June 28, 2010
The Manila Machine
Please welcome the first Filipino food truck in Los Angeles: The Manila Machine.
Several months ago, a certain LA Times article asked why Filipino cuisine has yet to assimilate into the the mainstream, especially in Los Angeles where there are more than a handful of Filipino-American chefs working in well-established fine restaurants. I found it upsetting that even though these chefs cook Filipino food at home, they did not think highly enough of their cuisine to even consider cooking it in their professional kitchens. So I found it exciting that Filipino food will be finally be represented in the food truck scene, a step in the right direction in showing how great our food is and can be.
I was also excited by the fact that The Manila Machine is operated by two food bloggers that I have long admired: Marvin of Burnt Lumpia and Nastassia of Let Me Eat Cake. Their passion for food comes through just from reading their blog. It only made sense that they ventured out with The Manila Machine. A very brave move, putting themselves out there, open to criticisms.
So to show my support, I planned on attending their launch two and a half weeks ago at the Downtown Art Walk. I even dragged Malou with me (well, texted her a few hours before, not even having met her before, to tell her I will pick her up. So glad she was game for it! :) ) but we got there to sold-out food! A great sign of support by the food community, showing everyone that Filipino food is welcome here.
Things got in the way and after a couple more weeks of chasing The Manila Machine, I finally got a taste of it on Saturday! Their website says they would be offering both street- and home-style meals. My husband, kids and I ordered a sampling off their menu that day.
And this is what we got, all laid out on the concrete steps! :) From top left, clockwise: Vegetable Lumpia, Lumpiang Shanghai, Longganisa Slider, Beef Tapa Slider, Chicken Adobo, Manila Dip Slider and Bichu donut.
The Vegetable Lumpia ($2) were crisp and warm but not at all greasy. A nice crunch with a mild-flavored vegetable filling inside.
The Lumpiang Shanghai ($2) were as long as the Vegetable ones and were thicker than what you'd usually get elsewhere which I really liked. As you can see there were plenty of filling in there and was still moist and juicy while the lumpia wrapper gave it a good light crunch. This was great, especially when dipped in their accompanying sweet-spicy sauce.
When my husband had his first bite of the Chicken Adobo ($4), he said it reminded him of the first time I served this dish to him years ago. He said it's flavors were held back somewhat, not enough vinegar punch. I understood what he meant since I remember cooking him his first adobo. I thought since he is non-Filipino and have never tasted adobo before, I held back on the vinegar so not to overwhelm him with it's sour tang. So maybe that's what they trying to do here.
But then he also said this: "Adobo is just like what people say about making love, even when it's just okay, it's still sex!" (LOL, I'm not sure my husband would make a good food reviewer.) Anyways, the best part for me here was the chicken skin. It was soft with a little crispy thing going on and it held the flavors just right.
The Pan de Sal sliders ($2.50 each) above are the Beef Tapa Slider and Longganisa Slider. They usually serve the Longganisang Hubad (patty-shaped) Sliders but this day they were only serving the longganisa silog-style (with garlic fried rice & egg). My 10-year old son really wanted a longganisa slider since reading the menu off their website so Nastassia said no problem and made this for him. :)
Sorry for the out-of-focus shot (the only picture taken) of the Beef Tapa Slider. But the taste is NOT out-of-focus at all! The beef tapa was tender, sweet with tart kalamansi citrus flavors, the achara (pickled green papaya) added some crunch and the sriracha mayo gave it a little heat. Great combination of flavors and textures here, definitely something you need to order.
My son couldn't wait to taste this one, as you can see he already bit it before the camera got to it. :) He let me take a small bite to taste. The longganisa is flavorful and juicy, the caramelized onions gave it more sweetness and the peppery arugula balanced it out. Another great one here.
The Original Manila Dip is another great slider. Shredded chicken abobo topped with caramelized onions and served with adobo sauce for dipping. Simple but very satisfying, a comfort food sandwich for me. Love the idea of dipping sauce, letting the pan de sal soak in the adobo flavors.
My family came in a few hours since they've been open for breakfast. That day, they were serving Bichu Filipino donuts. This was the last one, they gave this to my boys for free. This had a light crisp skin, just a little sweet from the outside sprinkling of sugar but it's got a heft to it. Tender yet didn't get mushed when you bite into it. What's not to love about fried dough?
After finishing up, we went in line to get these. A perfect ending to our meal: turon ($2) These banana-filled rolls were just the right width. I detest wide turon because you know those gets mushy in the middle and turns the lumpia wrapper all soggy. But this was perfect, this had the perfect balance of crunchy and soft. Perfect little bites, the drizzled caramel is a welcome touch.
Overall, the food served by The Manila Machine is great. Glad to finally tasted their food and I'd be happily chasing this truck all over town.
Website: The Manila Machine
Follow them on Twitter: @manilamachine