COCONUTS HOT SPOT – Despite its many redeeming qualities – awesome beaches, lovely people, contribution to the Hong Kong workforce – the Philippines is not known for its cuisine. Having spent a month travelling there a couple of years ago, I can say with relative assertion that this lack of culinary recognition is not altogether surprising, given that the national dish is Adobo, essentially meat cooked in soy sauce.
While Adobo and the rest of the Filipino cuisine I sampled during my trip was not in the slightest bit unpleasant, I found the food markedly less remarkable to most other Asian fare, given its lack of spice and, dare I say it, slightly unimaginative dishes. However – thank god there’s a ‘however’ before I assign the food of the largest migrant worker population in Hong Kong to the realms of ‘meh’- it seems I may just have been eating at the wrong places.
Little did I know that I’d find the best Filipino food in my, albeit limited, experience in a tiny little hole-in-the-wall in Jordan. Just a couple of turns from the bustle of Temple Street, Foodtrip Bedana’s Filipino Restaurant is easy to miss. Dark and tiny on the inside with a single long table squeezed into the narrow alley on the outside, it’s busy most nights, but somehow, the characteristically cheery Pinoy staff always seem to find us a space.
If you’re somewhat of an adventurous eater, you’ll be in hog’s haven at Foodtrip, quite literally. There’s pork lung, spleen, heart, cheek, ear, head, blood and jowl on the menu, as well as deep fried pork knuckle for the more conservative. I don’t really know why knuckle is any less weird than spleen, but it is.
I was predictably boring and opted for the Crispy Patta (yep, that’s the deep fried pork knuckle HKD109). It was crunchy and squelchy in all the right places – just the right fat-to-meat ratio with no chewiness. As a vegetarian for 17 years, I’m quite the wuss when it comes to meaty meat.
We paired this with the Spring Chicken (HKD88), which would be truly fantastic on its own, but in all honestly, it was a little bit deep fried overdose given the above. I recommend picking either the Crispy Patta OR the Spring Chicken, unless you’re with a big group.
The Kaldereta (beef stew in chopped garlic, onions & tomato HKD88) was good but not super memorable – so that’s all you’re getting on that one – while the Laeng (taro stalks and leaves cooked in coconut milk) was sloppy and satisfying, although a little on the rich side for a vegetable dish.
Hankering after something a little fresh and zingy after all that meat and thick, creamy sauces, we went for an afterthought order on recommendation of the waitress. As you might have gathered by my aforementioned wussiness, Kinilaw Na Tanigue (raw fish marinated in vinegar) is not something I would normally order if left to my own devices. Packed with chopped onions, green peppers and super spicy red chillies, it was, however, the perfect antidote to our otherwise rather one dimensional ordering.
Kinilaw Na Tanigue
When it came to drinks we took a “when in Rome” kind of approach and sunk a few bottles of the super-strong Philippines-brewed Red Horse beer (7% alcohol). If that’s not enough, you can try Lambanog, a coconut arrack that can reach as high as 166 proof! And if you get really stuck in, this place is apparently open until 5am every night, but we can’t independently verify that.
In closing, Foodtrip Bedana’s Filipino Restaurant has restored, or rather inspired, my faith in Filipino food. You could argue that a lot of things on the menu are deep fried (and you can’t go wrong with deep fried, right?), but the Kinilaw Na Tanigue was enough to prove that’s not the only trick up this unassuming little resto/bar’s sleeve. I suggest pairing the deep fried lovelies with the few non-deep fried options on the menu, and prove me, and the Pinoys, right.
Foodtrip Bedana’s Filipino Restaurant, 2 Saigon Street, Jordan, Kowloon (+852) 2332-3643. Opening hours, 11am – 5am Monday to Friday and Sunday, 1pm – 5am Saturday.