Thursday, October 22, 2009

Southern Deli Halal Restaurant

Posted this in my GMA blog. Though this post is strictly about food, and I never claim to know anything about Islamic cuisine, a lot of the comments veered towards religion, most of them borderline offensive. Thankfully, there were folks who kept to the spirit of the post, and that's the enjoyment of good food. I say, can't we all just get along at the dinner table?

Hidden behind the building fronting V Mall in the Greenhills shopping center is Southern Deli, a modest cafeteria frequented by the area's Muslim community.

Small and clean, the restaurant specializes in Maranao cuisine. The restaurant may look humble, ut the dishes – all Maranao home cooking – are anything but.

Diners get a free bowl of soup. Made from carabao (water buffalo) ribs, this translucent broth is warm, its beefy base enhanced by a coconutty taste. It warms the stomach and prepares it for the dishes yet to come.

Dining is no frills, no nonsense. You pick your dishes from a cafeteria lineup, sit at one of the plastic tables and eat. All the dishes cost Php50 for a small saucerfull, the rice, Php15 a bowl.

The Rendang Beef tastes like a cross between adobo and beef stew. It's pretty tasty, but has a slightly overpowering saltiness that is masked once it is paired with rice. This saltiness occurs in a lot of the canteen's dishes, and when asked about it, the owners explained that it is actually a hallmark of good Maranao cooking.

My favorite dish was the Fresh Tuna Kinilaw (what they call kilawin in the South), which was very, very spicy. Since my companion and I had gotten there early, the tuna had not yet “cooked” in its vinegar marinade. What makes this cerviche-like dish stand out is the addition of coconut milk, which lends the dish a sweet edge. The kinilaw also contains chopped cucumber, onion, chili and ginger. This, I have to say, is one of the best I've had in the city.

We also had Bakas, which, unlike its name implies, is not a beef dish but is actually tuna grilled with tumeric and grated coconut. It was dry and a bit tough but with a mild taste, quite the opposite of the Beef Rendang!

The Chicken Curry was more salty than curry-shy, but also very very spicy. Another dish that has to be eaten with rice.

Another favorite of mine was the Badak, a vegetable dish made from leaves not found in Manila. The dish also contains langka (Jackfruit) and daing (smoked fish) and tasted like laing with the texture of labong. Could a dish be even more perfect?

I wouldn't mind going back there again, especially if I'm in the mood for kinilaw. I have to wonder about what the mainly Muslim clientele will think of a non-believer being there though, as we got a few strange looks during out trip there. Still, I'm glad we got to try it.

Southern Deli

Greenhills Shopping Center

Carpark Mosque

San Juan


10.30am – 9pm daily except holidays

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