Authentic Chinese Cuisine at Cantonese Soup Kitchen
Recommend this post? Add a plus one.
The restaurant where I had the beautiful glass of floral tea was Cantonese Soup Kitchen in Banawe St. It’s quite out of the way from where I live, and I think people who don’t live in the Quezon City area will have a hard time getting there. But if Banawe St. is within reasonable driving distance, I highly recommend that you stop and check it out, especially if you’re tired of these hacks that call themselves “Chinese restaurants.” Cantonese Soup Kitchen is one of those few Chinese restaurants that made me feel like I was eating authentic Chinese food.
I think it helped that I had a rather difficult time maneuvering through the tiny restaurant’s crowded first floor. Later that evening, I learned that the Chinese community at Banawe St. don’t just patronize any restaurant. They’re difficult to please, and any restaurant whose food does not meet their high standards will wither and die. On the other hand, a restaurant with their stamp of approval will always be packed, even on a week day. Additionally, Cantonese Soup Kitchen serves a host of foods that you don’t normally find in the average Chinese restaurant. Their specialties are herbal soups, carefully crafted to make sure that every bowl has potent healing properties. The restaurant also has an extensive herbal tea menu with specific healing capabilities. Unlike most restaurants, the tea isn’t served in tea bag form, but as loose leaves brewing in a pot of boiling water.
I was worried that the food at Cantonese Soup Kitchen might be too exotic for my tastes, but I felt more at ease as our appetizers arrived. Despite being favored by old timers from China, the restaurant’s offerings are very easy to eat, even if you’re not particularly adventurous. The first dish we had was the Sliced Beef Kenchi, a perfectly marbled slab of beef cut into fine strips and dipped into soy sauce. Chewy and soft, this was one light appetizer that the meat lovers at the table enjoyed.
Next was the polon chay with two kinds of egg – chicken egg and century egg. I didn’t have any of this because I dislike the texture of century egg, but my boyfriend and trusty dining companion said that the taste of the century egg was neutralized by the polon chay.
My favorite appetizer was the fried spring rolls. I thought it would be filled with vegetables, but these are actually filled with the same meat you’d find in dumplings. It was deliciously salty and crunchy, even without the sauce. I enjoyed it so much that I went out of my way to get the very last spring roll. I hope that didn’t make me look like a total pig.
I highly recommend the garlic burst spare ribs if you’re truly afraid of stepping out of your comfort zone. They remind me of the evil fried delicacies you’d normally find in pulutan platters at Filipino restaurants. The dish stayed true to its garlicky name and was a little on the oily, fatty side. Then again, you can’t expect anything less than deadly from fried meat.
When the hot shrimp salad first arrived at the table, I wondered who was crazy enough to order a fruit salad for dessert before the main course arrived. It really did look like fruit salad from afar, but when the dish finally reached my section of the table, I saw the fried shrimp underneath the cream sauce. Imagine a fruit salad, but less sweet, and with salty shrimp fried in a tasty batter. That’s what the hot shrimp salad tasted like. I decided that this was my second favorite appetizer, and was sad when the plate got polished off too quickly.
At long last, our main course arrived. The owner of the restaurant urged us to get our own bowl of their popular herbal soups and share a little bit of everything with the others. My boyfriend got the best-selling sibot with duck soup, a dish served in Chinese households when a person is feeling sick or exhausted. Sibot is a “warm” soup that revitalizes your spirits and re-energizes your body. In fact, the owner of the restaurant told me that they often get male customers who order sibot and gulp it down quickly before heading to the Hotel Sogo across the street. I expected sibot to taste like a bitter concoction of herbs, but the soup was surprisingly light, mild, and comforting. I can see why anyone would want to drink this for a pick-me-up; I’d love to sip on sibot during a rainy day or when I’m feeling down.
My soup order was the Cantonese Soup Kitchen special – an egg drop soup with peas, meat, and some vegetables. I always order egg-drop soup whenever I eat at Chinese restaurants, and this one was very satisfying.
Across the table from me, Jeff of Boy Kuripot let everyone have a tiny bowl of his a wintermelon soup. I christened it “Chinese tinola” after discovering that it tastes like a milder version of one of my favorite Filipino dishes. The wintermelon soup is a “cooling” soup that provides the opposite effect of the sibot; instead of re-energizing you, it will make you feel sedated and calm. Maybe it was because I had soup with contrasting effects, or maybe it was the amount of food I ate, but I felt full and sleepy after my meal.
My recap of the dinner isn’t over yet! As soon as we were done with our main course, we sampled most of the dishes in their dessert menu. Stay tuned for the last part of my Cantonese Soup Kitchen experience.
The Cantonese Soup Kitchen (across the red Hotel Sogo)
Unit C-847 Banawe cor. Linaw St., Quezon City