Feasting on Duck by a Country Road


In a small shack by the roadside…

“Are you folks going out today?” I yawned to my dad on the morning of Black Saturday. See, we’re the sort of family that stays home during Holy Week: no trips to the beach, active participation during the religious services of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, bantering with each other over the points made by the Dominican friars during the annual broadcast of The Seven Last Words live from the Santo Domingo Church in Quezon City, and I do my Easter baking on Black Saturday. So, we’re pretty much city-bound (and local community-bound) during Paschaltide.

So it came as a surprise when my father said, “How about duck in Laguna for lunch?”


Poached and fried till golden…beak and all

Duck is a meat that rarely makes an appearance on most Filipino tables unless you live in Pateros in the northern part of Manila or in the town of Victoria in the southern province of Laguna. For both places, ducks and duck eggs are both a source of nourishment and a long-standing source of income. Balut, that infamous duck embryo delicacy foisted on unsuspecting foreign tourists and squeamish Fil-Am kids, has long been Pateros’ claim to fame; in Victoria, there are roadside stalls that sell live or dressed ducks, as well as balutpenoy (hard-boiled duck eggs), as well as both salt-cured and fresh duck eggs. In the case of the latter, it’s all part of the “One Town, One Product” (OTOP) initiative of the Department of Trade and Industry which encourages self-reliance in rural areas by encouraging MSMEs.

At long-time duck farmer Leo Dator’s humorously named Ang Tindahan ng Itlog ni Kuya (aka Mr Duck), duck lovers can indulge in a menu where duck meat and eggs are everywhere. Seriously: you can get a meal that’s ducky in every way from soup to dessert. Other than that, one can also get organically farmed ducks, duck eggs (fresh and preserved), and other niceties such as those au courant salted-egg potato crisps (made with their own eggs, natch), locally-made noodles, and other snacks native to Laguna province.

The speciality of the house, however, is kinulob na itik. Similar to Indonesian bebek goreng (crisply fried duck), the organically raised duck is first poached to take some of the gaminess off, and then deep-fried till crisp on the outside, tender and savoury within. Richer and more flavourful than the fast-food fried chicken so many Filipinos are fond of (and, really: I can’t see why), a single order is good enough for a group of four – with leftovers, to boot.


Sinampalukang Itik – look at all those chilies!

Another must-try dish is the sinampalukang itik or duck cooked sinigang-style in a sour tamarind broth with finely chopped shallots and plenty of fresh finger chilies. It’s quite a change from the usual sinigang: meatier, more robust, somewhat fiery because of the chilies chucked into the pot. It’s a dish that seriously demands to be eaten with plenty of rice – and the rice here is excellent. It may be plain, but it’s deliciously fragrant and the grains are moreishly chewy; it is certainly the perfect foil for the fatty goodness of the duck.

One does NOT say no to this sort of leche flan

There’s halo-halo on the menu for afters, but I would recommend you go out with the same thing you came in with and have a ducky end to the meal with the leche flanThe local take on this sweet favourite comes out denser, heavier, and creamier than the pale yellow examples you get in other parts of the country. Here, as duck yolks are used, the custard is a deeper orange hue and the resulting dish has a chewy, gooey texture that is seriously appealing even to the finickiest of diners. (But, if even this puts you off, you’ve no business eating.)

The tindahan is actually split into two parts: the main restaurant which is a roofed structure open on all sides with tables for dining on, a counter for ordering from, and a kitchen where the magic happens. The other part is the store which sells all things ducky (yes, including live Long Island Pekin ducks – fat and rather charming-tempered ones, really. You’d want to keep one as a pet, but you’d also consider cooking the creature come Christmas this year, so…)

Duck-egg Challah, anyone?

I ended up buying a clutch of fresh duck eggs and a whole kinulob to take away. Duck eggs are an amazing addition to one’s baking arsenal, if I do say so myself. They impart a richer flavour to eggy breads like classic Jewish challah, for one thing. I’ve yet to see what duck eggs can do in cakes or biscuits, but I’ve seen recipes for duck egg pavlovas (whites in the pav, yolks in the custard to pour over it) and as we’re at the start of mango season in these parts…

Oh, and remember that I bought a whole duck for take away: we had that bird for Black Saturday dinner and, yes, there were leftovers. Those definitely didn’t go to waste, of course, because…

Duck curry, yes.

…I went and chucked the lot into a tasty duck curry for Easter Sunday dinner. 🙂

In Which a Deep-fried Fish Classic Gets a Fiery Twist…

Panko-crusted cobbler with a chilli-butter sauce

Panko-crusted cobbler with a chilli-butter sauce


The principle of cooking deep-fried crumbed or battered fish is such a simple one that it boggles the mind why it’s done so badly both at home and even at the nicest restaurants.  The fish is either overseasoned or underseasoned; soggier than wet paper; burnt to a crisp – definitely not palatable.

But, when it’s done right, it can be sheer delight: a crispy exterior encasing a meltingly soft and almost creamy interior that doesn’t taste too fishy because it’s been seasoned properly.  Plus points if it comes with a proper batch of deep-fried spuds or, perhaps, a salad dressed impeccably with a citrusy sauce.  

That said, the panko-crusted cobbler over at Melo’s (yes, the steakhouse; you can get lovely fish at a steakhouse!) is a paragon that others would do well to imitate.  Each piece is properly crumbed, seasoned, and deep-fried into the crispy outside / tender inside ideal.  But what sets this one apart from the competition is the smattering of sauce that gets drizzled over it: a garlic, chili, and lemon-infused clarified butter whose taste infuses each and every piece – spicy, sharp, lightly salty.  The steamed veg and the small portion of potato Parmigiana seem almost unnecessary; yes, the fish is that good.

In Which One Makes the Most of a MASSIVE Loaf of Bread…

That is a HUGE loaf of bread!

That is a HUGE loaf of bread!

Following the feast of St. Anthony of Padua in June, my family received what had to be the biggest loaf of bread I’d seen in ages: easily twice as wide as my forearm and just a wee bit shorter.  It had a rather dark, bitter-tasting crust that was scattered over with toasted sesame seeds; the inside was more spongy than fluffy, evidence that this was a hard-dough loaf (similar in stodgy substance to sweet breads such as monay, pan de limon, putok buns and the turtle-shaped pinagong buns of Quezon province).

It was the perfect bread for sandwiches – and, oh!  Such sandwiches!

Grilled cheese goes big!

Grilled cheese goes big!

The savoury bitter crust and the sweetish inner crumb went perfectly with mild Cheddar for a massive grilled cheese sarnie that barely fit on my plate until I cut it in half.

Cooked in butter till golden, this sandwich was given a bit of Italian flair by the addition of basil, oregano, and rosemary to the sliced cheese within.  Frying the sandwich in butter tempered the bitterness of the crust and made it crunchier.  The sweet crumb was just perfect with the saltiness of the cheese and the fresh flavour of the herbs.

It was just the right thing to eat with an ice-cold soda on a sweltering Saturday afternoon.

Curried chicken foldover for breakfast

Curried chicken foldover for breakfast

(Just so we’re clear, the picture above shows just how huge individual slices of the loaf were.  Huge, eh?)

Another time, there was some chicken curry left over from dinner.  I just shredded the meat off the bones, whisked it and some leftover coconut gravy into a bit of mayonnaise with some pickle relish and pimenton dulce,  lumped on a few slices of cheese, let the whole thing come together for a few minutes in a toaster-oven – et voila!  I had a curried chicken foldover that went magnificently with my morning latte.  😀

I recently found out which bakery actually sells these glorious giant loaves.  Needless to say, one of them will be making its way into the family breadbox soon.  😀


In Which the Ice Cream is a Small, Sunday Pleasure…

Keeping it small and sweet - this is how we do ice cream in southern suburbia!

Keeping it small and sweet – this is how we do ice cream in southern suburbia!

At the end of the Mass every Sunday in the small parish I’ve attended since my family moved to Muntinlupa in 1984, there are certain aromas, flavors, and sounds that have become part and parcel of the Lord’s Day in my part of town.

Almost as soon as the final notes of the recessional hymn have died off and are replaced by the chattering hubbub of exiting parishioners, one catches a whiff of fish balls being fried outside in a wok mounted onto a rolling cart.  There is the scent of fresh fruit sold by the ambulant fruit vendor who always has bananas and small kalamansi limes on her pushcart along with fruit in season such as mangoes, green-skinned native oranges (dalandan), or perhaps large, pale green-skinned guavas.  There is the familiar honk of the pan de sal (salt-bread) seller’s horn on his bicycle as he makes his rounds throughout the community; in the air, all other aromas are subdued by the scent of fresh bread baking at the panaderia (bakery) from whence the seller picks up his wares.  You can hear the taho (tau fu far) vendor shouting “Tahoo-o-o!” on his daily trot, shouldering the massive stainless steel cylinders holding silken tofu, dark brown sugar syrup, and sago.

And there is the cheerful tinkle of the sorbetero‘s (ice cream man) bell, calling children and their parents over to his cart to partake of what is popularly referred to as dirty ice cream.  This confection is so called because well-heeled matrons in past decades told their children not to eat it, claiming that it was “dirty” and prepared under unsanitary conditions.  Kids being kids, these well-meaning mothers were ignored and aforementioned ice cream was consumed with sheer delight.

Sorbetes, the Spanish word for that entire range of frozen delights that covers everything from fruity sherbets to lush ice creams, is the proper name for dirty ice cream.  It is not as refined or as unctuously creamy as commercially prepared ices, but it has the virtue of being both cheap and delicious as these are made with seasonal and locally-sourced ingredients.

It is a touch icier in texture; indeed, it isn’t uncommon to encounter a bit of a crunch from ice crystals.  It also isn’t as milky or creamy as commercial ice cream as there is a bit of coconut milk or cream used in the bases along with the dairy.  But you could really taste the fruit used in making these ices: the almost floral sweetness of fresh mango, the high and funky taste of ripe jackfruit, the creamy bittersweetness of avocado, and the nutty flavor of fresh, young coconut.  In times when no fruit of the earth is ripe enough for mixing in, local ice cream makers also make ices with cocoa powder (a sweetly smoky ice), ube (purple yam; the taro used by milk-tea brewers), and even cheese which makes a delicious salty-sweet iced treat.

Five pesos (approximately US$ 0.11) gets you a small waffle or sugar cone piled high with scoops of all three of the flavors currently available in the sorbetero‘s cart (He usually has just three) or of any one flavor of your choice.  Ten pesos gets you a small plastic cup with a spoon and fifteen gets you an ice cream sandwich where the ice cream scoops are piled into a split sweet bun.

Sorbetes on a Sunday morning…sometimes, life doesn’t get any sweeter than this.

In Which the Blogger Pleads for Help for the Storm-torn Visayas…

Complete and utter destruction is what you’ll see in the streets of Tacloban, Leyte (Photo credit: Jeoffrey Maitem for Getty Images)

The news today reads like something out of a horror story: an apocalyptic scenario that would not be out of place in one of those zombie shows or movies that have become popular of late.  Chaos and anarchy rule the streets of Tacloban, Leyte – my maternal grandmother’s hometown and one of the poorest cities in the Philippines – in the aftermath of what is now considered the deadliest storm in recent history: Typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan.

It is frightening to think that, just a few weeks ago, a killer earthquake stunned the same part of the country.  (More specifically, the province of Bohol.)  And now, this…

“Assessment of the damage and destruction has begun, search and rescue teams have been deployed and emergency supplies are ready to be distributed to those in the worst hit areas. Thousands of people are likely to be left without food, shelter and water – this is a double blow for the survivors of the earthquake in Bohol and Cebu, who were already struggling to get back on their feet.” – Bernd Schell, representative of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in the Philippines

Since the storm tore through the Visayas on Friday, things have been insane and desperate in that part of the country.  Dead bodies lie scattered in the streets; some hang from the stripped-bare branches of trees or draped grotesquely around fallen utility poles while others are arrayed like broken dolls against the debris of their homes or the last places where they sought shelter.  Looters desperate for food, water, and clothing have rampaged through devastated malls and shopping centers; riots break out whenever someone manages to break through to the cities and towns with relief supplies.  The ensuing devastation makes the disaster in Haiti look like a funfair.

“We would urge our fellow Filipinos: Huwag naman po i-take advantage ang misery ng kapwa Pilipino. Hindi ho siguro magandang gawin iyon.”  (Trans.: We would urge our fellow Filipinos: please don’t take advantage of our fellowmen’s misery.  I don’t think that’s a very good idea.) – Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda

At present, local network GMA has teamed up with Google and the Philippine Red Cross to provide an online person finder to help those abroad, in Luzon, minimally affected parts of the Visayas, and Mindanao to see if their relatives in storm-afflicted areas have been found and/or are all right.  International aid has also been pledged and some donations have already arrived.  (I just hope those greedy politicians don’t take advantage of these to line their pockets!)

What You Can Do To Help…

You can also donate via Caritas Manila

You can also donate via Caritas Manila

While waiting for international aid to kick in, even ordinary citizens such as we can do our own part in helping in the relief efforts.

The following items are the ones needed immediately by those in affected areas:

  • Ready to eat food items (sardines, tuna, processed meats, and fruit in retort packs or pull-tab tins; soda crackers and bread; dry cereals, cereal bars, and dried fruit);
  • Clothing, slippers, and blankets;
  • Drinking water (People are actually rioting and turning violent over the lack of potable water);
  • Old tarpaulins or proper tents, tent pegs, ropes to provide shelter;
  • Basic medicines (analgesics such as paracetamol and ibuprofen, antihistamines such as chlorphenamine and loratidine, cough medicines, anti-influenza and cold tablets, antibiotics and/or anti-bacterials in capsule or tablet form [suspensions are of no use in areas without water], anti-diarrheals such as loperamide);
  • Products for personal hygeine (toothpaste, toothbrushes, sanitary pads, soap, moist/antiseptic towelettes, rubbing alcohol [70% isopropyl or ethyl], hand sanitizers);
  • Basic medical supplies (bandages, antiseptic ointments and/or solutions, eye-washes, anti-fungals, surgical gauze);
  • Diapers for both infants and adult patients; and
  • As grim as this may sound: face masks, latex/surgical gloves, proper cadaver bags or – at the very least – large garbage/hazmat receptacles for the massive burial detail.

For those who want to donate in cash or in kind, you would do well to check out the following:

  • UShare by the Philippine Red Cross enables online donors to make Philippine peso-denominated donations via PayPal or credit card;
  • A relief mission deployed by the PAREF Woodrose School is scheduled to fly to Palo, Leyte on 25 November 2013.  Monetary donations are still being accepted by the school’s accounting office, while donations in kind will be accepted at the Alumnae Affairs Office or at the school gym until 22 November 2013;
  • San Beda College – Alabang, my grade school/high school alma mater, is accepting donations through its Community Involvement Center in Alabang Hills Village, Muntinlupa.  Please course your donations through Mr. Wilbert Namoc; you can get in touch with him via mobile at 0917-3368468;
  • If you’re in the Paranaque area, my brother, Fr. John Francis Frederick Manlapig, encourages people to coordinate with his parish, San Antonio de Padua, along San Antonio Drive, Valley I, Paranaque City.  Donations in kind may be brought to the parish office or dropped off with the security guards.  For additional details, please contact Ed Loya or Luningning Marcelo at 826-88-77;
  • For international donors, the Salvation Army has an online relief drive accepting US$ donations;
  • For other international relief venues, CNN recently posted a comprehensive list of institutions asking for donations.


We can do this if we can stick together and work together!

We can do this if we can stick together and work together!

On a personal level, here’s something we can all try to do: let us use social media to help the typhoon victims through #Fast4PH.

In faith & prayer, let us fast – you could just skip one full meal, forego snacks all together, even just not opt for beverages from some posh coffee bar – for at least one week.  It’s a small sacrifice, yes, but we can offer it as a prayer for those who have suffered from the worst sort of devastation.

At week’s end, donate what money we have saved for the typhoon relief efforts.  No matter how small, anything that we can send over to alleviate suffering in the Visayas will be worth it. Let us do this for our brothers & sisters in need.  Feel free to pass this on; retweet this using the #Fast4PH hashtag or use the following text as a status message on Facebook:

“Here’s something we can all try to do: let us use social media to help the victims of #YolandaPH. In faith & prayer, let us fast or even just skip one full meal or forego snacks all together. At week’s end, donate what money we have saved for the typhoon relief efforts. No matter how small, anything that we can send over to alleviate suffering in the Visayas will be worth it. Let us do this for our brothers & sisters in need. Feel free to pass this on.”

The rainbow is very faint, but it's in the lower right hand side...

The rainbow is very faint, but it’s in the lower right hand side…

It is easy to lose hope in the face of such a cataclysmic disaster, but people need to stay strong.  People need to be brave.  People have got to be able to move on – something that can only be done if we could all just stick together and do whatever we can to help.

Yesterday, whilst caught in a traffic jam on the way to work, I managed to take a quick pic of a very faint rainbow (as shown above) against a patch of very dark clouds.  I’d like to think that despite the open Pandora’s box of disaster and catastrophe, there is a great deal of hope that we will be able to weather even the very worst of storms.