wrote about many moons ago, the one I lost touch with? I found his new number, and he still makes taho like he used to. My personal favorites are his almond and coffee. Call Peter for orders 0917-8486007. He delivers, too.
My book “Kitchen Rescue 3, The Directory—My Lifeline to Eating, Cooking and Living” is now available at all leading bookstores or call 6474744. E-mail the author: firstname.lastname@example.org