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Diner at Fely J's

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.

Ensalada Ni Nanay (P125 = $3) - Salted egg, okra, eggplant, tomatoes, green mango, onions, and bagoong guisado. The tomatoes, mango, and onions are all raw. The eggplant and okra are steamed and brought to room temperature. Salted eggs are of Chinese origin and can be made with duck or chicken eggs using a variety of methods. Most salted eggs are dyed red to distinguish them from fresh eggs. The Pateros method is commonly used in the Philippines to make the preserved eggs. Clay, salt, and water are mixed in a ration of 1:1:2 into which eggs get dipped individually. From there, they are wrapped in newspaper and left to cure for up to two weeks. The result is a very dense and cheeselike egg.

Bagoong is a Filipino condiment made from fermented fish, most commonly shrimp, in which case it's refered to as bagoong alamang.  It's in a lot of the dishes here, but this was our introduction to the ingredient in its guisado form.  Bagoong guisado refers to sauteed shrimp paste.  In this case, the bagoong is sauteed with pork, tomatoes, onion, garlic, vinegar, and sugar. The added depth of flavors is what makes the condiment so versatile and one not unlike bagna cauda, the anchovy dip common in northern Italy. The addition of a fermented ingredient gives bagoong a more layered complexity, but in both instances the fish-based condiment is intended to dress raw vegetables.

Gising-Gising (P250 = $6) - Kangkong stems stewed with shrimp paste and chiles in coconut cream. Kangkong is a water spinich that is prolific as a starter and side throughout Southeast Asia. This dish makes use of the hollow stems of the plant left behind when the leaves are used for other purposes. The unexpected heat from the chilies (most Filipino food eschews extreme spice) shock the tastebuds, and are what gives the dish its name, which literally translates to "Wake Up - Wake Up." The version served at Fely J's is sweeter and less spicy than others, and is elevated from its traditional preparation by the addition of fresh shrimp.

Pork Liempo (P205 $4.95) - Pork belly marinated in garlic, vinegar, and spices. We didn't intend to order one of the country's most prized dishes just on a whim. We were steered into ordering it here only because the restaurant was out of Chicken Inasal, a common street food served in the Philippines that's made the Bacolod Chicken Inasal restaurant chain a huge success here. Liempo is always pork belly and in most instances it's grilled. Fely J's was a bit dry and not the most giving rendition of grilled pork belly. We'll (glady) order it again elsewhere for a better verdict.

Crispy Patang Bawang (P595 = $14.40) - Traditional favorite pork leg deep fried and served with a special dipping sauce. This bohemoth plate of deep fried pork leg is enough to feed a family of five. Without a lot of meat in the dish, the wonderfully fried pig platter serves better as a demostration in deep fryer mechanics than it does an entree, but what meat the dish did have was delicioius, tender, and coated with rendered goodness let up from the pork skin. The soy-based sauce adds a bright tang that helps get through the richness. A handful of chopped, fried garlic garnishes the dish.

Greenbelt 5, 2nd Level | 02 728 8858 | www

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