For Tristan's first night back in NYC (January 2nd, three weeks ago, dammit), we went to Pistahan for my first taste of Filipino food. Yes. First taste. I didn't mean to ignore all the food of the Philippines for so long, but I didn't know the best place to get it. Not that I'm saying Pistahan is the best place to get it—I assume Queens or Jersey City would have more Filipino food action going on—but Sarah (who first appeared in this blog way back in February 2006!) was visiting New York City for a few days and left it up to me to pick an awesome and interesting place to eat.
So we discovered Filipino food. Togetherrrrr. Sarah, Tristan, and Sarah's three friends whose names—I'm embarrassed to admit—I have forgotten. Names are one of the first things to float out of my mind right into a black hole of crushing death when I meet new people, which might play into why I suck at forming connections with new people I meet in real life. I remember what they look like; does that help? (No!)
On Mahar's suggestion (who, being a native of Manila, was happy to plan most of our meal) I ordered the crispy pata, or deep fried pig's leg/hock/etc. It's pork. It's deep fried. It could do no wrong.
Of course, the towering plateful of golden pork leg bits was one of the best things I've ever eaten in my life. From the first bite to the last meaty dregs still stuck to the bones my brain was all, "mrrhr gmgm yeaah mdfmfg pork." Sometimes guttural sound effects are the only way to go—I don't know how else to put it. I knew it wasn't one of the best crispy patas ever—the meat was alarmingly dry, although PORK IS STILL PORK, AKA STILL "THE MEAT OF KINGS"—but the dish overall, the alarmingly crispy skin that was more like a thick, brain shatteringly crispy cracker than what I know as the outer shell of a pig, was just...AMAZING, BLOW MY FUCKIN' MIND AMAZING.
It might not be the same for everyone. If you're kosher, for instance. Otherwise, dig in!
Do you see that skin? So crisp. So fat-oozing. If you're wondering, I've never eaten pork rinds before; those would probably be my cup of tea. I mean, my bucket of fat.
Combine that skin with the meat of a bo ssam and you'd have my most favorite hybrid pork dish ever. I suppose the meat should be moist; it's too bad that Pistahan's wasn't. The meat did come apart easily in strands, but it also had a water level percentage slightly below that of a saltine.
If you want a better description of crispy pata, check out Monster Munching. Trust me, you do want to read a better description—mine doesn't do it much justice.
To be honest, the rest of the food from our dinner doesn't matter. ...Okay, it matters a bit because it was tasty and you should eat it. But it wasn't made of pork! Do you see the problem? IT WAS OF THE UN-PORK!
Actually, there was some pork on Tristan's laing, taro leaves simmer in coconut milk topped with chopped lechon. By this point I don't remember all the flavors of the dish, but recipes say it's cooked with ginger, onion, garlic, and jalapenos. You can definitely taste the jalapenos, or feel the burning sensation in your mouth. I could've taken more heat, but a little tingle is nice enough.
Sarah ordered the sinigang na hipon, a sour tamarind broth with shrimp (monstrously giant shrimp) and vegetables, in this case tomatoes, onions, green beans, and some long-ass green pepper. It was ...well, sour, as I already said. Good sour. Not sour like a lemon, but another kind of mouth-puckering sour. Eating all those vegetables as a nice way to offset the giant chunk of pork I had already ingested.
Tristan, Sarah and I all shared our dishes while Sarah's friends chose their own dishes. I can't recall the dishes' names, but I can semi-describe them! Like so:
This is a tofu thing!
This is a shrimp thing!
This is a fish thing!
...Actually, I think I figured out the name of this dish: pritong pilapia, deep fried tilapia served w/ vinegar and soy sauce. This was one beautiful looking fish, definitely something I'd wanna try next time.
When will next time be? Eh. Well. The waitstaff of the small restaurant appeared to be made up of one guy who isn't going to win a "Most Attentive Waiter" award anytime soon unless every other waiter on Earth suddenly dies. One of my favorite parts of the evening was when Sarah asked for water—our glasses hadn't been refilled all night and we were parched—prompting him to refill her glass, but none of our surrounding empty glasses. We just laughed. And then went insane from dehydration.
Oh wait, I'm not done yet! Oh no no. We couldn't leave the restaurant without getting halo-halo, seemingly the most popular Filipino desserts. Mahar would kill me, for one thing.
One halo-halo is probably too much for one person, but a little skimpy for three. Still, we didn't want to overdo the magical concoction of shaved ice mixed with milk, topped with ice cream and mixed with a wide variety of ingredients seemingly picked for being different colors and textures: red beans, green jello stuff, clear tapioca, purple ube, and ...god knows what else. Beans and stuff. Jelly and stuff. And the best part ever? Flan chunks. That's what sealed the deal for me—it was definitely the cubular flan chunks suddenly popping out of the tall glass's icy abyss. Like, pop, hey there's some FLAN CHUNKS, sweet ass! Every spoonful is an adventure. ...An adventure of jellies and beans and dairy.
Sorry if I didn't make it sound very delicious. You just have to try it yourself. Remember, it's an adventuuuure!!!
After parting ways with Sarah (sniffle!), Tristan and I took the train back to New Jersey. But not just any train....a double decker train. This is some other worldly, high-tech shizz for NJ Transit; Janet knows what I'm talking about, unfortunately. These trains have been around for over a year but I had never been on one until now because they're being rolled out at the speed of sloth. If you've ridden on trains in Europe or Japan these new NJ Transit trains aren't necessarily ...uh, anything special, but compared to what exists now (I loves me some trains with fake wood paneling!!!), they feel like a breath of fresh air. As opposed to the air I breath when the trains are so crowded that I'm left standing in the space behind the cars and looking at the tracks and gravel whizz by through the cracks...
Oh, NJ Transit.
My next entry will have drunkenness! Can you smell the excitement?!