Far from the gourmet tastes and sophisticated undertones of wine reductions, comfort food is a sought-after simple, hearty meal. It’s neither deconstructed nor fancy but, simple plain home-cooked meals that we’ve grown up over the decades.
Unfortunately, comfort food happens to be typically high-carb choices most health-conscious people are wont to avoid like a plague. I guess that as you get older though, there are food choices that you seek or that remind you of days gone-by.
As teenagers, we spent much of our time at the only mall in town then—Greenhills in San Juan. Everyone’s legendary favorite is a shop called Choc-ful-O-nuts and its ever famous cuapao and siomai. With its soft chewy dough and asado filling, their siopao brings back a sense of nostalgia of teenage years when you only had enough money to buy you a Coke and a siopao for merienda. Since high school however, this little shop has served exactly the same choices as far back as I can remember.
For years too when we were dating, Mike and I would spend special occasions at the oldest local Japanese restauran—Kimpura. I remember how my family would tease us endlessly about how unromantic those dates seemed. These days, with our two teenaged children in tow, we all now find ourselves craving for Kimpura fried rice and kakiage tempura on weekends.
Long before Pancake House was a chain, we used to love coming here for its diner-like ambience. Fortunately they’ve kept these favorites in the menu—the unmatched pairing of taco and spaghetti.
Yet, perhaps nothing brings more nostalgia than the sweet spaghetti of Makati Supermart or Unimart. With its sweet tomato-based sauce topped with ham, hotdog and cheddar cheese, this spaghetti meal is as reasonably-priced and as filling as it gets. Long before McDonalds and Jollibee became popular for spaghetti, Makati Supermart already had a huge following of families and children craving the Filipino version of this dish.
Then, the other classic favorite our contemporaries grew up with is a burger and deli called Dayrit’s. Funny enough, whenever I crave for burgers, this is the one place I insist on going more than fancy fastfood chains. It’s amusing that this place still serves the “Cheeseburger Todo” (“todo” which literally means the patties are packed with everything on it). With its only remaining branch in Magallanes, Dayrit’s is one of those places we always run to for late night meals or from long flights. From its beef tapa, corned beef, roast beef splattered with brown gravy, chicken galantina, and longganisa macau with Hawaiian rice, one can enjoy breakfast food anytime of the day. There’s nothing more comforting than breakfast after all.
At times, we also crave what we call country club food—from Monte Cristo which are sandwiches filled with chicken, ham and cheese spread between egg-dipped sliced bread to your everyday pancit and arroz caldo. Then too we’d crave the usual kare-kare and crispy pata, dishes that just have to be eaten with a plate full of rice and bagoong. Fortunately, Via Mare is such a convenient café to run to for these food cravings.
Then, of course, there’s always going to be everyone’s classic favorite from Aristocrat—its chicken barbeque. Though the chicken pieces have turned a bit wee smaller in the last few years, the taste has fortunately not been altered.
Perhaps we are fortunate to be blessed with so many comfort food choices around town. From Max’s fried spring chicken, Ilocano bagnet, pandesal and quesong puti, or even halo-halo, the rich culinary heritage of Filipino cuisine is an endless menu of classic favorites.
In time for certain, the rest of the world will begin to discover these classic favorites as theirs too.