Pinoy street food 101: an introduction for the squeamish
Who does not love Filipino street food? Despite the stigma surrounding it – mostly dealing with hygiene – there are those among us who will go to great lengths just to get our fill of isaw, balut, kwek-kwek, or scramble.
But for the uninitiated, getting over the mental barrier preventing you from taking the first bite can be a daunting task. Perhaps you are worried if the food is really clean or sanitary. Given that it is being served in the streets, I can’t blame you.
Let's bring out the eww ...
Perhaps the idea of eating a certain part – or the way it looks, grosses you out. Fertilized duck embryo? Chicken intestines? Chicken blood? Is that even safe to eat? Who the hell eats those? Filipinos, that’s who!
Unless you are very adventurous with food one way to take that first bite is to have someone familiar with the cuisine – perhaps a local – to accompany you. I, for one, got my first taste of balut only last June. I probably would not have tried it if not for my companion.
Finally, you could always go to a specialty restaurant that serves street food. Of course this kind of takes the street out of street food, but hey, it still tastes awesome.
While there are many food stalls that sell street food, they usually only specialize on one type of food, and usually they are built as kiosk-type establishments – not an actual restaurant.
Chef Arch's LIME: street food with a twist
Which is why one such restaurant – Chef Arch’s LIME – stands out. Located in Mandaluyong City, this quirky little estabishment is very popular among those living in the area. It features an al fresco dining area where artists like Joey G and Franco perform from time to time. By the way, they also have a branch in Roxas City, Capiz.
Going by the tagline “street food na pinasosyal” (street food turned fine dining), it re-invents Filipinno street food, turning it into something that even the most picky eater would not be afraid of.
So what’s on the menu? Let’s take a look.
First, the appetizers
Quail egg tempura with soy mirin glaze and sinamak
Known locally as kwek-kwek or pugo, Chef Arch reinvents the quail egg as a Japanese-inspired appetizer a la tempura. Paired with sinamak, Iloilo’s specialty spiced vinegar, it makes for a very appetizing dish. Itadakimasu!
Balut in red wine sauce
The Filipino balut is one of the more popular - or notorious, rather, of all Pinoy street food. Everyone eats eggs in one form or another. However, to many, the idea of eating an egg that is already in development – that is, when parts of the chick already begun forming – can be quite gross.
In case you didn’t know there are many types of balut depending on the age of development, but all of them are made from duck eggs. The youngest is the balut sa penoy, which is twelve days old. There’s also balut sa puti (wrapped in white) which is 17 days old. Balut can go up to 19 or 21 days – the older the balut, the more it resembles a baby duck inside – with bits of feather, its bones soft and tender. Ewww!
But hey, I have been to Thailand where insects, bugs, and worms are sold as popular street food. If the idea of eating crickets, grasshoppers, and worms creeps you out, think of this – they are a good source of protein and can provide good training in case you decide to audition for Survivor. It could also come in handy if you need to live in the jungle to avoid a zombie attack.
At Chef Arch’s LIME, the balut looks and tastes just like regular egg. So no need to worry – fire away and never look back, my friend.
Indian style nachos with pico de gallo
For the Indian style nachos, Chef Arch uses papadum, a thin, crisp disc-shaped Indian food typically based on a seasoned dough made from black gram, fried or cooked with dry heat. By itself papadum is quite flavorful, but the pico de gallo salsa really amps up the flavor.
Asian style nachos with salsa and Thai chili sauce
Asian style nachos are made with molo wrapper, the same wrapper used in making siomai (Chinese dimsum). Not only does it taste amazing, it is so much fun to eat. There’s plenty of beef too, but I am not sure Thai chili sauce should be there. I feel that its sweetness does not compliment the dish that well. Everyone still loved it though!
Assorted street style BBQ platter
Equally notorious as the balut is the isaw or barbecued pig and chicken intestines and the betamax or grilled blood, and adidas or chicken feet. Intestines can have all types of dirt in them. Sometimes the ones sold in the streets are not clean and you end up eating, well, whatever garbage is stored in the animal’s instestines. Rest assured the ones served at LIME are clean and tasty.
Hot and spicy chicken wings
This was served last, so by the time we dug in we were already stuffed resulting in some leftovers, but it was easily the most popular dish served that night. The wings are deep-fried and then dipped in a special sauce afterwards. If you like sweet, salty, and spicy food like most Filipinos do, then you must not miss this one.
Now onto the main dish
Kangkong with kesong puti stuffed chicken breast with mash and jus
Kesong puti is Filipino for white cheese. For this dish they stuffed chicken breasts with kangkong, the local water spinach. Lean meat and vegetables make this a very healthy dish, which is a must have if you are the type who watches your food closely.
Crispy isaw with chicharon bulaklak pizza
A new addition to the menu, the crazy folks over at LIME made a pizza out of fried isaw (chicken intestines) and chicharon bulaklak (pig intestines). The result is very crunchy and also very tasty.
Four cheese pizza with truffle oil
They added truffle oil and basil as a twist to your traditional four cheese pizza. Truffle is supposed to be a very expensive kind of mushroom, kind of like the caviar of the fungus world. Because it is really expensive they do not actually use truffle here. Instead, they only use the oil. I have no idea what real truffle tastes like, but the truffle oil tasted like normal oil to me.
Personally I love basil and I use it a lot in my cooking because of its strong flavor. I feel though that basil may be a little too overpowering in a pizza. Still it’s pizza, and I would eat pizza all day any day. The crust is thin and crispy, and the melted cheese is always ... excuse me, I think I just drooled on myself.
Osso bucco kare-kare
This is the strongest dish among the set. Traditionally kare-kare uses oxtail with tripe (the linings of a cow’s stomach). Here they use osso bucco instead, or veal shanks. The result is very tender and very tasty. By itself the beef can be a little salty, so you need to mix it with the sauce and a lot of rice. The taste is heavenly. At only 230 PHP there is no reason not to try this on your first visit to LIME.
Crispy pata stuffed with embotido
Ahh the crispy pata. Traditionally this is none other than deep-fried pig's leg (that's what pata means in English). For this dish the folks over at LIME removed the bones and instead stuffed it with embotido. I am not sure I like the embotido filling though. The pata itself is already heavy enough by itself, being composed of nothing but meat and skin and all - but then again that might be preferable to stuffing it with, say, cabbages or lettuce.
At only 250 PHP the crispy pata is really sulit (in English, sulit means worth the price or bang for the buck). It can really bring your blood pressure up though, so beware of these tasty things!
Bring out the drinks and deserts!
License to chill
License to chill is a cocktail consisting of vodka, melon liquor, and pineapple juice. I found the taste weird, but I am not a drinker so perhaps you could give it a shot (pardon the pun) and tell me what you think?
For our desert we had chocolate sanzrival, chocolate mint torte, flourless chocnut cake, and salted caramel cake. Everyone loved the cakes especially the ladies. The sanzrival is soft unlike the usual chewy / crunchy version.
My personal favorite is the salted caramel cake, I like how it was sweet, but not overwhelmingly sweet. The salt provided good contrast to balance out the sweetness and provide an unexpected twist.
Who is Chef Arch?
Chef Archie Val Juanta opened it back in 2007 with two other partners - back then it was called LIME 88. It has since undergone some changes and currently, Chef Arch's LIME is being operated by Eugene Claraval, Ian Ocampo, and Vnz Juanta - in addition to Chef Arch Juanta, of course.
Chef Arch's impressive resume includes big name companies such as M Cafe in Ayala, Mandarin Hotel, Häagen-Dazs, Max Brenner, Olivers, Tea and Therapy, Blue Steak, and Bistro. He recently migrated to New Zealand where he is currently employed as Chef de Partie at Hotel Brentwood.
If you notice from the photos above, the dishes at LIME are accented by a violet orchid. Accorind go Chef Arch, they grew fond of the flower, having grown with it in their backyard.
Speaking of backyard, the place in Mandaluyong is actually a converted ancestral house, so it has that homey vibe to it. Patrons can choose between the al fresco dining area and air conditioned rooms. Because it is a converted house, it is a little run-down, so don't expect anything super fancy here.
Feeling adventurous? Try going to LIME, but make sure you have a GPS
The location can also be a little difficult to find, since it is located in a residential district. I got lost during my first visit to the place, ending up in the other side of San Rafael Street instead. I drove to the place coming from Wilson Street in Greenhills via Addition Hills because I wanted to avoid the EDSA traffic. If you're going that route, make sure to take the right turn in San Rafael Street. I asked about 5 people that day and they all knew about LIME - which surprised me because I had no idea it was that popular. However, one lady pointed me to the left instead of to the right, got me lost.
Better yet, don't be overconfident like me and prepare by having a GPS or printed out map on your first trip to LIME.
Why is it called LIME?
According to Chef Arch, to get juice from the lime you need to twst the fruit. In a similar fashion, the food at lime may twist either in taste or presentation. In case you haven’t caught on by now, the message is clear: expect the unexpected at this quirky, unique restaurant!
Chef Arch’s LIME
Phone: +63.2 775.5428
Mobile: +63.905 312.7799
Email: chefarchslime at gmail.com
Operating hours: 5:30PM to 2:00AM daily
Address: 160 San Rafael Street, Barangay Plainview, Mandaluyong City