I nearly fell off my seat out of excitement when I first heard about the World Street Food Jamboree a few months ago. I wanted — no, had — to go and sample the different cuisines. If you haven’t heard of it before, two words: food festival. The World Street Food Jamboree is a segment of the World Street Food Congress wherein vendors from around the world have the opportunity to showcase and sell their unique dishes to hungry foodies (like myself) for five days.
However, as the date approached, I grew wary of having to brave the scorching heat at the outdoor venue. Thank goodness my stomach managed to convince me to go, because it was a spectacular experience.
On April 24, the final day of the Jamboree, I made the trip to BGC with my family. I dashed inside, only stopping to receive a free bottle of Listerine (What an odd freebie. Subliminal message?? Or maybe they wanted me to use it after munching on all the sweet treats.) they were handling out at the entrance.
My first stop was at a stall that featured an open-faced pancake hailing from Indonesia. I was immediately charmed by the variety of colours that decorated the dish. After taking my first bite, I was blown away. It had a thin, crunchy crust and the pancake was moist and chewy. The different spreads and toppings and the light drizzle of condensed milk elevated the dish and made the Indonesian street food a delight to eat. I would have this for a snack or dessert anytime!
Next, I sampled a noodle dish originating from Singapore. Since the Chocolate Murtabak set the bar pretty high, I was a little let down. The noodles could have been firmer, and the shrimp was overcooked. However, the chunky peanut sauce was spot on! I couldn’t pinpoint the exact flavour because it was a unique fusion of sweet, spicy and peanuts. Also, the squid and the satay were cooked well, so this was a satisfactory dish overall.
The moment I bit into the churro, my eyes widened and the first coherent thought that came into my mind was O–M–G. My teeth had just sunk into the crispiest churro with just the right amount of sugar dusted on top. And no, it was not hollow like most churros found in Manila, as adequately expressed by the man standing behind me: “Hey, it has filling!”. To clarify, not filling like a cream, but filling like they-did-not-scrimp-on-the-batter-filling. AND it wasn’t the slightest bit greasy! What is this delicious sorcery? Moreover, aside from the delectable pastry, the creamy vanilla ice cream, fluffy whipped cream, sweet sprinkles and warm chocolate syrup made me groan happily. Unforgettable.
If you live in the Philippines or in a country located in Asia, you’ve probably sampled the white, plain-looking radish cake before at your local Chinese restaurant. This dish takes the traditional radish cake and reinvents it frittata-style, dubbing the creation carrot cake. I was pleasantly surprised by the tasty savoury dish, although I only tasted the egg and radish and not the salted and pickled daikon it also contained. I absolutely loved the sweet dark red paste that had a spicy kick. It really took the carrot cake up a notch.
Tell people you have not tried Pepita’s lechon (roasted suckling pig), and you would get a loud, dramatic gasp. (If you haven’t, get one, stat!) Lechon is a staple in the Philippines, and if you want the best, you get Pepita’s. I don’t know how they do it, but their lechon always has the crispiest skin, and is stuffed with the most delicious rice. I usually get my serving of Pepita’s lechon around Christmas time, when I let go of my inhibitions and guilt and eat half the pig. It was no different at the Jamboree, and I have no regrets! The skin was crispy, the meat was juicy and tender and the fragrant rice was flavoured perfectly with herbs, mushrooms and a dash of truffle oil. I opted not to add the spicy sauce because it was perfect the way it was. I’m drooling just thinking about it again.
The dish sounded and looked interesting, but that’s about it. I am used to eating soft suman (rice cake), so I was not a fan of the hard version presented in the dish. Also, the glazed squash was incredibly difficult to bite into and the Magnolia ice cream on top tasted ordinary. However, the sticky and chewy fried rice cake was superb, as was the caramel sauce drizzled over the dish. Unfortunately, it felt like they threw a bunch of Filipino delicacies into a bowl and hoped that it would all come together. It didn’t.
Overall, I would give my experience a rating of four pies! Almost everything I ate was divine. My only regret is that I didn’t get to try all of it! Despite my ravenous appetite, my stomach still has a limited holding capacity. The only thing I can do now is glaze enviously at pictures of the other dishes. World Street Food Jamboree 2017, I’m coming for you!