MANILA -- Liang Crispy Roll celebrates the opening of its first branch at SM Aura Premier in Taguig on Saturday, July 17, with a year's supply of wraps for the first 30 customers and a buy-one, take-one promo.
The brand has over 12,800 branches in Asia -- from China (where it's the No. 1 brand for scallion pancakes), Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Indonesia, and now, the Philippines.
The brand was brought to the country by the Fredley Group of Companies (Macau Imperial, Nabu Japanese Hotpot, Mistasu Yakiniku, NYFD).
"Liang Crispy Roll is going to be your go-to snack. We envision it to grow to 100 branches in less than 2 years. It's a very interesting concept because the crispy roll topped with our own R&D [of fillings] is something that you're sure to crave for, as you try the different flavors every day," shared Avin Ong, CEO of Fredley Group of Companies.
If you've seen videos of a Chinese breakfast street food called shou zhua bing, Liang Crispy Roll takes inspiration from that, using a pancake or wrap (created by founder Chai Lei) and localized fillings.
"The crispy roll (wrap) is really their recipe. It's very difficult to replicate... We import everything from Shanghai [and] we add our own flavors to serve the Filipino people," said Ong.
A wrap has layers of texture and flavors. The wrap stays crispy despite the heavy filling, thanks to the smart addition of a romaine lettuce leaf separating the layers.
Additional texture and flavors come from the fillings, your choice of sauce (garlic or the spicy red), and additional vegetable condiments.
What does the wrap taste like? If you've had a scallion pancake in night markets in Taiwan, the texture of the wrap is similar to that -- like a multi-layered extra crispy paratha roti.
It's a great vehicle for a lot of things. In other countries, there are fancy fillings like foie gras, lobster, and crayfish, as well as more humble additions like Taiwan sausage and mushroom omelet.
"It's totally different from the other Liang's outlets in other countries. When we decided to come up with the flavors, we wanted to make sure that there is something our customers can choose from... From our extensive R&D, we took our best tasting fish wrap, beef wrap, and pork wrap," Ong said of their chosen flavors.
For its first branch in the country, Liang Crispy Roll created flavors that suit the Filipino palate.
If you're thinking that the fillings are skewed to be sweet, the wraps I tasted were neither. The Pork BBQ Wrap had a filling that tasted like a Filipino barbecue -- only with the barest hint of sweetness, savory with soy and garlic flavors, and nicely rendered fat and soft pork meat.
The addition of thinly sliced raw red onions added just the right amount of bite but didn't overwhelm the palate (Diners can also opt to take out the onions). I had my Pork BBQ Wrap with garlic sauce, but I imagine the addition of the red sauce for some heat would be satisfying as well.
Another favorite of the early tastings was the Chunky Tuna Roll. With Liang's crispy pancake, the simple tuna sandwich wrap with cucumber and lettuce was more enjoyable and interesting to eat.
Lest you think there was a hint of sweetness in the filling -- there was none, so much so that I wish I ordered it with the red sauce for another layer of flavor. If you enjoy tuna sandwiches, you’ll definitely enjoy this wrap.
Other wraps include a vegetarian option called the Veggie Delight (bell pepper, tomato, and lettuce), the 5 Cheese Melt (American cheese, cream cheese, cheddar, mozzarella, parmesan, and lettuce), Grilled Chicken (grilled chicken, lettuce, and cucumber), and the Angus Beef Steak (Beef steak, lettuce, and onions).
For drink options, there are two -- dalandan and chilled tea. Both were refreshing, but I enjoyed dalandan's slight sweet-sour kick especially with the pork wrap.
With wraps starting at P95 with the most expensive at P145, the wraps are designed to be a quick snack or a light healthy meal.
While the current line is 100% savory, plans are in motion for a dessert series, to even limited-time Filipino offerings like Caldereta or Bicol Express wraps.
"Opening in the pandemic is really difficult... We wanted to give people more jobs, more opportunities. We have a vision for Fredley to go on IPO by 2025 and this is one of the reasons why we are getting a lot of exciting concepts," said Ong.
With exciting days ahead despite the pandemic, Liang Crispy Roll will be treating their first 30 diners to a year's supply of wraps. All the wraps are also buy-one, take-one during opening day.
Liang Crispy Roll is located at the cinema level of SM Aura Premier.