The Girl Who Ate Everything

Blogging about food and whatever since 2004.

Tristan Week: Day 1 (Pistahan and Its Glorious Pork)


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.

People! Yes!

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!)

Crispy Pata
I hit the jackpot

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!

pork skin

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.

Sinigang Na Hipon

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:

a tofu thing!
It has tofu

This is a tofu thing!

A shrimp thing!

This is a shrimp thing!

Pritong Tilapia (maybe??)

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.

Halo Halo

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!!!

double decker
Train, ftw

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?!


229 1st Ave
New York, NY 10003


Ailene / January 24, 2008 3:09 AM

Yay, glad you tried and liked Filipino food! I'm from the Philippines and a frequent reader of your blog. :)

If you loved the crispy pata skin, you should try chicharon or deep fried pork rinds.

Is your halo-halo topped with cornflakes or does the restaurant use pinipig (pounded and toasted rice, or so Google tells me)?

Julie / January 24, 2008 10:37 AM

Hooray you for getting to finally try Filipino food! Growing up, my friends would've freaked out at fried pork with oozey fat and entire fish served on a plate ... some of my friends today would, too. *sigh* Anyway, glad to see the P.I. reprezent, kickin it Azian style, here in your blog!

Mmmm, yeah, a perfect crispy pata can be hard to find. If it's done in big batches, it can dry out, or it can be overdone if you do different-sized chunks all at once. Sometimes, I just leave the meat behind and enjoy the rest.

Laing's one of my favorite Filipino dishes, which is funny since my mom never cooked it when I grew up. I had to move to the desert (barren of many things Asian) to try it! I need to find out where the heck they get their taro leaves!

Jeanne / January 24, 2008 12:37 PM

Even though I'm ethnically Chinese my family is from the Philippines. So I feel qualified to tell you that the next thing you must try is lechon kawali. DEEP FRIED CHUNKS OF PORK BELLY.

I also love kare kare - which is a peanut stew with braised oxtails.

Mikey / January 24, 2008 3:42 PM

After I read this post this morning I got the most amazingly huge craving for pork. So when i got home I ordered Chinese: pork, pork and more pork. Now I'm in a pork-induced coma.

The tamarind soup reminds me of sajur asem, something very similar my mom used to make. It is especially good to have after eaten, you guessed it, pork. The souriness (Is that a word? I hereby declare it a word) cleanses your tastebuds from the fatty layer left there by the pork. And now I shall stop using the word "pork"

mmmmm, pork...

Penny / January 24, 2008 6:38 PM

It's all your fault. I am going to attempt the making of pupusas tonight. And chocolate chip cookies. Mmmmmm....

roboppy / January 24, 2008 6:52 PM

You: Are we looking at the same photos? Last time I checked I was squishy...(squish)..yes, yes I am.

Ailene: Hell, who WOULDN'T like filipino food? INSANE PEOPLE!!!

Omg I want deep fried pork rinds asap.

I think the halo halo was topped (Looks at photo.) Uh. Toasted rice? AND CORNFLAKES? Crap, I don't remember! One or the other. Wow, I am so unhelpful.

Julie: Freak out? Like freak out in a frightened way or an, "OMG YEAH" way? Hmph! ;D

The skin was so good. Yeah. I didn't really need the meat I guess. But I like..both!

I suppose I should be able to buy taro leaves here. Never noticed them before..I'll be on the lookout.

Jeanne: Damn, I'm jealous! I wish I could grow up eating Filipino food. (Okay, I ate a lot of Chinese food, which ain't bad.) Next time, lechon kawali! Ok! And peanuty stew with meats!


And not just any meat, but PORK.

Janet: Also, MORE ROOM would be appreciated so I don't have to stand at the edge of the train car, waah.

Mikey: You mean you don't always have an amazingly huge craving for pork? I doo!

I didn't mention that the crispy pata came with vinegar dip. It does cleanse the taste buds, I suppose. A shock of SOUR.

pork pork pork

Penny: That sounds like it would be an awesome meal. I wish I could share your dinner. :(

Tina / January 24, 2008 9:48 PM

Ooooh...I WANT that crispy pata despite the fact I had the Chinese roast pork a few hours ago (you know, the one with the crackly pork rind? Mmmm...).

Well, I wished I could try Pistahan with you despite the fact I said I wanted to try it ages ago. We must eat there together! With Kathy! :)

reese / January 24, 2008 10:19 PM

You should try bangus, next time. Fried flat fish of sort with a vinegar dip. Delicious! and then there is the stuffed fish and those delicious little sausage like breakfast links. Don't know their names in Tagalog but will find out from my godma. BTW, she is Filipina and she knows good Filipino food. She makes the world's best lechon, adobo and sinigang.

val / January 24, 2008 11:49 PM

the small sausages are longganisa :)

and the stuffed fish i think are called rellenong bangus :)

Mila / January 25, 2008 12:57 AM

Robyn! You're meant to be a Pinay (female filipino)! Come over to the Philippines, we will feeeeeeed you! Crispy pata, lechon kawali, bagnet (the holy trilogy of all deep fried pork dishes), and more! And tons of different kinds of halo-halo.
(those dishes sans names - tofu dish and shrimp dish - don't really look filipino, more like fake chinese sauteed dishes)
Knowing that Tristan is vegetarian was worrisome, Filipino food isn't known for many vegie varieties. Even the laing has pork or is topped with it. Hope he enjoyed his meal too. And the laing should be more than tingly hot, I prefer it full of smouldery fire.

Christina / January 25, 2008 1:43 AM

The crisp skin reminds me of pork skins, which don't ooze fat but are crispy and good.

That's one tricked out dessert! Though, I don't quite know if I'd like jello mixed with tapioca mixed with flan chunks... I'm guessing I might like it if I tried it, but if I keep reading it over and over again, it'll sicken me.

Mahar / January 25, 2008 9:12 AM

Yay! Go Filipino food! See, people here are willing to feed you here Robyn! Not just me.

Come here and EAT. :)

julie / January 25, 2008 9:38 AM

Freak out like in a frightened "ack, it has a head" way. =( But eh, people are like that, and it doesn't bug me now. =)

danny / January 25, 2008 11:23 AM

The halo-halo sounds just ridiculous. Ridiculously good that is. I might have to stop by just to try that. My stomach is sad for having to wait for such a glorious thing. poo.

roboppy / January 25, 2008 3:55 PM

Penny: Mm yes, how many ways can that sentence be misinterpreted? LET'S HAVE A CONTEST.

Tina: I thought you had been there before!...I guess you had just mentioned it and that's how it was embedded in my mind? But yeah, we should go back since Kathy didn't get to go.

reese: Oh god, that all sounds so good. :[ Why can't I have a family member who cooks kickass...Filipino food! Sigh.

Val: Thanks for the info!

Mila: YES, that was my destiny! What happened? How did I end up living in New Jersey? Sigh. Or in the part of NJ not inhabited by Filipinos...

One of Sarah's friends was vegetarian; I think that's why she got the tofu thing. Aww.

I did warn Tristan about the non-vegetarian nature of Filipino food, hehe. But he's cool. One meal won't kill him!

I would've preferred smouldery too! Maybe another time.

Christina: Oh, it's just a little bit of jello. Or rather not everything is in one bite. The flan was at the top and jello and other goo was mostly at the bottom.

Mahar: You guyz are gonna make me so fat. -__-

Julie: I don't know many people like that...I'm not sure we could be friends. ;D Or rather, they would probably be disgusted to eat with me! Wah.

Danny: YES GO GET SOME! Halo-halo and pork! Does a body good!

mike / January 25, 2008 9:36 PM

Yea those double decker trains are awesome! For some reason they only run them later at night, as in never during rush hour/commuting time, for whatever reason.

Btw I was trying to read your blog from work (as usual) and discovered it's now blocked by my work filter....under PORNOGRAPHY. Whaaaa. Maybe mentions of food porn raises flags?

roboppy / January 27, 2008 12:13 AM

Mike: I got to ride on one last night! For 10 minutes. IT WAS THE EXPERIENCE OF A LIFETIME.

You're not the first person to tell me that my site is blocked. :( Food porn is bad! Waah!

Dee / January 28, 2008 7:38 PM

Oh my gosh, finally! Filipino food in your blog! What took you so long?! Maybe you could post about it in seriouseats? The more people are aware of the awesomeness of Filipino food, the merrier :)

roboppy / January 29, 2008 11:09 PM

Dee: I should've became addicted to Filipino food MUCH EARLIER IN LIFE! Waaah!!

I think I need to do more research before I write about it on SE, although I would love to. ...Would love to eat more, haha. :)

jennifer / January 31, 2008 10:37 AM

Finally! A feature on some Filipino dishes. Yes, Crispy Pata is one lip-smackingly good dish.

Being that the Philippines is made up of over a thousand islands, we have very, very good seafood. One of the early (and some say, original) type of Filipino cuisine is called Kilawin. It's basically fresh fish, squid, etc, marinated in vinegar and other spices. Very, very good. Extremely hard to find though in restaurants abroad because you need extremely fresh saltwater seafood.

A lot of Filipino cuisine is Chinese-influenced, hence the stir fry dishes you tried at Pistahan (stir fried tofu and veggies, and stir-fried shrimp with veggies).

The soup you had (sinigang) is a tamarind-based soup - you can vary it by adding catfish OR salmon belly/head OR pork OR chicken, ...

If there is a place in NYC that serves Palabok (shrimp sauce noodles) that would be a very good dish to try, too.

Over here in Manila, we're experiencing a growth spurt of extremely (and I mean, Extremely!) good dessert establishments cropping up.

There is a very good array of native Filipino desserts, as well as Spanish desserts and lately French pastries.

Come to Manila, RObin!

roboppy / February 2, 2008 2:41 AM

Jennifer: Ahh, I don't think I'll be finding those fresh seafood dishes over here, but they sound awesome. Mmmm.

OH MAN I'd love to visit Manila. I am all too aware of the craze for sweets and desserts, something that we could use in NYC. I feel like I was born in the wrong country. -__-

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