Monday, November 30, 2009


Eating steps away from a fish market is one of life's biggest pleasures. In Tokyo, I had a phenomenal meal at the Tsukiji fish market. In Manila, I shared some incredible feasts with family and friends at the dampa. The word dampa literally means a hut or hovel in Tagalog, but it's come to refer to restaurants that surround a seafood market where one can have their just-bought, ultra fresh seafood cooked. I went to two dampas during my visit, and while both meals were delicious, I found the dampa by Mall of Asia to be the more superior of the two. We started our meal with green mango salad, a combination of diced green mangoes, tomatoes, onions and bagoong, that shrimp paste that only Filipinos can seem to love. I crave for this dish constantly because Filipino mangoes (green and ripe) are impossible to get in the US, and no other mangoes taste like them. When green, they're eye-puckeringly sour and lusciously crunchy. All these ingredients, when mixed up, are the perfect accompaniment to any Filipino dish.

Another dish that I constantly crave for and thus ordered incessantly while in Manila is suahe. Suahe is a variety of shrimp that's small with sweet, succulent meat. My favorite preparation for suahe is just steamed, which you can then dip in a mixture of soy sauce and vinegar. At the dampa, we had it sauteed in butter and garlic which is still delish, of course.

Not my most favorite dish but good for a splash of color for this post: pinakbet.

This, however, is one of my favorite Filipino dishes. Inihaw na liempo, or grilled pork belly. Needs no further explanation.

And finally, the dish that people go to dampa for, and that I still dream about (especially on days like today where dinner consists of cup noodles). At dampa, you can order kilos upon kilos of crab legs and have them cooked to your liking. We got one kilo cooked in butter and garlic, and another in chili. The chili was a tad too spicy for me, but the butter and garlic variety was pure heaven. The meat was fresh and flaky, sweet and juicy, and just soaked in buttery, garlicky deliciousness. Man, what I would give for just one pincer right now. YUM.

Hinahanap-hanap kita Manila ...

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