Tag Archives: Filipino food

Happy or Hungry Eats the World: Max’s, Cuisine of the Philippines

If you missed it, I am trying to eat at an authentic restaurant from every country in the world right here in Toronto (or as many countries as possible).

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Today I’m talking about the Philippines!philippines copy

I had been researching Filipino food in Toronto (there are many Filipino restaurants in Toronto) and the restaurant that I kept coming back to was Max’s Cuisine of the Philippines at Steeles and Dufferin.

Our condo building’s superintendent (whose name is Mario, so obviously we call him Super Mario, and he is just the friendliest most lovely man with the brightest smile) is from the Philippines, and Evan knows him quite well so he mentioned we were planning on going to Max’s and just casually asked him what we should order if we wanted to eat traditional Filipino food. According to Evan, the conversation went something like this:

Evan: Hey Mario, we’re going to Max’s for dinner tonight. If we’re looking to eat authentic Filipino cuisine, what should we order?

Mario: Oh, I’ll find out! [gets out his phone]

Evan: Right, but what’s like a traditional Filipino dish we should eat?

Mario: I know, I’m asking!

Evan: But…who are you asking?

Mario: The owners!

Evan: Oh but… Wait, what? You know the owners of Max’s?

Mario: Of course, we are friends!

Evan: So you’re going to send them a message?

Mario: No, I’m going to call them. I’ll let you know what they say!

Evan: Well. Okay then. Thank you!

So then later on in the day Evan received this message from Mario.

IMG_9536So, a very big thank you to Mario for the hookup.

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It was extremely busy when we arrived at Max’s. Like, I cannot believe how packed it was for a Tuesday night. Families at every table, having a good time. But expecting us they were, and they recognized us immediately and got us a table very quickly. The service truly could not have been any better. Now, this could have been because they wanted to make a good impression on us, like when the food critic comes to the restaurant and the staff goes above and beyond to make sure their experience is awesome… But it seemed like all the diners in there were experiencing the same treatment, so I don’t think that was the case.

Max’s is a chain restaurant that originated in the Philippines and now has locations in the US (Americans, find your stores here!) and Canada, as well as still in the Philippines (and it’s coming to the Middle East!).

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Max’s is famous for the chicken, and it seemed kind of like the Swiss Chalet of Canada (I don’t mean their chicken was like Swiss Chalet, I mean Max’s is to the Philippines what Swiss Chalet is here) but that doesn’t mean it’s not authentic. The food was legit (as far as I can tell).

We started with (non-alcoholic) drinks. The calamansi (lime) drink for Evan, and the Sago at Gulaman drink for me, a local Filipino beverage with brown sugar, water, gelatin, and tapioca pearls over shaved ice.

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I did not know about the tapioca pearls or the gelatin before I ordered it and I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about that, but I do know I like drinks and snacks all in one (a la Caesars) and I enjoyed it.

We went with Mario’s/the manager’s recommendation and started with the fresh lumpia, or Lumpiang Sariwa.

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A crepe filled with slices of coconut heart and other vegetables and topped with a garlic peanut sauce and chopped peanuts. Similar to a spring roll. I think we would have really liked the crispy deep fried one also. Next time. The crepe was soft and fresh and I enjoyed this a lot, especially the sauce. I started spooning more sauce onto my crepe before I even took one bit and Evan was all “You don’t even know if you like the sauce yet.” Oh, I already know I like the sauce. I like all the sauce.

And we did the crispy pata, which is basically fried pork knuckles.

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We probably would not have ordered this if if hadn’t been for Mario’s recommendation. When I was reading about Filipino food beforehand, the description of this dish started with “Not for the easily spooked!” And I am not easily spooked, but I don’t love the idea of pork knuckles. This was refreshingly good though. The pork inside was tender and juicy and the skin was crispy and had a great flavour. I just tended to avoid the jelly parts (between the meat and the skin), and that is a texture thing for me. Otherwise I enjoyed.

For my main I ordered the chicken adobo.

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And I am so glad I did! I got garlic rice on the side, and the combination of that sauce and the garlic rice was heaven. Seriously, I could have drank the sauce. The chicken was also surprisingly good. This was my favourite dish we ordered, hands down. I loved it.

Evan needed to try the fried chicken, since it is their signature dish and he loves fried chicken (who doesn’t?).

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With egg noodles and garlic rice. I really liked the egg noodles! I saw reviews that said the chicken was a bit on the dry side, but we did not find that to be the case at all. Actually, after trying it, I thought it was understandable how Max’s is famous for it.

At every table there is this banana sauce that is made in the Philippines.

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We were asking the owner about it and he said he mixes it with Tabasco sauce and Worcestershire and then puts it on his chicken, so we tried that as well. Very good. I am all about the sauces!

When we finished our meal the manager came over and said she was going to bring us the best dessert in the Philippines! The leche flan.

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I don’t have any other desserts from the Philippines that I can compare it to, but I will tell you that it was absolutely delicious and tasted like butterscotch pudding.

I would also like to note that Max’s seems to be famous in the local Filipino community for its Halo-Halo, a popular summer treat in the Philippines. I didn’t realize this until afterwards but I saw a ton of people ordering it and I was wondering what it was.

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Pretty elaborate. I’ve never seen a dessert so colourful. I’m not sure if that looks like my kind of thing, but people seem to go nuts for it.

And that concludes our fantastic Philippines experience. It was a delicious one. Actually, everywhere I’ve eaten so far for this project has been really great.

Past Happy or Hungry Eats the World adventures:

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Unexpected Culinary Adventures at the Flea Market

On Saturday Evan and I were hanging around with not a lot going on, so in the late morning we decided to take a trip over to our good ol’ neighbourhood flea market at Downsview Park (that link has a sweet virtual tour of the flea market).

I haven’t been to a flea market in years and years. Well wait, that’s not true.. Evan and I did go when we were in Florida last year but it was super lame and the only thing I remember them having were T-shirts. More specifically, T-shirts with ironed on patches in random places because the purpose of the patch was probably to cover a hole… It wasn’t the flea market I had been anticipating and I feel like it didn’t count.

Anyway, the Downsview Merchants Market was awesome. It had everything imaginable and also nothing really important, all at the same time. So many treasures. I have been all about Storage Wars lately (YUUUP!) and the antique area reminded me of a storage locker packed with goodies. Really fun browsing around in there. I also really enjoyed the electronics booths because they had things I probably would never think to buy. And the toy booths because they had all kinds of throwback toys.

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LOVE Wrinkles! He looks just like the one I used to have! (actually I still have him, but he is naked and missing his bone…)

There is also this game that I really want. It is two separate controllers that you can plug into your TV, and one has hundreds of old school Nintendo games on it, and the other controller has old school Sega Genesis games. Sega Genesis is my FAVE console and I would die if it had Toejam and Earl on it.

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best game ever.

I can’t find the controllers by Googling but I did see them recently in this weird random store in this weird random mall near us also, so I have been debating for a few weeks now. The only thing stopping me is that I don’t think the controllers seem to be of the best quality… When Evan was testing it the direction buttons kind of jumped around, and if that happens while I’m playing I’ll be annoyed. Just didn’t feel very legit. I’m regretting not getting it though, so we’ll see.

Seriously digressing over here, so back to the flea market.

In a surprise twist, the flea market also had live lizards.

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lovers

And books! So many books!

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I spent the longest in that booth. I really miss working in a book store and being surrounded by books. It was such a dream job and I am so out of the book loop these days. I might go back to that booth one day and take a more serious look, but the only book I bought was The Glass Castle. I have read it about four times but I love it so much and I lent my copy out to someone and never got it back. I don’t even remember who it was so I can’t even ask them for it.

The highlight of the flea market was definitely the food court though.

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It was not your typical food court. It was like an international food festival! I saw authentic Mexican, Chinese, Vietnamese, Filipino, Afghan, Caribbean, Jamaican, and Dominican Republic food stalls. I’m probably missing some. And typically the food booths had two older ladies and a stove, making their authentic dishes on the spot. No McDonalds in here.

We first went to the Trinidad and Tobago stall and got doubles.

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Not photogenic, but very delicious

Lucky I had Evan with me, since he lived in Trinidad and is very doubles savvy. I had never even heard of them. He said in Trinidad when you come out of the bar in the early hours in the morning, vendors are set up outside with doubles. Just like sausage vendors here. It is a sandwich made with two pieces of fried bread called bara (it reminded me a little bit of naan bread, it had that stretchiness to it) and filled with channa (chick peas). You can put other toppings in the sandwich like sweet and spicy mango and various chutneys. They were delicious and I could definitely see myself packing away one of those at 2am after a night out. They also had shark and bake which really intrigued me… Next time, apparently it’s a must try (says Evan).

For my actual meal I popped over to the Philippines booth because I don’t know if I have ever tried authentic Filipino food

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I feel like the lady who was working there became my new best friend in the five minutes or so that I talked to her. She told me all about her dishes. I could not understand everything she said, but when I pointed to two and asked what they were I heard pork in there so I decided to go with that. She also asked me if I wanted to try the chicken soup she was making and that was a big yes over here.

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Ground pork adobo and some other noodley dish with pork

Really good. The pork adobo especially.

Evan headed over to the Jamaican booth and ordered salt fish with festivals (fried dumplings), fried plantains, and avocado.

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I tried everything on his plate and loved it all. I think we are going to have to stop at the flea market for lunch more often. I had no idea of the culinary adventure that awaited us.

We went to the farmers market there also and picked up a TON of fresh produce, and also these fancy tarts from an English bakery booth.

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And then we came home and napped with the Winster.

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Such a sasspot she is. I just love her little feets. (PS I clipped her nails after I saw this picture as they are a little out of control…)

And then we made dinner together – pork tenderloin, rice and Evan’s fantasic beans, and green salad with avocado and oil and balsamic vinegar.

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Pretty good low-key Saturday. And if you’re ever in the Downsview area, check out that flea market!

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