30 Sep2007

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“Tita” Cely Kalaw must certainly qualify as one of the icons of Filipino food and cooking. At 69, still a “Miss” and as spry and energetic as someone half her age, she is an absolute joy to behold. She was mentioned in this blog early on when I featured Bicol Express and some discussion ensued about her “inventing” the dish… Well, she certainly named it, and while her version is based on a long-standing Bicolano dish Gulay na Lada, it is her version that has spread like wildfire to local restaurants who have adopted her wonderful name for the dish as well, based on the trains to the Bicol region, not any other silly suggestions like an express trip to the John after eating it… At any rate, my parents were frequent customers of Ms. Kalaw’s restaurant, The Grove, in Malate in the 1960’s, where my father would get a taste of Bicolano dishes, where his father was born and raised. She is not my biological tita, but she prefers that she is everyone’s tita, if you know what I mean… after all, she called me “Tito” Marketman, which cracked me up no end…

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Yesterday, at the Salcedo Market, Ms. Kalaw spotted me and invited me to a food event she had going on at Westgrove Heights at lunch today, which unfortunately I cannot make. At any rate, we decided to purchase some dishes from her stall at the Salcedo market so that we wouldn’t have to cook much for lunch yesterday. We occasionally like to buy pre-cooked food at Salcedo and other markets because it makes it easy to taste many different dishes without much effort or mess. Since I have been sick for weeks, my tastebuds were “dulled” and I wanted to “wake” them up a bit. So to add to a fried bangus and some homemade acharra that we were preparing at home, I picked up take-out containers of guinataang langka (unripe jackfruit stewed in coconut milk), guinataang gulay at alimango (vegetables in coconut milk with mud crabs with roe), ginisang alamang at kamias (sautéed krill (small shrimp) with belimbi fruit), laing (taro leaves with coconut milk), and ukoy (crisp fried shrimp).

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When I tried to pay for the dishes, Tita Cely refused, and a small heated exchange took place. I was mortified, particularly after just writing my piece on not accepting freebies. Normally, I would put the food back on the table at this stage, but it just seemed inappropriate and rude, so I arranged a “barter” of goods instead. The five dishes I took home in exchange for a bottle of my homemade kalamansi marmalade and a bottle of mangosteen jam. That we agreed to. And I rushed home to get the jams so that the exchange would be immediate. Frankly, this is the main reason I would rather be totally anonymous, so that I wouldn’t have to deal with these kinds of situations… but at any rate, I was not disappointed with my haul…

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The sautéed krill or alamang with kamias was excellent, not too salty and with that just right amount of briny-ness and hint of sourness from the kamias fruit. The guinataang langka was also well seasoned and while rich because of the coconut milk, it wasn’t too rich, too sweet or too salty. This was really very good. The vegetables in coconut milk was also delicious but I hesitated to consume the oodles of crab fat/roe that would almost certainly sink me into a bout with gout. The laing was good, though I regret not buying the bicol express to go with it, as I do like that hit of chili heat. Finally, the ukoy, while tasting good, was a bit makunat (chewy), which I attribute somewhat heavily to the incredibly wet weather yesterday that affected several food items I purchased from the market. Overall, this was a solid 9.00-9.25/10.00 “take-away” meal.

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At the end of our lunch at home, both Mrs. MM and I agreed that there was a refinement to the dishes that could only have come with someone who has been cooking and tasting for decades. This is not fancy cooking at all. But this is some of the best pinoy cooking by someone with incredible heart and passion for what she does. If you want a taste of Tita Cely’s food during the week, catch her and her yummy food at the foodcourt of Market!Market! Mall at her stall called “Tita Cely’s Sinigang Bar.” Telephone number 8867629. Maraming salamat Tita Cely!!!

 

COMMENTS:

  1. edel says:

    is Tita Cely the same owner of the Sinigang Bar before in Pasong Tamo extension?

    Sep 30, 2007 | 10:26 am

     
  2. Jaja says:

    the guinataang gulay at alimango looked so delish!

    Sep 30, 2007 | 11:02 am

     
  3. Catalina says:

    In Bulacan, we saute alamang with ampalaya. Sarrrap.

    Sep 30, 2007 | 2:44 pm

     
  4. kaye says:

    i miss eating the alamang with kamias!! am having some guinataang kalabasa and sitaw for dinner and i would just have to imagine having some of that alamang with kamias..

    would surely try her cooking at market market one of these days! thanks for sharing this info!! :)

    Sep 30, 2007 | 5:26 pm

     
  5. zena says:

    The food definitely looks yummy. Darn, MM! I was at Salcedo yesterday too! For all i knew, we were at the same stall at the same time! Doggone it!

    Sep 30, 2007 | 6:48 pm

     
  6. allen says:

    The crab looks so good… and fatty hehe. I’ve tried her laing paired with the Bicol Express, really delicious! I wonder how many coconuts she puts in those dishes, really very rich!

    Sep 30, 2007 | 11:53 pm

     
  7. Katrina says:

    I’ve never had ginisang alamang at kamias! Gotta make sure to get some next time I’m at Salcedo Market.

    Oct 1, 2007 | 1:54 am

     
  8. anna says:

    Thank you Mr.Marketman, i really love your site. I’m going to visit manila this coming November I can’t wait to go to “Salcedo market”.

    Oct 1, 2007 | 2:12 am

     
  9. isagarch says:

    I’m gonna be in Manila in 31 days! I can’t wait to try out all these yummy food that I have been seeing here! I have been away from Manila for almost 8 years, and I have started this list of things I want to eat when I am there and things that I HAVE to bring back home to Canada. Thanks so much MM for your wonderful pictures!

    Oct 1, 2007 | 2:12 am

     
  10. Apicio says:

    To think that these are just a few of the simple everyday fare that anyone assembles from whatever is fresh and cheap at the market that are beyond the reach of us residing abroad and for which no riches or ease in the world can compensate for specially if you were reared on them and which affirms the truth in what Lin Yu Tang said about patriotism, that it is simply a longing for food we ate as children.

    Yep, the crab appears to be packed to the carapace with goodness.

    Oct 1, 2007 | 3:47 am

     
  11. rianne says:

    YUM!!!

    Oct 1, 2007 | 4:43 am

     
  12. Socky says:

    Whenever I go to Serendra and suffer the soul-less cuisine available there, I pine to cross the street and hang-out instead at her Sinigang Bar in Market! Market! Tita Cely is my idol. Lately though, everytime I see her at Salcedo, she has been complaining about her Diabetes and about not feeling well. I’d really get so worried and anxious.

    Oct 1, 2007 | 10:00 am

     
  13. khursten says:

    Oh! How convenient! I’m on my way to market market tonight and I might give a shot to her Bicol Express! I’m quite excited! :3

    Oct 1, 2007 | 4:48 pm

     
  14. brenda says:

    the ginataang langka looked so creamy and yummy! I could really appreciate laing, ginataang veggies with crabs and ginataang langka and all spicy food because i’m a true blue bicolana. i love bicol express!

    Oct 1, 2007 | 9:42 pm

     
  15. NYCMama says:

    When I first visited Salcedo Mkt a year ago (thanks to your writing about it, MM)my mom took me to her old friend Tita Cely’s stall to say hello. When she realized I was the “NY daughter”, she was packing dishes for me to take, but all I really wanted to eat that day was paksiw and Bikol express. “Yan lang?” She couldn’t believe it, but my jetlagged and Pinoy food deprived self just wanted basic Pinoy food hard to find in the States. And yes, hindi nagpabayad! The next weekend, I went to Market Market with mom and we just had to eat at Tita Cely’s again (first making sure she was not there, so we would have to pay for our food!) The shrimps in the picture, plus ginataang langka, plus pritong hito was my breakfast that day. I still pine for that breakfast! Thanks for the pictures.

    Oct 1, 2007 | 10:09 pm

     
  16. pinkytab says:

    what is the difference between laing and bicol express? don’t they have the same ingredients? this must be more of a vocation than a business, the way she gives away free food. God bless her.

    Oct 2, 2007 | 12:51 am

     
  17. Maria Clara says:

    The woman was born with a cutting board and knife in her hands. She turned regular vegetables to full depth of flavor from our tree of life – coconuts. The unassuming alamang to a delectable dish with the addition of the day-to-day market finds kamias. She utilized well what our market offers and has a magic touch in the kitchen.

    Oct 2, 2007 | 1:36 am

     
  18. stef says:

    Oh my gosh!!! You cannot imagine how LOOOONG I’ve been craving the alamang with kamias…. our help used to prepare this when I was growing up. And I have not had any since 2004, when a cousin smuggled it into the US in a large jar. Don’t know how they did it, and really I don’t care. But sniff, you just made me truly homesick:(

    Oct 2, 2007 | 7:33 am

     
  19. arpeelazaro says:

    my officemate is saying that tita cely’s is good. will try it one of these days.

    Oct 2, 2007 | 9:04 am

     
  20. Blaise says:

    Sayang, I didn’t read this post sooner, I was just in Market!Market! recently, spent my whole day there (I don’t go to that part of town very often, it’s kind of out of way for me..), sana I could have tasted Tita Cely’s food.. Weird because I had this inkling to go to the food court and check out the restaurants on board (It’s really been a while the last I was there), but opted to stay inside the mall and eat in one of the restaurants.. Sayang talaga..

    Oct 2, 2007 | 4:28 pm

     
  21. teth says:

    miss kon na naman ang langkang may gata with alimango as sahog… with matching sili, Yum!

    Oct 2, 2007 | 6:00 pm

     
  22. Mark says:

    Does tita cely have branches in QC? Layo ko kasi sa Makati and to go there early morning is quite impossible…

    Oct 23, 2007 | 7:50 pm

     
  23. Marketman says:

    Mark, I am not sure, but I don’t think so…

    Oct 23, 2007 | 8:11 pm

     
  24. Cheryll Limso says:

    Tita Cely told me 2 or 3 weeks ago to enter her name on google (actually she told me to do it on a calulator, hahaha) which sent me into gales of laughter and I almost choked on the freebie dinuguan, she was feeding me, hehehe!

    I read your blog from time to time but never saw her mentioned till I searched google (hehe shows how seldom I read food blogs)

    I will be flying to Manila on Tuesday and I am going to ask her who you are, LOLLOL!

    Manang will be very happy to know you found her food yummy yum yum (I’m the only one allowed to call her Manang and Matandang bruha, hehe)

    Nov 5, 2007 | 5:03 am

     
 

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