Restaurant: Pampanguena Cuisine
The Stew: Sinigang na Baka
Other Food Ordered: Pancit Bihon, and Kamayan for 2 (a combination platter): barbecue pork, grilled tilapia, grilled pork, coconut rice, lumpiang shanghai, steamed vegetables, salty egg, mango / tomato / onion salsa
Dessert: Leche Flan and Halo-Halo
As we continue to make our way through Asia, our travels take us to the Philippines. Or at least a small family-run Filipino restaurant in SF’s Excelsior district. With island decor and a karaoke machine, the restaurant was unmistakably Filipino. We were greeted by the cheerful servers who helped us figure out what to order.
The restaurant, Pampanguena Cuisine, is known for their very authentic combination platters, so it was no question we would try one of those. It came with barbecue pork, grilled tilapia, grilled pork, coconut rice, lumpiang shanghai, salty egg, and a mango / tomato / onion salsa. In addition we ordered pancit bihon, a Filipino style noodle dish with beef, and their tamarind base soup sinigang na baka.
Possibly the most exotic aspect of this dining experience is the manner in which the food is eaten. When we were seated, the servers warned us everything is typically consumed without silverware. Having some experience with finger foods and eating meals with my hands (such as delicious Ethiopian food I’ve had where a bread, injera, is used to gather food instead of utensils) I thought I would have no problem. However, this food did not have a similar food-utensil like injera.
In addition, one of the largest portions of our meal was the rice, making me second guess my finger food abilities. So I had to take a quick lesson from the server on how to clench my fingers together and use them to properly scoop the rice with the meats and hold it all together with my thumb in order to bring the food to my mouth without spilling (although I did quite a bit of that). It was an exciting experience!
Ironically, my favorite food was also the messiest to eat. I loved the combination of the mango salsa with the salty egg and coconut rice. It had a great mix of flavors and was a wonderful combination of sweet and salty.
Another popular messy item was the barbecue pork. The sauce was deliciously tangy, and easier to eat since it was served on the bone. The grilled pork was more simple, but also tasty, especially with the rice. The lumpiang shanghai were also popular (then again when aren’t deep fried meat-stuffed rolls popular?). Inside their shells were ground beef and minced veggies.
I’m not the biggest fan of fish, but the tilapia was nicely cooked. It added an interesting touch to the combination platter as the entire fish was served and placed on the plate. Don’t you love it when your food stares right back at you as you’re eating it?
All other dishes aside from the combination platter were eaten with silverware. The noodles were a hit. They are thin glass noodles that are mixed with pork and vegetables with a delicious tangy soy sauce that takes the dish above and beyond satisfying a simple carb craving.
The soup was also delicious! It was more of a broth than a stew, but I could imagine a bowl of this sinigang soup on a cold night or when I want to get cozy in my couch. The magic of it was the tamarind based broth. I had never really tasted tamarind so at first I imagined it was more of a lemon or orange type of fruit giving off the flavor. In reality, tamarind is a spice with a strong citrus taste and it makes this broth truly unique from the typical savory warm soups we’re used to.
Finally, we ended the meal with two desserts: leche flan and halo-halo, or jackfruit ice. The flan was deliciously custardy and drenched with a sweet caramel sauce while the ice was light, refreshing, and fruity. It the perfect way to top off our meal and Filipino adventure.
Dan’s Favorite: Barbecue Pork
Iraina’s Favorite: Leche Flan
Ned’s Favorite: Barbecue Pork
Gabi’s Favorite: Mango / Tomato / Onion salsa and Salty egg
Pampanguena Cuisine, 4441 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94112