Food bloggers are often ridiculed for eating and critiquing but not creating anything of their own. Nastassia Johnson of Let Me Eat Cake and Marvin Gapultos of Burnt Lumpia, however, are changing the equation with the launch of The Manila Machine, a food truck specializing in Filipino fare, which debuted at last night's Art Walk in downtown LA.
After being spoiled as a girl by the cooking of my Filipino neighbors in Hawai'i, I have often pined for tasty pansit or banana lumpia only to be disappointed by the lack of homestyle Filipino food in Los Angeles. As such, out of a love for the underrepresented food and in blogger solidarity, I headed downtown for The Manila Machine's opening night.
The Manila Machine serves adobo (a meat dish marinated in vinegar and soy sauce), lumpia (a Filipino version of spring rolls), sliders on pan de sal (a round bread roll popular in the Philippines), desserts including halo halo (a combination of shaved ice, milk, fruits and sweet beans) and will also offer specials.
My visit to The Manila Machine began with the lumpiang shanghai (seasoned carrots, pork and ginger, $2.00), a Filipino classic. Although lumpia can easily become weighted down by oil and grow soggy, these were perfectly light and crunchy with no grease oozing out after each bite. While the flavors were mild, the lumpia came deliciously to life with a dip in sweet and sour sauce.
Next was pork and pineapple adobo served with white rice ($5.00). Although I enjoyed each hearty bite of meat, I wished that the dish had a stronger vinegar kick and that I could taste the bright tang of the pineapple which was lost in the flavor of the marinade. American palates may not be accustomed to generous amounts of vinegar, but an extra splash might take this adobo from good to great.
The star of the savory dishes was the tapa slider (sweet calamansi beef, achara slaw and spicy Sriacha mayo, $2.50) on a pan de sal roll. With the soft, flaky roll, crunchy slaw and thick beef, this slider covers all of the textures for which your mouth might hope. The Sriacha sauce and mayo worked wonderfully well together, adding a nice, full-bodied kick to the cool slaw and sweet beef. Although I was getting full, I almost went back for another one of these sliders.
Although all of The Manila Machine's desserts sounded delightful, I had to order the turon ($2.00), which is a fruit lumpia often filled with plantains and jackfruit. In Manila Machines' turon, the flaky, crunchy egg roll surrounds sweet, warm banana and is topped with a caramel drizzle and, for $1.00 more, ube or pineapple coconut ice cream. Hot apple pie has nothing on this warm, sweet, fruity treat, and The Manila Machine's banana lumpia is top-notch--just like "Tata" and "Lola" make back home!
Congratulations to Nastassia and Marvin for a successful first night; they sold out in a few hours! Best of luck, you two, and thanks for the taste of home.
The Manila Machine