Thursday, October 21, 2010
When the food truck explosion started getting bigger and bigger, the one thing that I kept looking for was a Filipino Food Truck. Where or where was my dream mobile truck that would be dispensing tasty dishes of chicken adobo and beef tapa? Finally, it happened. The Manila Machine Food Truck was born and owned and operated by none other than two fellow food bloggers, Marvin Gapultos of Burnt Lumpia and Nastassia Johnson of Let Me Eat Cake. So as soon as I could, I set up a tasting for my dining group, Pleasure Palate, where my members would get to try 8 items from their menu, which became 9 with a surprise coming from Nastassia.
Our Filipino food odyssey started with Tapsilog, which was sweet calamansi beef served with garlic-fried rice and a fried egg. Before I talk about this dish, here's a little bit of information. When it comes to Filipino Breakfast, it's all about the silog. Basically, a silog is a combination of garlic-fried rice ("sinangag"), and fried egg ("itlog") plus your choice of a sweet or salty meat, all on one plate. The names of the breakfast dishes themselves are determined by which protein you pick for your silog plate. The Tapsilog is so named because Tap represents Tapa, which are fried slices of marinated beef.
Basically, we started our tasting with breakfast which actually seemed appropriate. As for this Tapsilog, I would have liked a little more garlic with my rice, but other than that, this dish was a perfect starter. I liked the sour citrusy notes of the beef that came from the calamansi juice it was marinated in and a perfect Filipino breakfast isn't the same without breaking the egg and mixing the rice with the yolk and a splash of banana ketchup, which I did after I took my photo.
Our second course and third dish was Chicken Adobo served with Lumpia (Filipino eggroll). The lumpia was nice and crispy and was tasty after being dipped in the sweet and sour sauce, but one thing I'd recommend is to have little containers of vinegar and garlic. That's actually my dipping sauce of choice when it comes to lumpia.
When it comes to Chicken Adobo, there are so many different ways to cook it and every Filipino mother will say that their version is the best. Basic ingredients for an adobo dish include vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, bay leaf, and black pepper, but how much or how little of each ingredient can vary from cook to cook. The Manila Machine's Chicken Adobo was pretty good and it hit the right flavor notes of what adobo should taste like. In fact, I always judge a good adobo by whether or not I want to pour the sabao (sabao refers to the liquids leftover from a dish after it's been stewed or sauteed) over my rice and eat it that way and yes, this was a good adobo.
Next up was the Longganisa Slider, which is sweet pork and garlic sausage topped with caramelized onions, arugula, and mango jam on a pan de sal roll. I totally have to give props to The Manila Machine. When I eat pan de sal, it's usually toasted with butter and sometimes a sprinkle of sugar. Perhaps, it's been done as a sandwich before, but it never even crossed my mind, except to eat it the way I grew up eating it.
I enjoyed how the flavors of all the ingredients went together, especially the addition of the arugula which added some lovely peppery notes to the slider. One minor thing is that I would cut back just a little on the mango jam because its sweetness was a tad overwhelming. I wasn't able to taste the garlic from the sausage as much as I had wanted.
It's been a lot of meaty goodness so far, but for a surprise, we were also treated to ice cream bars with flavors like mango and halo halo. Halo Halo, for those of you don't know, means mix mix in Tagalog and refers to a Filipino shaved ice dessert with milk, jellies, sweetened beans and fruits. I went for the halo halo ice cream bar and it was a nice cool treat.
Ok, ice cream bar break over and now it's time for Sisig, which is spicy calamansi-marinated pork cheeks, onions, and chicharon and is served over steamed jasmine rice. I thought the addition of the chicharon added a nice salty, crunch component that I really enjoyed and it went well with the softer texture of the meat. The only thing I thought was missing was the heat. When I read that something is spicy, I expect it to be spicy and the sisig wasn't quite there.
Next up was the Spam Slider. I love Spam. Growing up as a kid, I've had spam either for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Most of the time, it's just cut in slices and fried and other times, it's coated in egg batter and fried. Even today, I still eat Spam, so I was quite happy to see a Spam Slider on The Manila Machine menu.
I do have to say that when I fry Spam, I prefer it thinly cut, so the spam for this slider was a little too thick for my taste and coupled with an over easy egg, it was a little difficult to eat as is. Here's my tip. Take the egg off the slider. Break the yolk, mix a little more banana ketchup in that yolk and dip the sandwich into it before taking a bite. Repeat. When there's no more yolk, slide the egg back into your sandwich and finish it of from there. It worked for me. I'm sure it'll work for you, too.
As our last savory dish, we got to try the Carabao Wings. As of that tasting, we were the first to try this dish. I'm not sure if it's part of the regular menu yet, but it should be. The Carabao Wings are basically fried chicken wings with a sweet and spicy adobo glaze. It's a recipe that Marvin first posted on his blog in January of this year. Click here to get the recipe. This was one of my favorite dishes of our tasting. If I wasn't already so full, I would have snatched the tray from Marvin's hands and gobbled them up all by myself. As it was, I managed to enjoy at least a couple of wings before dessert.
For dessert, we had both the Ube Cupcakes, which are made from purple yam and Turon, which is a banana and jackfruit fried eggroll topped with a caramel sauce. Unfortunately, I don't have a picture of the Ube Cupcake, but you can see what it looks like on Nastassia's blog by clicking here and you can even see her recipe for it by clicking here. I thought the Ube Cupcake was moist, tasty and the coconut frosting rocked.
As for the Turon, I liked it, but it's different from what I've had before. I could be wrong, but it didn't seem like any brown and/or white sugar was sprinkled on the bananas or jackfruit before it was wrapped in the eggroll wrapper. The sweetness of this dessert then comes primarily from the caramel sauce that's drizzled over it.
What I love about the turon I've enjoyed in the past is because of that sugar that is added to the fruit. As the turon eggroll is fried, there's a delicious caramelization that permeates through to the surface of the wrapper itself. You get a "burnt sugar" taste that's similar to when the surface of a creme brulee is torched. However, my group went gaga over the caramel sauce for this version of turon, so on its own, it's still a tasty dessert.
Overall, it was a very enjoyable tasting event. Nastassia's and Marvin's enthusiasm for Filipino food and their truck was quite palpable and I just love the idea that more and more people can be introduced to a cuisine that is still very much unknown and under-appreciated. The Manila Machine is a great way to be introduced to Filipino food and hopefully, from there, people will seek out Filipino restaurants and get even more exposure to what our cuisine is all about.
Since then, two other Filipino food trucks have come on board, but The Manila Machine will always be known as the first Filipino Food Truck in LA and the first to open the doors for other Filipino Food Trucks that are now part of the Los Angeles Food Truck landscape. Salamat to Marvin and Nastassia!
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