Eating our way through Southeast Asia
Cheeko B. Ruiz (The Philippine Star) - January 19, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - No love is purer than the love for food, as the saying goes, and most people would probably agree, especially here in the Philippines, where restaurants offering a very wide range of local and international cuisine abound. Offering food is the most basic signal of friendship, and sharing food is the bond that seals that friendship. Anywhere you go, the Filipino will offer you – friend or stranger – a smile and the invitation, “Kain na po (Let’s eat)!” 

According to Antonette Mitschiener, Hotel H2O director for sales and marketing, they acknowledge and embrace the Filipinos’ love affair with food. That is why at Makan Makan Asian Food Village located at the second level of Hotel H20 at the Manila Ocean Park complex in Luneta, there are more than 150 dishes from Southeast Asia – particularly Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines – from which diners could choose.

The menu also shows influences from China, Japan, India and other cultures, producing a rich and diverse cuisine, Antonette explains.

At a food-tasting event held by Makan Makan before 2013 ended, guests were treated to a sumptuous and delicious lunch, starting off with Malaysia’s roti prata, a flat bread with tasty curry dip, and Indonesia’s satay, pork chicken and beef on skewers served with peanut sauce.

These were served alongside Thailand’s seafood tom yum, a sour and spicy lemongrass broth with seafood; and Singapore’s laksa or spiced rice noodles soup topped with seafood and fish cake.

On to the main courses, guests relished the pineapple fried rice, again of Thailand, which aside from juicy pineapple, had shrimp, chicken chunks and raisins; and the cha hae mee of Singapore or stir-fried bihon noodles with shrimps.

Meanwhile, the sambal squid of Malaysia (mouthwatering squid rings with chili paste) provided a generous dose of spice.

This was complemented by the marinated Makan fried chicken of China; steamed lapu-lapu with soya sauce, also of China, and the piéce de résistance, lechon de leche or charcoal-roasted piglet of the Philippines.

“These foods are the best that their countries have to offer,” Antonette says.

Served as drinks were the bandung of Indonesia made of rose syrup, evaporated milk and grass jelly and “Michael Jackson” of Singapore, or iced white soya milk with bits of black grass jelly.

Sweetening the taste buds were Singapore’s taku or sago pearls topped with coconut cream and mango pudding.

In command of Makan Makan’s kitchen is executive chef John Orit, a native of Maasin, southern Leyte.

John, who has received accolades from local food writers, has extensive experience in the kitchen.

He worked in Brunei, cooking for the sultan, and at the Movenpick Hotel in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

He has been the executive chef of Makan Makan since 2009 as part of Hotel H2O’s pre-opening team.

Antonette says that while John’s specialty is Chinese cuisine, he trained under a Singaporean chef to master Southeast Asian dishes before the opening of Makan.

Jojo Moises, Hotel H2O’s food and beverage manager, says a visit to Makan is virtually a journey to another world.

“Living up to its name which means to eat, people behind Makan will make sure that customers will enjoy a food paradise and experience their money’s worth,” he says.

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