A PHP90 ($1.8) Per Person Lunch…


I am often surprised by the amounts of money people are willing to pay for a decent, and more likely, convenient meal. Many office workers who eat out are likely to spend between PHP50-80 for a fast food meal which might include one piece of fried chicken with more batter than volume of meat, half a cup of rice and a lot of starchy gravy. Or if they have food purchased from a nearby carinderia, meals can be as reasonable as PHP30-50 or so. But the minute they head to a restaurant, even in Cebu, which has provincial pricing, the average cost per head is likely to shoot up to PHP250-300 per person. So it always amazes me that you can COOK a very hearty, nutritious and delicious meal for just PHP90-100 per person. Here is a recent example of an office lunch we pulled together in less than 1 hour…


We happened to be downtown at a wholesale paper store at around 10:30 a.m. on a weekday morning. We decided to swing by the Pasil Seafood market and were lucky enough to get 4 fantastic talakitoks at roughly 800-900 grams each, for a total cost of PHP700. We also got about 2 kilos of huge squid for about PHP300. Back at the office, the fish were cleaned, sprinkled with salt and pepper and a little olive oil and thrown onto a grill over hot coals. We quickly marinated the squid (uncleaned as is often the case in these parts I am told) in soy sauce and kalamansi with lots of pepper and those were grilled as well. All of this seafood easily fed 14 hungry people and together with rice, a sawsawan of soy sauce and vinegar and chillies, the total estimated cost (including coals) was roughly PHP1,250 for a meal good for 14! And finding fish and squid as fresh as this in a local restaurant? Not likely.


This is the reason I keep encouraging folks to cook when they can, because the actual cost of buying prepared food is quite high, and the biggest component of that cost is the “hassle” or convenience factor. The fish were incredibly fresh, their white meat cooked perfectly. The skin was salty and crisp/chewy. The squid, a bit too “organic” for me, with ink, guts and all included in the picture. But everyone had huge portions and there was food left over. Oh, and for dessert, the crew had several of the fantastic carabao’s milk leche flans we made the day before at a cost of PHP30 per llanera that easily served 4 people…


75 Responses

  1. Fresh Fish & squids grilled over live coals, paired with rice & dipping sauce & a leche flan for dessert. A winning combination of a very delicious meal at an affordable price. Mabuhay ka MM!

  2. The fast food place euphemistic fried chicken is chicken flavored gorgorya for real. Major Colonel Harland Sander the founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken will roll up in grave he finds this out! Your office staff and members are lucky for having you. They get all kinds of perks from you. Tell them for me that they are indeed the chosen ones. What is wrong with grilled pork chops, liempo and barbecue? No sign of porkulus! Lent is still a couple of months away. Yes, there is still a big advantage of doing your own marketing and cooking food beside you have a first-hand knowledge of what is in the food.

  3. i just recently come by your page linked to my gf’s who hasnt been blogging for days, and guess what … i just LUV it!!! very informative and for an aspiring cook, it amazes me to see simple recipes come out so fabulously yummy ! i have yet to read your old blogs and learn more … this post particulary makes me crave for espada & danggit, sinangag and fried eggs ! yumyum

  4. Chris, In answer to your audacious and offensive comment to me. I am not on any medications. If you know what gorgorya are I am not saying you will agree with me but that’s how the fried chicken sounds to me. To me gorgorya are not always the sweet type. We are all entitled to our own views.

  5. I am salivating….delish…and yup I agree…cooking for ourselves is economical..

  6. If only I could cook at the office. And if only I had the time to go look for fresh cheap seafood and meat.

  7. HOLY GRILL……..

    I love that grill. Whenever we come home for a visit we always go out to eat carenderia style. You obviously have to be carefull to find fresh cooked food specially in the meat department! But you are right, the most affordable food is still in the outdoor stands! They also offer a lot more variety.

    From our adventure to Isabela last year, for a party of 6 we spent a total of $15 in one stand and ended up eating all their vegetable dish and fish!

  8. the talakitok looks super delicious. i was wondering, why are the squid left unclean? or “organic” as you put it?

  9. If the squids were left uncleaned, then would they still have undigested anchovies in their insides? When i used to live in South Georgia and we go fishing, we often buy uncleaned squid from the bait shops and their innards contain undigested anchovies or small fishes.

  10. Like Roger,the grill is of highest interest to me, then the food on it. =) Where did you get those, MM? We need to replace our outdoor grill and I REALLY like yours. And nothing beats fresh food prepared simply to highlight their taste but I would’ve taken the time to clean the squid. =)

  11. Yummy…..Nothing beats a simple meal that taste spectacular like the grilled talakitok, pusit plus family and friends chatting on everything under the sun. This is what I call life enjoying God’s gift to mankind. Take care of the earth and the earth will take care of us !!!

  12. I would like the grilled squid, but cleaned; think of the yummy squid ink you could use for adobong pusit or black paella with all that ink.

  13. i like my squid cleaned. i am not a fan of the waxy stuff inside – is that fat? Anyway, the spread looks fantastic :) i suddenly wish that we had a grill here in the flat.

  14. The per person cost of cooking rises if one is cooking for just one person. :) That’s the case with me, so I ended up buying a lot of food outside.

    Nevertheless, the way that I’ve found to save money and still get convenience is to buy the ‘ulam’ outside. Lots of places overcharge for the cost of rice, bread, drinks, fruit, etc. All these things can be bought at other places and prepared oneself with minimum hassle.

    And to further save, then one can aim to cook some larger batches of ulam that one will want to eat, something like twice during the week. :) I’ve not gotten around to this much though. :P

  15. You’re right, MM. Just transferred to Gen San where they say the cost of food is cheap. But since I’ve been in the hotel the last few weeks, meals are rather expensive since I eat out. More pricey than Los Banos where you can get student meals. But am happy that I’ve transferred to a house and can start cooking.

  16. Zena, roger and teth. This grill is beside the custom made lechonan in our cebu office grounds. The grills came from a commercial manufacturer, who supplies restaurants. They are nice heavy cast iron grills that get better with use. At PHP800+ per panel, they were actually quite reasonably priced, in my opinion. And they will last a LONG time.

  17. At the time that gas prices were pretty high, my hubby and I managed our spending by eating out less. He cooks quite well and he’s able to duplicate some of our favorite restaurant dishes. We now spend more on the groceries to get a good variety of ingredients and it gives us so many more great meals at home than if the same amount of money was spent outside. We both bake and have a good source for coffee so even dessert is covered. We still dine out once or twice a week (a significant decline from our former habit),usually because we’re meeting friends, and to enjoy food that we either can’t or don’t want to prepare ourselves. Oh, and KFC will always have a special place in our stomachs.

    PS. If you enjoy dining out but wish it didn’t cost so much, we suggest drinking water instead of ordering juices and sodas. Drinks easily account for 20% of the bill. We prefer to rechannel the cost and calories to dessert.

  18. If somebody finds a supplier for a similar cast-iron grill here in Manila, please share here. I am interested in getting one also. Thanks.

  19. Last night’s The River Cottage Treatment with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall features Hugh’s attempt to convert junk food lovers’ eating habits to buy organic meat, fresh fruits and vegetables. He also showed and demonstrated the disadvantages of supermarket “take-out” and packaged or prepared food and the benefits of preparing home-cooked meals.

  20. MM, love the grill! I totally agree…better to cook and the number of generous foodies in the internet (esp. MM), how can somebody not cook. Just made mexican taco salad from left overs here and there and what a fantastic salad I made. I can’t get this good quality salad from a restaurant. If one cooks at home, she doesn’t scrimp on ingredients. I love making something new from leftovers….who would have thought? I shared this salad with my staff and she was thrilled and will replicate it for her family.

  21. Betty Q,

    If you don’t mind too much, can you share your recipe for pancit malabon? I’ve been looking for it in old posts but I can’t find it. I’m trying to compile all the recipes you’ve given out. Thanks so much

  22. Have you tried the yellow/striped variety of talakitok? It taste much much better than the silvery ones.

  23. I love the grill as well… but I don’t think we will be doing any grilling at the moment or any heavy cooking for that matter. It’s soooo hot in Melbourne at the moment it’s like being grilled when you step outside.

  24. Bettyq,reread the posts since jan 27. My laptop went bonkers .My son’s laptop could pick up the broadband signals but my laptop couldnt. Now it’s ok. Am so glad..I was having withdrawal symptoms…I would only borrow my son’s laptops to make short comments..but am back. Have been able to read all the comments. Dhayl..I saw that bettyq gave you the kutchinta recipe.Sorry that I couldn’t post immediately.Laptop glitch!! That’s so easy..My first attempt was successful but tweaked a little. I discovered that some sediments at kutchinta bottom was caused by either brown sugar or the atsuete powder. So I resorted to straining and then passing through a cheesecloth and now…superb. I also decreased to two teaspoons the lye as there was a certain taste I couldn’t figure out.Ok din if three teaspoons.Now it’s ok.Haven’t figured out what lye does to it..hehehe.. Of course,as bettyq says,let stand–so I let it stand for at least 30 mins or one hour.(Ok din if overnight,once I made some and forgot it as I went to a party and it was still ok). Don’t over steam as it is nice and soft if steamed just enough.It’s ok if middle is soft. It will firm up once cool. I tried the grated cheese topping to give it a twist(and since coconut perishes easily) and a lot have liked it. I gave away so many boxes of this last Christmas as it’s so easy to make and really cost effective. Placed in the fridge it lasts long too. Am really so grateful to you bettyq for mentoring my cooking/baking….MM is so inspiring too…I missed this site so much…Just reread all the posts…It’s the weekend..to the kitchen!!Hope I find zuchinni to try..and now salivating…will buy Lumot squid to roast…mmmmm…

  25. that spread would be so excellent with sliced tomatoes and onions…fresh grilled seafood is the best!!

  26. hello po… lat me clarify too that i wasnt the “chris” who made the unscathing remark to ms. mariaclara, though we have the same name… :(…
    bluegirl: gorgorya is a kind of deepfried biscuit coated with thin caramel… it’s a bulacan delicacy
    marissewalangkaparis: i was told that the lihiya gives the rice cake (or any dish requiring lihiya) the ligat or kunat or lapot to the texture of the food. if you notice, some puto and kuchinta have basically the same base ingredient (wheat flour), but the kuchinta is more makunat because of the lye.
    mr. mm:how long should we grill the squid? i’m afraid of undercooked food that i usually overcook them. when i grill or cook the squid, it usually ends up like having strands or stringy when it’s pulled apart.

  27. Tessa,if you give me your email address,I will send you via email the pancit malabon recipe of bettyq. I was trying to write it. It is sooooo long so I guess it would be better if I just forward to you via email.It was sent to me by Alilay and it is bettyq’s recipe.Thanks.

  28. Oh Chris thanks!! Just read your post. I noticed that after letting the mixture stand for some time,it becomes a bit malapot nga. Glad to know that it gives the kutchinta the “kunat”.
    Alam ko from pagiihaw experience,if you overcook squid it becomes rubbery. Or tough.So good ad soft when justcooked enough.It also dries up if overcooked.

  29. you’re welcome, marissewalangkaparis. bettyq, may i also have a copy if your pancit malabon recipe? seems marisse have a copy so i’ll request her to send one to me too with your permission. thanks.

  30. Hi Chris, Actually if the squid is fresh you don’t need to worry of having it undercooked. It’s sweet and soft but if your squid is not fresh then I suggest you clean it thoroughly marinate with vinegar or calamansi before grilling it. Never ever overcooked it unless you like it to taste like daeng na pusit. To check for freshness of the squid. The eyes are clear and the skin untorn and the meat is firm. Hope it helps….

  31. Oh, no! Talagang isusumpa na ako ni Alilay!!!

    MM…POR FAVOR….MUCHO POR FAVOR, SENOR MM!!! Before Marisse’s PC goes bonkers again, please copy and paste the Pancit. When I gave it out, I did not SAVE it. It is long gone and deleted. As Marisse said, it is quite long BUT REALLY WORTH ALL THE EFFORT if you try it!!!! It is quite a production. That is why when I make the Caldo, I make a big pot of it since the leftovers freezes very well. MUCHAS GRACIAS, MM!!!!

    Chris and Marisse: I think Connie C. might have Internet connection problems once in a while. The baby puto ube, Chris, is in the Michelle ‘s Puto post. But, Chris,…MM already made a post on puto ube. Go back archives. I think the Tibok Tibok is also buried there somewhere, Marisse. Let me check…

  32. OOps. mymistake…so sorry…baka kayo maduling sa kakahanap sa Tibok tibok full recipe under the Puto be post….It is in the FLAVOURED SUMAN post (Oct.2008).

    Marisse, Chris, and everyone who wants to try it…I use the Organic MIlk …if you don’t have it there but are fortunate enough to have access to carabao’milk..LUCKY YOU!!! No carabao’s milk = 6 to 7 cups fresh full cream milk or homogenized + 1 cup whipping cream…to yield 8 cups of the equivalent of carabao’s milk. Remember: carabao’s milk has ha higher M.F…8% while homogenized milk has 3 to 4%.

    Don’t forget to keep on stirring so as not to scorch the botttom of the pot. It also works stirring it over bain marie on the stove…so you can turn your back for a FEW minutes. but not too long though. Before you add the coconut oil from the latik you’ve made. make sure your Tibok-tibok is already thickened.

    MM, and Manong Marc, try this and let me know what you think… if it can compare to Ms. Susie’s! I haven’t had the opportunity to try any of her specialties. Though I am notKapampangan, …Batangguena by birth, Chinese by marriage but I sort of feel I am Kapampangan by association…sibling’s in-law’s and close friends like Maria Clara, neighbours,!

  33. MM, I know what you mean about the squid looking “organic”. Others may not know this, but you can peel squid! The colored film on the body is a thin outer layer that is easily pulled off to reveal the pure white squid meat. I do this when I make kalamares or paella.

  34. Oh my gulay! I love,love grilled seafoods particularly squid. Grilled stuffed squid are the best. Those iron cast grills look very good too.

  35. Right after I got married, we moved up North…since my hubby and I were the “new kids on the block”, we were invited to join a DINNER CLUB…it was composed of a few foresters and teachers and cops. We had dinner every Tues. at somebody else’s house…home cooked meals! Besides there was only 1 or 2 restaurants in town. Everyone looked forward to Tuesdays. The membership grew and we had to do it twice a wekk. it was like eating out. But people come and go like my hubby and I …when we moved to another town after 2 years! Not only was it entertaining, I learned a lot of dishes from them.

    Now, in my perfect, dream world…I wish, MM, Marai Clara, Marc, Marisse, Ted, Jun, and everyone were my nieghbours or we all live in the same town…so every week …home cooked meals…but with the number of people who visit your blog, MM…we will be set to a home cooked meal maybe everyday of the week in another person’s kitchen for the next 10years! Wouldn’t that be awesome?

  36. Here’s the most requested BettyQ’s PANCIT MALABON that i got from Alilay….


    For 4 people: I soak overnight 1 package of dried FAT rice noodle called LAI FUN ? It looks like spaghetti noodle. Go to any Asian store and they should have it. Here. it’s in a green and clear cellophane package. Anyway, soak it in COLD water overnight …That way, it doesn’t get mushy when you blanch it in Boiling water the next day.

    For the sauce: Peel 1/2 head of garlic and pound it in almires. Then, chop 1 really large onion. Saute garlic in canola oil until golden brown. Do not burn it. Then add the chopped onion. Continue cooking until onion is soft and caramelized. Then add 1/2 package or eeven 1/3 of a package to start with of atsuete powder. Now, add seasoned chicken stock. if you don’t have it, put about 2 tablespoons of CHICKEN BROTH powdr…not bouillon! Then add water about 1 liter to start adding more if needed. Season with pepper and Aji no moto if you use it. Adjust seasoning. Let it come to a boil. Taste and adjust the chicken broth powder .Adjust the atsuete as well. NOW


    For 4 people: I soak overnight 1 package of dried FAT rice noodle called LAI FUN ? It looks like spaghetti noodle. Go to any Asian store and they should have it. Here. it’s in a green and clear cellophane package. Anyway, soak it in COLD water overnight …That way, it doesn’t get mushy when you blanch it in Boiling water the next day.

    For the sauce: Peel 1/2 head of garlic and pound it in almires. Then, chop 1 really large onion. Saute garlic in canola oil until golden brown. Do not burn it. Then add the chopped onion. Continue cooking until onion is soft and caramelized. Then add 1/2 package or eeven 1/3 of a package to start with of atsuete powder. Now, add seasoned chicken stock. if you don’t have it, put about 2 tablespoons of CHICKEN BROTH powdr…not bouillon! Then add water about 1 liter to start adding more if needed. Season with pepper and Aji no moto if you use it. Adjust seasoning. Let it come to a boil. Taste and adjust the chicken broth powder .Adjust the atsuete as well. NOW here is where mine is different from the other recipes you can find. Thicken it with BREADCRUMBS…ordinary breadcrumbs that comes in a package. DO NOT USE PAN DE SAL breadcrumbs since some turn out sweet. Remember, it will thicken so it is best to slowly add the breadcrumbs using a whisk. Now put it on low while preparing the noodles.

    For your toppings: Peel 1 lb. of prawns or raw shrimp. Devein. Then soak it in salted cold water (brine) for 15 mnutes. Rinse thoroughly and repeat brining one more time. Final rinse really thoroughly. Drain very well. This brining process makes the prawns crunchy and not tough even when you overcook it! Heat about 1 cup canola oil. Pound in an almires 1 head garlic, peeled. When oil is slighly hot, add garlic and saute until golden brown. Remove garlic with slotted spoon. (it will be one of the toppings as well). Now, add the shrimp or prawns. Season with a touch of pepper. Cook unitl it turns pink and remove at once with a slotted spoon. Now, SAVE the shrimp-garlic infused oil in a bowl (THIS IS MY SECRET INGREDIENT NO. 2!….No.1 secret ingredient is the usage of breadcrumbs as thickener!!!) . I don’t like using cornstach as thickener since it turns watery if you reheat it the next day. Flour gives it the consistency of gravy. Breadcrumbs as thickener will not break down even if you freeze the sauce and reheat it…..Back to the toppings! The flavoured oil will be used to season your noodles making it MALINAMNAM!!!!!
    Another topping you can use is 1 lb. of the cheapest frozen scallops you can find. Saute in a little bit of oil with garlic. You can also use pechay or Sui choy. Cut into 1 inch pices and saute it as well. I just buy the cooked fried bean curd squares (tokwa) and cut them smaller. I am too lazy to make my own lechon to use as topping. So I buy the Chinese Roast Pork ( lechon) in Chinese deli.
    Boil an egg to use as topping too.

    So now that you have your sauce and toppings ready,….BOIL WATER IN A BIG POT. When boiling, add the drained noodles. Turn off heat and taste the noodle. If cooked through to yur liking, drain. Puthe drained noodles in abig bowl. Season with a bit of patis, pepper, Aji no moto, and the garlic infused oil ….Add the oil a few tablespoons at a time addding more if needed. If you addd all the oil…it will be swimming in oil! Any leftover shrimp-garlic oil, freeze it ad addd it to your XO sauce next time you make it. Then add your sauce. Now remember, Pancit Malabon is on the dry side . But you can addd more sauce if you want to. Arrange in individual plates or bandehado and addd your toppings. Oh, I forgot the chicharon! Serve with calamansi.

    This might seem labour intensive. But once you have everything ready, it really isn’t. What I do is make a BIG POT of sauce and freeze the rest. So it saves me time, next time I make Pancit Malabon. Hey, let Maria Clara taste it!!!

  38. Ted thanks for posting and sharing Bettyq’s renown Pancit Malabon. Gee that’s a lot of typing and good typing job! Bettyq: it is one of my cherished dreams that one day we will be together for a whole day of munching, yapping, recipe exchanges under the blue sky and the shade of full grown acacia tree and green meadows potluck and picnic style with all MM’s grilled fish, squid, lechon, your infamous barbecue, I will bring in the pancit, Marc’s ensaimada which he graciously shares his heirloom recipe, Puto bumbong from Ted and many more goodies to enjoy and more of our peers joining us like the like of Sister, Silly Lolo, Lee, Apicio, Millett, Moni, Natie, Mila, Katrina, Joey and the other two that I really miss and do not know their whereabout are Catalina and Aridelros and many more of our peers. I hope they are both well including Silly Lolo. We are virtually doing it here now. You being the unselfish hostess sharing all your time, true and tested recipes which are greatly appreciated. MM’s generosity in providing his site which is to me is the virtual dining table and the conduit of all these! I really like the new technology which allows us to enjoy interactive communications despite our various locations. Bettyq: thanks again for your wishful thinking and hoping we will make it come true in the future!

  39. thanks ted for posting the pancit malabon i tried to copy/paste it but naputol and do it again pero isang word lang nasama kaya i forwarded na lang uli

  40. To all my virtual neighbours, I’ll bring my spork and South Australian wine. I am still learning my way around cooking and open to any good advice.

  41. OK…I am NOT CLAIMING that Pancit Malabon recipe as authentic. It is as close as I can get to what I remember eating from my childhood. That is just my version. I have isssues with other thickeners like mashed tofu, cornstarch or flour, but those are MY issues and does not refect on the opinions of others….I sound like a Dr. Phil….hahahahaha

  42. hi marketman! im sorry this may be a little off topic but i just wanna ask where can i find the type of grill that you are using? ive been meaning to ask this since ive seen it on your lechon experiments which is really amazing. btw how much does the grill cost if you still remember. thanks!

  43. This is a good lunch. Having traveled where the client pays all expenses, I always miss the simple home cooked meal. Korean companies like samsung fry mackerel and fish in their company cafeteria. That’s what they need in the U.S. is a food stimulus. Nice post as usual. The only problem if you eat barbecued fish and squid the smell sticks with you the whole afternoon.

  44. Where can I have find a grill like that in the picture. Its very nice. MOst of those i have encountered become rust after a while even if they say its stainless. ANy suggestions?

  45. I found this grill in a Hunting Magazine somewhere. Try googling it and I think they sell it online. Here in Houston, I have seen it being sold in a “Camper’s/Fishing World” store. When I was residing in North Carolina, they were selling it in old country hardware stores. Kasi mahilig sila sa pag-barbecue. I’ll check this weekend, kung meron pa akong makita, then I’ll tell you guys.

  46. many, many thanks for the pancit malabon recipe!!!!!!!! oh boy!! i will be so loved by my friends during parties….already mouth-watering, recipe palang…

  47. My hubby is throwing our gas grill, kasi nag-rust yung pinaka-bottom nung whole equipt., eh ang mahal daw palitan. Anyway, I did say go ahead, but I am keeping the 2 cast iron grill that came with it. Eto ibina-box ko na to send to Pinas, for sure magagamit namin ito. I too loved inihaw na pusit and when it is fresh, hindi ko na nililinis ang loob.

  48. Ted, thank you so much for posting Betty Q’s Pancit Malabon recipe. And siyempre to Betty Q – thank you again for sharing this. I have to try this. I’ll just freeze the sauce kasi dalawa lang kami ni Kulas na kakain nito. I’ll let you know how it turns out. Sigurado masarap.

  49. Puede ka rin mag-imbita ng kapit-bahay, Kulasa, o kaya pabaon mo kay Kulas! On second thought, baka parati nila imbitahin ang sarili nila pag may Pancit ka!

  50. eating pusit without throwing away the insides is a crapshoot. sometimes one gets gritty half-digested dilis. if luck is on your side, you get the eggs (bihod). yummy

  51. MM… when you have the chance to cook these kinds of food again and the same thing happen (left overs) you can call me.. LOL ^___^

  52. jun, thanks for the squid tip… it’s kinda scary to buy pusit nowadays if you don’t know your squid, esp. there’s the formalin scare.

  53. Hello MM – thanks for your very timely feature for healthy and low cost everyday meals. I appreciate the many ideas that you think of everyday. It just shows your concern and willingness to help. In these trying times when the economic crisis is a global problem, many are struggling to make ends meet. I’m sure you and your readers have countless simple ways and ideas on how to make money or earn extra income in the Philippines, legally, of course. This topic may generate many new, unique and exciting ideas which may inspire many who are getting hopeless these days. So can I please request a post on this topic from you sometime soon? Thanks for your help!

  54. MM, are those nice cast iron grill grates you have available in any store (here in Manila or in Cebu)? I’ve been staring at them more than I’ve looked at the grilled fish and squid. I wanna have some of those – grill grates! :)

  55. Ms. Betty Q. can I have a copy of your pancit malabon recipe if you have because my aunt wanted to try it. Thank you.



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