A local family-owned food chain is set to conquer the Middle East with dishes that will surely remind overseas Filipino workers of home with every sip and savor.
Razon’s of Guagua has come a long way from its humble beginnings in Pampanga, considered to be the country’s culinary capital and the home province of the original Razon sisters – Elena, Severina and Virginia.
The sisters have perfected the recipes of the restaurant’s iconic creamy halo-halo, which consists of only three main ingredients: leche flan, macapuno, and saging na saba; and pancit luglug, with its naturally blended red sauce, baby shrimps, and finely crumbled chicharon.
“It will be our first international store in Dubai, and we are excited to cater to our over a million OFWs in the region. There is a demand for real Filipino food in Dubai,” Jose Razon, executive vice president of Razon’s Food Corporation, said in an exclusive interview.
Razon recalled that a representative of two Dubai companies visited the Philippines last year to broach the idea of bringing the restaurant chain to the Middle East. The discussion resulted in a joint venture between Razon’s Middle East LCC, Edris Alrafi and Walid Abdullah, with the Dubai branch scheduled to open by the end of the year.
Razon, who described the OFW market in the Middle East as “underserved” when it comes to authentic Filipino diners, said the food chain will eventually apply for halal (literally permissible in accordance with Islamic laws and beliefs) certification.
“There are other Filipino restaurants operating in Dubai but these are either not owned by Filipinos or not serving Filipino dishes. We will be an all-Filipino crew restaurant and we are very enthusiastic in developing non-pork meals,” he said.
“While OFWs are our primary market, we will strive to (make) mainstream Filipino dishes in the Middle East. We can do that with a halal certification,” he added.
On the local front, Razon’s has also been aggressively expanding its branches and its menu.
From its first branch in 2003 in the food court of Robinson’s Galleria in Ortigas, Razon’s of Guagua now has 74 branches across Luzon and two in Cebu. This year, the company opened its Tagaytay branch and re-opened its newly renovated Mall of Asia branch.
“When you hear the brand Razon’s of Guagua, it has become synonymous to halo-halo and pancit luglug. We are happy that people automatically make that association, but we also want to change that misconception that we only sell merienda dishes,” Razon said.
The new menu now includes spareribs (the meat is sourced directly from Guagua as the traditional cut is not available in Metro Manila), sinigang na baboy, beef kaldereta, kare-kare (the oxtail is imported because, well, that was how the earlier generation of Razons did it in their kitchen), and lumpia.
“There was only one item that we introduced before that we had to remove from the menu –adobo sa puti. It was cooked in vinegar and garlic, with no soy sauce but with a thin layer of sarsa. I guess most Filipinos are not yet ready for soy sauce-less adobo,” recalled Razon.
Razon’s of Guagua may have become a household name in Luzon (or, as in the case of this writer, the go-to diner for piping hot arroz caldo – which one colleague aptly likened to a mother’s embrace that can wipe away all stress and hurt), but the men and women behind the brand are nowhere near becoming complacent. Whether you are enjoying their bundle and groufie-sized meals, or perhaps simply getting a table for one with good old pancit luglug or dinuguan at puto, whether you are in the Philippines or in Dubai, there are, pardon the pun, more razons to eat and feel at home.
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