Lil’ Phillipines

by Sarah on December 7, 2010

No, unlike ‘Little Saigon’, there’s no official city-designated place on the map of Sacramento for ‘Little Phillipines’, but I was introduced to some fantastic Filipino spots by a friend recently that I just have to share with y’all.

Other than the work-potluck-staple lumpia (which are crunchy and delicious, don’t get me wrong), and the lesser-known glass-noodle-and-pork-stuffed-crispy chicken wings (also really delicious), I’d never actually had Filipino food.  Never.  Ever.  Nope.  Didn’t even know what it entailed, really.  Didn’t even know that we had real sit-down Filipino restaurants just a few miles away from my very own house.  Till recently, anyway.

Yes, that would be crispy pork belly.  It’s on the menu ALL THE TIME at South Villa in South Sacramento.  Except for one thing.  I don’t know what it’s called on the menu.  Hopefully my friend Genie can chime in and tell us what they all are called so you can go order these dishes.

So freaking good.  Crispy on the outside and just perfectly tender inside with that good intense porky taste.  There was a tangy dipping sauce also.

Above is another dish I’ve forgotten the name of.  It had big tender shrimp and those small eggplant–you know, the ones that stay firm and don’t get too spongy?  I love them.  Also in there was some bitter melon and a kind of pumpkin.  I’d never really been a big fan of bitter melon, but in this instance–where the other components were sweet and mellow–the bitter bite was a welcome diversion.

This was Genie’s favorite.  I remember this one (I think)–it’s called Kare Kare and has oxtail in a peanutty sauce with bok choy or something like it.  The tender meat is still attempting to cling onto the bone but at the slightest nudge it falls off.

This was one of the pancit dishes–pancit meaning “noodles”, but I don’t recall which dish we ordered.  It included more of those tender shrimp, some cubes of fried tofu and was garnished with peanuts and sliced egg and scallion.

South Villa also serves Chinese food and is now doing some Vietnamese dishes as well.  They do a Filipino buffet at lunchtime too.

After our leisurely lunch, we decided to do a bit of shopping and headed down the 99 an exit to Mack Road to the Seafood City Shopping Center.  Seafood City is a grocery chain specializing in Asian, and particularly, in Filipino foodstuffs.  What a cool store–I can’t believe I’d never been there.  I guess I get stuck in my usual rut of hitting up Oto’s (because it’s close) or SF Market (because it’s also fairly close), but Seafood City will be on my shopping list from now on.

They’ve got a full-service fish monger with tons of fresh and frozen fish, shellfish and squidlike creatures to choose from.  Crabs, the first of the season, were coming in and were cooked to order and were cheap.

Butchers are at the ready.  Chopping, marinating and making your life easy.

Also:  If you need blood for boudin noir, here’s where you can get it.

There is one whole aisle devoted to fish sauce.  Genie said this was her family’s favorite choice.

We stopped in the in-store bakery for a treat on the way out.  This is halo-halo (halo = mix), a treat that includes shaved ice, evaporated milk, sweet beans and random fruit or yams that is layered into a glass that the drinker then mixes up to their liking.  I’m going to be honest.  Genie doesn’t like it but was being a good sport.  I took a few bites but didn’t love it either.  We tossed it and ran.

After the big mega-shopping experience at Seafood City, we ran right through the now-pouring rain to the next shop on our list, Starbread Bakery.  Just a quick peek around, you know, just to see what’s in there….oh, how nice, white bread, some rolls, some hot dog bun thingys…..what’s that you say handsome young man?  Oh, would we like to sample your signature “senorita bread”?  Well, ok, I guess so…Oh…mffmmmmyummm..MY…mmlsdihffmmmlmmm……………GOD.  This bread is SO GOOD.  Her:  “I’ll take a bag of 5″.  Me:  “I’ll take a dozen”.

Best marketing strategy ever.

Give away one, sell twelve.

What is it about you, Seniorita Bread?  Why are you just so darn soft and pillowy inside and crisp with that slight sugary crunch on the outside?  Why?  I can’t quit you.

Last on our stops, because by now it is raining quite a lot and I’m wearing a t-shirt dress with tights and an expensive camera, was the little butcher shop right next door to Starbread.  Can I just say AWESOME?  Lots of handmade sausages, marinated short ribs, gobs of entrails and enormous haunches of meat for your every need.  I bought some of the short ribs but we haven’t had them yet.  They are going to be so good over the charcoal!

And there you have it!   Another adventure in beautiful South Sacramento.  Where the food is good, cheap and plentiful and the shopkeepers are gracious and friendly.  Even if they don’t really speak much English.  I know I’ll be back–Starbread is going to be on my weekly route now.


And DON’T FORGET!  Live life to the fullest!


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