Odyssey in the Middle East and North Africa

Middle East USA World


Former Speaker of the House Jose C. De Venecia Jr.

Ever since the COVID-pandemic struck, the Filipino home-based food business has flourished like wildfire. In the last year and a half, without meaning to sound callous, I think it would be safe to say there have been more ube-pandesal and sushi bake variations than there have been COVID-variants and vaccines. And that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg, as each week finds some enterprising homemaker hoping that his or her “newly unearthed” heirloom/family recipe will become the clickbait hit of the week on all social media platforms.

Let’s face it, along with all the one-hit wonders, and dependable go-to’s, there have also been a smattering of “What were they thinking” concoctions and food offerings — combinations that I wouldn’t even let the runt of the litter lick off the floor. But as it’s all part of the whole economic “pivoting,” trying to create a home-based money-earner, we can’t blame people for trying. My beef is more about the false advertising and hype that accompanies the “selling,” and how we come to realize that a picture can paint a thousand words of disappointment. You know what I mean, food shots can be gussied up, and made to look like a billion dollars; but it tells us nothing about what it’ll actually taste like —plus taste is so subjective.

You can follow surveys, but one man’s gourmand Nirvana, can be the next person’s palate of disgust. Just like with films and books, you have to experiment and dabble, find which food writer or pundit approximates your own inclinations — then follow that particular writer as he discovers new things to write about. When it comes to food, even the most celebrated of opinion-makers may not necessarily jive with what you’ll find delicious and taste-worthy.

So for today, I’m not going to talk about restaurants or food establishments that offer pick-up and delivery during this pandemic. I’ll be sticking to a worthy few who I know personally, and was pleased and surprised to find they now offer their home-cooked dishes. Check out their FB and IG assets, or just call their mobiles.

I’d be remiss if I don’t first mention NawwTty’s Kitchen (0918-9987474), as Tricia Panlilio was offering up her home cooking for delivery and small parties, even before COVID struck, and was an actual pioneer in the business. Sure, we also know her for organizing (along with her friends) the Gourmand Market at BGC, and she ventured into a physical resto with Mulberry, for a while. But her roots are the home-cooked dishes that one could order, have delivered, and enjoy at one’s own home. My favorites during the pandemic are the tuna lasagna, the old-school chocolate fudge brownies, and the soft shell crab paella, with its deadly Chicharon. It’s luxe comfort food – that do taste as good as they look! Peachy Mathay (0917-5410405) has been a friend for ages, and it’s her brother Ian I’m constantly running into when I attend the events at SM Mega Mall and The Podium. I’d see her posts about her hainanese chicken, and got curious. So one Sunday lunch with my boys, we had the hainanese chicken, and we were floored! On top of the sweet soy and garlic ginger sauces, she’s added a killer chili ginger. My youngest Luca, swore by the chicken broth steamed rice. And the packaging was excellent, with thick, sturdy boxes, that avoid spillage. Heard she also does a mean bacalao a la vizcaina, the basque-style codfish stew, and we’re eyeing that next.

Back in my former life with ABS Sales, I’d deal quite often with Manprom, a media-buying agency headed by Dolores Cheng (0917-8881759). Even back then, her wit, charm, and taste would stand out, so it wasn’t surprising to learn her kitchen is its own world of wonders. The other Sunday, we had her porchetta di niño, and it’s the special liver sauce with 12 herbs and spices that I’ll wholeheartedly recommend. It’s like you’re dipping the porchetta in a lechon sauce that isn’t a lechon sauce; and my sons were trying to figure out what made it so unique. Super-delicious; as were her scallops with lemon-garlic butter sauce — that we were pouring the sauce onto our rice, when the scallops had been consumed!

Both Peachy and Dolores have no idea I’ll be writing about them in this column; so I’m not even sure if they wanted this kind of publicity. Dolores likes to refer to herself as an “accidental home cook;” and trust me, the only accident I’d connect to her cooking is the one I’ll encounter with my weighing scale, as this kind of rich food can only be eaten so often at my age. As for Peachy, it’s bacalao-time! My boys are looking forward to that.

Don’t take my word for it; but do try out the wizardry coming from the kitchens of Tricia, Peachy, and Dolores.