Despite the myths we dreamed up about quarantine, our days are just as busy as they’ve always been. We’re juggling the same amount of responsibilities and stress, if not more, in the same amount of time. My favorite companion during these busy seasons is a snack or food you can hold in your hand: something portable, filling, uncomplicated, satisfying, and easy to distribute if there are other hungry mouths in your immediate vicinity. No excess utensils, no worrying about having to share from a big plate or even having to share at all.
Luckily, the local food scene is rife with scrumptious new options for us to sink our teeth into, and here’s a quick rundown of some of my new favorites:
Empanadas by Casa Luisa
Much of the market is brimming with stuffed pastry stingily “filled” with lackluster mixes, and Casa Luisa came to the table to blow them out of the water. Chef Jen Gerodias Slagle has mastered the absolute perfect buttery crust that is flaky round the edges and soft around the middle. Her fillings are slow-cooked to savory satisfaction, with flavors like ham and cheese (that takes a total of 188 hours from start to finish, and almost every component made in-house), a Malaysian-style beef curry puff, spinach and feta with bacon lardons, and my personal favorite, French onion soup (involving a 12-hour roasted bone marrow broth, then reduced with red wine into a glaze). These fillings are packed generously into these beautiful pockets of buttery goodness, each one almost as big as your face. All you have to do is take one bite to understand very clearly how you’ve never had an empanada like this, because there’s just nothing like it.
Check out the rest of their flavors at @casa_luisa on Instagram.
Gyoza Long Buns by Hello Fresh PH
There are two things I love in this world: pillowy soft mantou, and any form of dumplings. What I love about gyoza, specifically, is that it’s much lighter on the tongue in terms of flavor. It’s savory, with a touch of green, and enough acid in the mix to keep it interesting. Hello Fresh PH, a curated online grocery of sorts started by restaurateur and entrepreneur Dom Hernandez, has made these truly stunning long buns with gyoza filling. The flavor of the filling is of a true, high quality Japanese gyoza, with the softest, prettiest bun enveloping it. These come in a frozen six-pack and quickly steam into oblongs of yum within 10 to 15 minutes. I highly recommend getting more than one pack when you place your order, because you’ll definitely want more.
These buns and an entire grocery selection are available at www.hellofresh.ph.
Lángos by Banhof Bakery
Banhof Bakery prides itself on doing things differently. While everyone made cookies that mimicked those of Levain Bakery, getting increasingly more dome-shaped and riddled with chocolate, Maneesh Thakur instead chose to do a chewier, flat, and visually symmetrical cookie. So it’s no surprise that while everyone is playing with different breads, Thakur skips the sourdough and goes straight for the Hungarian street food classic, the Lángos. This deep-fried wonder comes classically topped a generous smear of tangy sour cream, rich and creamy cheddar cheese, and a lovely sprinkling of dried basil for levity. (He’s also working on a new flavor that’s set to be released very soon, and one that breakfast lovers should keep an eye out for.)
Pro tip: give this a toast when it comes through your door, to amplify the crusty crunch against that fluffy, flavorful center. You can thank me later.
Order your lángos and other treats through @banhof.ph on Instagram.
Sicilian pizza by Crosta Pizzeria
Crosta Pizzeria has a cult following for good reason. They specialize in crunchy crusts that offer nice chew and serve as the perfect vehicle for their range of flavors. Their latest offering is the pinnacle of a handheld food: where triangular slices can be a bit floppy and might require some assistance from a plate or a napkin, the Sicilian square slices hold up perfectly on their own and can handle quite a smattering of toppings. Smells Fishy is an anchovy lover’s dream, with garlic confit to give dimension, while The WAP (White Ass Pizza) is the cacio e pepe in pizza form. But the true testament to the beauty of this crust is their What The Pork, as it’s a cheese-less, vegan pizza. I’m personally vehemently opposed to a pizza without cheese, but the balance of Italian plum tomato sauce, fresh garlic and basil, and an almost unbelievably delicious Omnipork fennel sausage topping had me reaching for this flavor the most. It’s proof that while anyone can make a pizza, not everyone can make a pizza the way Crosta does.
Your next pizza order awaits at @ crostapizzeria on Instagram.
Thingies by The Güd Bread
The Güd Bread is typically known for two things: their yummy multi-seed loaf and their tomato chia jam. But their most recent release is what snack dreams are made of. Unassumingly just named “Thingies,” these are brioche twists or braids that come in a triple threat of flavors. The TJ Thingy employs the use of their delectable tomato jam with streusel and Parmigiano Reggiano, serving you that lovely sweet-salty seesaw of flavor. The Perfect Match echoes some Spanish bread goodness, but with a generous hug of prosciutto to up the savory quotient. The Chocolate Thingy employs chocolate chip cookie crumbs together with dark chocolate against an orange-scented brioche base. All three are equally interesting, unique, and full of dimension. Luckily, they come in boxes of three and six, so you can try them all at once and maybe even go for seconds.
The Güd Bread is available through @thegudbread on Instagram.
Mochi by Mochiko
For those who remember the Mercato Centrale staple and have missed that chewy exterior biting into a creamy, chilled center full of flavor and texture, she’s finally back. I’ve talked at length about the Sunny Side Group, but there is no joy to me like the return of Mochiko. They’ve launched with the important classics such as chocolate, strawberry, and caramel, as well as my favorites of green tea, black sesame, Adzuki bean. But they also have some really fun ones, like the cereal milk that includes a crisp layer of cornflakes underneath, cookie dough that has a real cookie-dough base, and their red velvet, which sits on some delicious red velvet cake. These are as fun as they are delicious, and are the perfectly sized indulgence when you need that pick-me-up.
Mochiko is no longer set up with a physical space, but are delivering to select areas in Metro Manila, with a minimum of two, six-piece boxes, and a maximum of four six-piece boxes per order.
Find out more through their Instagram account @hellomochikomochi.
Milk & Dark Chocolate and Sea Salt Cookies by Brandless Treats
Everyone and their mother have been making cookies, but chef Mickey Garcia always knows how to take it further. Brandless Treats boasts the slogan “Your childhood treats, grown up,” and their menu demonstrates exactly what they mean: a lemon pound cake, but with the sophistication of whiskey and caramelized almonds; a banana loaf, but done French style and upgraded with cognac and caramel streusel; a fallen chocolate soufflé cake reminiscent of everyone’s favorite flourless chocolate cakes, but much more complex, and with the addition of a saffron-scented crème Anglaise.
But the stars of their show are their cookies, the original dark chocolate with bourbon and sea salt, and the recent addition of milk and dark chocolate with sea salt cookies. The latter is a great example of what a good cookie is: it’s a good amount of richness, chewy to the bite with some crisp resistance from the bottom, generous with chocolate, a little crunch from the salt, not too sweet, and keeps you wanting more. It’s comforting but classy, homey but luxurious. But most of all, it’s just plain, old delicious.
Get your Brandless Treats goodies through Instagram @brandlesstreats.