We spent half a Saturday at the annual Mabuhay Festival & Trade Show, held at the Metro Toronto convention centre. Although the festival was mostly a trade show and performing arts festival, Tasting Toronto was there for a taste of authentic Filipino cuisine.
We started off with some Sago, a sweet and refreshing chilled drink of caramelized sugar and vanilla with tapioca pearls (sago). This is the Philippines’ answer to bubble tea, and I could’ve sworn growing up that we invented the stuff. No matter. Although it only comes in 1 flavour, unlike bubble tea, it’s still one of my favourite summer drinks.
Next we had a Pork Siopao. It’s a variant of the Chinese steamed bun, and was filled with a sweet and savory Pork Asado. This was yummy, a meal onto itself.
We then had some colourful Puto. These are sweet rice cakes that can be had as a snack, an appetizer, or as the lady behind the counter was telling us, a perfect complement to the pork-blood stew (Dinuguan) she was serving. I’m noticing everything’s been sweet so far. Filipino’s must have a sweet tooth.
For our main sit-down meals we had the following:
Pancit Palabok – Noodles with fish sauce, garnished with hard boiled eggs, green onions, crushed chicharon (pork-rinds), squid adobo, flaked fish meat, and shrimp.
Tocino – Sweet cured pork.
Lumpiang Shanghai – Shanghai style mini eggrolls (lumpia), stuffed with salted pork, served with a sweet and sour sauce.
Chicken Afritada – A chicken stew.
Menudo – A stew or pork & liver with chick peas, pickles, raisins, and Vienna sausages.
Chicken BBQ – The skin on this thing was soooo good because that’s where all the marinade was. I justified eating this on the grounds that the subcutaneous fat had already rendered away. The marinade was sweet and tangy, with hits of lime, soy sauce, fish sauce, and honey.
And of course, there’s white rice at every meal!
We had some prawn crackers after the meal, which I downed with a can of Sarsi, a sarsaparilla-based soft drink that kind’a tastes like a mix of root beer and Pepsi.
For dessert we had a frozen coconut. The freezer friendly packaging is a really good idea for tropical cravings. It was a reasonably good dessert, but we were definitely wowed by the elegant presentation in a coconut shell bowl.
Dessert #2 was a Filipino classic, Halo-halo. It’s shaved ice with ice cream, evaporated milk, sugar, and all sorts of preserved fruits and beans.
There were a lot of food options, including myriad desserts that we had no room left to try. Other foods there were: Bopis, a pork lung stew; Balut, fertilized duck egg with a nearly-developed embryo inside; Adobo, chicken or pork cooked in soy sauce and vinegar; various types of Pancit (noodles); Bibingka, a sweet rice cake with salted egg, on a banana leaf … and many more.
On our way out we grabbed a Buko Pandan pie (buko means coconut, and pandan is a leaf used in cooking). It was bright green, and really good!