I haven't been down south for quite a while because traffic has been generously horrendous in that part of the world - but when they invited us over to judge winners for the Lee Kum Kee Big Grill Masters, I immediately said YES! Imagine, around 20 vendors (who's probably been doing this for years) will converge in Lakefront in Sucat, Paranaque to whip up their best grilled dishes to impress me. Well, technically the others too but what the heck!
I'm already salivating just thinking about it. I also heard they were coached by my favorite Chef in the Philippines Bruce Lim (couldn't say the world because Nigella Lawson might give me a spanking). Lovely pork, fish, squid, even beef were all going to be perked up with Lee Kum Kee products so they could win the title. Sounds good right? They're even flying the top 5 to Boracay in the culminating event. If that wasn't so good as a prize, I'd probably join in the contest too. I mean, it's easy to use the Lee Kum Kee Panda Brand Oyster Sauce, Lee Kum Kee Premium Soy Sauce for marinade and dips. I could also just use the Lee Kum Kee Char Siu Sauce for that Asian barbecue flavor in seconds. Aside from that, there's also the Lee Kum Kee Chicken Marinade, Lee Kum Kee Hoisin Sauce and Lee Kum Kee Sesame Oil for some nutty flair! Use it in one dish, or mix it up, you can have the lovely sauces be a symphony, to make your proteins taste as good as your imagination. The possibilities are endless!
First up was Nasi Lemak and Biko Z Stick On Grill. These are two vendors in one tent, Nasi Lemak presented us with that Malaysian thingy which consists of Barbecue, rice, anchovies, peanuts and sambal chili in a plate. The other vendor Biko Z, did really good barbecue and chicken intestines (isaw). They served it hot and fast, then I moved on to the next vendor.
Needless to say, the first salvo was a good combo of pork goodness. It was sweet and savory, they did it in different intensities but I liked the Biko Z's version more. Then we walked to the next one called "Inihaw Na Bangus", as the name implies, they do put milkfish over fire.
They used Lee Kum Kee Panda Oyster Sauce on the filling they use for the squid. They also use the Premium Soy Sauce for dips on the side. They have home made salsa in the center, so it gets roasted while you're cooking. Aside from that, they serve it with Green Mangoes and lovely shrimp paste (sweet salty bagoong). It was nice, but didn't really prove the fish was actually the star of the show. The mango was better.
Then on the next booth, they had two vendors again. This is Grillers Poit and Brothers Sizzlers. Grillers Point actually made the barbecue with the Lee Kum Kee Premium Soy Sauce as marinade. It was nice and hot, actually, it was the best barbecue we've had so far.
Brothers Sizzlers on the other hand served one of my favorite dishes, Sisig. This one was left on the sizzling pan a lot so it wreaked of pork cracklings' flavor. Now there's nothing wrong with that, but I was trying to find something special, this was just okay. They prolly should have spiced it up, or seasoned more. I had half a plate still because I love sisig as it is.
The next booth is Uncle Tony's. I love Caldereta don't get me wrong, but doing this in Baga Manila was a little out of place. It was nice though, especially if you put their chili oil on it. You would need rice, no excuses.
Iya's Grill was good, but we're finding the best here and having it cold like that just wouldn't really cut it.
Chef Jeffoy Bistro did something Indonesian too. It was actually good, especially the shrimp. I'm allergic but in these circumstances, I'd rather have it then worry about getting an asthma attack later. Good thing is, it was fresh that I didn't need to do anything at all. I love the reduced sauces they made too, it was sweet and savory. They also kept it hot, plus the crispy onions was lovely. Reminds me of my trip in Jakarta.
The next one was Grillfriends, a play on the word girlfriends perhaps but they only serve pork barbecues. A thing they're good on is that the pork is still soft, but it was almost going to be tough as it's not that hot anymore.
This next one is one of my favorites that evening. This is Mica's Flavored BBQ. They didn't serve us barbecue per se, but had us taste their lovely squid. They had it in different flavors like Garlic, Pepper and Chili.
Of course I had the chili. It was GOOD. It had a slight kick because the filling had some specks of Labuyo chili in it. I think they also marinated it in Lee Kum Kee Premium Soy Sauce, so it was good. They regulated the heat, so it wasn't rubbery and was cooked in minutes. We also had it hot off the grill, which was a plus in my books.
Mr. Johnrich has had us talking about their dish. They did a Bacon Barbecue. Remember, anything that had bacon in it is heavenly, but put it in a barbecue? That's gonna be weird, but what's funny is that when we tasted it, it actually worked! You get that sweet, salty, smoky and savory smell you love from Bacon but had it twisted on a stick. The charred parts were also a good addition to the flavor profile, hate to admit it but this was really good.
Mhakovens 25 had us try their Grilled Tuna. They used the Oyster Sauce, the Premium Soy Sauce for this one. It was okay but it didn't quite go through the fish meat quite easily. I bet if it was actually marinated longer, it would be better. For its current form, it was just okay.
Dona's Grill was actually the MOST PRESENTABLE dish of all the vendors that evening. The problem is, there wasn't really something different about their pork barbecue. It was very tough too because it was already cold when we got a chance to taste it, so in a nutshell, I loved how it looked like but it didn't pass the barbecue category we were looking for.
A+ for effort on the presentation though!
This is one of my favorites that evening too. They made the liempo cooked well done, still on the grill. It's served quite nice and if I'd have an award for best liempo that evening, this would be it.
It was lovely as it looked on the photos, so they got my vote.
The Liemponatics had me wondering about how different they'll be in making this pork liempo special. The Lee Kum Kee Premium Soy Sauce got the meat a bit darker, you can tell sugars were on the marinade as it caramelized quite nicely. Compared to the earlier one, I'd rather have that. But this booth had us asking for their Indian mangoes, it was a good side dish and had us asking for more. They made it a bit fun I think.
I was addicted to the mangoes, so you can say there's acually a green mango war going on here and the first one we tasted earlier. They took advantage of the Mango season!
BRIBS by far was my personal favorite. They're the number 1 ranked on my list. The meat almost falls off the bone instantly, plus the gravy they put on these lovely meat, I am making my own mouth water just imagining it. They did good, and added some herb potatoes on the sides. How can you also not love the presentation? I know I did.
Two Angels unfortunately didn't have something served while we were judging. Apparently, they were giving out most of it to strangers. Don't quote me on that LOL!
For the piece de resistance, we had Vizcaya - A Taste of Ilocano Cuisine. They prepared for us some Grilled Salmon Belly. It was soft, nicely seasoned, they didn't really put that much in it because the Lee Kum Kee Premium Soy Sauce and Hoisin Sauce was enough bold flavors to counteract the fishiness of it. It was hot off the grill too, so it just means they know what they're doing. Simple, fresh fish, no other ingredients to fuzz about. I like this but they didn't really become that inventive or be a little fuzzy about presentation. It was good overall!
BAGA MANILA has been in a lot of places and this one in Lakepark in Sucat Paranaque was actually nice and perfect for that Saturday night. The wind was blowing, some were seated, some did the Japenese style of seating, but overall people had a lot of fun. I wish I knew who won the competition, but I had a pretty good hunch who did good. I hope my bets get to go to Boracay soon!
Thank you so much to Lee Kum Kee for having us! Thank you also to the nice people of BAGA MANILA, keep doing what you're doing because you're taking Filipino grilling and street food to the next level! Easy on the beer!
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