Everybody’s having their weird dreams lately.

The other day, I woke up and saw a rather long SMS from Alejandro:

Had a really weird dream. In it, my father was Severus Snape, my mother was Miriam Defensor-Santiago, my nanny was Mae West, and we had Jeeves the Butler as our… well… butler. You can just imagine the conversation. Oh plus throw in a couple of huge iguanas for pets. One scarlet, the other black and white. Weird. I should really stop watching youtube before bedtime.

I replied that with a family like that, their dinner conversations should be really lively. Alejandro answered that with how the real-life conversations of his family is like, he’s not really inclined to pump up the weirdness factor.

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago

Speaking of weird, Bern also sent this SMS just as I was about to sleep that morning:

From Mhai: Bernbern, bahay ka na? Help. Na-lock ako sa loob ng bahay. Hehe. Nakalimutan ko kasi yung susi ko tapos pinabaklas ko kina kuya yung knob. Nung clinose ko na door, lock na ko sa loob. Di ko makalabas.

Bern, are you home? Help. I got locked in the house. Hehe. I forgot my keys so I had the door busted open by the maintenance guys. When I closed the door, I was locked inside. I can’t get out.

I went down to Mhai’s apartment to see how she was. It turned out that while the maintenance guy removed the knob, he did not remove the bolt for the door’s lock. When the door closed, the bolt got stuck and I had to pull it out of its slot so that the door could open.

Mhai was already rattled and close to panicking because she was alone in the apartment. After we got the door opened, I asked her why she didn’t call us instead of having the door forcibly opened; after all, she gave us a spare key. But she’d rather have the doorknob taken out than bother us, even as I tried to explain that Bern and I agreeing to keep a spare key also meant that she could definitely bother us if she needed it.

That same morning, I also left my wallet in the office. I found out about it just when I arrived at our building and had to call Leo to go down and pay for my cab. It seemed like a small wave of craziness had spread around many people that day.

The Great Tinapa Hunt adventure of Mandaluyong (and a recipe for tinapa and pesto spaghetti).

Tinapa by Johann Espiritu

Since I will be working on New Year’s Day, I promised the co-workers that I will be bringing some pasta for a little post-New Year celebration. I decided I’ll cook some tinapa pesto spaghetti.

Tinapa is a local preparation of smoked fish, typically using galunggong (scad), and is an typical part of the Filipino poor man’s diet. Not that I am looking down on it: tinapang galunggong has a rich smoky flavor and is great when fried and served with rice, chopped fresh tomatoes and sliced salted eggs.

A few months ago, the occupants of the Chairless Apartment ended up in a restaurant called Lime 88 which served humble street food prepared like haute cuisine. One of the dishes we tried was a smoked fish and pesto pasta that used tinapang galunggong. Lime’s tinapa and pesto spaghetti was very good so we decided to imitate the dish a few weeks later. It was surprisingly easy to prepare.

The day before the New Year, I went out to buy ingredients for the dinner with the housemates that I was preparing. I decided to buy the wet ingredients (meat, veggies, etc) in the local wet market instead of the supermarket so I could get them cheaper. Except that I was not able to find a vendor that sold tinapa.

I actually went out twice and went to two wet markets partly to look for tinapa. All the usual tinapa vendors I see on normal days are missing and were replaced by fruit vendors. It seemed that because tinapa is known to be a poor man’s food, it isn’t likely to be included in holiday dinners and no one was selling it.

It wasn’t a big deal for me yet; the pasta could wait until tomorrow and I could always look get them from a supermarket. The following day (i.e., yesterday), I was shocked to find out that the nearby supermarkets were closed for the New Year. The wet markets I passed looked like deserted ghost towns, with very few vendors opening their shops. None of them were selling smoked fish.

In the end, after going visiting three supermarkets and four wet markets, I decided to alter the pesto recipe.

Tinapa and pesto spaghetti

  • Chop some garlic and flake some tinapang galunggong, carefully removing all fish bone. Two medium-sized tinapa is good for 1/3 kilo of dried spaghetti.
  • Saute the garlic and tinapa flakes in oil. Lower the heat and add some pesto, three or four tablespoons for every 1/3 kilo of spaghetti. Ready-made pesto works fine.
  • Add a little water to the pesto to make the sauce creamier. Add the pre-cooked spaghetti and mix it thoroughly to coat it with the sauce. Season to taste.

I promise I will not write about tinapa again for at least a month.

Image: Tinapa by Johann Espiritu on Flickr

Burgundy, Amelie, and mopeds.

Leo mentioned last Saturday that The Juna was inviting us to The Juna’s apartment in Pasig. Since Bern and I were so broke during the weekend, we accepted the invitation. The Juna served The Juna’s guests with pasta and burgundy and we watched several moview until dawn while drinking several cocktails.

By daybreak, nearly everyone else was asleep, while Leo and I were watching Amelie. Leo has not seen the movie before, and it was the only movie that night he sat on without turning his eyes away from the screen. Even after several years, the movie still has it charm.

There are so many things to like in Amelie. One that I saw again was the character Nino’s Mobylette moped. The movie ended with Amelie and Nino riding a moped around the streets of Montmartre.

There was a time when pedaled mopeds had a surge of popularity in the Philippines. And then the fad ended so you could hardly find one in the streets today. Most Filipino cyclists would opt for a scooter or a more powerful motorcycle.

I don’t mind getting a Derringer for myself, though. Maybe I’ll get myself one, should I decide to sell one of my kidneys.

Street food na pina-sosyal.

Macy contacted me and asked for a tarot reading last Friday. We finished around midnight and she offered to drive Bern and I home. I suggested we have a night cap first at Lime 88, which was really near our apartment.

I’ve heard of Lime 88 from another friend, Alvin. He also heard of it from his cousin, who said it featured street food presented in fancy ways. The restaurant’s logo describes it plainly: Street Food na Pina-Sosyal. It turned out Macy was also familiar with the place, and had been there before.

A few days before, Bern and I saw Lime 88 when we went to China Bank which was at the same street the restaurant was in. Lime 88 open at 6pm, so we could only see the restaurant from the outside back then. It was really just a house converted into an eating place.

There was a bar outside, an airconditioned section, and several outside table for smokers. When we got there, the speakers were playing various minor “alternative” hits from the 90s and 00s. The playlist sounded like it came from a mid-twenties corporate type who fancied himself as a rocker.

I contacted Leo to bring Ed and Markee over from the apartment and join us. While waiting for them, we tried some of the food and the cocktails.

Lime 88 sells decent cocktails at rather cheap prices (P60-P85 a glass). The Chocnut martini Bern got was pretty good. I forgot the name of what I ordered (was it Dare to Chill?) but it was decent: vodka, pineapple juice and melon liquer. Macy had a Jack Coke, except that she found it tasted of Bacardi rather than Jack Daniels.

We ordered their version of kwek-kwek: quail’s eggs dipped in orange-colored batter and deep-fried. Lime 88 kwek-kwek removed the food color, used tempura batter to wrap the eggs and served it vinegar and tempura dip. The eggs came in a martini glass with an orchid. Cute.

Kwek-kwek from Lime 88 Kwek-kwek from Lime 88

When the other three arrived, they also ordered several drinks and a few dishes, including a fried street food sampler, which was fish balls, squid balls and kikiam fried on bamboo sticks; the sticks were arranged radially on a large plate, decorated by teriyaki sauce (I think).

I also ordered fresh oysters soaked in youghurt and vinegar, which chopped onions and green mangoes. Those were served in small shot glasses. The dish makes for a good appetizer, except it turns out only Bern and I are willing to try raw oysters. You can’t really eat the thing from a shot glass in one go; kinilaw is too sour to be gulped suddenly.

But the point of the place is the presentation. The kinilaw would have been excellent if served on a plate to accompany pork barbecue and steamed rice, but it wouldn’t look as fancy.

The dish we all enjoyed was the tinapa pasta: tinapa flakes were sauteed in oil with garlic and onion. It was coated to penne and served with a little pesto sauce. Markee and I decided to remember how the dish was made so we could replicate it at home.

Food in Lime 88 are relatively inexpensive, though you’re actually paying more for the fancy plating more than the dish itself. The staff were a little lousy (sending Leo and Ed’s drinks to a different table causing them to repeatedly follow up the order), but friendly and accommodating (having Markee as the client will test a restaurant staff’s patience sometimes definitely).

In the end, we went there for the novelty of it all. We might go back with other friends, just so they could also be impressed with kwek-kwek in martini glasses, but it wasn’t the first place I would go to if I was looking for something more substantial.

Let’s play spot the difference: Ed and Peter.

Red Alert: Ed and Peter

When my flatmate, Leo, introduced Ed, I had some off feeling of deja vu. I was already halfway commuting to work when I realized it: Ed reminds me of Peter, boyfriend of my long-time friend, PJ.

It’s not that they look exactly alike, but they have a similar “vibe” going on. And they kinda talk alike.

It so happened Ed and Peter both went to Red Alert, so there was that wonderful moment when the bemused Leo and PJ tried to see if my claim was true. And so there’s this photo, whom Peter was so eager to have it taken.