Monday, June 28, 2010
Childhood Memories on a Stick
Ever since we got married last year and moved into our new place together, Matt and I have diligently explored our new “barrio” in search of new food haunts. Although our favorite restaurants in Makati and The Fort can never be replaced, we were happy to have found some good eateries that are both accessible and consistent.
During one of these “explorations”, we passed one of my old family pit stops- Three Sisters’ Restaurant. Since I was not very familiar with that area before, I always knew that it was there but did not know the exact location. Seeing the familiar façade and name brought back childhood cravings and memories that have been locked away for quite a while now.
When my not-so-little sister Queenbee and I were very young (the youngest one- Foxychef- was not even born yet), my parents would sometimes stop outside this popular establishment within a residential area in Pasig and pick us up several sticks of pork barbecue for the ride home. Rain or shine, my Dad would step out of the car, place his orders, and the grill guy would pack the steaming-hot cubes of pork on a stick into a brown paper bag, and then a plastic “sando” bag. The drill inside the car is always the same: 1) Our mom or yayas would break off the sharp end of the stick and then wrap the other end with a paper napkin, 2) My sister and I, mesmerized by the thick, deep-brown sauce and the captivating scent of grilled pork, would continuously blow at our pork barbecues until a tolerable temperature is reached, 3) finally, we get to devour the tender chunks of meat, smearing our hands, faces, clothes and the interiors of the car in the process.
I asked my Dad if this was the same restaurant, and indeed it was, standing on the same location for the past four decades. Three Sisters’ is truly a Pasig landmark, the original one opened in a different location back in 1941 as a panciteria, its pancit bihon legendary even to this day. Throughout its long history, its menu has grown to include other specialties like the popular Filipino dessert halo-halo (a parfait-like preparation containing sweetened beans, fruit preserves, ube, and the like, topped with shaved ice, milk, and sometimes ice cream), beef Caldireta and the now-famous pork barbecue.
One sleepy weekend, Cookie Goddess and I went off to indulge my reawakened childhood cravings. We arrive at the restaurant way past noon, enjoying the quiet dining room, save for a long table of serious-looking, government-types. Aside from some minor renovations, it looks like the dining room has not changed since the 70’s, with the hanging rattan lamps, retro-looking art on the wall, and the thick dark wood fixtures which impart a familiar, musty smell you find in old houses. The vibe is definitely laidback and nostalgic, a setting you would expect to see leafing through your parents’ old albums.
The menu is also classic Filipino fare- Nido Soup, Sinigang sa Miso, Kare-Kare, Lumpiang Ubod, and a selection of grilled meats and seafood. Cookie Goddess and I decide on two rice meals and share one other dish.
Naturally, I order my childhood favorite- two sticks of Pork Barbecue with Java Rice. Their classic barbecue sauce is served on the side, which I evenly poured on top of the pork. The cubes of pork seem smaller to me, although it could be that I’m just bigger now. But the same juicy, smoky flavor remains, the sauce heightening the experience with its moderate sweetness and pleasant tang. I pour a little more sauce on the flavorful rice, inducing eye-rolls and loud grunts from both Cookie Goddess and myself.
I got a few slices from Cookie Goddess’ order- Pork Belly (or liempo) with Java Rice. This was not bad, although we both admit that we have had better. The meat seems to have stayed in a strong vinegar-based marinade for too long, leaving the pork belly with an overpowering sour flavor. We still finished it, though.
We also shared a single order of the famous Pancit Bihon – thin rice noodles wok-fried with vegetables, pork and topped with crushed chicharon. The dish was still piping-hot when it arrived at the table, and at first bite, you know why it has been so popular all these years. The noodles pleasantly tasted of garlic, the vegetable still crisp despite the quick toss in the wok. The chicharon naturally takes everything over the top, adding a flavor dimension only deep-fried pork rinds can give.
As the mid-afternoon sun breaks through the windows of the restaurant, Cookie Goddess and I sit back for a minute and happily pat our content stomachs. This was one of the simpler meals that we recently had, and yet probably one of the most pleasurable. A good meal really has no specific price tag, and comes in the most surprising circumstances. That’s why I think it’s good to revisit old favorites, to rekindle old romances with dishes you have almost forgotten. Luckily, I decided to give this old flame another try, and- unlike nasty exes- Three Sisters’ pork barbecue did not disappoint.
Three Sisters’ Restaurant
Brgy. Capitolyo, Pasig City
Tel. no. (632) 6314431