Monday, December 3, 2007

Fatty McFatty

I'm eating a lot in the Philippines, and not walking around much. I'm going to be a fatty.

On good news, I bought some sandals that totally rock. They're so comfortable, and totally work with the fob style (read: socks + sandals) that I love doing. Even though they cost way more than I wanted to spend (about $30 since I saw sandals of the same style that cost $5) I'm so glad I bought these just because they're both comfy and look better than the others, w00t!

While I'm staying with my aunt, the one with nannies (one for each kid), maids to clean and do laundry, a driver and a cook, I basically eat like I'm at a hotel. Their place LOOKS like a hotel (it was designed by an architect that builds hotels). Big dinner table, Lazy Susan, and usually eight different kinds of dishes for lunch or dinner, usually a dish of fried rice or noodle, and some soup. Oh gawd, I love variety. I just put it all on my plate and gobble it up.

Last night, I ate at this... er, "restaurant." It's in quotes because the place actually doesn't have any food in inventory. You must be asking, "then where does the food come from?"

That's why there's a huge open air market in the plaza. The idea is, you go to the market and buy the fresh food, from fresh oysters, mussels, clams, a range of shrimp sizes (tiny shrimp, regular shrimp, tiger shrimp, jumbo shrimp, and fatty mc fatass ginormous shrimp), possibly twenty different kinds of fish, either whole or cut in all shapes and sizes, a range of squid sizes (small fishing line bait size, regular supermarket size, fatty mc fatass ginormous size, and giant squid so big you don't actually buy the whole squid, you buy it by the area), crabs of all sizes, some kind of sea mantis (it literally looks like a gigantic insect), lobsters, eel... basically a smorgasbord of marine delicacies.

Everything is purchased by weight (each 1/2 kilo). The nice thing is, you can bargain with these people to get the prices lower. Unfortunately, my cousin Hilton has nowhere near the ruthless force of Ling, despite being an accomplished economist. Ling could whittle down a lady selling a bracelet from 80 yuan down to 20 in about 15 seconds, get a Coke for 3 yuan instead of 4 with one sentence (the difference between 54 cents and 41 cents). We could only get minimal discounts, but technically the food is pretty cheap (compared to the states) that it is still good.

You bring the food over to the "restaurant," still alive, moving and kicking around in the plastic bag, and tell the person at the front desk/podium how you want to cook each thing. There's a cooking charge by weight. She takes the bags of freshly squirming dinner, and heads into the kitchen.

We got:
1. A bunch of freshly sliced tuna, sashimi style.
2. Six gigantic shrimp. Biggest shrimp I've ever seen in my life.
3. 12 oysters, probably caught that day.
4. Tuna face, literally. It's like a slice of the tuna's gill and cheek area, mostly bone but also has the delicate cheek meat, which is the best part of the fish. The tuna face is huge, about the size of a big plate.
5. Some kind of seaweed that looks like a bunch of little bulbs on branches (think of kelp, but tiny and green).
6. A giant tiger lobster. Live.

Here's my assessment:

Shrimp: Cooked butterfly style with garlic, onions and chilis. Spicy. AMAZING.

Oysters: Half baked, half steamed. I only ate one baked one because the steamed was half cooked (half raw). When they bake shellfish here, they put cheese on it. It's weird.

Seaweed: Washed, and served raw with diced onions and tomatoes. You drench it with vinegar and eat it as is. Tastes like the sea, literally. It's like swimming in the ocean, then drinking some sea water, just not as gross sounding.

Tuna face: Lots of bone, but once you can dig around in there you get some dark meat and cheek meat. If you haven't eaten the cheek of a fish, grab it next time you're at a Chinese restaurant and the big steamed fish is in front of you. Take it before someone else does, it's the most tender piece of the fish and it's delicious.

Tuna sashimi: Awesome. One pound of it. We couldn't even finish it all.

Tiger lobster: Apparently they cook it with Sprite. The best lobster I've ever had.

San Miguel Lite: Half a bottle and I'm gone. Go tolerance.

Bad luck struck us when we left... Hilton's friend Kenneth had his bag stolen. Missing: Cell phone and charger, 2000 pesos, airline ticket, tissues. The people there didn't want to go to the police station and make a report. They said, just come back tomorrow. According to Hilton, there's an introduction to the everyday people. He was determined so we eventually went to the police station and they made a report. Unfortunately, most likely nothing will be done.

Today, I went to the Lechon City here in Manila. Basically, it's a street where there are only restaurants and sellers of lechon, which is the whole roasted pig that you can get at Filipino restaurants. They all go to a special area where they roast the pigs, turned on a spit over hot coals for an undetermined amount of time (to me) and then it's brought to the restaurants where they rest the poles against the wall of the place, displaying the roasted pigs to the world. We walked around so I could get some photos and then went back to one of the restaurants to have them cut some freshly cooked lechon, some rice, and misc foods. Good tender meat, crispy skin, oh man.

Did I mention I also had lechon the day before at lunch? Stomach flap, here I come.

Tonight, we went to a specific area where there's lots of restaurants that are displaying their food, and you pick and choose the ones that you want. Sticks of barbecued pork, chicken, chicken organs, more lechon, various kinds of fried and steamed fishes, many traditional Filipino dishes (dinuguan, pansit, sinagang, pinakbet, that awesome eggplant stuffed with meat, vegetables, and wrapped in a scrambled egg batter, etc.). We chose 7 dishes, including dinuguan and that stuffed eggplant egg thing, as well as some BBQ pork, some kind of fish with vinegar based sauce and an awesome spicy curry-like dish, and sat down. And two beers.

I should mention what an awesome bargain this is. 650 pesos for the whole dinner (about $15.25 for three of us). The Chinese in me is ecstatic.

I finished my beer today without feeling a buzz. That's odd.

Tomorrow I leave for Zamboanga, the city where my father was born and raised. My dad's been telling me stories for years about how dirty the Philippines are, which has always been what's kept me from coming here all these years. It's pretty evident that he means Zamboanga, so... wish me luck.

Oh yeah, one more thing. Check this girl out. Turns out we met her at a club in Shanghai. She apparently won a beauty pageant competition, and is now a spokesmodel for a Chinese shoe company! She's a pretty cool chica.

Until next time, peace out!


Cristina said...

I would like to add you to my blog, I have enjoyed reading your blogs :)

xposition said...

Awesome! Glad to hear you love the home country! Yea boyee, 'Pino Pride in the house!

30$ Sandals: smoove. I guess. They all plasticky?
Lazy Susan: Decadent. No one hides weed there?
Oysters with Cheese: Lee will still eat it; on an unrelated note, did you know he dates Cherry?
Lobster with Sprite: No waaaay.
Theft: That's low!
Ling's haggle prowess: How does it work?!
China Pageant Girl: 6. Minus points for looking like someone's Mom. Zing!

Stay alive!

squishy #2 said...

dude, your fatty is like my skinny. STFU.
haha. miss ya chris. i ate some of my chocolate that you sent me today. soooooooooooo deliciously awesome.
you're the best.
merry EARLY christmas cause apparently, you're too cool to celebrate the holidays in the states.

oh, btw, guess what? i'm going to be snowboarding in Kellogg, Idaho over the New Year''s longest Gondola ride!!! woooohooo! still miss ya though. if you weren't running around the world, you coulda come snowboarding with me!