Diving into the City’s Growing Filipino Fare

Just outside of the San Antonio city limits, neighboring the Randolph Air Force Base in Universal City is My ChockDee Oriental Market. Though the name doesn’t suggest it, half of My ChokDee is also a buffet-style restaurant and all of it is catered to Filipino cuisine. In other words, it’s a Filipino grocery store and restaurant combo.

At a price point of $7.99 on weekdays and $12.99 on weekends, it’s hard to go wrong with any of the choices on the buffet. However, nothing is labeled so it’s helpful to learn a few of the dishes before visiting (unless surprise stewed blood is your dinner goal). The cuisine has roots in native Filipino food traditions, but has also been strongly influenced by Spanish cooking, as well as Malay-Indonesian, Indian, Japanese, Chinese and American cuisines.

Essentially, there is no way to really explain the flavors of Filipino food without trying it, so make sure to keep an open mind.

Here are some suggestions for a first time visit to the buffet:

Sinigang: The pork-based light brothy soup usually comes with vegetables like tomatoes, radishes and taro. Traditionally it is made with tamarind, so the main note of the dish is savory and sour. My Chockdee’s version includes generous portions of pork, allowing you to make it a hearty part of your meal. Sinigang is intended to be eaten with rice, but can also be eaten on it’s own for a Filipino-style “chicken noodle soup.”

Adobong Baboy (Pork Adobo): Filipino style adobo can be made with chicken, but the pork version is a bit better known. Meat in an adobo dish is browned in oil, then finished with vinegar and other seasonings like garlic. The ingredients come together to make a rich garlicky and peppery sauce, with whole peppercorns in My ChockDee’s version, accompanying a sort of pan-fried pork. The vinegar makes it mildly acidic. Like many Filipino dishes, the pork and sauce should be eaten over rice.

Dinuguan (Pork Blood Stew): Easy to spot by its distinctive dark colored hue, dinuguan literally translates as “to be stewed with blood.” For Western palates, the texture could be described as liver in stew form — it’s a bit grainy. The dish is savory and tangy from vinegar, with hints of mild spice from chilies. Generally dinuguan uses offal as base proteins, but My ChokDee uses different parts of pork. The stew is meant to be enjoyed with puto (get your head out of the gutter) a Filipino steamed rice cake that is light, fluffy and subtly sweet.

Lechon Kawali (Fried Pork Belly): Lechon kawali is a type of lechon (pork) that is made from pork belly. The meat is fried in pieces about 4-inches long, and goes well with Mang Tomas — a bottled sweet and sour sauce popular for eating with roast pig.

click to enlarge Top left,  a warm tapioca pearl dessert (and sort of hidden behind it is eggplant and bokchoy meant to be paired with kare kare; stir fried shrimp in shell (top right); kare kare (bottom right); sinigang (bottom left). - Hannah Lynn
Hannah Lynn
Top left, a warm tapioca pearl dessert (and sort of hidden behind it is eggplant and bokchoy meant to be paired with kare kare; stir fried shrimp in shell (top right); kare kare (bottom right); sinigang (bottom left).

Kare Kare: The consistent base of kare kare stew is a savory and mildly sweet peanut sauce, which is the overarching flavor of the stewed eggplant, bok choy and beef dish. Traditionally kare kare is served with bagoóng alamáng (shrimp paste), which adds a salty element highlighting the stewed beef. My ChockDee puts all of their condiments in one spot (the location varies depending on the day of the week, but it’ll be easy to spot) including the bagoóng. Again, eat it all over rice.

Tocino (Sweet Cured Pork): Most popular at breakfast alongside fried rice and an egg (this combo is called tosilog), tocino is like a sweet thick-cut pork belly bacon. It doesn’t need a sauce, but raw tomatoes and onions are a nice accompaniment when available.

Longanisa (Sweet Pork Sausage): Forget everything you know about Spanish style cured longanisa — the Filipino version consists of tiny, extremely sweet links that have a garlicky undertone. The bright red sausages are easy to spot on a buffet and are popular at breakfast.

Galunggong (Mackerel Scad): Usually made by frying, galunggong is prepared simply. The fish is gutted, scaled, and salted then fried whole. Dip the crispy fish into chili marinated vinegar (found with the condiments) for a delicious umami experience.

click to enlarge Cassava cake (far left), bibingka, puto and other Filipino desserts. - Hannah Lynn
Hannah Lynn
Cassava cake (far left), bibingka, puto and other Filipino desserts.
Lumpia (Filipino Spring Rolls): The most common type of lumpia are deep fried. Reminiscent of other Asian spring roll variations like egg rolls, My ChockDee’s lumpia are rolled thin crepes filled with pork, carrots, onion and garlic. Lumpia goes well with many sauces. Look for Jufran banana ketchup or Mang Tomas, a sweet sauce blended with breadcrumbs, if you like sweet and sour dipping sauces.

Cassava Cake: The cake is moist, almost wet and pudding-like in texture with springiness like flan, another popular dessert in the Philippines. While some recipes call for cheddar cheese on top of the cake, My ChokDee’s omits the cheddar and instead folds chunks of coconut into the batter. Overall the cake is moist, sweet and rich.

If you choose to grab any groceries or treats from the market area, the cashier will be happy to ring it up along with your meal.

115 E. Lindbergh Blvd., Universal City, (210) 566-2210.

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