January 29, 2023

Mon & Pot, Lala’s and Chahu gave this merry mix of good things to eat and drink on a student’s budget. Once upon a Sunday hike, curiosity bit us and brought our feet to the Newtown Plaza Hotel where we came across the food shops on the roadside. Unassuming behind the glass doors, these counters served delicious surprises for less than a hundred bucks. The next footsteps lured us back to check out the goto, binagoongan rice bowl, igado rice bowl, kini-ing pizza, Lala’s pizza, passion fruit Yakult tea, and banana caramel milk tea.

If you go on food trips, it’s really no fun to go solo otherwise you won’t get to have a palette for the taste buds to savor. You must share the bounty and confirm the momentary joy of the adventure. 

We begin with goto and rice bowls at Mon & Pot Lugaw Avenue. Goto is beef tripe and innards mixed in with a basic rice porridge called lugaw.  This order was meant to have everything in it that they offered – chicken, siomai, egg, and tripe. Actually, the secret is really the filling warmth of the rice soup that remains consistent no matter what it is topped with. The onion leeks garnish and the calamansi are enhancers for the aroma of mixed meats in the bowl. Noteworthy is the siomai or dumpling that has black fungus and pork. The rice bowl choices we made were igado and binagoongan which have pork as the main ingredient. Igado is sauteed pork, liver, carrots, and potatoes. Binagoongan is pork sauteed with shrimp paste, chili peppers, and tomatoes. The cup of rice topped with these Filipino favorite dishes make the hungry happy until the next meal. These bowls of comfort food are less than a hundred pesos each with enough money left for a bottle of soda.

Kini-ingpizza and Lala’s Pizza at Lala’s came in six inches diameter crusts. This snack, sliced into four, doesn’t leave much to crave for. Kini-ing is smoked pork belly in the tradition of the Cordilleras. Preserved by the smoke  from a wood fired hearth, this meat is used to flavor the chicken soup called pinikpikan hereabouts. It’s creative use in this European delight was a must try. I am happy that the smoky flavor of the meat was not overpowered by mozzarella and parmesan. Lala’s pizza was gratifying with its creamy sauce with mushrooms, black olives and tiny meat balls. I tried to figure out the ingredients of the spongy meatballs but I guess, that is their secret. This joint is for pasta lovers too.

I seem to favor drinks as my meal enders. The third stall left open by the economic challenges of the pandemic was chahu and its milk tea menu. With a natural aversion for tea because of its metabolic effect on me, I went for the fruit flavored drinks and went for the passion fruit Yakult tea and the banana caramel milk tea for Michael. Passion fruit has many happy memories for me a child growing up in Baguio, as a visitor to the Camdas farm in Tam-awan and as a tourist in Taiwan. I must say that this was a new imprint in my palate memories of masafloras. It was a fitting cold and sweet ending to all the spices and salty left overs on my tongue. Not to forget the probiotic elements of Yakult that are healthy for the digestive system, I now have some tea drink to like. Michael had no complaints about his drink, so my guess is happiness too. You have waffles galore to choose from at this stop. I will tell you about it in some other future time of feasts. Promise!

Apart from all these gustatory experiences, I wonder how this side of the city businesses will make it through this slump. Once a student’s pitstop for their juvenile appetite of milk teas, pastas and rice meals, there are but a trickle of eaters who pass this way. From the hundreds of kids from the nearby schools and the hundreds of hotel guests too, my P100 contribution to today’s cash in the box will not even make a dent in the amount needed to pay for this month’s rent. The students have yet to make a come back for their favorite foods to see these food shops keep their glass doors open and if I want to explore the rest of their menu in the near future.