Friday, October 30, 2009

All Saints Day

For those people who don't know, All Saints day is a Catholic celebration. Its suppose to be a day or remembrance of the saints and suppose to be a solemn day of prayers and remembrance. However in various places around the world it is also a rememberance of the dead relatives and have some big festitivities including in places like New Orleans, Louisiana.  In Spain it is really big occasion where you can see flowers everywhere not just the cemetary. There are festivals and the play of Don Juan is always staged in many places..

I have experienced All Saints Day both in New Orleans, Spain and here in Philippines and I have to say,  Pinoy top the cake as far as this day is concern and that is saying a lot if you have been to New Orleans and invited to a Spanish event with their huge family gathering to eat, drink, music, singing, dancing all day and night..

The Filipinos does this even bigger. In Spain most of the celebration happens AFTER they go to the prayers and the visit to the graves in the morning. The Pinoys start the festivities at the graves itself.. But how do you celebrate at the graves? Well, you have to see it to believe. The graves are bigger and better than most houses in South East Asia.  Its not that I have not seen graves these sizes before (there are a few still there in New Orleans) but the number of big graves or rather tomb-houses are incredible.  And its incredibly elaborate. In those tombs are even kitchens, baths. I was told by architect friends that there are even jacuzzis and bedrooms, barbecue pits etc..

The Chinsee here, many are Catholics, also celebrate the day.  One of the most curious thing I have ever seen is the Chinese cemetary here.  We from Singapore and Malaysia practises QingMIng/Cheng Beng or ancestor celebration and we go to the graves to clean it.  There are some pretty big graves around (just go to Nilai, Negeri Sembilan) BUT the Chinese graves here are just AMAZING. You have to see it seriously. They are almost mini emperor tombs.  They are even bigger than than some of the old tombs of historical rich merchants in China.  Its one of the things I keep thinking of showing to my parents.  I keep wondering about how wealthy the Chinese were once upon a time here and how they adapted themselves to the local and Spanish influence BUT yet maintain their character (there are Chinese writings on them).

Chinese Cemetary in Manila

Street corner in Manila's Chinese cemetary

In the past, I have followed my pinoy friends to the family cemetary and joined in their celebration. But that was long ago when traffic was not as bad. Now the traffic on this day is the worst in the entire year, around the cemetary at least. Its actually unbelievable. Think of it like Johor causeway during a long holliday in Singapore like Hari Raya or Chinese New Year.

I was made to understand that they now don't allow the families to hold festivities at the cemetary now because of the traffic. Its a pity because its one of the most interesting and enjoyable experience I have ever had.  On the bright side, it shows this country has progress to a stage it needs to managed such things and every year they do more to managed this day especially the traffic and the festivities that goes with it. It is ironically an indicator of progress.  We in Singapore and Malaysia have long experience of having traditions changed because of progress. I use to go to my grandparents graves every QingMing as do many when they were young in my generation.  Now I believe I am the only member of my generation in my family that remember where our grandparents graves are.

I doubt it will ever get so pathetic with Filipinos about their All Saints Day here. Its something to be said about the strength of their culture, influence and ideas.  I must remember at least to go snap some pctures of the graves here for posterity and show them to my family and friends.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Best Hainanese Chicken Rice anywhere

Its only natural that being from Singapore/Malaysia, I am a foodie and hence my first post will be about food. In particular my search for home food in this city with few Singaporean-Malaysian around.  The craving for spicy food especially comes often and the food in Philippine while delicious, especially my favourite, Sinigang, is typically blander and lack the 'hot' element which other South East Asian cuisine has.

One of the food I have been looking for is the Hainanese Chicken rice. Its not that its my favourite food so much that I have many Pinoy friends who have tasted it and really liked it.  So, since this city have some really good Chinese food these days, I thought it would not be difficult to find good Hainanese Chicken Rice.. However, those that I have tasted varies greatly from marginally acceptable to pretty bad..

Until today, when a new good friend took me to Tao Yuan at Malate.  Its not just the chicken was well done and have the two version of  boiled and fried-crispy skin, its not that the rice was perfectly fragrant, what made this experience worth mentioning was the Chilli sauce - I swear its as good as any tasted anywhere period. It was so good that we kept our large sauce plate refilled at least 5 times! In fact most places in Singapore and Malaysia cannot match  this quality - the righ vinegar, chilli, ginger, garlic.. It was perfectly balance with a perfect sting of 'hot'.

Supposedly the owner of Tao Yuan is now a Singaporean who imports much of what is needed. He certaintly done his country proud. I swear the chilli is better than Boon Tong Kee, Wee Nam Kee in Singapore, Famosa and Chop Chung Wah Chicken Rice Ball in Malacca and Ong Kee or any other oulet in Ipoh. You would not imagine the one of the best Hainanese Chicken rice chilli in the world would be found of all places in Manila.  How is that for unique perspective of the Philippines?

In addition, the chicken was interesting. Most of the chicken I have tasted here in the Philippine is a bit bland and soft typically of mass-produced types that you get in all supermarkets everywhere.  You can get the run-free type (i.e., kampung chicken variety) in the rural areas which is hard to come by in the city. The kampung chicken here while tasty tend not to be well-fed and hence either too small or not enough meat to make decent chicken rice with. Tao Yuan chicken is tastier than any chicken you can buy at the supermarket but not as tasty as the kampung chicken variety BUT the meat is actually not as tender as the supermarket variety and not as tough as the kampung chicken variety.. I like my chicken this way.. And the there was little fat in it!  I suspect he gets his chicken specially supplied to him on his specification!!

So for those craving for Hainanese Chicken rice especially bloggers who have been writing about it after going to the Nuffnang Asia Pacific Blog Awards. Now you can have your craving satisfied locally.. However, I have to warn you. My only complain is the price was pretty steep. We had half a crispy-skin and half boiled chicken with a small vege and the bill came to P1500 and we did not order any drinks.. But at least the parking is free (you can get it validated if you park next door to Tao Yuan).

I can't wait to go back to Tao Yuan to try its other dishes. Supposedly they also have fish-head curry and the roast duck and piglet looks faboulous to try...

Tao Yuan
General Malvar St. Cor of Mabini St