Perhaps nowhere in the canvas of Filipino food is there a dish more representative of the 300 years of Spanish colonization in the Philippines than in lechón. While it's found in other parts of the world, the origins of lechón are of Spanish heritage. We had our first at a "lechón party," where a $70 pig fed 15 of us.
The Salcedo Community Market is an outdoor market held on Saturdays at the corner of L.P Veliste and Toledo in the heart of the Makati Business District. Open from 7am - 2pm, it was started eight years ago by residents who occupy apartments in nearby high rises. With almost 150 vendors, the market attracts hundreds of visitors each Saturday and boasts a wide variety of goods; from whole roasted calf to plates and bowls made from locally sourced wood. We've included a picture of said calf after the jump. Just to warn you, it looks like a whole roasted calf.
The Sino-Philippine trade brought Chinese influence to the Philippines in the 10th Century. The country's thousand-year relationship with China has left an undeniable mark on Filipino culture, one that was further influenced by the ensuing Spanish occupation that began in the 16th Century. In addition to the Spanish and Chinese influences found in Filipino cuisine, purer forms of each can be found throughout metro Manila. There is a tendency of the Filipino palate to avoid extremely spicy food, making some spicier cuisines harder to find. The Sze-Chuan House, a block inland from the Manila Bay in the Aloha Hotel, is one of the few restaurants that attempts to provide a spicier regional Chinese cuisine to the Filipino public.
After breakfast at home Friday, we headed to Max's for fried chicken. The highlight was having our first halo-halo, the classic Filipino dessert whose presentation and combination of ingredients mimicks a pantry disaster of sorts, but more on that in a minute. Born in 1945, Max's is a Filipino fried chicken restaurant chain. It got its start when a Filipino teacher named Maximo Gimenez befriended American troops stationed in Quezon City during WWII. Gimenez opened a cafe to provide soldiers food and drink and his generosity grew into a sit down restaurant. Since opening its doors to franchising in 1998, Max's has expanded to the US (California and New Jersey) and Canada.
Waking up at 6am is only ever a bad thing when it happens in a place where things don't open until ten. We made breakfast at home.
Scrambled eggs took on a darker hue than normal from the bright orange yolks that seem to be at the center of all eggs outside the US. We fried some Vigan Longaniza sausages we bought at an SM Super Market yesterday in a dash of olive oil. The greens are pehcay; Filipino bok choi. They grow year round so they're always available and always cheap. The leaves are commonly used as a garnish and in soups, but a quick sautee with garlic and chilies puts a nice twist on the healthy, earthy, crunchy greens.
We noticed there was a crowd waiting to eat at Fely J's as we walked by so we decided to join the crowd. Twenty minutes for a table for two. Browsing the food options while we waited revealed a four page menu built around Filipino tradition. Making decisions was going to be difficult, but it had to be done.
Greenbelt 3 has a concentration of coffee shops, high-end retail stores, and some of the better dining options in the Greenbelt Mall. For lunch we went to an old Thai favorite of the folks we're staying with: People's Palace. The restaurant serves the cuisine of Thailand with the same freshness and attention to detail that have earned Sri Pra Phai its cult following and Andy Ricker rave reviews for his deeply learned efforts on display at his Pok Pok restaurants. The dishes at People's Palace may not dive as deeply into Thailand's pantry as those at Pok Pok, but there is a consistency throughout the menu that suggests you may not be dining in the Philippines, but 1,300 miles to the west.
Our hotel is near Greenbelt 1 in Makati. There are five Greenbelts total and each is an extensive shopping mall with both indoor and outdoor counterparts. The interconnected commercial center started in the 70s, when Greenbelt 1 was built, and provided consumers a more intimate shopping alternative to the bustling malls of SM Makati and Quad nearby. Most of the Greenbelt stores open at 11am, but Mary Grace was open early. We stopped in for breakfast and had our first meal.