Have you ever wanted to go on a gastronomic tour of Asia but haven’t got the budget yet to do so? Well, you can do that now without having to bring out your passport and burning a hole in your pocket.
At Food Exchange Manila, the all-day dining restaurant of Novotel Araneta Center, you can feast on a wide array of street food from eight Asian countries: Thailand, India, Korea, Japan, Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore and China.
“As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, with the Philippines as current chairman, we celebrate this occasion by bringing together food from our regional neighbors. This is the spirit of Food Exchange Manila: an exchange of culture through food,” said Bernd Schneider, Novotel’s general manager, during the launch of the restaurant’s Asian Street Food Festival.
Street food has a long and colorful history – it is a great equalizer, with consumers coming from every social class, from taxi drivers to construction workers to businessmen in their long-sleeves and neckties. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that at least 2.5 billion people eat street food every day.
Street food also preserves traditional ways of cooking and utilizes produce grown locally, encouraging a sense of community as it brings together strangers who commune through food.
“The Asian street food culture can be an overwhelming experience when you travel. It transcends from one generation to another,” said Chef Sau del Rosario.
“Each Asian street food has a story behind it. This is why we say that culture is best served on a platter,” he added.
Among the Thai street food featured in the buffet spread are pad thai – stir-fried rice noodles with scrambled eggs, red cabbage, peanuts, bean sprouts, green onions and cilantro; kha moo palo – pork stew with eggs and mushrooms similar to our very own pata tim; and tom yum goong – a hot and sour soup with prawns.
Soe-galbi jin (beef stew with mushrooms, radish, carrots and gingko nuts), jjimdak (braised chicken that is mildly salty and sweet with a subtle spicy kick), and japchae (stir-fried glass noodle with meat and vegetables) represent South Korea, while fresh spring rolls, laksa, bak kut teh (pork ribs in spices and herbal soup), Hainanese chicken, bahn mi sandwich and char kway teow (fried flat noodles) will transport you to Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam.
There’s cucumber black fungus salad and a wide array of dim sum from China as well as takoyaki (savory balls with chunks of octopus tentacle inside, doused in a piquant sauce and Japanese mayonnaise and topped with dried bonito flakes and green onions) from the land of the rising sun.
Pinoy street food dishes are also well represented: a balut vendor makes the rounds carrying a basket filled with hot balut and penoy eggs, a sorbetero urges you to try “dirty” ice cream either in a cone with sandwiched inside a pan de sal, and a separate station for fish balls and squid balls that you can down with buko juice, melon juice, and sago’t gulaman.
Diners who will enjoy the Asian Street Food Festival (P1,299 during weekdays for both lunch and dinner and P1,499 for weekends and public holidays) until Sept. 3. Diners will also have the chance to win a three-night stay in participating AccorHotels’ properties across Asia – Novotel Singapore Clarke Quay, Novotel Saigon Center, Novotel Bangkok Platinum Pratunam, Mercure Tokyo Ginza, Novotel Ambassador Seoul Gangnam and Novotel Manila Araneta Center.
“Here at Food Exchange Manila, you don’t need passports or visas. Come here with a curious palate and savor the Asian flavors that we offer,” Chef Sau said.
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