MANILA, Philippines - The salted egg, more popularly known as itlog na pula (the egg is usually dyed red to differentiate from fresh eggs), is probably one of the most recognizable food items on the Filipino dining table.
The preserved food product, which is originally Chinese, is soaked in brine or covered in charcoal paste to give it a sharp, rich taste.
It can be eaten in many ways -- as is, as a side dish for fried fish, as a topping on pancit (fried noodles) and congee, or as a filling in mooncakes and sandwiches.
This kind of egg is also commonly seen on top of bibingka, a Filipino sweet rice cake cooked with coconut milk.
But on ice cream? Not really.
Salted egg is one of the flavors created by Executive Chinese Sous Chef Josephine Yu Tanganco-Candelaria at the Mabuhay Palace, the newly relaunched restaurant of the Manila Hotel.
The yellow-colored frozen treat contains low-fat milk and black sesame paste, which help tone down the saltiness of the egg.
"We ferment the eggs ourselves so we can control the saltiness in the ice cream," Tanganco-Candelaria said. Aside from salted egg, she has also tried serving banana-malunggay ice cream at the Mabuhay Palace.
Surprisingly, the salted egg ice cream was far from weird in terms of taste. It was sweet and creamy, and would probably pass for a normal dessert.
Every spoonful of it, however, leaves a sandy texture on the tongue because of the egg yolk.
It's a treat that's easy to fall in love with, and eating it is an experience in itself.
After all, how many people can say "I just ate salted egg ice cream" and not get a violent reaction?
Chicken for beggars and a spicy soup by Auntie Song
Who would've thought that a dish called beggar's chicken can also find its way in a posh hotel restaurant?
The dish, said to be created by a homeless, starving beggar in Beijing several decades ago, is prepared by covering a stuffed and marinated chicken in mud and baking it in fire.
"During war times, only those who are rich can afford to eat chicken. The beggar hid the chicken so other people won't know what's inside," Tanganco-Candelaria narrated.
To give it a refined twist, the chef used phyllo dough instead of mud, and served the chicken in smaller portions.
"It has a melt-in-your-mouth taste. It's a favorite here," she said.
Another dish at the Mabuhay Palace with an interesting story is the Auntie Song-style seafood soup. Tanganco-Candelaria said a poor Chinese woman, known only as "Auntie Song," prepared this thick, spicy soup for the holidays during the war period.
Auntie Song didn't have the money to cook anything else. She made the soup extra spicy so her guests won't eat too much.
"She added a lot of chili so the soup can be enough for everyone," the chef explained.
Since then, the seafood soup is a hit in China, but not in the Philippines, a country where most people are not that into spicy food. Bearing this in mind, Tanganco-Candelaria took it easy on the chili and focused more on the seafood.
Aside from these 2 dishes, Mabuhay Palace also offers the usual Cantonese fare such as braised pork leg with mantou (steamed buns), which symbolizes wealth; long life noodles; and braised dried oyster with bean curd sheet and sea moss.
During the Chinese New Year celebration last February 3, the restaurant served pan-fried nian gao (glutinous rice cake, more popularly known in the Philippines as tikoy), with almonds, Hawthorn berries and osmanthus flowers, all said to be good for the health.
Mabuhay Palace is located at the first floor of the Manila Hotel at One Rizal Park 0913, Manila, Philippines. For inquiries and reservations, call (632) 527-0011 local 1261.
E-mail the author at email@example.com. Visit her food blog at http://asliceofkeix.blogspot.com.