Posted in Restaurant Hopping, The Flavors of Asia

In Which My Brother and I Have an Exotic Lunch…

Colorful, flavorful biryanis

My sister and I go out together on an average of twice a month and it’s usually for Japanese food (lots of it) or gourmet burgers and bespoke fries (more about that in the next entry) and ice blended coffees.  My brother and I, on the other hand, hang out on an average of once in a blue moon due to his busy schedule (and yes, the Big Move is coming up this month).  But whenever we do manage to find the time to hang out, we usually find something exotic to eat.

Now, most of you regular readers know that I’ve blogged about the New Bombay Canteen several times already, but apparently my brother’s never been there – not even to its food court stall over at the Glorietta.  Seeing how our Singaporean stall of choice was closed (Whatever happened to Red Dot?!?) and we weren’t exactly in the mood for Mongolian bowls, Indian food was definitely the cuisine of choice.

Given the heat, however, we balked at ordering dishes based on either dairy products or coconut milk: so the mixed vegetable curry with its lentils and cauliflower was out along with the disturbingly green palak paneer (cheese cubes cooked in a spicy spinach puree).  Instead, we picked out two biryani plates as shown at the top of this post, the eggplant barta, my favorite vegetable samosas, a pair of chicken samosas, and a couple of large iced teas.

I’ve had NBC’s shrimp biryani before and was startled by the bright, savory, spicy flavors of the dish and the surprising amount of small prawns stirred into the fragrant rice, but we weren’t prepared for the surprises we dug out of the mutton and chicken biryanis.

The mutton was a shocking vermilion shade and was made a bit sweet by the addition of tomato sauce to the cooking broth.  Generous chunks of mutton were buried beneath the rice and each piece was spoon-tender – more like lamb than mutton – and seasoned so well that there was none of the gaminess usually associated with either lamb or mutton.

The chicken, on the other hand, was spiced with generous amounts of bright yellow turmeric, ginger, and sweet white onions.  A whole drumstick and a thigh were hidden beneath the rice and both were very tender and moreish.  Both rice dishes went well with the vivid green coriander sambal that was actually meant for the samosas.


As always, the vegetable samosas were excellent: the stodgy potato filling was spiced with crushed coriander seeds and given a nutty-twist with the addition of green peas and chickpeas.  The reddish brown tamarind ketchup was a must here.

I cannot, however, say the same for the chicken samosas.  These reminded me too much of deep-fried chicken empanadas as the ground chicken was dry and underspiced.  Plus, the flavor of the raisins overpowered just about everything else.

Roasted eggplant and okra barta

The eggplant barta was a new experience for both me and my brother.  We’ve had eggplant and okra in pinakbet.  We’ve grilled eggplant with lashings of bagoong and fried eggplant slices dribbled with a bit of patis.  We’ve even had steamed okra with bagoong or crushed and salted duck eggs.  But never in this manner:  both vegetable-fruits were roasted till good, charred, and smoky-tasting.  These were then stir-fried in a spicy gravy and topped with chopped spring onions.  It was very good and was excellent with the biryanis.

Food? WHAT food?!

My brother and I were afraid that we’d over-ordered, given how we didn’t expect to end up with so much food and drink for just P 475.00 (US$ 10.93).  As things went, however, we devoured everything happily – because it was all so good.  😀



Midge started her career in PR writing at seventeen when she began drafting documentaries for a government-run television station in the Philippines. Since then, she made a career in advertising and public relations which ended in June 2016 These days, she works full time at Philippine Tatler as a features writer under the nom de guerre Marga Manlapig. Aside from what she does for a living and her poetry, she has turned her home kitchen into a personal culinary lab and is currently working on another novel. Follow her on Instagram at @midgekmanlapig.

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