Halal restaurants in Manila : the expat’s guide

shrimp biryani at  ghazal

For this lazy Thursday, am suddenly craving for a tasty serving of shrimp biryani at Ghazal, the best little hole-on-the-wall for Middle Eastern food in my book, even better than Shawarma Center. Don’t expect anything fancy, the resto is an affair of eight or so tables in the busy thoroughfare that is Mabini St. in Manila, a walking distance from the Hyatt Hotel. What you can find here: various kinds of biryani and tikka, kebabs, lassi and other home-cooked specialties that escape me now. In this place, I go to the extremes and slather my hot rice with butter… it’s really good!

Ghazal just happens to be one of a few restaurants in the city serving authentic halal food. There is certainly much demand for places offering halal food… but the question is, where to go?

For purposes of this discussion, halal means food that’s permissible to consume by Muslims and non-pork eating people. They shouldn’t contain pork or pork-related products (such as lard) and must have gone through the proper slaughtering process.

Luckily, I have Facebook friend Fahim to show us. There happens to be a useful guide being distributed to students of Asia’s top management school AIM which should come in handy for expats and Muslim tourists to the country looking for genuine halal food. Here it goes:

Assad’s Café - Pakistani joint serving decent Indian and Pakistani fare. Value for money. Meals cost P400 for two. U.N. Avenue, opposite Unilever, Paco, Manila. Telephone No. 5261349, 5265034

Ghazal - Muslim-owned eatery. 1551 A. Mabini Street, Ermita, Manila

Halal Caterer to Indonesian & Brunei embassies (Gerry) - serves/caters halal meals on daily basis on request; separate cutting boards, knives & utensils for halal meal preparation. Charges Peso 40 delivery charge per dinner, if less than 5 orders. Cebu Financial Services, Rolex Building, Paseo De Roxas (next to AIM)

Hossein’s Persian Kebab - Meals for two cost an average of P1,000. Original branch at 7857 Makati Avenue, Makati (Telephone no. 890-6137) Can also be found in Serendra.


Food for love and aphrodisiacs

Okay, I might have erred preparing all those creamy concoctions for V-Day. Just read now that meals made of cream , milk and cheese contain trytophan which makes one drowsy. Tsk, tsk..you’re supposed to sleep in ecstacy, not when dinner is just starting :P Or maybe I just like cream and cheese so much, never mind if it’s heavy on the tummy and makes one, well, sleepy.

I actually wrote an article before about aphrodisiacs before for a wedding magazine and am rescuing it now for the sake of this blog. The list includes some which are exotic while a few are surprisingly just staples on the kitchen cabinet:

Oysters are reputed to have very high aphrodisiac properties. They are very low in fat and high in zinc. Casanova was said to have eaten 50 of them raw every morning.

Anybody who has been to Chinatown must have heard of Soup No. 5 whose secret ingredients are legend among men who want to increase their virility. In some parts of Asia, snake blood is served as a rare delicacy. The snake tail is pierced and the customer sucks blood from it for a few minutes. Other kinds of animal genitalia prized as stimulants are eels. goose liver, seal penises, dove brains, goose tnogues and the musk glands of a deer, among others.

The lowly onion, simmered in extra virgin olive oil, can add an aphrodisiac touch to many different dishes.


A ’show of hearts’ and how online shopping made our Valentine’s Day

Sweet Little Miss Wifely Steps has an ongoing blog carnival entitled “Show of Hearts” where readers and friends are invited to post anything heart-related.

My entry of course has something to do with the just-concluded V-day. The bf was by his usual thoughtful self and made it in time for our Valentine celebration across time zones. Thanks to the magic of online shopping; never really gave this thing a thought, until My Sweet told me to check out a few Filipino-owned sites and how their prices compared against each other. He finally settles for makulay.com because their items were reasonable, and of course they were able to actually deliver the items to my doorstep!

The heart-shaped strawberry buttercream cake from Goldilock’s was a revelation. Never really tasted this cake before and we loved it… the mild strawberry flavor blending well with the creamy center.

Hmm, I wonder why the bouquet of flowers I got didn’t contain a single rose, but I was certainly glad to find a number of edible roses on the icing of the cake! :P


A Valentine meal for My Sweet

I’ve never been a big fan of Valentine’s Day. Am a hopeless romantic but I suddenly turn weak when I see the much-vaunted romanticism displayed to the extremes in other people. I also dislike the traffic, chaos and mad rush associated with this overrated Day of Hearts. As a result, I wouldn’t it be nice if some of us can just “eat in” instead of “dine out” on V-day, to save oneself the time, stress and energy?? (saving it for later,duh. ) Just got the idea of serving My Sweet some online cuisine, since I don’t have flowers or chocolates to give him On this special day. This can’t be a one-way street, right?

Some important things to remember when you’re setting the mood for culinary romance at home:

1. Set the mood. Spruce up the table with flowers and candles, even if it has to be Liwanag Candles. Ugh.

2. Don’t cook something that will take too long or is too complicated. That will take the fun out of it, we tell ya! You are meeting your beloved, not his ancestors. I like handling fish since it can cook in 10 minutes. Be creative and multi-task. By all means, chop the greens while the soup is boiling and your entree is baking in the oven. That’s three dishes at one time!

3. The appetizer is you :P By all means, don’t come out of the kitchen frumpy and smelling of garlic and onions. Remember to shower, gargle, spritz up, wear something earthshaking-ly sexy… whatever it takes to compete with the main course. Huh. :P

The menu:

Soup: Garlic-Cheese Chowder

Saw this recipe in a supermarket leaflet and I absolutely liked how this went. Noticed that My Sweet can’t live without soup to kickstart his meal and this has got to be it. Down-home comfort food and easy to make!!! Plus it incorporates two of my favorite ingredients: garlic and cheese.

Greens : Kani Fruity Salad

Gotta have a salad because Teh Sweet can’t live without it, again. I even remember how he savored the camote tops salad in Batanes with our very own shrimp paste or bagoong! This salad dish was adapted from the Good Housekeeping cookbook. The original recipe called for mango but I substituted it with melon, grapes and of course greens. Drizzle with dressing (garlic, apple cider vinegar, olive oil, salt & peppper), toss, mix and you’re ready to go!


Ma Mon Luk : still and all, one of the best noodle meals one can have in the city for less than a hundred bucks!

From Lung Center, I found myself in the auto spare parts haven that is Banawe, Quezon City to have my buggy repainted and fixed. Guess what was waiting for me across the street: the ageless Ma Mon Luk restaurant, still looking like it hasn’t shed its hangover from the 1940s!

You know if a resto is still at it by the number of cars parked outside its doors. It was a usual busy Sunday at the last surviving branch of Ma Mon Luk, the best place in (or near) Manila to savor a hot bowl of Chinese noodles. Okay, don’t forget the siopao. See this related post.