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Review Mon Apr 09 2007

Filipino Feasting at Cid’s

Seafood.jpg

Recently, I spotted a post on LTHForum about a relatively unknown Filipino place in Niles: Cid’s Ma Mon Luk. According to the post, there used to be about five places called Ma Mon Luk in Manila, all named after a legendary Chinese school teacher who started selling soup on the street to win the hand of a pretty girl. His soup was so good, he eventually opened a restaurant, gained great wealth... and an enduring legend. Yeah, he got the girl, too.

Knowing almost nothing about food of the Philippines, I hastened over to an unprepossessing shopping mall and found Cid’s almost empty on a Saturday night. Apparently, Filipino chow has yet to catch on.

This is somewhat challenging food, and we did have one dish — binagoongang barboy — which we found too unpleasant to eat (it was pretty much chunks of pig fat in what seemed a blood-based broth). That dish, however, was the exception.

My far and away favorite dish was the lechon kawali, a type of roasted pork that’s probably 50/50 meat and fat (i.e., really tasty). “Lechon” is the porcine equivalent of veal, and this delicious young meat hardly requires any help to enjoy, but just in case, Cid’s serves it with traditional liver-based dipping sauce. I had to stop myself from eating my recommended caloric intake for two days in one sitting.

We sucked down a number of unknown sea creatures in a coconut broth as well as in a fajitas-type sizzling platter (shown). There was stuff in there I’d never seen before: parts of blackish squid, what seemed to be octo-parts, and chunks of aquatic beings that I just could not identify. Like I said, this can be challenging chow, but we liked this and just about every other dish we had.

Cid’s seems an excellent place to introduce yourself to food of the Philippines, which is not commonly found in Chicago — just watch out for the binagoongang barboy.

Cid’s Ma Mon Luk
9182 Golf Rd., Niles
847.803.3652

 
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Gino / April 10, 2007 7:39 AM

Filipino food is a little reviewed and emerging asset to the diversity of cuisine in Chicagoland, and I hope someone reviews Little Quiapo, Mom's Bake Shoppe, or the venerable Pampanga's soon. But I'm just curious, David: how is this "challenging chow?"

David Hammond / April 10, 2007 9:46 AM

Gino,

I just went to the new Isla on Lawrence last weekend, and I am currently very interested in Filipino cuisine, which as you say, is "little reviewed."

You ask why I consider this “challenging chow”? That's a fair question.

Perhaps because it is so little reviewed and relatively “exotic” in this part of the world, the food of this region is less familiar and thus more challenging conceptually, at least to me (the Bicol Express seemed to contain aquatic life I’d never eaten before – and after I took the plunge, I liked it, so that's a challenge worth taking).

I also find the heavy use of fat in the dishes I've had to be a challenge -- I'm not talking only about the heavy dousing with oil (note splatters in my posted pic) but also the large hunks of meatless fat which I encountered in several entrées. That said, I found the lechon kwali to be excellent, really some of the tastiest piggy I’ve had in a long time.

Based on this limited sample, I cannot say that any of this is “typical” of cuisine of the Philippines, but it seems typical of both Cid’s and Isla, and I am eager to try some of the other places you mentioned.

Gino / April 10, 2007 11:35 AM

I agree. There's quite a lot of diversity within the cuisine unique to the regions of the archipelago. There are staples like the adobo and the pancit which have some colonial baggage attached, and there are Filipino foods to me which were initially scary to me, like the dineguan (which is meant to be eaten over rice) or the balut.

They have become less scary to me because their fear factor became mediated in a context (basically, my FilAm friends) that supports these foodways, i.e, "going native," and that lessens the cultural revulsion factors we've accumulated over our lives, living in the places we do. I find when they're removed from context then there is fear factor. But people wouldn't eat things unless they are tasty and would not serve it to others if others didn't think it was either. =)

Ken Ilio / April 11, 2007 12:56 AM

Hey, I actually knew the granddaughters of Ma Mon Luk during my college years back in the Philippines. But, for more Filipino recipe, look at my archives at carinderia.net ... There is an introduction to the cuisine with recipes to relatively palatable food that are easy to cook.

David Hammond / April 11, 2007 9:18 AM

Ken,

I sincerely appreciate the link. I've made learning more about Filipino food a personal goal of mine in 2007, and your linked material is going to help a lot.

I had to laugh at "relatively palatable"...

For anyone interested in the backstory on Ma Mon Luk, check out this thread with pix on LTHForum.com:

http://lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic.php?t=12110&highlight=cids

David

roderick / April 13, 2007 12:05 PM

Filipino food is pretty much a poor people's food. Much of available ingredients in the Philippines don't have much in the way of flavor, so flavor is added by putting a lot of fat and salt into dishes.

I've never been to a Filipino restaurant because my mom makes better food. Most of the time.

Nick / April 13, 2007 1:30 PM

Hmm. Not sure I can agree with Roderick regarding flavors. Garlic, shrimp paste, sweet mangos, vinegar, calamansi (a kind of small, super strong lime), green mangos... bitter melons... there's a very wide range of bright and flavorful ingredients in the cuisine.

Having said that, I concur with the author -- the items you had are particularly challenging. But there's plenty of Phil 'safe bets,' too. Pancit is a great and homey noodle dish; Lumpia are tiny tight-rolled eggrolls; lots of easy chicken dishes; and there's a steamed stuffed bun not unlike the "Wow Bow" buns, but with a sauce to boot.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
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