(K)inilaw, wow #atozchallenge

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. Each post this month will be associated with a letter of the alphabet with the theme ‘Food Memories‘.


My travels to the Philippines has introduced me to a variety of foods that I was delighted to have had the opportunity to try at least once in my lifetime – balut, and others that I’d try again if I ever get the chance – kinilaw.

Kinilaw (kee-nee-lahw), is raw, cubed fish in a vinegar-based dressing, usually eaten as an appetizer (though I could eat it any time of the day, most every day, I think)

My journey to Davao City encompassed one taxi ride from my house to the airport, two separate plane rides, a shuttle bus ride in-between those plane rides and finally, a van ride from the airport to the hotel. All within the span of 12 hours. I was exhausted, thought this wasn’t a good start to the trip and already couldn’t wait to get home.

What the clients decided to serve for lunch the next day made the trip a whole lot brighter. They had catered lunch which was served buffet-style at the back of the training room. As I queued up for my turn, I spotted what looked like chunky meat/ fish with chilies in the chafing dish ahead. When I stood in front of it, I asked my Filipino colleague what it was and she said to me “It’s a local favourite – kinilaw na tuna. It’s raw, you know, something like ceviche.”

If you know me, you’d know that I like ceviche a whole lot, as well as other raw preparations of food like steak tartare, Sarawakian umai and beef carpaccio.

I had my first bite of kinilaw and I was in heaven. I ignored the other dishes and just kept refilling my plate with the raw tuna salad. The trip was definitely looking up. For the next few days, I had kinilaw whenever and wherever I could because who knew when I’d ever have the chance to try this yummy dish again. In total, I probably had kinilaw 3 or 4 more times. Another thing I discovered that trip – kinilaw goes great with beer, particularly San Miguel.

I almost finished that entire plate. Almost.

How do you feel about eating raw meat/ fish dishes?

Hello (H)alo-Halo #atozchallenge

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. Each post this month will be associated with a letter of the alphabet with the theme ‘Food Memories‘.


Halo-halo is a layered dessert consisting of shaved ice, evaporated milk, ice cream, and variety of different mix-ins. These mix-ins range from sweetened red beans, sweetened white beans, sweetened coconut strings, gelatins, and fruits such as jackfruit, plantains, and lychee.

A more elegant version of the halo-halo I had

Writing these posts about my food memories, it’s hit home how closely I connect food with the places I had that particular food. I mean, I sort of had that knowledge previously, which is the reason I decided on this theme for the challenge, but that knowledge had always just played along the periphery of my mind. Now, it’s more concrete.

Today, I’m remembering the time I tried my first halo-halo in a restaurant located in the Tagaytay highlands. I’d spent several days at the client’s factory in Cavite, and on my last day, the factory manager informed me that he’d instructed two of his staff to take me to a nearby tourist attraction – Tagaytay, to have a ‘snack’, Filipino code (I learned then) for ‘lots and lots of food’. I mentioned that they didn’t have to go out of their way to do that and that I was perfectly fine with being by myself at the hotel until it was time to leave for the airport. Of course, I was overruled and that’s how I found myself on the way to Tagaytay.

I was brought to a restaurant that overlooked the wonderfully scenic Taal Lake. It was still early in the day, and to be honest, I wasn’t up to the Filipino equivalent of a ‘snack’. The wonderful folks who were with me, suggested I try the halo-halo, reportedly, it was the signature dessert of the restaurant we were in. When it arrived, I thought it looked similar to an ais kacang (bean ice). After my first taste of it, I realised that the shaved ice part of the dessert was where the similarities ended. This shaved ice dish was more unctuous and definitely had lots of different add-ins that I wouldn’t find in an ais kacang, like the yam ice cream topping. I devoured the entire concoction and was left feeling satiated. No lunch for me, after that.

Taken in 2009, I was trying not to look scared after learning that the Taal volcano is the second most active volcano in the Philippines

Every time I hear the word halo-halo, I remember that time in the highlands, eating this dessert, having simple conversations, enjoying the view. That was a good day.

Have you ever tried a shaved ice dessert?

Bleargh, (B)alut #atozchallenge

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. Each post this month will be associated with a letter of the alphabet with the theme ‘Food Memories‘.


Balut refers to fertilised duck eggs which are considered street food in the Philippines, and other parts of South East Asia. 

I’d been to Manila a number of times then, way back in 2010, and each time, when my clients asked if I’d tried balut, I’d reply “Next time!”

It was my fourth, and likely last trip to the Philippines, and I could not say No anymore, when the client suggested they throw a farewell dinner at a local Filipino restaurant, so I bit the bullet, I did it…

I ate balut.

and I’m proud to say…

I didn’t puke. Yay me!

Granted, I didn’t have the balut out of the shell, freshly bought from a hawker on the street. Instead the balut I ate was in an appetiser called Balut ala pobre – balut cooked with garlic, oyster sauce and spring onions. Otherwise known as balut prettied up. But it’s a real fine line between balut out of the shell and balut prettied up, and I say this because balut prettied up still had feathers.

But, I still I ate it. Bleargh!

But that night – the night I finally tasted this must-try food item whenever you’re in the Philippines – I also ate a whole bunch of other Filipino cuisine – pork, chicken and bangus sisig (not bad), pinakbet (quite delicious), garlic kangkong (something familiar to my Malaysian taste buds), green mango with bagoong (quite yummy), sinigang na baboy (also yummy), pancit molo (merely dumpling soup), crispy fried canton noodles and a huge bowl of rice. And after all that rich Filipino cuisine, well, the taste of feathers and a little bit of beak, sort of faded in to the background (Phew!).

Nope, just nope (Source: Gizmodo)

Naturally, my Filipino friends informed me that I sort of cheated by eating balut prepared as a stir fry, and that the only way I can boast about eating the infamous fertilised duck egg, is to eat the fertilised duck egg the way its meant to be eaten – get it from a hawker on the street, crack open the top, add the seasonings e.g. vinegar, chili pepper, something strong that can mask the taste of feathers, ill-formed feet and beak, and slurp the contents into your body.

My reply to my Filipino friends – I ate balut, so there!

Also, if you have some balut lying around and want to make balut ala pobre, here’s a recipe. Anyone here (besides me) ever ate balut or any other type of fertilised duck egg???