Monday, March 15, 2010

The Embedded Memory in Comfort Food

Everyone has his or her own  idea of what comfort food is.  It is highly subjective; most of  the association stemming  from pleasant  and memorable childhood experiences. For us Filipinos, what food could give more comfort than our own cuisine?  For some, it may be a bowl of pipping-hot sinigang na baboy, the meat and fat quivering in its softness, the vegetables green and crunchy, and the soup so sour  that one can't help but shudder in delight.  For others, it may be the humble adobo, be it saucy or dry, dark or light, sour or salty.  Eggs and potatoes are optional of course, but it is always best if it's lovingly cooked at home.

However, I'd like to think I buck the trend for not choosing Filipino food as a source of comfort.  Sure, I'd more than appreciate a hearty sinigang or a simple adobo.  Who Filipino wouldn't?  But of all the delectable food that is out there to savor, only one thing comes in mind for me when it comes to comfort food.

Kowloon's jumbo pao.


Mom used to work in a government agency when I was a kid.  She'd endure countless hours of commuting in traffic to and fro our house to her office in Makati.  But once every few days, she'd call me out aloud the moment she stepped through the door and say, "Anak, I have pasalubong for you!" From her hands hidden behind her back, she'd hand me over a white plastic with red lettering. I'd open it, peer at the contents, and sure enough, there'd be a jumbo pao inside - still warm and steamy.

"I love you, anak ko," she'd hug and kiss me on the cheeck.

"I love you, too, Mom! Thanks for the pasalubong!" I'd respond with a muffled reply since a mouthful of the jumbo pao was already in my mouth.


Cubao Boy and I accompanied my mom one afternoon for her check up with the doctor.  Since I knew her appointment would take some time to finish, CB and I decided to take merienda at the nearby Kowloon House.  Naturally, what would we order but jumbo paos, a cold can of Coke Zero, and egg tarts for dessert?

The jumbo pao was still good as it always had been.  The dough was still steamy, soft but textured, with a slightly sweet taste.  The bola-bola, asado, chinese chorizo, and the salted egg provided a contrast of taste, yet they melded together in perfect complement.  As I sank my first bite, all the warm memories of my childhood came back to me in a rush of nostalgia.

Ah yes, such is wonder of comfort food.

I picked up my mom soon after from the doctor's clinic, and she joined us for merienda. I bought her a jumbo pao and shark's fin siomai.  She was delighted with the food, and asked if I remember that she used to bring me the same kind of siopao as pasalubong when I was a kid.

Yes, Ma, I do still remember. I do still remember the sacrifices you made while I was growing up. The passage of time has not diminished the impact nor the clarity of recollection.

And with every bite of a Kowloon jumbo pao, I honor and give thanks to that memory.
Para kay Galen at CB, na adik-adikan din sa Kowloon jumbo pao. Salamat din kay PKF at sa kanyang sinulat na inspiration ko sa post na ito.


  1. Shet now I want to try this Kowloon jumbo pao. Nyar.

    Honored to be your ehm.. comfort food muse :)

  2. PKF: whaaaaaaat?! you haven't tasted a kowloon jumbo pao?!!

    but the honor is mine ;)

  3. i haven't too...

    is there a difference with the regular siopao?

    now ur making me hungry... rice toppings in a box please.. hhehehhe

    i love chicharon kahit bawal.. hehhe

  4. Oh my. This brings back memories. Although I'm partial to bola-bola siopao, but still the same, it has to be Kowloon. And the good thing is, their siopao comes in pairs. Perfect for sharing, or for the cash-strapped, multiple meriendas.

    When I was a kid, I had fond memories of dropping by Binondo every weekend with my mom and dad, and my older brother. And Kowloon would always be my objective. They'd savor Savory, but the siopao was my craving.

    Years later, I would bring those whom I like, and would be dating seriously, to my happy place. A Kowloon House outlet behind Quezon City Hall. There, memories were shared, and stories told.

    I miss it all.

  5. Red: precious reminiscing! ;)

    Clipped: if i lbc si *tooot*, will it ill up you hunger? ahahahaha

  6. Naku, where to get a jumbo (Kowloon) pao at this time? LOL... (Craving, craving...)

  7. nyeta nagutom tuloy ako! hehehe

  8. ako din di pa nakakatikim nun.

    comfort food ko lately is white chocolate ng goya even if it's not that good.

  9. oh my gulay, i haven't tried that jumbo pao from kowloon as well.

    ibang jumbo pa lang ang nakakain ko, ahihihi!

  10. i might watch CATS this May in Manila... we should have dinner after with *toot*

  11. CB: belat! :P

    Engel: what?! weird! kami lang ba ni cb, galen, red, ad sam ang kumakain ng jumbo pao?! lolz

    John Stan: isa ka pa!

    Clipped: YOU'D like that, wouldn't you? AHAHAHAHAHA mmwaaaaaah

  12. i've never had it either. pinagdamutan ba ako ng magulang ko of a proper childhood? lol

  13. nag crave tuloy ako nang siopao.. pero i doubt if they have it here.. :)

  14. City: aarrrrgh. not you, too?!

    Dhon: maadto ka diri kasi sa manila ;)

  15. or I'l skip CATS and we'll have dinner... i'l bring hello kitty with me.. hahahah

  16. aaaaaaay ang comfort food ko naisusubo lang pero hindi nangunguya at nalulunok.... ahahahahahaha

    ahmishu Ternie.... :)

  17. Yj: teh, oks lang subo, wag lang swallow a.

    swallow lang pag may love involved AHAHAHA

    haymishutoo! :D

  18. ayan! napaghahalata ang mahihilig sa Jumbo... Pao...


  19. Iuri: uy, i know not such worldlines...


  20. comfort food...?

    basta ako sumasaya pagnakakatikim ng ampalaya.

    (bitter lang, haha)


  21. Hay comfort food... I remember requesting my mother to prepare a variety of dishes for my welcome home dinner (from our EGP tour). Ang dami ko palang comfort food. Hehehe

  22. Ulap: wahahaha haymishutoo mmwaah

    Cathy: e kasi naman, nakakaburaot magtinapay, keso't cold cuts sa europe kada kain natin e :P

  23. moms are love. i have chichirya for comfort food.