BALUT, SISIG, BABY EELS AND THE RAMEN NAZI – Eating in the Philippines

I am often asked about food in the Philippines since I travel to the Philippines for work.

Balut

No I never had Balut and never will.

Balut is a developing bird embryo (usually a duck) which is incubated for a period of 14 to 21 days (depending on the local culture), and then boiled or steamed and eaten from the shell.

It originated from and is commonly sold as street food in the Phillipines. Often served with beer, Balut is popular in other South East Asian Countries, such as Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam.

In the Philippines, balut is often eaten with salt or a chili, garlic and vinegar (white or coconut sap) mixture to season, depending on personal preference.

Balut can be served in many ways and may be cooked, boiled, and fried. It may be cooked adobo-style, fried in omelets, and used as filling in pastries.

Preparation

Traditionally, the fertilized eggs are incubated in the sun or buried in sand, and stored in baskets to retain warmth. In order for the embryo to develop normally, it must be exposed to heat for the correct period of time, while ensuring that the temperature is not too hot to harm the eggs or too cold to prevent growth.

The embryo is very sensitive to high temperatures, and is easily killed upon cooking in the sun.

There are other versions of balut. In the Cambodian version, “pong tia koun”, the egg is incubated for 18 to 20 days.

In the Vietnamese version, “hot vit lon”, the egg is incubated for 19 to 21 days, when the embryo is old enough to be recognizable as a baby duck and has bones that will be firm but tender when cooked.

Some men prefer to eat an embryo that is much more developed, “…so that it looks gross, because that is a way to prove your manhood.”

Dude – you need therapy. If you want to prove your manhood, go join the marines, not eat a semi cooked baby duck embryo.

Or follow your mother in law to get your pubes waxed while she helps to hold you down. That will prove your manhood a million times over.

Manner of Eating

The way to eat a Balut is to crack it open and the first thing you have to do is to suck up all the juices. I say juice just to be polite and not dissuade you, but I am guessing you are sucking up the embryonic fluid that has been fermenting for a while.

Suck it up marine.

I am sure it is an acquired taste and by all accounts, it is tasty and the embryo is supposed to taste like chicken.

But I am chicken shit (pun intended) and I’ll just have to take your word for it.

Sisig

Now this I like.

It is the Filipino dish Anthony Bourdain says will win your heart.

Sisig is a Filipino dish made from parts of a pig’s head and liver, usually seasoned with calamansi and chili peppers.


Lucia Cunanan of Angeles City, also known as “Aling Lucing,” has been credited with reinventing sisig by using a sizzling plate to make the dish crispier.

Cunanan’s trademark sisig was developed in mid-1974 when she served a concoction of boiled and chopped pig ears and cheeks seasoned with vinegar, calamansi, chopped onions and chicken liver and served in hot plates.

Today, varieties include sisig ala pizzailo, pork combination, green mussels or tahong, mixed seafood, ostrich sisig, crocodile sisig, spicy python, frog sisig and tokwa’t baboy, among others.

Spanish restaurant El Cirkulo in Manila for dinner

The Spanish food in Manila is simply awesome.

I would say try 3 or 4 Spanish restaurants while you are here as they are all really top notch.

Many comes to mind – Terry’s Bistro (reasonably priced), Rambla (Catalan cuisine), Donosti (high end San Sebastián cuisine ) just to name a few.

But one of my favourite go to places for Spanish food has got to be El Cirkulo.

It’s walkable (about a km) from the Shangri La and the Fairmont, which are the hotels I typically stay at when I go to Manila .

They have this incredible dish I have never had or seen in any of the Spanish restaurants I’ve gone to in the region – slow braised beef belly.

Yes you heard right. Not pork belly but beef belly.

It’s a sick dish – melts in your mouth and completely orgasmic.

Every time I eat it I am tempted to do the orgasm scene from When Harry Meets Sally.

It’s on my Bucket List to do.

My colleagues had ordered appetizers when I arrived. It was a seasonal tapas – mini baby eels in olive oil.

I was persuaded to try it despite being horrified.

And it tasted ok but come on- it tasted exactly like it looks – mini squirmy baby snakes.

Respectfully. Yuck.

Squid and gambas (prawns) are two must have dishes in any good Spanish restaurant in Manila. The ones at El Cirkulo are delicious.

I’ve tried Sisig at quite a few restaurants in Manila. The Sisig at El Cirkulo is one of the best I’ve ever had,

The other thing they do really well in El Cirkulo is the baby Spanish pig. It needs advance order though.

For other gastronomic porn pictures of what they serve at El Cirkulo, see Jin loves to eat : Cirkulo Revisited.

El Cirkulo
Ground Floor Milkyway Building
900 Arnaiz Avenue (Pasay Road)
corner Paseo de Roxas,
Makati City 1200 Philippines
telephone:810-8735, 810-2763

Japanese Ramen

One thing I could never quite figure out is why there are so many good Japanese ramen places in Manila.

One of the most desired place judging by the queue is Mendokoro Ramenba. I tried it twice and both times I came away very happy.

But my favourite ramen joint in Manila has got to be Ukokkei Ramen Ron, home of the Ramen Nazi.

I don’t know why I am fascinated by temperamental and angry chefs but I just am. I think it’s the thought that this guy doesnt connect with human beings, or that he is so connected and passionate about his cooking and his food that he is prepared to be offensive.

Respect.

Remember Seinfeld The Soup Nazi ? The thought that he has the power to deprive me of his food just send shivers down my spine.

Friends of mine whom I have invited to my place for dinner over the years know that I like to cook some dishes al la last minute for freshness.

And that I turn into an angry offensive ogre when I’m cooking.

And well meaning newbies will come right into my kitchen to exchange pleasantries when they arrive, oblivious to my monosyllabic answers and icy glares.

And even when I start twitching and foaming at the mouth, they will still want to shoot the breeze and not leave the kitchen.

All this while I’m cooking 🤯🤯🤬😡😖😡😖

Seasoned veteran friends or my kids will then quickly come in and usher them away “don’t make eye contact with him – shhhh just leave quickly, he’s about to blow ”

Anyway – back to Ramen Nazi at Ukokkei Ramen. Here are a couple of rules one has to remember before dining in Ukokkei:

1. No take out (this was only when it was newly opened, now they apparently allow take out)
2. No sharing
3. No loitering after eating (the restaurant is really small)
4. No picture taking (this is only if the Ramen Nazi is feeling extra feisty)

There are some good and quite hilarious articles written about the Ramen Nazi. Some say that he is not that scary. Others called him “a total prick” when he stopped them from taking pictures of their food because the flash hurt his eyes (when he was in the kitchen some distance away).

But everyone swears by the quality of his Ramen, even those he has offended.

I go to Ukokkei to get my Tantanmen fix. It is the most delicious bowl of fiery madness that I will happily get abused for.

And yes the legend is true – there are limited bowls each day and on quite a few occasions, I have been told quite early that they have run out.

He could simply make more if everyone is asking for it but the Nazi doesn’t give a flying duck.

I really really like his offensive and repugnant attitude. This man has got intense ramen balls.

And his Ramen is frigging delicious.

And oh by the way, Ukokei Ramen is situated on the same street as El Cirkulo. When u come out of El Cirkulo, just turn left and walk up about 50-100 metres and you will reach Ukokei.

Ukokkei Ramen Ron
Address: 
Tesoro Building, 822 A. Arnaiz Ave. (Pasay Road), San Lorenzo Village, Makati City
Telephone: (02) 856-4588

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