Thursday, August 7, 2014

Asian Eats 2014 Press Release

This weekend, let's embark on an Asian gastronomic adventure!

Happening tomorrow 'til the 10th is the Asian Eats food festival at the 2nd Floor Atrium of The Podium, Ortigas. Asian Eats will feature a plethora of traditional and modern/fusion flavors from Philippines, Turkey, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, India, and many more. The 3-day event, hosted by Asia Society Philippines, Pinoy Eats World and The Podium, is part of Pinoy Eats World’s regular World Eats bazaar.

"Take a culinary tour around Southeast Asia, starting off with traditional Indonesian cuisine by Chef Rita Binibule (Rita’s Indonesian Kitchen). Thai restaurant NAV, Vietnamese restaurant P.H.A.T. Pho, and Singaporean bistro Your Local will be stirring up taste buds with a modern take on Southeast Asian cuisines. Chef Claude Tayag’s Downtown Cafe by Bale Dutung will serve up Filipino fare with a twist, while Inasalan sa Dalan will offer Ilonggo classics.

To add to this gastronomic feast, Manila-based cooks from around Asia will be sharing authentic dishes from their homelands. Maharajas Kababs by Aashish Mirpuri will spice up the event with Northern Indian cuisine. Suzy Lee’s Spring by Ha Yuan will offer a fresh, healthy take on Chinese comfort food classics. Turkish-national Aysegul Ozden Trifyllis (Ayse’s Turkish Cuisine) and Korean-national Tina Hong Garcia (Bi Won) will present their interpretations of the flavors of their home countries.

Foodies can look forward to pairing their food with unique concoctions by EDSA Beverage Design Studio. Finally, satisfy your sweet tooth by checking out modern patisserie Pink Wasabi, who will be serving their trademark kashi maki (sweet hand-rolled sushi cakes) and other unique desserts.  

Guests will also have the opportunity to learn more about the culture of our Asian neighbors. On Saturday, August 9, there will be a live Roti Canai cooking demonstration by chefs from Berjaya Hotel Makati, and musical performances by acoustic guitarist Alyza Barro and Indonesian singers. On Sunday, August 10, there will be a demonstration by Turkish Chef Illhami and a performance by K-pop cover group NEO.

Asian Eats is presented by Del Monte and sponsored by SYSU International and Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. ANC, Solar TV, Manila Times,, and Rappler are media partners for this event."

For updates, stay tuned on #AsianEatsMNL and visit the event’s page for more information. You may contact Marge or Rina at 550-2612, 810-8983 or at for questions.


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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Week That Was In Mexican Food

If a cuisine's on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List, it must be something.

The Mexican fare, a marriage of Mesoamerican cooking techniques/main staples and European food components (such as cheese and meat and herbs), is one of the most complex my taste buds have ever encountered. It's up there with Persian, Indian and Chinese. The ingredients of dishes, I could not easily detect. And a lot of them I didn't/don't even know of.

Case in a point: Papaloquelite and huauzontle and huitlacoche (fungus that grows on corn). IKR?! 

The function of food for Mexicans is not only to fuel the body. It plays a role in traditions and festivals (such as Día de Muertos), and everyday social gatherings. The preparation itself, which mostly takes hours, draws people together.

To pay homage to this intangible cultural heritage (and to food technology), I the pilgrim, sampled all sorts of Mexican food for a week in Cancun. Plus uhm, two days in Palenque. I can see the aftermath on my significantly wider waistline now, but that's a non-significant issue I shall deal with later.

Here are some of the delights I stuffed myself with:

1. Tacos. The most popular Mexican dish — outside Mexico, I daresay. Wheat or corn (I prefer the latter) tortilla, topped/filled with different kinds of meat (beef, chicken, pork, seafood) plus cheese and veggies. Always accompanied by either guacamole or salsa or pickled onions. I like mine with salsa verde, a kind of salsa made with tomatillos. There's a plethora of traditional varieties in every Mexican state, dictated by the region's main spices and produce.

Vegetarian tacos which we ordered three times last week. 50 MXN for three at Mercado 28, Cancun Centro. Also, we bought tacos with chorizo and mushrooms from a street stand near our hotel. 5 MXN each.

2. Pollo En Mole Poblano. Mole, from Nahuatl (Aztec language) word mōlli, means 'sauce'. Such term is used for a variety of sauces. The states of Puebla and Oaxaca (Tlaxcala too) claim to be the origin of it. Mole poblano, my fave, is a kind of mole that's composed of a million ingredients — okay, maybe about twenty (including ancho chili or poblano and chipotle and sometimes chocolate) pound together to form a paste. Added with water and simmered in a pot, it results to a thick, dark-colored sauce. This sauce is poured over turkey or chicken. Had the best in Puebla.

55 MXN, ordered twice in a week at Mercado 28.

3. Filete De Pescado Empanizado. Ordered at a time when my palate had a craving for subtle flavors. Breaded fish fillet with refried beans (refried means well fried, not 'fried again'), arroz (rice), beans and salad. Not really traditional, but like the milanesa (breaded beef, chicken or pork), it's a pretty popular comida. Especially to niños y niñas.

One of the comidas fijas (set meals) at Cochipavos, Mercado 28. 65 MXN. Comes with tomato-based pasta soup and jugo (juice). Their tamarindo jugo (tamarind juice) is yuhuhum!
4. Carne Asada De Cerdo. Grilled thinly sliced, marinated meat (usually beef). This one's pork, marinated with salt and lime. Sometimes carne asada is served as the main dish. Sometimes chopped to be used as filling for tacos and quesadillas and other antojitos (snacks).

Also one of the comidas fijas at Cochipavos, Mercado 28. 60 MXN.

5. Nachos. Created by restaurateur Ignacio "Nacho" Anaya, circa 1943. The story goes that Anaya whipped up the meal with the few ingredients he had left in his kitchen for a group of wives of U.S. soldiers who arrived at his restaurant after it had closed. He cut tortillas into smaller pieces, added shredded cheese then heated them. Before serving he tossed in pickled jalapeños. Anaya's son, Ignacio Anaya Jr., stated that the person who named it 'Nachos Especiales' was Mamie Finan, after the snack was served to her and her friends.

Free appetizer at Restaurante Margely, Mercado 28. Uber oily, this batch, but couldn't stop eating them. Spicy salsa verde on the side numbed my tongue.

6. Huevos Rancheros. Popular Mexican desayuno (breakfast) of fried eggs on fried tortillas topped with tomato and chili sauce. Served with beans and sometimes rice.

35 MXN, served with a small basket of warm tortilla.
7. Huevos Motuleños. Another desayuno meal which originated in Motul City, Yucatan. Like the huevos rancheros, it's made of fried eggs on tortilla with tomato sauce. But also with other ingredients like ham and fried plantain (and sometimes cheese).

50 MXN with coffee and juice.
8. Pancita. Also called menudo (the Philippines has a tomato-based stew of the same name but is made of pork and liver). Tripe in a light, chili-based soup. Not spicy. Cooked for hours! Chopped cilantro, onions, and a squeeze of lime are added upon serving. Eaten with tortilla.

55 MXN for a big bowl. Wasn't able to finish all that tripe. Over. Whelming.
 9. Gordita. My new fave antojito! Thick tortilla made with corn flour (dough resembles that of the Philippine empanada's), fried or baked, stuffed with meat and cheese and vegetables.

Crispy outside, soft inside. Stuffed with chicken, veggies and cheese. 22 MXN.
10. Carne Al Pastor (sheperd-style), Res (beef). Spit-grilled/roasted meat, thinly sliced, then served with rice. Or used as fillings for a variety of antojitos. Meat is marinated with various spices and chiles and pineapple. This al pastor meal I had even got pineapple bits.

Another one from Cochipavos' comidas fijas. 65 MXN. 
11.  Cochinita Pibil. Cochinita means baby pig and pibil means buried. Suckling pig, roasted in a fire pit. These days, other pork cuts are used as alternative. Meat is marinated in citrus juice before it is slow-roasted (wrapped in banana leaf). Achiote (atsuete in the Philippines) gives it a reddish hue.

 Served with rice, refried beans and pickled onions. 60 MXN.

12. Torta. A Mexican sandwich that uses an oblong white bread/roll and is filled with meat, cheese, caramelized onions and peppers. I like mine with grilled/toasted bread, al pastor, Oaxaca cheese and cebolla asada (roasted onion).

27 MXN at the perpetually busy Tropi Tacos, Palenque.

13. Sope. An antojito of fried masa (thick, round-shaped, pinched on the sides) topped with meat, beans, veggies and cheese. This one I had is more like a huareche. A variation of the sope which is oblong in shape. Similar to the shape of a Mexican sandal of the same name.

30 MXN at Antojitos Estilo Hidalgo, Palenque.
14. Quesadilla. Here's another familiar antojito. The word is a portmanteau of queso (cheese) and tortilla. Corn or flour tortilla, filled not only with cheese but also meat and veggies. Folded in half.

Quesadilla con queso. 16 MXN. With buddies taco bisteck and taco sirloin.

15. Because uhm, cerveza is food.


I remember being asked by Pop Talk host Kuya Tonipet Gaba in the show's third anniversary special (while doing a review of some new Mexican resto in Boracay) if I can eat Mexican food every day. My answer was a quick 'yes'. And I reckon this list is a dang good explanation.


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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Choose Aloha. Choose Scott Hawaii.

The quest for eternal summer is arduous and costly. It is neverending.

But the quest for quintessential summer sandals, for me, is over.

Three months ago, a Pualani pair was sent from the Aloha State to our doorstep in Sydney, Australia. It's my first Scott Hawaii sandals, and prior its delivery, I had not come across the brand. I unboxed and unwrapped and stared at them with slight skepticism. Sure, the plumeria detail makes it a charmer, but the bicast leather straps and insole don't seem like they can stand abuse.

And I'm a manhandler of things.

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona. Pardon my ginger-esque hooves.

My Pualani pair traveled with us from Australia to Malaysia to Singapore and to Philippines. Unused. I assumed it won't be able to handle the ruggedness of our chosen trails. Plus, I randomly picked the wedge-heeled kind, I thought it won't be comfy for long strolls.

During our recent U.S.A. trip, I decided to give 'em a go for they were starting to collect dust under our bed in the Philippines. And I worried that the pair will start flaking.

Kailua Beach, Oahu Island, Hawaii. Ye, they traveled back to Hawaii.
My Pualanis traveled back to Hawaii and basked under the summer sun, fashionably sauntered in California's Bay Area, saw otherworldly tufa towers in California's Mono County, trudged along an ancient bristlecone pine forest, and hiked a bit in Nevada's Grand Canyon National Park.

They proved me wrong and swept me off my feet (thank goodness not literally).

I felt clumsy walking on them at first since I rarely wear heeled thongs, but got used to the pair quickly. They're lightweight, at the same time sturdy. I only wish they come in more happy hue combos that represent the colorful Polynesian culture.

Amongst tufa towers, Mono County, California. 

Scott Hawaii was founded by Elmer and Jean Scott in 1932 after they moved from Massachusetts to the territory of Hawaii. Their specialty was plantation boots for the sugarcane and pineapple field workers who were prevalent back in the day. It didn't take long for Elmer and Jean to establish a reputation within their community for they are from a long lineage of shoemakers.

During World War II, materials became scarce, and businesses catering to the U.S. military service were given priority access to such materials. And so Scott Hawaii began focusing on casual footwear.
My Pualani pair trudged along the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, Inyo County, Eastern California.
No doubt, Scott Hawaii has come a long way and on a different path from its past. Yet the current products still embody the spirit of its predecessors by being functional and solid.

And it definitely speaks of Hawaii. Can't wait to get another pair.

You could win a pair of Scotts! Brewing an online contest open to US residents. Stay tuned for details!


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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Hulhumalé, Maldives: A Newborn Artificial Island

Our low-cost airline flight provided an on-board entertainment that surpassed all others we've experienced... The spectacle of Maldives' islands, strung together like a jewel necklace, sitting oh so pretty in the middle-ish of Indian Ocean nowhere. It was one of those travel moments filled with imaginative swear words, muttered under the breath.

Hulhumalé's public beach. Frequented by Maldivians. 

The Republic of Maldives never made it to our bucket list prior the trip, because back then it was our choice not to afford it. Hubby and I keep our respective lists quite realistic. And Maldives is one of them countries we thought we'll only consider visiting when we're old and gray and subject to carbon dating.

We felt our few savings was better spent somewhere else.

Hulhumalé Inn, our accommodation on the island.

But we chanced upon an airline company website glitch last year — thanks to a tip that circulated within the travel blogging community which allowed us to book a cheap flight from Sydney to Kuala Lumpur to Malé for three. The total price, about $4. We took that as a sign. Cause really, we'd be stupid not to grab such rare opportunity. So we purchased tickets. Without worries whether we could fund the unplanned luxe getaway or not.

A Maldivian 'bench'. Dunno what they're looking at.
And two months later, there we were celebrating our fifth year of togetherness with our toddler Luna, thousands of feet above the ground.The flight itself exceeded our expectations. Ibrahim Nasir International Airport, or simply Malé International Airport, ain't much of a looker. But outside its arrival hall where the port for ferries to the capital and private resorts' speed boats is, one can have a quick taste of paradise. The water is a gorgeous aquamarine.

A more conservative approach to clothing on this inhabited island.

Queues at the immigration counters were long, took a while before our turn. And when it was, the officer simply stamped our passports. No questions asked. We grabbed our luggage and sped towards the arrivals. We arranged our pickup ($15 for all of us) through Hulhumalé Inn, a ten-room guesthouse on Hulhumalé Island, wherein we were booked for the night. We would have taken the public bus, but each passenger was only allowed a luggage each. After shopping in Australia, we had tons.
Public Bus Service On Hulhumalé Island 
A bus service runs between Malé International Airport and Hulhumalé island between 6:00AM to 2:00AM, operated by Maldives Transport and Contracting Company. It leaves Nirolhu Magu's (neighborhood 1) bus stop roughly every forty minutes to one hour and is a mere 15 minute-ride. Station at the airport should just be outside the arrival hall. Ask around. In the evening, bus may run every two hours. Each passenger's allowed only a luggage each at the time of our travel (2013). Fare is MVR3 or about US$.20.
Man-made beauty, this reclaimed island.

Driver helped us dump all our stuff in the van (Maldivians know so well how to give good service, in such regard, keep a stash of small bills to give away as tips). Our party of three was whisked to the guesthouse, not stopping for anything even when some locals signaled to hitch a ride. Upon arrival, we were handed welcome drinks. The staff brought our luggage up the room while we quickly filled out the check in forms. We couldn't wait to explore the hood.
Hulhumalé Inn Review
It did its job well in giving us a comfy pod to sleep in. Our simple double room priced at UD$70 excluding taxes and fees (Yep, welcome to the Maldives!) has an en suite bath and a small balcony. It faces the main street which never gets too hectic. WiFi was a pain, hair-pulling slow during the few times we were able to connect. A simple brekkie is included in the room rates. Egg and toast and cereal. Coffee and tea. Kitchen opens at 6:30-7:00AM. There are cafes nearby, and the beach is just a couple of blocks to the east. The guesthouse offers package tours. Staff was as warm as the Maldivian sun's rays.
Beach got busy as the day approached sundown.

Hulhumalé's role to us was not limited to being a transit stop. It served as an educator. It gave us a brief introduction to Maldivian culture. 

The island was constructed (completed in 2002) on a shallow lagoon in the same atoll as the capital's, and is linked to the island of Hulhulé. Its purpose is to address the country's growing population density. On our stroll around the neighborhood that afternoon, we passed by blocks and blocks of newly built (and under construction) residential buildings. Structures are mostly four to five stories high. Not all were occupied. Perhaps exodus has not commenced yet.

New flats. Cheaper rent compared to Malé's.
From the relatively busy Nirolhu Magu street, we walked two blocks to get to the shore. At the public beach, we let our feet sink into the white, powdery sand. I could not believe we were basking in artificial paradise. 

Hubby and Luna waded in the water while I watched a group of local women, all covered up, lie on/roll over the sand and chitchat and giggle like young girls. Islam is the official religion of Maldives. On inhabited islands, female tourists are expected to maintain a conservative approach to clothing. The thought of swimming in pants and shirt put me off (though I knew about this beforehand) since I didn't see any public changing rooms nearby. I'd have to saunter back to our guesthouse dripping. I don't know what's more unacceptable: Being in the water wearing a swimsuit, or being out on the street looking like a wet t-shirt contest participant. Nah to both.

  Access to public beach. Not a lot of seaside cafes here. Alcohol is only sold/may only be consumed in Hulhulé Island Hotel.
Before heading back to Hulhumalé Inn, we searched for a place to eat because the guesthouse doesn't sell food. There were only a handful of convenience stores and sai hotaa (tea shop) on the island during our visit. Like in India and Sri Lanka, the cafes are mostly populated by men. I was the only female at Cafe De when we dined. We ordered a fishcake which tasted more like a hot pepper cake, sweet sticky rice (apparently to balance out the spiciness of the pepper patty – I mean, fishcake), and hamburger (a safe order for Luna).

Fishcake. Or so we were told.

A cafe's a great place to start interacting with locals. In our case however, we weren't thrown random questions. We only received a lot of stares. I initially thought, perhaps because I'm female. But then the Maldivians, to me, didn't seem overly conservative. 

Maybe Hulhumalé's residents are simply not used to curious travelers. Not like the thousands deployed in other islands who were trained to entertain. Or maybe this newborn community a melting pot of sorts is still in the process of welding its cliques within. And still in the process of establishing their set of norms which has not tackled the subject of striking up conversations with foreigners. Or for all I know, we just didn't stumble upon a local who's intrigued enough.

The island of Hulhumalé, the newest kid on the block ( or make that, the newest island in the atoll), may be artificial, but it gives visitors a peek at real Maldivian life. Something you won't witness in a high end resort. Something worth experiencing even for a short while.

Missed our guide to backpacking Maldives? Click HERE.


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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Istanbul, Turkey Accommodations: Sultan's Inn Hotel Review

It was a smart move to organize a hotel pick up. Hefty at 25,00 €, but worth every dang cent. After a Philippines-Singapore-Malaysia-United Arab Emirates-Turkey transit, we were sleep-deprived and weary to the bones and bordering deranged. Our cabbie was at Atatürk International Airport's arrival hall on the dot, and in my head I wanted to run towards him and squeeze him in delight.

What I did in real life, as a greeting, was a mere grunt.

Sultan's Inn's rooftop, where guests can have brekkie.

With droopy eyes, I watched the Turkish world out my window as we whizzed towards the heart of Sultanahmet. The drive's about half an hour, and a part of our route unveiled a view of the Sea of Marmara. That certainly kept me up.

Our room wasn't available yet when we arrived at the hotel. But after a quick brekkie of menemen (which we grew an obsession for) at a nearby cafe, we were checked in when we got back.

Tight space, yet the bathroom's massive.

Like many other guesthouses and small hotels in Istanbul, Sultan's Inn has about four floors and a rooftop converted to a lounge area. Like the others, it doesn't have a lift. We were assigned a room on the fourth floor, and we were fortunate that the bell man was around to help us with the luggage.

Our double room has a colossal bed. Prolly too colossal that it ate all the floor space. The bathroom, massive. Air-conditioning is individually controlled and there's 24-hour hot shower. We were happy to have our own fridge though we didn't have much use for it. 

Brekkie spread.
Breakfast is served on the same floor. The spread's got a pretty good selection during our stay and one could apple tea all-you-want (which meant a lot for the hubby). Guests may bring their food up the last set of stairs to the rooftop that offers a view of the Blue Mosque on one side and the Sea of Marmara on the other.

In the afternoon, Sultan's Inn also provides free snacks. Usually pastries, plus coffee and tea. Also served in the brekkie hall.

View of Blue Mosque from Sultan's Inn's rooftop.

Price of double room with brekkie at Sultan's Inn is 55,00 € (single 50,00 €, triple 70,00 €). It was way beyond our budget. But because of its proximity to Sultanahmet's (the old city of Istanbul) sights, plus its great reviews online, we booked with them anyway. The hotel has a good range of tour packages but we didn't try any.

We didn't really have to. The main attractions are just a few blocks away from it. Sultan's Inn, though very near the city buzz, sits on a quiet street which makes it an ideal temporary abode. The streets we had to walk on from the hotel to our various destinations weren't dodgy. Not a single time did we feel unsafe in the hotel's hood.

Our fave nook on the rooftop.

Except for our dripping aircon when turned off and the nonexistent elevator, we loved everything else about Sultan's Inn. If we get the chance to revisit Istanbul, will definitely consider staying here again. And when the time comes, I hope the Turkish embassy in the Philippines lets me stay in the country for more than two weeks.

Sultan's Inn Hotel
Mustafa Pasa Sokak No.40
Kucukayasofya Mahallesi
Sultanahmet, Istanbul


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Thursday, July 3, 2014

AsiaRooms Blogger Awards 2014

Hear ye, fellow travel bloggers... It's back this year! proudly presents their second Blogger Awards which recognizes our favorite travel bloggers, photographers and filmmakers who have inspired us to dream, explore and discover the world.


How to join:

Nominate yourself (Yes you could!) or your favorite travel blog for one of the categories below. Most nominated blog will win. Quite simple, ei? Winners will be judged by nominations per category.


The prize: 

Winner per category will receive up to SGD300 worth hotel stay which must take place between 18 July 2014 to 18 July 2015. Hotel must be selected via website. The prize value (SGD300) must be used in one booking.

Wait, there's more!

For those who are nominated, you can get 10 extra votes by helping Asia Rooms spread the word about your participation through blogging.  Remember to link back to this page.

Want even more votes? Just share your post on Facebook and Twitter (10 and 5 additional votes respectively) and #ARbloggerawards.

You can also win even if you're not a blogger! Simply follow @asiarooms on Instagram, upload a travel photo and tag @asiarooms and #ARbloggerawards. Photo with the most number of Likes wins a hotel stay too!

Good luck everyone! 


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