Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Noodle festival at EDSA Shangri-la

The following entry is a story I wrote for the lifestyle section of abs-cbnNEWS.com. I will write a separate entry to talk about the food that I ate during the press lunch held to promote this festival. The festival runs until November 27, so noodle fans, you have a couple of days left to catch it.

Chinese chef demonstrates art of noodle-making at EDSA Shangri-la

By ALEX ALIKPALA, abs-cbnNEWS.com | 11/23/2008 12:18 PM

Noodles are a ubiquitous presence in Filipino culture, from noodle dishes served on birthdays to symbolize long life, to instant noodles that now make up a big part of the busy Filipino’s diet.

Noodles in hot soup (or cold, if one prefers) certainly qualifies as comfort food, to be eaten plain or fancy, depending on one’s mood.

There is much more to the common noodle; for example, the way it is made. Although a lot of these are now factory-made, Filipinos can witness the art of making noodles by hand.

EDSA Shangri-la’s Heat Restaurant is paying homage to this comfort food by having a noodle festival. The hotel’s General Manager Christopher Chia calls China the “noodle capital of the world”.

Thus, they have brought in a chef from China, Chef Wang-Yi of Shangri-La Hotel in Xian, to demonstrate the different ways that noodles are made.

There is a live noodle-pulling station at the restaurant where guests are shown how one piece of dough is transformed into hundreds of noodles through the simple process of pulling. Chef Wang-Yi said that the number of strings produced from one piece of dough depends on the tensile strength and elasticity of the dough.

Chef Wang Yi, who speaks only in Mandarin, said through an interpreter that if the dough’s tensile strength is enough, he can make noodles that are as fine as hair.

Another way of preparing noodles is by slicing it with a knife. This process is rather dramatic and looks just a bit dangerous, if not done by an old hand.

The chef deftly slices off noodle-thin pieces from a lump of dough as big as a fat loaf of bread into a boiling pot of water. He said it took him six months to learn this technique.

A less complicated way of making noodles results in the hand-pressed pearl noodle. Diners can try this for themselves as it does not involve much skill. All one needs to do is cut off a tiny piece of dough and roll it under one’s thumb until it curls up into a shape that is much a like a small seashell’s.

Pearl noodles

The dishes served at the festival include knife-sliced noodles with minced pork sauce, hand-pressed pearl noodle soup, and traditional homemade noodles sprinkled with sesame oil and chili powder. The noodles are available in buckwheat and egg variants, and come in carrot and spinach flavors. These dishes go very well with dimsum.

EDSA Shangri-la’s Director of Communications Malou Rosal said they hold such food festivals and invite guest chefs to expose their diners to the cuisine offered by the hotel’s branches in other countries. “We hold these festivals for food authenticity,” she said.

The noodle station is available for lunch and dinner until November 27th at EDSA Shangri-la’s Heat Interactive Restaurant.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Crispy Bangus at Jollibee

There are limited choices to be had for pescetarians in fast food chains. This is why it's not very hard for me to decide what to order in these places. At McDonald's, I have the Filet O' Fish; at Burger King, I have their Big Fish sandwich, at Wendy, I order the Shrimp Sandwich and at Jollibee, I have their Tuna Pie. (At KFC I have to content myself with mashed potatoes and coleslaw.)

I was recently pleasantly surprised to see that Jollibee had another fish offering, and this is their Crispy Bangus. You can order this as a one-piece or a two-piece meal. During breakfast hours, the one-piece bangus meal (with fried egg, garlic rice, and sliced tomato) costs P64.00.

During regular hours, the meal is priced at P62.00 for the one-piece version, and P99.00 for two pieces of fish. It doesn't come with the egg after breakfast hours though, and the rice served with it is plain, not garlic.

The fish is very tasty. Although the piece of fish is not very big, its taste will be enough to accompany the rice. If you're in the mood for a very Pinoy-tasting meal, this will definitely do.

I hope this meal will be available for some time to come. I noticed that fish products rarely last very long at Jollibee. Years ago, they tried out a couple of versions of tuna sandwich, then they had fish and fries (fried fish fillet with french fries), both of which were eventually phased out.

Then a few years ago they introduced their Tuna Pie, which also disappeared for a while. I was glad when they eventually brought it back to life. Products like these are usually given a new lease on life during the Lenten season, when people try to abstain from eating meat.

I remember that McDonald's also pulled out their Filet O' Fish (to my dismay) for awhile. They brought it back only after a few months, and yes, the sandwich's comeback was timed for Lent. Wendy's shrimp sandwich started out as a Lenten offering, so I'm glad they eventually made it a part of their regular menu.

I do wish fast food chains would no longer pull out their fish/seafood products. It's very disappointing for a very hungry pescetarian to pull up to one of their stores in the hope of grabbing a quick bite and find that there is absolutely nothing there to eat. (French fries and a sundae do not really count as a meal.)

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Antonio's in Tagaytay is #10 Asian Restaurant in "The Miele Guide"

The Miele Guide describes itself as "the first authoritative and independent restaurant guide to Asia’s finest restaurants". Antonio's Fine Dining in Tagaytay was the only Philippine restaurant to make it to the guide's top 20.

According to The Miele Guide's website, "Thousands of people from around the world cast more than 75,000 votes for restaurants in 16 countries. Despite the intense competition, there were some restaurants that garnered significantly more votes (from both the voting public and our Special Jury) than others—which mean the restaurants at the top of our list truly stood out against their peers."

Here is their first-ever list (The Miele Guide was just launched a few days ago).

1. Iggy’s, Singapore
2. L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, Hong Kong, China
3. Les Amis, Singapore
4. Gunther’s, Singapore
5. Mozaic, Bali, Indonesia
6. Robuchon a Galera, Macau, China
7. Garibaldi, Singapore
8. Yung Kee, Hong Kong, China
9. Hutong, Hong Kong, China
10. Antonio’s Fine Dining, Tagaytay, The Philippines
11. Caprice, Hong Kong, China
12. Zuma, Hong Kong, China
13. L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, Tokyo, Japan
14. Bukhara, New Delhi, India
15. Grissini, Hong Kong, China
16. Nobu, Hong Kong, China
17. M on the Bund, Shanghai, China
18. Fook Lam Moon, Hong Kong, China
19. Zanotti, Bangkok, Thailand
20. Kyubey, Tokyo, Japan