The Girl Who Ate Everything

Blogging about food and whatever since 2004.

Deep Fried Pork and Other Delicious Filipino Things from Engelines in Woodside, Queens

This entry originally took place on...SUNDAY! Not a month ago! Or two weeks ago! Or even a week ago! Fan-freakin-tastic! This sort of thing might not happen again for a while.

Engeline's. Inside, there be pork.

"Okay, I think we have enough pork."

What. What did she say? When I showed Francine the list of dishes we wanted to order during our dinner at Engeline's Restaurant, I didn't expect her to put a stop to our pork fest. If anything, I thought she'd say something like, "Oh, you forgot about [insert awesome pork dish here], ADD IT TO THE LIST." But as the omnivorous Filipino at our dinner party, she was more familiar with the dangers of overdosing on Filipino meat dishes than the rest of us. Apparently, Filipinos are prone to hyperuricemia and gout. Whooops.

It was a good thing Francine gave us a limit to our order though since we ended up with enough food to feed everyone—Diana, Olia, John, Claire, Veronica, Francine, and me—to 125% stomach capacity. There were few leftovers. Witness the carnage.

sizzling sisig
Pork bits.

Under Francine's suggestion, we started with sizzling sisig, little cubes of pork belly and crunchy bits of pig ear marinated in lemon and hot pepper, mixed with diced onion and scallion, served on a hot plate with a raw egg that cooks as you mix everything together.

mixing the sisig
Pork bits in motion.

Squeeze on the lemon, break up the yolk, and everyone agreed that you end up with one of the best hash-y things ever, with egg-bound pork-n-onion gobs in every bite. Francine said it's usually eaten with beer as a snack, like peanuts or pretzels. Screw peanuts; sizzling sisig is way better. Except I'd rather eat it with a mound of rice than a bottle of beer.

pritong lumpia
Fat egg rolls.

I ordered the pritong lumpia thinking that it was a vegetarian-friendly egg roll for our resident vegetarian Claire, but despite the lack of meat mentioned on the menu, there was meat hidden within the shredded vegetables. ...As Claire discovered when she bit into one. Oops. Overall, not that special.

lumpiang shanghai
Skinny egg rolls.

But the lumpiang Shanghai was a different matter, and the form in which "egg roll" reached its full potential. The miniature size increased the fried-crust-to-filling ratio, and the filling consisted of more meat—ground pork and shrimp—than vegetables. More light, crunchy crust and meat in every bite = more in my belly. I ordered three plates not knowing that there were ten rolls to an order (or five rolls for each of the meat eaters), but what initially appeared to be an overabundance of lumpia turned out to be just right—at the end of the meal, only two or three rolls remained. Eating them was as easy as tearing through a bag of potato chips.

sinigang na bangus
Fish soup.

The sinigang na bangus (sour milkfish soup) consisted of tamarind broth filled with chunks of milkfish (watch out for the bones), tomatoes, green beans, onions, green chile pepper, and other stuff I probably couldn't recognize. Altogether, it made for a flavorful, lightly sour soup that I'd happily eat with spoonfuls of rice.

chicken adobo
Chicken adobo.

In her New York Times review, Ligaya Mishan called Engeline's chicken adobo "the finest rendition of the Philippines’ national dish I’ve ever had." Not having anything to compare the soy sauce, vinegar, peppercorn, garlic, and bay leaf-marinaded chicken to since I've rarely eaten chicken adobo in my life, I'd was good, although not in an, "OH MY GOD MUST EAT MORE," way. The chicken drumsticks were almost fall-off-the-bone tender, and the seasoning tasted balanced in a way that I interpreted as, "I have no idea what individual flavors went into this, but they combined to form something new and tasty, so who gives a poop." The main reason I don't remember much about this dish may be because I only hate one little nubbin, saving most of my stomach space for the pork.

crispy pata..again


How does it attain the marriage of crispiness and moistness? The pork chunk is first boiled to tenderize the meat, and then deep fried to give it the crackly skin. There are some other steps in between, but if you're really curious, that's what Google is for.

crispy pata skin
Take a closer look.

The awesomeness of crispy pata reminds me of the awesomeness of a perfect French baguette. What's magical about a baguette? The stiff golden crust that shatters when you break into it, revealing its belly of soft, chewy, gluten-y innards. The skin of crispy pata also does that "magical shattering" thingy, but then there's also that sweet sublayer of fat. And the meat. And then, after you suck down the skin-fat-meat trio, perhaps dipped in the accompanying spicy vinegar sauce, there's the part where you eyes glaze over and you mumble, "Uuughhmmmyeaaerhuuhh, or some other variation of gustatory satisfaction.

tortang talong

Claire ordered the vegetarian-friendly tortang talong, eggplant omelet. It came with a dish of ketchup, but no one used it. Methinks she gave it the thumbs up.

so many plates
We are all very full.

We were surprised by how much we ate. Which was a lot, as evidenced by our empty plates. And even though we could've stopped there (or, you know, 20 minutes earlier), we kept going.


...Because the meal ain't over until you pile some dessert onto the pool of semi-digested meats and carbs and vegetables sloshing around in your stomach. We split three halo-halos between the seven of us, but we didn't even need that many. Easy to say, a glass of crushed ice on top of jelly bits, fat white beans, purple yam, and chunks of something plantain-y topped with a dense square of flan all drizzled in milk is pretty filling.

Veronica mixes her halo-halo

I don't understand why halo halo commonly comes in such tall glasses; that makes mixing everything together a bitch. But by using the "lift, dip, and swish spoon around glass, then repeat 20 times" technique, we ended up with vessels full of slushy fruity milky goo. Unfortunately, since it seemed to only containe milk and not condensed milk, it didn't taste sweet enough, and when slushy fruit milky goo isn't sweet, it's just not that enjoyable.

leche flan

I would've been better off sticking with a generous slab of leche flan like Diana ended up getting after trying the halo-halo, her favorite part of which was...the flan topping.

ooo cakes!
Oo, cakes and things.

Right before leaving the restaurant, Diana and Olia bought some goodies from the bakery case filled with cakes, cookies, meringues, and other sweet doughy things, an opportunity I passed up due to the beached whale sensation emanating from my midsection. It's nearly impossible for me to plan for future eating when I'm afraid of dying within the next hour due to intestinal combustion. As usual, I didn't die (how do I keep dodging these bullets?), and I missed out on ube-flavored treats. Next time.


Engeline's Restaurant
5828 Roosevelt Ave
Woodside, NY 11377


Laryssa / October 15, 2009 5:43 AM

Thanks for the awesome post! I really want to know more about Filipino food, and you highlighted some delicious-looking dishes. My grandma lives in the Journal Square neighborhood of Jersey City, famous for little India and...tons of Filipino restaurants/grocery stores! I have often times wandered in and out of these places, determined to order something, but I'm always so intimidated! Have you ever been? I am going to take some notes from your post and try again. Thanks! :)

Mila / October 15, 2009 7:52 AM

Now that you've gotten a taste for things pinoy, you'll have to book your flight to Manila! Just don't go during the rainy season. December to May is a much better time to go, and if you want to feel the full throttle of Christmas in the tropics, it's a good place to be.
When I got home three weeks ago, the first thing I ate was crispy pata!

kim / October 15, 2009 8:15 AM

I realized Filipino cuisine consists of a lot of carnal goodness. Do you know why they like to cook with pork so much?

Tanya / October 15, 2009 8:55 AM

Just dropped by and loving you site! Your post on Filipino food is spot on! My hubby (who's 1/2 Filipino & 1/2 Chinese) always joke about the how Filipino food is such a meat-heavy cuisine. You poor friend Claire's experience reminded me about our last vacation with my in-laws. After staying with his parents for a few days and missing any kind of food that wasn't in the beige/brown-color family, I search out the nearest Asian market and quickly stir-fried up some Shanghai bok-choy with which my FIL commented "So, can you put meat in that?" Puhahahaha.

Mahar / October 15, 2009 9:33 AM

I am so happy for you! CRISPY PATA ROCKS.

One of these days Robyn, we will fly you here. Yes we will. Your Filipino fans await!

John / October 15, 2009 9:34 AM

I thought the halo-halo was really good! But yeah, condensed milk might've made it more so.

The adobo is underrated, here! You're just pork crazed! It was amazing!

Otherwise, right on. ;)

roboppy / October 15, 2009 11:20 AM

francesbean: Sweet jesus IT'S SO GOOD, I can't imagine not liking it!

Laryssa: I was wondering about the Filipino food scene in Jersey City! I'd be willing to check it out. Let me know if you find anything awesome!

Mila: Eeaaraghh crap I really gotta get myself to Manila. ;_; Thanks for reminding meeee!

Kim: I don't know much about Filipino food, but maybe their land is just really good for...growin' the meats. I will have to look into it!

Tanya: That reminds me that the "vegetable" part of the menu was hilarious; it was basically all vegetable dishes with meat in them. Except for maybe two dishes, including the omelet.


I want to have a giant feast with you guys in the Philippines!

John: I sort of wish I had eaten more of the chicken...but you're right, I am pork crazed. I'll just say I gave up chicken so that you could eat more of it. :D We should eat more Filipino food.

Julie / October 15, 2009 11:21 AM

Mmmmm, this is what I grew up eating. I love it all. ALL!

Bummer about the halo halo's not containing sweetenend milk, though! I think restaurants use tall glasses to show off all the colors and layers. At home, it was doled out to us kids in mugs and bowls--whatever was handy. The palm fruit and palm jelly were always my favorite, with the flan and ube a close second. Sometimes, they throw a big scoop of vanilla ice cream, and they call it something flashy like Halo Halo Royale.

reese / October 15, 2009 2:08 PM

Wait till you try lechon kawali and bangus relleanos. It adds awesomeness to Filipino food a million times. I have had the good opportunity to try those 2 dishes when I was in Manilla a couple of months back. Can't wait for my next Asia trip! See what you did! Now I want to go to the Filipino food joint near my house. Crispy Pata! Yum

roboppy / October 15, 2009 10:32 PM

Julie: You're right; a tall glass would better show off the GOODIES INSIDE. I could've ordered it with ice cream..that would've made it better!

reese: I LOVE LECHON KAWALI! But I've only had it twice in my life. The NYTimes review said Engeline's wasn't so great, so I didn't try it. I'll have to get it on my next Filipino food run.

dre: Ohhhgoodloord. Yes, I want that.

Jason: Next time you're here..we must get some? :)

rebecca / October 15, 2009 11:54 PM

I just saw a NY Times photo entry... thing about this (linked to the entry about the ugly/sad/funny cakes)! It is interesting how you don't hear much about filipino food in the U.S... I think their cuisine has a reputation for being pretty out there and intense. And porky.

dre / October 16, 2009 3:23 AM

Let me know if you're ever in Cebu, Philippines, I'd be happy to take you around on a food trip :)

fame / October 16, 2009 3:29 AM

glad you liked most of the Filipino dishes you had. yeah, you should come to the Philippines. I suddenly remembered your entry about meeting Lori in Paris. I am a fan of you both :)

roboppy / October 16, 2009 5:38 PM

Rebecca: I feel like lots of people would like Filipino food..if it were easier to find. Somedaaay.

dre: Thanks for the offer! :D

fame: Thanks! That reminds me that I miss Lori..and Paris. ;_;

Dee / October 16, 2009 9:54 PM

I'm by no means an expert, but having grown up in Borneo, I was surrounded by a lot of different Asian cuisines, including filipino food. I'd definitely add ensaladang kasag (methinks it's known as 'crab fat' in English) to your list of fili-food to try. It may possibly send you into convulsions of pleasure. Plus, how cool would it be to claim you ate 'crab fat'. It sounds like something that would give you a heart attack - but you just know it'd be one heart attack you'd gladly welcome.

"SPOON"! MANY SPOONS. Big spoons, little spoons, round spoons, soup spoons! The word 'spoon' looks funny to me now after typing it too much. It's starting to look like the name of a type of STD. Yeah, 3AM ramblings are a no-go.

roboppy / October 18, 2009 3:26 PM

Belle and Ward: Don't forget about PORKY GOODNESS!

Dee: Crab fat? Get in mah belly! I'm down with that.

The word "spoon" does look pretty funneh after a while. Especially at 3 am. ;)

Vanessa: Thanks for having such an AWESOME CUISINE!!

Ed B. / October 19, 2009 12:09 AM

Wow! A full post on Pinoy food! Glad to know you enjoyed your Pinoy food adventure.

When (not if; it's just a matter of time) you do visit the Philippines we'll make sure your stuffed with all the porky goodness that we can offer (lechon, crispy pata, bagnet, sisig, longganisa, etc.)!


M. / October 19, 2009 3:13 AM

I do love Filipino food, and your luscious photos make me think I need to go get some tomorrow!

FYI, though, it's etymologically correct to call a female Filipino a Filipina. :)

Thanks for making me drool!

photobean / October 22, 2009 12:27 PM

ooh gotta try cassava cake and turon
Cassava cake = grated cassava mixed with coconut milk and other goodness, topped with a thin layer of condensed milk and baked until firm with a glutinous texture.

Turon = deep fried deliciousness. Slices of plantain (sometimes also with jackfruit) and a sprinkle of brown sugar wrapped in a spring roll wrapper. yum yum

Something random from the archives