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


Tangled Noodle said...

We need to plan a trip to LA, just to eat at ManilaMachine! Thanks so much for this recap - it all looks sooo masarap (minor attempt at some Tagalog). Perhaps you could offer to supply them with your scrumptious polvoron . . . ?

honey my heart said...

everything looks so yummy! can't wait until i find them.

Dad the Baker said...

Hey! this is hubby and yes, you wouldn't want me reviewing food, cause food is like sex, can't skip a meal, can ya?? ;)

It is easy to fall into the "this isn't how Lola made it" hole. Being Brasilian, I haven't yet found a place that makes Feijoada as good as mom. HOWEVER, I do give kudos to those who make a good effort. MM goes well above a good effort. You can taste the passion that goes into the food they serve. So, all you cracker whities, you wanna try good Pilipino cuisine without busting your wallet, Manila Machine is a good first start.

The only thing I would like to see MM do is sustainable, organic products; that is what i mainly feed the kidlets.

Finally, if the food truck's a rockin' is it ok to come a knockin'??? (see? lousy food writer)

Warm Love to All

Anonymous said...

Wooohoo!! What a great review and I agree with your husband about adobo.

eatingclubvancouver_js said...

Seems like the internet ate my comment. Looks good: will have to follow Marvin's truck when we get down to LA.

♥¸¸.•*¨Skip to Malou¨¨*•.¸¸♥¸ said...

You finally chased them huh? and without me??? hahaha!
great review, I think I want to try their sliders, both the tapa and the longanisa.

thank you for picking me up during the launching. Albeit they've sold out that night, nonetheless we were there during the launching, plus a chance for me to meet you for the first time.. plus your kids and hubs as well! that was fun!

Ciggy said...

One huge step towards global domination muahahahahaha!

Jun Belen said...

Thank you for the heads up! I'm glad LA is catching up with SF in terms of Pinoy food carts and trucks. Everything looks and sounds really really tasty! I'm so happy for Mr. Burnt Lumpia. I love his blog and I'm happy he's turning his passion into something LA Pinoys can enjoy eating!!

Anonymous said...

sana may manila machine rin dito sa manila! i want those pan de sal sliders!


Anonymous said...

OMB what a fantastic idea. How I wish I was there to try something from that truck. I also wish Sydney had something similar.

Olive said...

wow, it's like a mobile "turo-turo" in the States...what a clever way to make people aware of our delicious food...thanks to Marvin and his partner and to you for spreading the word :)

btw, I love what your husband said about adobo ;)

cusinera said...

sana mayroon rin dito sa australia, wow!

Patricia said...

I didn't get a chance to follow the Manila Machine while I was there in LA (my very short trip to LA!) but omg that last photo of the turon looks soooo good!


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