JeJu

Betty White Bread

In food on 05/08/2010 at 10:04 pm

Last night, I managed to impale my foot on a sharp object while attempting to open a window. However, a gushing river of blood could not stop me from going back this morning to the Filipino bakery close to my ‘hood, Phillipine Bread House. The other half is currently obsessed with their pandesal.

Pandesal is the Betty White of breads: soft yet hearty, refined, QQ, rolled in dirt and just a lil’ bit of sweetie. The hallmark of Filipino cuisine is tang, but in their baking, everything has sugar in it, in varying amounts. I would prefer a Chinese bakery, which balances more of the salt with sweet, but within spitting distance, I would take a Filipino bakery over the Italian ones in walking distance because most days, I don’t want to break my jaw trying to chew off a hunk of bread.

The bakery is located on a corner in Jersey City, surrounded by a bright red gate in a parallelogram plot of land which also encompasses a parking lot, a small grocery, a postal service, and a cafeteria-style take-out place, Little Quiapo. We hit the Filipino jackpot!

The selection is enormous. Our favorites are a corned beef roll, an adobo salty pork roll, and very QQ sugar-rolled donut log called bitcho. There is also an attached cafeteria of savory delights, the king of which is the lechon, offered at a bargain of 45lbs of lean mean piggy at a mere $170. Methinks we shall soon have a gathering with that as the centerpiece.

The empanadas are baked here, but fried ones are definitely better. It’s just a better textural contrast with the filling. What makes these interesting is what’s inside. The chicken ones have cassava and raisins, another example of a dash of sweet in the savory. I didn’t think it would work, but it does. I have some raisins in my cupboard I’m going to have to rethink.

Asians really took the recipes of European origin and gave them that special spin. Tropical fruit cakes and ice creams are really only found in bakeries like this, which is a shame. It’s like Asian vegetables. There’s a bevy of more flavorful and tasty veggies that just aren’t available in American supermarkets. That’s why this year we are growing some in our concrete garden, in plastic planter boxes: garland chrysanthemum, pai tsai, mustard green, and Chinese chives.

People walk out of this place with gigantic shopping bags full of bread and pastries. On Sundays, I’d imagine they are schlepping the stuff to church to share. If not, well, Filipinos are the biggest foodies I’ve met, south of the equator. The surgical staff at my hospital, made up by a majority of Filipinos, can certainly put it down with the best of them. When my classmate brought some ube cake rolls at the end of our rotation, they squealed with delight, swarmed and scarfed them down in less than 5 minutes.

PBH is cheap and awesome. The pandesal comes in a bag of 7 rolls for $1. They are stacked in white paper bags behind the counter. The cashiers grab 5 or more bags at a time for many customers. What is so special? It’s slathered in breadcrumbs during the final proofing right before baking, which adds just that extra something to the mouth feel. It is a darned good roll.

BTW, does anyone have $1.2M I can borrow? There’s a 3 family brownstone with backyard across the street we’d like to purchase.

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  1. right. so when am i visiting you guys for a gluttonous food tour? i will starve myself for one week in preparation.

  2. when? anytime, except end of july when we’ll be in your neck of the woods eating tacos!!!!

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