Nengkoy’s Preferred Sea Salt

I have always believed that not all salts are equal.  Varieties of this important yet often neglected flavoring abound.  Popular ones are the ordinary iodized salt and sea salt while the chic, hip and pricier array would be Kosher, Himalayan, Fleur De Sel and Celtic salt varieties.

But Nengkoy (my mom) prefers a different variety of salt.  Afraid to run out of stock, it is the seasoning that we never miss to buy and bring back to Manila every time we are in Alaminos, Pangasinan, a province north of Manila, tagged as the sea salt capital of the Philippines.

a gorgeous morning site of sea salt beds in Pangasinan

And unlike the strong, robust and concentrated variety, Alaminos Sea Salt seem subtle, calm and pleasant to the palate.  I don’t know why but this salt never overpowers and would seem to simply let the flavors and taste of the food standout.  It has some strange way of accenting the flavors of the food. 

Alaminos Sea Salt variety is really good.  In fact, the extra one sack that Nengkoy has in her house was actually purchased by a Korean guy who makes and sells home-made Kimchi.  Upon learning that Nengkoy got an extra high-grade sack, the Korean dude never hesitated on offering a good amount so as to buy my mom’s reserve/stock.

Online Sea Salt sold by Winner Joe’s

Good thing though, Alaminos Sea Salt can now be ordered and available online through Winner Joe’s Facebook page.  Thanks to Winner Joe’s, Nengkoy nor my family need not travel to Alaminos, Pangasinan anymore so as get hold of this exquisite seasoning.

Now, watch the beauty and magic in the creation of this pleasing flavoring.

Try this sea salt variety.  I am so sure your taste buds will do a standing ovation and definitely thank you for it.

Nengkoy’s 82nd Birthday

Last weekend, I and my whole family celebrated Nengkoy’s 82nd birthday.  And every year, we make sure that Nengkoy’s birthday is celebrated in a grand way.  The whole family would spend overnight in an opulent resort out of town.

But this year was a little different.  Though it was still an overnight out of town, it is now held not in a luxury resort but at a more private place.  The venue this year was a little different and a lot farther from Manila.  It was a 5-hour travel by land.  We held it at the super huge and lavish house of Thatcher and Alexis, my niece and nephew-in-law or the two of the plenty grandchildren of Nengkoy.

the crazy and insane team langit

the house

a swim with my grand nephew arziolo

And like every other year that was, this year’s celebration was a blast.  And an addition to the already huge family has joined us, our little boy Arziolo joined the fun filled celebration. 

Nengkoy gave us a scare last year when she suffered from some numerous serious ailments.  We hope that this year would be a very good year for Nengkoy health wise.  The whole family only has two wishes for her.  That would be good health and continuous luck in her mahjong exploits.

this out of town celebration will not be complete if there would be no mahjoong session.  playing mahjong with my elder sister, my niece erika and the owner of the house thatcher 

Happy BIrthday Nenkoy!

Happy Birthday Nanay!

Three Meal Periods at the Number 2 Restaurant in Alaminos Pangasinan

This blog post officiates my being an avid fan of Celia’s Café, the number 2 restaurant according to TripAdvisor in Alaminos Pangasinan.  Number 1 restaurant of course is the old and tired Maxine By The Sea located at Lucap.  Though run-down and the food served were average, Maxine By The Sea is the leading restaurant in Alaminos.  Its TripAdvisor’s number 1 because it is located at a wharf near the dock where tourists would have to take a boat ride to reach the majestic Hundred Islands.  It’s one of those rare eateries whose reason for being number 1 is not their food nor their service but its location.  I still remember way back in the early 90’s was the first time I dined there.  It was also my first time in Hundred Islands!

me, my sister and a few of my monster pamangkins

The number 2 restaurant on the other hand seem to possess the thrilling potential of becoming the leader among restaurants in Alaminos.  Celia’s Café seem to capture the urbanized and the ruralized feel.  Their ambience and facilities are homey yet urbanite.  Because of the modern feel of the ambience, you will never miss the feeling of being in an urbanized city when you dine there.  But their warm service is naively bucolic.  Celia’s Café are manned by gentle and courteous lads, which reminds you that you are indeed in a countryside away from the jungles of Manila.

But what I particularly love about Celia’s Café is the food.  It’s surprisingly delicious!  During my recent revisit, I again ordered the Pasta Longganisa for lunch, the one I ordered the first time I dined there.  All I can say is that it is consistently luscious.  The only thing that changed was the bread.  It is because it is now tastier and more delicious.  The focaccia bread was so good, I ordered extra and even ordered take-out so as to bring it back to Manila!

focaccia inside a bag (my take away!)

yum!

And since there seem to be no agreeable restaurant establishment in Alaminos except for Celia’s Café, me and my family returned at dinner time.  We ordered the platter in which, one order is already good for four (4).  I was especially impressed by the flavors of the Chicken Platter.  It is because each dish in the platter tasted differently.  It was unlike the platter offerings by other restaurants in which each dish seem to taste the same with other dishes in the platter.  The Southern Style Fried Chicken was of a totally different flavor from the Chicken Salpicao and the Chicken Salpicao was of a totally different taste from the Pork Tonkatsu.  And what is best about the platter was the generous serving of rice!  To top it off, we were surprised to find out that our ordered platter comes with a whole serving of soft and chewy pancakes!

The following morning before heading back to the jungles of Manila, me and my family returned to Celia’s Café to have breakfast.  I had the big fulfilling English Breakfast, which I guess is the only English breakfast dish served in the whole of Alaminos province.

Enough said and I am impressed if you reached this point of this blog.  Hahaha!  I think I already said that I am a fan.

Tagahanga! Dats mi!

Excited for Celias Café

People living in Alaminos, Pangasinan (and those who would visit this fast developing city) has something awesome to look forward to.  Celias, a new modern Filipino coffee shop, is due to open on Saturday, July 16, 2016.

egzoited!!!

egzoited!!!

I am excited because the last time I visited Alaminos, Pangasinan, there seem to be no decent café or coffee shop where we could enjoy good coffee and some sumptuous meal.  I and my friends (after touring the Hundred Islands) settled on eating at a trivial fastfood joint inside a trivial shopping mall.

What I’m most excited about Celias Cafe would be their all-day-breakfast Pinoy food offerings as well as that of their coffee concoctions.  I am excited because I know, on a personal level, the owners of this café. And I know that these owners has lived for years in Osaka, the culinary capital of Japan.  Hence, these new proprietors knows what good food is and I believe they have acquired impressive palatal sense.  They know what delicious is!

I will definitely be heading to Celias Café and will give you my two cents on what this new exciting café has to offer!  Celias is located beside the SSS Building along Marcos Avenue, Alaminos City, Pangasinan.

Si yu der…

Resolved Craving for Patupat

Americans may crave for the tasty mac & cheese, Italians may hanker for an authentic margherita pizza and Japanese for a shot of sake.  This is a common desire and appetite if they people have been out of their country for a considerable span of time.  I for one yearned for the texture, flavor and smell of Patupat.

Being a child of a Pangasinense, I grew up chomping on the sweet molasses flavor of this glutinous rice wrapped in coconut leaves weaved into a bag.  Patupat during my childhood was a usual chow readily available inside our ref every time my father’s relatives living in Pangasinan visits Manila.  And because of this, my DNA was programmed to crave for such if my nutritional intake has been Patupat-deficient.  I can confidently say that Patupat in a way defines me.  It’s in my tradition, it’s in my subconscious, it’s in my roots.

i have to steam it! just like me... it's best consumed when sticky and hot!

i have to steam it! it’s best consumed when hot and sticky!

patupat defines me...

patupat defines me…

I could no longer recall the time when the last time I ate a bag of Patupat.  I have been craving for it!  That is why when I learned that Thatcher (my niece) will be arriving in Manila from Pangasinan, the foolish request I asked her is to bring me loads of this tasty, sticky and gluey delicacy.

Now my craving has been resolved because my hearty breakfast are two bags of Patupat.  I guess… Patupat defines me.  Patupat is tasty, hot and sticky just like me!  Yummy!

Walang kaduda-duda, Pinoy nga ako!

The Sophisticated Saltiness of Alaminos Longganisa

one heavenly piece of alaminos longganisa

one heavenly piece of alaminos longganisa

After an awesome adventure at the Hundred Islands, I and my friends stayed overnight in one of the forgettable hotels in Alaminos.  But the breakfast they served was definitely something to remember and rave about. It was the un-popular yet very tasty Alaminos Longganisa.  I am writing about Alaminos Longganisa because this is the culinary highlight of my Hundred Islands adventure.

Vigan, Lucban, Cebuano or the Kapampangan longganisa versions may be the more popular varieties of “longganisa” (native sausage) for they may easily be found in the supermarkets.  And Alaminos longganisa may probably be the least adored longganisa variety in the Philippines because a lot of Filipinos doesn’t even know that an Alaminos version exists!

But the Alaminos Longganisa is definitely the most admired type in my mother’s household.  That is why before I and my friends drove back to Manila, we stopped by the public market to purchase kilos of this delectable banger variety.

golden links for sale at the public market in alaminos

golden links for sale at the public market in alaminos

Unlike the Cebuano and Kapampangan type which are rather sweet in taste, Alaminos longganisa is similar to the Vigan and Lucban variety which is garlicky in the palate.  But what stands out for the Alaminos variety is the discriminatingly unique and refined saltiness.  Maybe this is because it has less of the curing salt (the menacing salitre) and got more of the natural sea salt which is abundantly available in Alaminos, Pangasinan.

I am highlighting the unique sophisticated saltiness of this sausage as its finest ingredient because Nengkoy believes that the best tasting coarse salt is made and can only be found in Alaminos, Pangasinan.  Nengkoy so fancy the taste of Alaminos sea salt, she would even request that her pasalubong (home coming present) simply be kilos of this salt if a friend or a relative happen to be coming from Alaminos.  Yeah, I know that’s how weird my mom is! Asin ang gusto.

Anyway, going back to the Alaminos Longganisa.  Aside from its superb taste, a distinct look about the Alaminos Longganisa is the color.  It’s yellow!  This is because it has atsuete (annatto) as part of its ingredient.  That is why unlike the salitre-filled usually red-colored native sausages, Alaminos Longganisa when cooked turns out to be golden brown in appearance.

Also, a unique form of this sausage is the usage of short and thin palm leaves’ midrib sticks to separate each sausage link from one another. To keep the meat bursting out of its sausage casing, these wood sticks are actually fried along with the meat and is served still on the plate sticking out from the ends of the sausage!

So if you happen to have been served a golden brown sausage with small sticks on it, it is most probably the glorious Alaminos longganisa!  Of course, like any other Filipino longganisa, Alaminos longganisa is best devoured with loads of steamed kanin (rice).

Naimas…

The Unique Charm of the Hundred Islands

hundred islands, a totally different adventure

hundred islands, a totally different adventure

Having close encounters with the Taklobo or Giant Clams, colorful corrals and vibrant schools of fish are the highlights of my recent journey to the Hundred Islands in Alaminos, Pangasinan (a calm and peaceful province north of Metro Manila).  I was so glad to have the opportunity to snorkel in the deep blue waters (of the Coral Island) in this portion of the Lingayen Gulf.  I have been a couple of times to this gorgeous protected national park and I am glad that the islands were still jarringly beautiful.

I really like the fact that it would be very difficult for people to stay overnight in the islands because there are no luxurious room facilities available in these islands which would tend to spoil, destruct and deteriorate the natural splendor of the place.

Among the more than 120 islands of the park I think only four are allowed for tourists to stay overnight.  People who would want to stay overnight would only have to settle on pitching their own tent/s and pray that unforgiving heavy rain won’t fall and gust of viscous wind won’t blow during the night.  Otherwise, it would be some messy, muddled and shambolic escapade.

with lambert, jun and willie

with lambert, jun and willie

now, how can you construct toilets on those islands? aber!

now, how can you construct toilets on those islands? aber!

my magic shot of jb...

my magic shot of jb…

those rickety pump boats are not for the fainthearted

those rickety pump boats are not for the fainthearted

Some two-legged squeamish finicky creatures may actually say and declare that they hate the park due to its inadequate or lacking in facilities – like drinking fountains, toilets, luxurious restaurants, air conditioned huts, high-class smooth sailing speedboats, etc. – in the islands.

But for me these add up to the unique charm and appeal of this Philippine tourist spot.  It totes up to the rugged virginity of the place.  This makes you feel that these harsh islands remains to be untouched, unexplored, undamaged and indeed intact.  That the environment and its ecosystem is nothing but ‘natural’.  So when you’re in the Hundred Islands, simply embrace nature’s beauty and expect the unexpected!  Besides, that’s what fun is about!!!

Hundred Islands is not a fluid, easy and relaxing type of an escapade.  It is for the rough, tough and jagged type of an adventurer.  This distinct characters of the Hundred Islands makes me love and fancy this erstwhile Philippine tourist destination.

Kakaibang adbentyur… di pwede sa lelembot-lembot…

We Were Like A Rolling “Bulanglang”

i will never be too old for tantrums...

The benefit of being with your mother is that you are allowed to simply be yourself and say whatever you like to the point of throwing tantrums.  That is what I exhibited when my family was travelling back to Manila after an overnight stay at the hometown of my father in Pangasinan last weekend.

And as usual, just like any rural adventure that my family would carry out from time to time, Nengkoy never fails to stop over and shop at the local palengke (wet and public market) of the rural place we visit.  Our journey would not be complete without Nengkoy buying the local produce of the province or the countryside we visit – bushy-tailed vegetables, freshly caught fishes, newly slaughtered meat, brightly colored fruits as well as local indigenous delicacies.  She wouldn’t just buy a piece or two just to satisfy her shopping passion.  She would buy tons of it!!!

This usually makes me cranky and grouchy.  This is because I and the whole family need to spend considerable amount of time at the border and perimeters of the wet market doing nothing but wait while Nengkoy finish her procurement.  My considerate and selfless brothers and sisters are so used to Nengkoy’s habit they would sometimes join her in penetrating the labyrinthine passageways of the palengke to locate the freshest produce and help her out carry the loads of her purchases. I, at all times refuse to join the pack but instead just wait and wait and wait.  Did I already say that I impatiently wait?

Anyway, while we were in Manaoag, Nengkoy purchased local delicacies of Pangasinan: bags of puto calasiao (local rice cakes of Calasiao, Pangasinan) and tupig (charcoal-grilled glutinous rice and grated coconut wrapped in banana leaves).

While we were in Dagupan, she purchased tubs-full of fresh bangus (milk fish), oysters, large shrimps, a bag full of mangoes and large bottles of the local bagoong (a brown, murky yet tasty sauce made from fermented tiny fishes).

We also made a stopover in  Villasis where she bought heaps and oodles of locally grown vegetables – malunggay (fruits of moringa tree), talong (eggplants), sibuyas-pula (tiny red onions), bawang (garlic), kalabasa (pumpkin), and even bouquets of bulaklak ng kalabasa (squash blossoms).

All throughout these panic purchasing moments, I did nothing but wait and complain. Grrr!  We literally could no longer move inside the car for it was full of the local produce of Pangasinan.  Out of madness, I even cried out loud to everybody inside the vehicle traversing the highways of North Luzon on our way back to Manila that we are already like “Umaandar na Bulanglang!” (a rolling Bulanglang – a stew made of fish and mixed vegetables seasoned with bagoong that originated from northern Luzon).

nengkoy with some of her bulanglang veggies

Pagdating sa bahay ni Nengkoy, ako din naman ang kumain ng mga yon. ‘Yan si Nengkoy walang kupas. At ako, walang pasensya.

Thanking the Lady of Manaoag

Devotees from around the world would usually go to the magnanimously divine Shrine of Our Lady of Manaoag to ask for a holy intercession.  I did not.  After travelling more than 200 kilometers by land from Manila to Manaoag, Pangasinan and as soon as we settled on the seats of the church the only thought and prayer I did was to thank God and the miraculous Lady of Manaoag for the health, wealth and happiness of my family.

Our Lady of Manaoag

the candle i lit...

Imadyin? Pinapasok ang demonyito kong ito sa loob ng simbahan? Hahaha!

Nengkoy & The Camachile

camachile

Abundantly lined-up are red plastic bags hanging on the branches of massive trees at the edge of a long stretch of highway in Tarlac contains a local fruit.  My family on our way to Manaoag Pangasinan last Saturday noticed and initially wondered what those red plastic bags contains.  Until one of us realized that it contains Camachile being sold by the local folks right under the shade of the trees.

I haven’t tasted Camachile so I told my siblings inside the vehicle that I wanted to buy and savor its taste.  But when I told them this, we already passed Tarlac and no vendor is in sight.  Nengkoy however explained that it is okay since Camachile is actually not a tasty fruit variant.  She added that I will not actually like it.  But on our way back to Manila the following day, I insisted on buying and hopefully enjoy the taste of the fruit for the first time which is considered rare for a city dweller like me.

My brother-in-law considerately stopped the vehicle when we were along the highway stretch of Moncada Tarlac to purchase two full plastic bags.  Each bag cost twenty-five pesos.  I gave Kuya Bogis (my brother seated at the front seat of the car) sixty pesos to hand over to the lady vendor for two bags of Camachile and told him to tell the vendor to keep the change. Nengkoy gave me her usual indescribable stare to express her disgust on why she was not given the chance to practice her price-haggling-skills.  When we continued our journey back to Manila she told everyone inside the vehicle that price haggling is supposed to be done to lower down the price of the item being purchased and not to swell it higher which I, according to her, unacceptably just did.  Nengkoy of course is just being her usual self!  That was the moment that I told everyone that I won’t give them even a little piece in case I liked it.

When I excitedly opened one bag of Camachile, I was surprised to find that all of the fruit’s skin crusts were cracked open.  In full shock I shouted and asked them that this may no longer be edible since the fruit’s edible meat has been exposed!  Everyone laughed because of my stupidity and explained that the crusts are expected to be naturally open to signify that the meat is already ripe and could already be devoured.

With full gentleness, I picked one fruit and took off the seed beneath the white meat.  I chose the one whose skin crust has turned red expecting it to be sweet.  But when I placed it in my mouth and chewed it, the only words that came out of my mouth was, “Ay! Lasang papel!!!” (It tasted like paper!).  Nengkoy and the rest of the pack broke a big laugh.

Nengkoy then told me “I told you so…” and practically started her usual litany by saying that sixty pesos could have purchased a kilo of sweet ripe mangoes in Villasis Pangasinan and that I was such a bull headed monster for not listening to her.  With my insistence I again tried another Camachille expecting a sweeter version but to no avail.  That was the moment I offered everyone inside the car to have Camachile as their snack while we headed back to Manila.  Some took a little piece, tasted it and by no means asked for another one.

Siguro kapag ginawang ays krim pleybor, masarap na!