By CHEF GENE GONZALEZ
Mandaluyong seems to be a haven for food entrepreneurs who convert their houses or rented apartments into eateries that become rather popular places for the residents. Such places gain good feedback from the people who live in the immediate area, becoming some kind of a well-kept secret. Think PVL and Tonang’s Merienda Center. There’s a simple eatery I would go to every now and then on Parada Street, Old Zaniga, Mandaluyong called Mamu’s Kitchenette owned by Rory Villanueva who is very well-known in this area because of her home cooked dishes that have been around for more than 20 years.
Among my favorite days is Friday when I can get a good bowl of monggo guisado laden with chicharon bits that I pair off with tinapang galunggong.
The food is honest and done as it is in every household. Whatever Jojo, their head cook, finds interesting or reasonably priced becomes one of the viands for the day. So, going there, especially for early lunch when everything is freshly cooked, will always be a surprise as food, as in a typical house, is prepared based on budgets and moods.
The Kitchenette is now staffed with two of Rory’s nieces who have added new offerings in the eatery. One niece is Ting Badilles who used to be the head cook of the restaurant but is now married and only works part-time, accepting orders for her flower siomai. Ting has a little showcase that she personally takes care of filled with pancit palabok toppings. Just like the food they sell, which neighbors buy in their tiffins or pombreras, the price of this pancit makes them truly good neighbors as it is indeed low-priced. The other niece is Jinggay Avecilla who took up culinary courses in the nearby Rizal Technological University in Mandaluyong and seems to be the person in charge of the deep fried and merienda lines. Still competitively active in volleyball, Jinggay is the social media savvy person of this resto, which I discovered while surfing through IG. It was in IG that I first saw all these homemade, homecooked products she does. She runs an internet food business called Tindahan ni Jinggay that has myriad of food products.
Champion bowler Bong Coo and Cathy Solis are regular clients who delight in her empanadas and mini siopaos (her mini siopaos are an everyday feature in Mamu’s Kitchenette). Many of the surprises of Mamu’s kitchen come from Jinggay’s rotation of her homemade recipes. I have palabok, lumpia, fried vegetable, lumpia, or dinamita (fried chili cheese rolls) on occasions. On a warm day, I have saba con hielo with my noodles. Of course, there is always the mainstay, the mini asado siopao or the empanada. The most innovative and hard-to-find dish is the okoy pusong saging which I order quite often—a nice dip in its spiced vinegar soy sauce mix.
Jinggay introduced me also to her sizzling beef tapa, a bestseller on the grab-and-go menu. This is particularly saleable in the evening, especially for working people.
Anyway, on another day, I will look forward to a hefty kare-kareng pata with pinalbot na tuwalya or a simple ginataang tulingan when I crave for a simple homecooked meal in this simple unassuming place. In the meantime, I will continue the search for more of these interesting gems in Mandaluyong City.
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