Vegetarian Ilocos-style Empanada

Vegetarian Ilocos-style Empanada

Hello Everyone! Just about 2 weeks ago, I went on a road trip with a few of my workmates for a weekend away to Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur, specifically to the cities of Pagudpud and Vigan. Even though it was a stressful and quick trip, we had a lot of fun. I say stressful because literally right after work on the Friday, we made our way into the city to catch our private van. We drove through the night and arrived at Paoay before dawn.

We had our breakfast and then started our tour sightseeing Paoay before a rough morning ahead. A morning I think some of us will never forget. A rough 4×4 journey through the Paoay Sand Dunes followed by sand boarding activities. My multiple bruises took over a week to heal!

4x4 Paoay Sand Dunes, Ilocos Sur

We arrived in Pagudpud just in time for a sumptuous boodle fight lunch by the beach. Since were too full to go for a swim right after, and it was scorching hot as well, we decided to continue with the tour first to fulfil our #forthegram shots before returning to the Blue Lagoon for a refreshing afternoon ocean swim after a super hot day! After our swim, we headed on over to our accomodation for a much needed shower before dinner. Remember how I said earlier that we headed straight into the city after work? This was the first shower I had in more or less 36 hours.

Blue Lagoon, Pagudpud, Ilocos Notre

The next day we got up early and left our accomodation after breakfast to start making our way back south to the city of Vigan, Ilocos Sur. We arrived in Vigan just before lunch and took endless amount of #forthegram photos along the famous Calle Crisologo – pre-war beauty of whitewashed walls, cobbled streets, and old Spanish houses; a town saved from destruction because of a love story. It is now home to souvenir shops and interesting lokal products. After a quick lunch and a shopping/pasalubong spree, we were back on the road for our journey home to Manila.

Vigan City, Ilocos Sur

One of the many musts when visiting the city of Vigan, or just the region of Ilocos, is the famous Ilocos Empanada. It is an orange-tinged fried dish traditionally stuffed with vegetables like unripe papaya, skinless Vigan Longganisa, and egg. Modern versions of the dish add bagnet*, mung beans, and even hotdogs into the stuffing.

So my takeaway from this trip was to recreate the famous Ilocos Empanada at home, with a twist. Those who know me personally, ever since towards the end of last year, I’ve been trying to cut down on my meat intake for various health reasons. Those of you who also know me, I can’t cut out all meat from my diet and go completely vegetarian. And so, my diet as of this moment, consists of only chicken and seafood as my main source of animal protein. Hopefully, I can completely rule out chicken by the end of this year and go pescatarian.

Vegetarian Ilocos-style Empanada

Of course, I can’t not taste the original empanada first before attempting to put a twist to the classic. So just that one time, I broke my diet and had one (maybe 2) for myself. Before we dive into tonight’s recipe, here are a few links that you should check out that helped me put this recipe together:

* Bagnet, locally also known as chicharon in Ilocano, is a Filipino dish of pork belly that has been boiled first and then deep fried until it is crispy. It is seasoned with garlic, black peppercorns, bay leaves, and salt during the boiling process.

Vegetarian Ilocos-style Empanada Ingredients

PREP TIME 1 HOUR 30 MINS** | COOKING TIME 6-8 MINS | MAKES 8 EMPANADAS

** Allow up to a minimum of 6 hours or up to 24 hours for freezing time. Freezing the empanadas beforehand helps to keep them intact and prevent them from breaking apart during the frying process.

INGREDIENTS

For the crust

  • 1 & 1/4 cups rice flour
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 3 tbsp annatto oil***
  • 1 tsp salt

For the vegan longganisa mixture
(Note: This recipe makes around 16-18 small sausages)

  • 250g firm tofu, crumbled
  • 1 & 1/2 cups breadcrumbs
  • 1 & 1/2 cups dried shiitake mushroom, rehydrated and minced (or any other mushroom)
  • 8 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 & 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 4 tbsp coconut sugar
  • 2 tbsp white vinegar
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp salt

For the filling

  • 8 small free range eggs
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 medium-sized unripe papaya, shredded
  • 1 medium-sized carrot, shredded
  • 1 medium-sized red onion, diced
  • Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • Vegan longganisa mixture
  • Cooking oil, for frying

*** The main purpose of using annatto oil is to provide colour to different dishes to make it more visually appealing. Since annatto oil is not always available in grocery stores, learning how to make it will surely be beneficial to you. Here are the details to get your started:

For the annatto oil

  • 1 & 1/2 tablespoons annatto seeds
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (vegetable oil, canola oil, and corn oil can also be used)

METHOD

  1. Annatto Oil: Combine the annatto seeds and olive oil in a small saucepan. Turn on the heat to medium.
  2. When bubbles start to form around the annatto seeds, turn the heat off and let the seeds soak in the oil for a minute or two. Do not overcook the seeds as this will produce a bitter taste.
  3. Use a strainer to filter-out the annatto seeds and transfer to a heat proof bowl. Set aside to cool down.
  4. Empanada Dough: Add the water, salt, and annatto oil in a medium-sized non-stick frying pan. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat.
  5. Once simmering, add the rice flour all at once and mix using a wooden spoon, until all the liquid is absorbed and and dough starts to form. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
  6. Once completely cooled, knead until you get a smooth ball. Divide the dough into 8 equally-sized balls. Cover with cling wrap and set aside to rest for 30 minutes to an hour.
  7. Vegan Longganisa: In a medium-sized mixing bowl, mix all the ingredients together except for the breadcrumbs. Leave to marinate for about 30 minutes. Even though it’s not stated in the ingredients list, I ended up adding some chilli powder to the mixture for an extra kick of spice.
  8. Add the breadcrumbs to the mixture. Add more depending on the firmness you want to achieve. At this point, you can shape the mixture into sausages, but since we’ll be using them for the empanada filling, we won’t be needing to shape them.

Vegan Longganisa

  1. Empanada Filling: Add a tablespoon of coconut oil into a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Sauté the garlic until golden brown, about 30 seconds, before adding the diced onion. Cook for a further minute until soft and fragrant.
  2. Add the tofu-mushroom mixture to the pan and stir-fry until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Once done, set aside to cool down completely.
  3. Prepare the unripe papaya and carrots in a separate bowl.
  4. Assembly: Place the dough ball between two sheets of plastic cling wrap to prevent it from sticking to your counter-top and rolling pin. Roll it out nice and thinly.
  5. Fill with the shredded unripe papaya and carrots, together with the vegan longganisa. Arrange them so that they create a well in the middle. Crack one egg into the well.
  6. Fold the dough over and seal the edges by pinching it using your fingers or a fork. Transfer into a tupperware lined with parchment paper to prevent the empanadas sticking to each other.
  7. Repeat for the remaining dough. Should make about 8 small or 4 large empanadas.

Vegetarian Ilocos-style Empanada

  1. Cook & Serve: Deep fry until golden brown and crisp, about 3-4 minutes per side. Once done, transfer to a wire rack and strain any excess grease from the empanadas. You can fry the empanadas longer if you prefer your egg to be cooked more, as long as you don’t burn the empanadas. I personally like my eggs runny.
  2. Enjoy with your favourite spicy coconut vinegar or of course, with some delicious Ilocos-made vinegar.

Vegetarian Ilocos-style Empanada

Note:

  • You will most definitely end up with a lot of leftover sautéed tofu & mushroom and shredded veggies.
    • Shredded Veggies: You can make a delicious Thai Papaya Salad with it and serve it with anything fried! My choice would be to serve it with a humble portion of fried fish.
    • Sautéed Tofu & Mushroom: Shape the leftovers into sausages and freeze. Pan-fry them for 3-5 minutes before serving.
  • If you want to make this dish completely vegan, omit the egg from the recipe.

Vegetarian Ilocos-style Empanada

BON APPÉTIT

– Ally xx

myTaste.com

Ube Halaya (Purple Yam Jam)

Ube Halaya (Purple Yam Jam)

 

Hello Everyone! Today’s recipe is a dessert that is made from grated and boiled purple yam which is locally known as ‘Ube’ in the Philippines. Besides the purple yam jam (Ube Halaya), many different desserts such and pastries such as ice cream, tarts, and cakes make use of this root crop. Halaya (en español: jalea), directly translates to jelly or jam, but it is hardly a traditional jelly or jam.

Ube Root

I know I basically say this is every post that I upload, but let’s face it, if it not one of my favourites then I wouldn’t be posting the recipe online! Anyway, this is also one of my favourite Filipino desserts besides Leche Flan. Here in Brunei, you can find this root crop in the local markets known as ubi belayar ranging from $3.00 to $5.00, and sometimes even $7.00 per kilo especially if it has been newly harvested (you just have to shop around to find the stall that sells for much cheaper). We managed to buy some from an old man selling them for $3.00/kg and the root still looked fresh.

Ube Halaya (Purple Yam Jam) Process

Ube Halaya (Purple Yam Jam) Process

I am not sure of how readily available the purple yam is in various countries, but I am aware that you can buy ready-made boiled and grated purple yam in Asian stores. Having a prepared product such as this definitely saves time in the kitchen, but if it’s definitely available raw from the markets, I definitely recommend making it from scratch and burn some calories in the kitchen with this dish! In the past, I have found that by just grating and pounding the flesh, you still get lumps of the yam in your end result, and therefore not as smooth. We therefore pass the flesh through a sieve as well to get rid of any remaining lumps. A lot of work, but a stellar end result; smooth and creamy lump-free halaya!

Ube Halaya (Purple Yam Jam) Ingredients

PREP TIME 1 HOUR | COOKING TIME 1 HOUR 10 MINS | SERVES 8-10

INGREDIENTS

  • 2.5kg purple yam, skin on, thoroughly washed and scrubbed
  • 1 can (395g) condensed milk
  • 125g unsalted butter, chilled

METHOD

  1. Submerge the purple yam in a very large pot (the largest you have!) of hot water. Bring the water to a boil and cook the purple yam for 30-45 minutes or until the yam is soft and tender. If you don’t have a pot big enough to fit the yam, you may cut it on half (or quarters if needed).
  2. Once tender, remove from the pot and set aside to cool down before peeling the skin off.
  3. Working it batches, finely grate the purple yam. Once you’ve done that, get out your mortar and pestle and get pounding! Once you’re done with the pounding, get you sieve out and press the mashed purple yam through the sieve. This ensures that your ‘jam’ is smooth and there are no lumps in your mixture. This is probably the most labour-intensive part of the recipe!
  4. Next, heat a large cooking pot on low and add in the butter to melt.
  5. Once the butter has completely melted, add in the condensed milk and stir well. Add the purple yam in and stir occasionally so that the mixture does not stick to the bottom of the pot. Cook until the texture or the mixture becomes really thick (about 20-25 minutes). When cooked, turn the heat off and let it sit in the cooking pot for another half hour before transferring them into moulds/containers.
  6. Refrigerate for at least two hours, then serve and enjoy with family and/or friends!

Ube Halaya (Purple Yam Jam)

PS: It was very hard as to not resist the temptation to wrap this yam jam in spring roll wrappers as an experiment to see if they would work just as well as wrapping leche flan. Guess what? It was successful! There’s this phrase in Tagalog that you would use when you have too much of something that you get fed up, but it’s quite the opposite when you have it wrapped in spring roll pastry; it becomes “hindi nakakasuya”. Anyway, basically add about a teaspoon or two of purple yam jam on top of a spring roll wrapper together with a few strips of fresh coconut; then fold, locking the wrapper on each side. Freeze it overnight before frying and viola! Crispy Fried Ube Halaya. You’re welcome.

Cripsy Fried Ube Halaya (Purple Yam Jam)

BON APPÉTIT

– Ally xx

myTaste.com

Crispy Fried Leche Flan

Hello Everyone! Firstly, I would just like to say to you all that I am back in Sydney! Currently staying at a friends place while waiting for my Mom and two younger sisters to arrive in Sydney on Saturday morning before we start our Australian tour!I’ll be showing them around Sydney, and then we will be off to Melbourne, Brisbane, and then back again for my graduation ceremony in mid-June! Now because of all our travels, I will momentarily cease Review Sundays, only because I don’t have any places in my folders to write about, and also because there is a possibility that I won’t have the time (or most likely won’t be bothered) to write reviews on places I’ve visited on this trip, during the trip. Once I’ve settled back down from my 1-month vacation, then I will get back into Review Sundays; but don’t fret, I will still be uploading recipes twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays as I’ve cooked up a whole lot of dishes while I was in Brunei to prepare for this vacation period of mine.

Crispy Fried Leche Flan Process

Anyway, today’s recipe is a little twist on what I have been making for a while now – mainly for lunch/dinner parties, or during Christmas and New Year celebrations. Or sometimes, I make it upon the request of my friends for their birthdays (Jialing especially) or just whenever they want me to make it for them when I invite them over to my place. During my recent trip to the Philippines, I encountered ‘Crispy Fried Leche Flan’ on two different menus. I thought long and hard about the possibility and HOW they are able to deep-fry a soft, smooth, and silky custard – at one point I thought, battered flan? Anyway, weird techniques were going through my mind and it killed me not knowing how it was possible – until I ordered it that is. I did not expect it to be wrapped spring roll style; such a clever idea! The first time I had these babies was at Catalino’s Restaurant (Villa Javierto) in Lucena City. I was so amazed by the lovely golden brown, crispy spring roll pastry complimented by an oozy, smooth flan filling with a side of soft caramel dip. It was like love at first bite with these I tell you. Never have a ever heard of crispy fried flan until this very day at Catalino’s; and I was even more excited to see it on Mesa’s menu in the city! However, as I probably mentioned in that blog review, Mesa’s crispy flans did not live up to the hype of my first experience. To quote my blog review, I said that theirs were “small, not so crispy rolls of flan that didn’t quite taste like flan in my opinion and more like steamed egg”.

Ever since my trip to the Philippines and encountering these beautiful rolls of delight, I knew I had to take it to my kitchen and whip up a batch of these. At first I was unsure of how it was they managed to handle and wrap soft flan; I thought that they needed to go into the freezer first and once frozen you could handle them easily. My mother showed me otherwise; she handled the slices of flan with great care, and was very gentle with them when wrapping them. The trick to get them nice and crispy is basically the same with the plantain rolls I posted roughly a month back; by freezing them overnight and frying them straight away with no defrosting required.

Leche Flan Ingredients

Crispy Fried Leche Flan Ingredients

PS: Before I start with the recipe, I just want to point out that I showed these images to one of my friends prior to writing this post because I told her about how I made crispy leche flan. She wanted to know how it was possible and so I showed her how it was done. Her first reaction to the side of caramel dip – “IS THAT FISH SAUCE?” I seriously could not stop laughing.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 recipe Leche Flan (Crème Caramel)
    • 6 egg yolks, at room temperature
    • 1 can (395g) condensed milk, at room temperature
    • 1 cup milk, at room temperature
    • 6 tsp caster sugar
    • 1 & 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Large springroll wrappers

METHOD

  1. Make a batch of leche flan prior to starting this recipe. Make sure that you refrigerate them for at least 6 hours before working with them. You can find the recipe linked above in the ingredient list. Instead of using small round moulds, I suggest you use square moulds (or in my case I used oval because that’s what I had) and cut them into thick rectangular strips. Do not discard the caramel sauce, instead pour it into a sauce dish and serve alongside the crispy fried leche flan rolls.
  2. Place the slice of flan on top of a spring roll wrapper and fold, locking the wrapper on each side. then place in a container and repeat until all the slices of flan have been wrapped. Freeze overnight.
  3. In a small (or medium, depending on how many you’re going to fry) pan, heat the oil over medium-high. Make sure it is quite hot before adding the wrapped flans in. Fry until the wrapper turns golden brown.
  4. Serve hot during dessert or meryenda, with ice cream on the side if you wish. Enjoy!

Crispy Fried Leche Flan

BON APPÉTIT

– Ally xx

myTaste.com

Kamayan sa Palaisdaan

Kamayan sa Palaisdaan

Hello Everyone and welcome back to an all new Review Sunday! Most of the food that you’ll see here have either already been touched on in previous reviews, and/or recipes, so I may not write much about the food only because it’s nothing quite so special. Kamayan sa Palaisdaan has both a Hotel & Resort, as well as a restaurant, both carrying the same menu but differ in ambience. It is the ambience of the restaurant just down the road from the Hotel & Resort that made me want to write a review and share this place with you – floating bahay kubos on bamboo rafts!

Kamayan sa Palaisdaan

Other than the ambience, I couldn’t really pick out anything special from their menu that really made me want to say, “I’m coming back here for this particular dish!” Though they say it’s an ideal getaway restaurant for seafood lovers, the seafood did not really impress – well I mean, we barely ordered any seafood to be honest.

I don’t know why I am so negative when it comes to reviewing Filipino food. The only reason I can think of is that most of the food that you get dining out, you can easily cook it up yourself at home and it tastes exactly the same. From the dishes that you will see below, I can definitely cook up all the dishes. I guess it’s because I know how to cook these dishes, that I comment the way I do. I’m not saying that these are terrible dishes; if anything, they are my favourite dishes to have when eating at home. It’s just that when I dine out, I want to eat something that I can’t cook myself (or I guess in my case, haven’t attempted to cook yet).

Kamayan sa Palaisdaan - SINIGANG atbp: Sinigang na Sugpo
SINIGANG atbp: Sinigang na Sugpo (₱320.00)

Sugpo, as you can already tell from the photograph above is prawn (or shrimp if you’re from that part of the world that calls them that despite being huge-ass prawns). Sinigang is a soup that is characterised by its sour and savoury taste that is most often associated with tamarind. This is a dish that my mom would make a few times a month, varying between different meats such as beef and pork, and seafood like prawns and fish, accompanied by all sorts of vegetables from daikon, water spinach, okra, taro corms, etc. This is a dish I love especially when the weather is quite chilly.

Kamayan sa Palaisdaan - SINIGANG atbp: Tinolang Manok
SINIGANG atbp: Tinolang Manok (₱255.00)

This is another dish that my mom would always make, and also great for cold and rainy days. Tinola is a ginger and onion based soup with manok (chicken) as the usual main ingredient, best complimented with green papaya wedges (an alternative is chayote/chokos) and chili leaves. Again, a dish that I love, but very close to the way that I’d make it at home.

Kamayan sa Palaisdaan - SIZZLERS: Sisig Pork
SIZZLERS: Sisig Pork (₱205.00)

Of course, a meal in the Philippines would not be complete without sisig! I was actually quite disappointed with this sisig dish though – it came to the table, not only without a freshly cracked egg on top of it, but it also wasn’t sizzling and was very dry.

Kamayan sa Palaisdaan - IHAW: Inihaw na Spareribs
IHAW: Inihaw na Spareribs (₱310.00)

I love ihaw, and I love spareribs. Sadly, these ribs were dry and weren’t very tender.

Kamayan sa Palaisdaan - IHAW: Inihaw na Pork Chop
IHAW: Inihaw na Pork Chop (₱320.00)

The pork chop option was much better than the spareribs; juicy, tender, and full of that lovely char-grilled flavour.

Kamayan sa Palaisdaan - VEGETABLES: Chopsuey Chicken
VEGETABLES: Chopsuey Chicken (₱185.00)

Whenever we dine out, we try to avoid dishes like chopsuey, but because we couldn’t decide on any other vegetable dishes (I know there’s chicken in it but it was somehow placed under the ‘vegetables’ section on the menu). Why we try to avoid this dish is simply because it’s basically just stir-fried vegetables and nothing more exciting to that.

Kamayan sa Palaisdaan - PRITO: Daing na Bangus
PRITO: Daing na Bangus (₱160.00)

Bangus (milkfish) is the national fish of the Philippines and can be prepared and cooked in various ways. ‘Daing’ refers to dried fish from the Philippines. Fish prepared as daing is usually split open, gutted, salted liberally, and then sun and air-dried. I love eating fried bangus with a bit of pickled green papaya on the side with plain rice. But honestly speaking though, why order fried fish at a restaurant? In my case, because I love it and I couldn’t find anything else in the menu that attracted me to it.

Kamayan sa Palaisdaan - SALADS: Ensaladang Pako
SALADS: Ensaladang Pako (₱125.00)

Quite possibly the worst dish from this place based on my taste buds and opinion. For starters, the taste of what seemed to be raw pako (an edible Fiddlehead fern) did not sit too well with me; it tasted bitter. What made it worse for me were the raw onions and the obvious canned sardines in tomato sauce. Why did I order this? Well I didn’t, my uncle did. I don’t think I even touched this dish after a small bite of just the pako.

Kamayan sa Palaisdaan - JUICES: Buko FreshJUICES: Buko Fresh (₱60.00)

Fresh coconut juice straight from the shell, need I say more?

Overall, as I have already mentioned above, the menu is pretty average and can honestly be found in many other restaurants (and homes no matter rich or poor) across the Philippines. I guess it’s safe to say that if you are going to the restaurant for the food, it’s not worth the trip to this place seeing as it is also quite hard to find. However, if you want to dine in a bamboo hut on a bamboo raft floating over water, then you may want to make the trip here just for that experience. Dining at the Hotel & Resort isn’t bad as well as it provides a lot more recreational activities that you can enjoy aside from dining, and it also overlooks Mount Banahaw. So ambience and dining experience is a sure 10 for me. Service probably an 8 as even though there were quite a few staff members, it was pretty hard to flag one down whenever we needed something. Food – probably a 5; 6 if I’m feeling generous, but nothing more.

Kamayan sa Palaisdaan

Barangay. Dapdap
Tayabas, Quezon
Philippines

– Ally xx

Arabela, Camello's Bakehaus & Coffee Shop - DESSERTS: RED VELVET

Arabela, Camello’s Bakehaus & Coffee Shop

Hello Everyone! Finally we are back on track with Review Sundays! It’s been a while hasn’t it? Anyway today’s review will be on a popular Italian Restaurant on the little streets of Liliw, well known as the shoe and flipflop capital of the province and the Southern Luzon area. The first time I visited Liliw was back in 2010 if I am not mistaken. My cousin introduced this place to me while my family and I were visiting his place in Lucena. I don’t remember how many pairs of shoes I bought for myself, but I’m guessing that we had at least 3 or 4 pairs of shoes/flipflops each between the 4 of us for under ₱1,500 (approx. AUD$44)! After shoe shopping, we’d head on over to Arabela for lunch. This has since become a must do every time we come down to Lucena to visit my cousin and my family; in 2010, 2012, and our recent March 2015 trip. Since our last visit in 2012, Arabela changed the look and colours of their interior from, if I’m not mistaken, pastel green to orange. They still kept their low ceiling which is what I love about this place – it makes me feel tall! People who are just a tad bit taller than me would have to bend over while walking around the restaurant, and be cautious when standing up from their table if they have forgotten how low the ceiling is.

Arabela, Camello's Bakehaus & Coffee Shop
Just for a reference, my sister who is standing up straight is about 5’2″

But before I begin, here’s a little history on Arabela:

Bobby and Antonette Camello, husband and wife, owners of Arabela, named after their two daughters: Ara & Bela, started in 2002 with literally two tables. Back then, the two tables were not intended to be used by customers, but instead used for selling pasta dishes & pastries to buyers within the neighbourhood. The couple were then inspired to set up a formal food business as they gained an increasing number of customers that keep on coming back. The business, transformed into a coffee shop/restaurant, opened in October 23, 2003 with 5 tables, a seating capacity of 15 persons, and a capital of ₱100,000. From there it grew beyond the owner’s expectations, and today Arabella can accommodate up to 40 persons with an array of dishes to choose from – steaks, pizza, pasta, pastries, coffee, blended drinks, and more. Arabela has earned its publicity through word of mouth and personal blogs on the internet which were all unsolicited. To date, they have been able to maintain their character and uniqueness – the ambience and of course the good food.

Arabela, Camello's Bakehaus & Coffee Shop - SPECIALTY DRINKS: STRAWBERRY FRAPPÉ, RIPE MANGO & STRAWBERRY SHAKE
SPECIALTY DRINKS: STRAWBERRY FRAPPÉ (₱120.00), RIPE MANGO (₱100.00), & STRAWBERRY SHAKE (₱100.00)

An array of fresh fruit shakes, smoothies, and drinks to choose from on their menu; I went for the ripe mango fresh fruit shake and it was very refreshing even though it was a rainy day.

Arabela, Camello's Bakehaus & Coffee Shop - FRESH SALAD: CEASAR SALAD
FRESH SALAD: CEASAR SALAD
Romaine leaves with bacon (₱200.00)

This was also a starter dish that we shared amongst ourselves alongside the four cheese pizza. A good dish, but again nothing too special – nothing quite stood out to me to really praise the dish for it great flavour.

Arabela, Camello's Bakehaus & Coffee Shop - PIZZA: FOUR CHEESE XL
PIZZA: FOUR CHEESE XL
Mozarella, red cheddar, romano & parmesan (₱325.00)

A great dish to kick off our feast at Arabela, but in my opinion there wasn’t anything special about the taste, I mean it’s just a four-cheese pizza.

Arabela, Camello's Bakehaus & Coffee Shop - PASTA (PASTA IN WHITE SAUCE): FETTUCCINE WITH HAM & MUSHROOM
PASTA (PASTA IN WHITE SAUCE): FETTUCCINE WITH HAM & MUSHROOM (₱100.00)

This was a dish that my cousin ordered, and when it came to her, she showed the plate to me and gave me a sad look – I understood her pain. It was a massive deep dish, that made the pasta look tiny and underwhelming. I’m not sure if it filled her up, but it certainly wouldn’t have filled me up! Even though I didn’t taste this dish, it looked quite plain.

Arabela, Camello's Bakehaus & Coffee Shop - HOUSE SPECIALS (OLIVE OIL): FISH IN WHITE WINE
HOUSE SPECIALS (OLIVE OIL): FISH IN WHITE WINE
Dory fish fillet cooked in white wine sauce serve with pasta (₱220.00)

From the menu, my mom wanted a pasta dish, and knowing her preferences, I ordered this for her. She prefers olive oil-based dishes as well as fish – so this was the perfect pick for her. At first glance, it almost looks like they overdid the garlic just a bit too much; garlic slices tossed through the pasta and minced garlic on top of the fish? Yeap, that’s quite a bit! Other than that, the fish was cooked well, still moist on the inside, but again nothing quite special.

Arabela, Camello's Bakehaus & Coffee Shop - HOUSE SPECIALS (OLIVE OIL): VONGOLE
HOUSE SPECIALS (OLIVE OIL): VONGOLE
Clam in olive oil with garlic (₱230.00)

This was the dish thAT I had, and at first I didn’t want to order this dish because I can make a good vongole myself; but nothing else in the menu stood out to me. Vongole for roughly AUS$6.00? That’s value for money there as the dish had a generous amount of baby clams! Taste was good, but again nothing too special for me.

Arabela, Camello's Bakehaus & Coffee Shop - HOUSE SPECIALS (TOMATO BASED): SHRIMP POMODORO
HOUSE SPECIALS (TOMATO BASED): SHRIMP POMODORO
Pieces of shrimp with pomodoro sauce (₱230.00)

This dish I only got to taste a bit of, and I can’t remember what it tasted like so I asked my sister. She said that it was a bit salty for her liking (she finds everything she eats salty anyway so it’s hard to trust what she says), and that she didn’t like the biscotti because it was too thick for her liking (I liked it).

Arabela, Camello's Bakehaus & Coffee Shop - HOUSE SPECIALS (CREAM BASED): SIRLOIN FETTUCCINE
HOUSE SPECIALS (CREAM BASED): SIRLOIN FETTUCCINE
Strips of sirloin in fettuccine sauce (₱210.00)

I ordered this dish for my other sister because I’ve never heard of sirloin fettuccine before. I imagined a nice char-grilled sirloin steak, striped and tossed through a classic fettuccine in creamy white sauce – but no, it looked like boiled(?) strips of sirloin garnished on top of an ordinary plate of fettuccine.

Arabela, Camello's Bakehaus & Coffee Shop - HOUSE SPECIALS (BABY BACK RIBS): BABY BACK PORK 2PCS
HOUSE SPECIALS (BABY BACK RIBS): BABY BACK PORK 2PCS
Served with mixed vegetables and mashed potato or rice (₱200.00)

Arabela, Camello's Bakehaus & Coffee Shop - HOUSE SPECIALS (BABY BACK RIBS): BABY BACK BEEF 2PCS
HOUSE SPECIALS (BABY BACK RIBS): BABY BACK BEEF 2PCS
Served with mixed vegetables and mashed potato or rice (₱230.00)

Arabela, Camello's Bakehaus & Coffee Shop - HOUSE SPECIALS (ANGUS BEEF): MESS OF SIRLOIN
HOUSE SPECIALS (ANGUS BEEF): MESS OF SIRLOIN
Served with rice and mixed vegetables (₱200.00)

The three dishes that you just saw above I cannot comment on the taste just because my uncle and my cousins had these dishes. I saw the disappointment in my cousin’s face when his food arrived to the table – two tiny pieces of ribs for a person who could probably eat a whole rack of ribs for a meal. He had to order another rib dish to feel satisfied enough. But just by looking at the three dishes above, they don’t really look that appetising to me.

Arabela, Camello's Bakehaus & Coffee Shop - DESSERTS: CHOCO LAVA
DESSERTS: CHOCO LAVA (₱110.00)

Probably my favourite out of the two desserts we shared – the cake was definitely molten and very rich in chocolate goodness.

Arabela, Camello's Bakehaus & Coffee Shop - DESSERTS: RED VELVET
DESSERTS: RED VELVET (₱135.00)

I am a huge fan of red velvet; I even made this cake for my birthday last year and it’s not that I’m being cocky or anything, but mine was definitely better. This cake was a bit dry and crumbly for my liking and the taste was average. The thing that was appealing about this was the design on the plate that surrounded the cake, or as my mom referred to it “the placemat.”

Most of the pasta (and even meat dishes) portion sizes were really small; maybe I’m just used to seeing bigger portions of food having lived and dined in and about Sydney for the past 4 years. Then I look at the price and I thought, yes, it makes sense now why the portions are relatively small – think approximately $3.00-$6.00 Australian dollars on average per meal from this restaurant.

You may have also realised that I’ve said for many of the dishes above that they weren’t anything special in terms of overall flavour; I don’t want this post to appear biased and end up being a comparison between Arabela’s menu to others that I’ve had in Sydney because in my eyes, Arabela cannot compare. So I’ve asked my sisters and my mom to give a fair and honest rating for the food, and they gave an average score of 4.6 out of 10. My mom said: “[the food is] very simple, nothing special, but for local Filipino’s, it’s probably something special for them because Arabela is the only of its kind within the area.” Which is very true because from what my cousin has said, a lot of the foreigners come to dine at Arabela, and every time we’ve been, we’ve had to queue up for a table. Ambience though is a sure 8/9 out of 10; like I mentioned above I find the low-ceiling concept quite a unique dining experience. Service: 8/9 out of 10 as well. Value for money is arguable in terms that for us it is affordable, but for an average Filipino on an average/below average income, this place is probably too fancy for them.

Arabela, Camello’s Bakehaus & Coffee Shop
503 Rizal Street
Liliw, Laguna
Philippines, 4004

– Ally xx