Our Daily Bread


Destination: Philippines

Mode of Transport: Pan De Sal

There’s a bit of clatter in the kitchen, I can tell Bailey has started her morning ritual of preparing her mother’s coffee (2 shots of espresso, one sugar, frothed milk, and a dash of cinnamon), my coffee (2 shots of ristretto) and her own hot cocoa.

She can’t wait for us to get up, so the bit of clatter becomes more thunderous. I pretend to be a bit bothered by it, as that is her want, but in reality, I endear my human alarm clock.

We reminisce about our Filipino Childhood in American and look forward to going back to the Philippines.

I have an inherent appreciation for those self-produced, loud, wake-up calls. My grandmother, a former Miss Philippines participant, though gracious in everything she did including being in her kitchen, made sure she made enough noise in the mornings to wake a household filled with 5 boys. It was a typical New York immigrant family household.

Grandma and Me.

It was a Typical New York Immigrant Family Household

There were my three cousins who all came from the Philippines in pursuit of their Masters degrees and there was my brother and I, getting through grammar school and high-school respectively. All being taken care of by two strong women, my aunt and the aforementioned grandmother.

For the sake of knowledge, the reason for all of us being under their care was due to my cousins’ parents unable to come and live abroad in the States due to visa restrictions, and my parents having passed away early in their lives.

This is Kare Kare a Filipino stew made with oxtail, tripe, green beans, cabbage and peanut butter sauce.

This is Kare Kare a Filipino stew made with oxtail, tripe, green beans, cabbage and peanut butter sauce.

Feeding five young men, was not the cheapest of propositions; so we were raised on some humble Filipino staples. There were all sorts of stews, from the famous pork adobo to tripe and oxtail based ones (those days, nobody ate tripe or oxtail, so my grandmother got them as giveaways along with her purchase when she went to the local butcher; though I have a theory that her good looks had something to do with it).

Pork Adobo - Filipino pork stew.

Pork Adobo – Filipino pork stew.

I can only really speak for Filipinos, but I believe it to be true with most Asian families, that rice was always at the ready; which was certainly the case in our family. It was a sad day when our rice cooker broke down and needed replacing, as it meant no rice until the new one came along. It was this event that made me finally appreciate another filipino staple, the Pan de Sal.

 [Tweet “Pan de Sal, is a Portuguese export, probably brought over by Magellan and his men, during the age of discovery.”] 

Contrary to it’s name, Pan de Sal (salted bread), is actually more sweet than it is salty. Pan de Sal, is a Portuguese export, probably brought over by Magellan and his men, during the age of discovery. They are soft, small rolls that have an almost shortbread taste profile about them. It’s certainly not uncommon to have more than one when eating them. Like all good breads, there is alchemy involved; which I know nothing about, other than the fact that they taste great.

Asia Market on Mulberry.

The neighborhood in which I grew up, had two large hospital facilities within 10 blocks of each other. Where there are hospitals, there are nurses; and where there are nurses, there are Filipinos. From the early 70’s to the mid 80’s, Filipinas had the monopoly on the trade. Back in those days, there was a huge demand for the taste of home.

A generation of immigrants to the U.S.A


It was this generation, that was part of the movement to emigrate to the States to get their education, attain jobs, bring their family over and flee their beloved country that was under martial law. There was a Filipino Specialty Grocery Store that supplied the growing demand in the neighborhood that friends of the family opened. It was here that my grandmother bought packs of Pan de Sal. I remember her always having a couple of bags stashed in the kitchen.

Corned Beef a Filipino favoriteTennis was my addiction when I was in high school, and the school would always reserve early court times, as that was the only time it was affordable for us Lower East Side kids to play. As a young man, I would rise very early on practice days, only to find my grandmother up before me, preparing a hearty breakfast for her Bjorn Borg.

[Tweet “These are some of my fondest memories, as there were few quiet moments in the house after sunrise.”]

These are some of my fondest memories, as there were few quiet moments in the house after sunrise. The sun would be a good two hours from rising as she sliced those little buns through the center, put them under the broiler for about a minute took them out and spread some butter on them.

Pan De Sal

They would be warm and soft with just a bit of crisp. She would have hers with butter only, along with her very sweet Nescafe instant black coffee. She would break little pieces off the roll and dip it in her coffee. Along with instant coffee, she also had an affinity for canned foods. So I was always given a wide range of offerings to go with my Pan de Sal.

It was a defining feature of my childhood.


The Greatest Hits of canned goods included: Corned Beef, Vienna Sausages, Deviled Ham, and of course SPAM. I would have Ovaltine with it. We would eat quietly together, almost as if we were in prayer until I had to leave.  It was a defining feature of my childhood.

Spam, corned beef, vienna sausages - some Filipino favorites.I never did become the next Bjorn Borg, but I did become a professional canned food eater. I was known for having introduced my college roommates to some of these offerings. I miss that woman every day; and as Brenda, Bailey and I draw nearer to our return to the Philippines, memories of my childhood come bursting back as if they were kept in a vault.

Tropical Hut in Hackensack's Turo Turo

Tropical Hut in Hackensack

I consider myself an American; but recently, my in-laws brought us to a Filipino “Turo Turo” Restaurant, which literally translates to “Point Point”. You would point at whatever you want to eat and that would be doled up for you.

Filipino Pork Barbecue at Tropical Hut

Filipino Pork Barbecue at Tropical Hut

As I gazed upon my childhood favorites ranging from pork barbecue on a stick to some of the stews I mentioned, I realized that a part of me will forever be that immigrant boy that spent mornings with his grandmother dreaming of winning Wimbledon.

Filipino Food at Tropical Hut in New Jersey

Brenda was impressed as to how close to fluent I was with my tagalog and how I knew the names of most of the dishes. I too was impressed as to how much she remembered about her childhood in the Philippines and her knowledge of the culture.

Tropical Hut in Hackensack NJ

Tropical Hut in Hackensack NJ

We had a wonderful time, sharing stories and reminiscing through food. We also started to get excited for our upcoming journey back to the homeland. As we were walking out, I noticed that they sold bags of Pan de Sal; so I bought a bag for home.

Pan De Sal

I get up and go to the kitchen to see what all the commotion is about. Bailey gives me a smile and hands me my cup. My first sip quickly wakes me up. I open the bag of Pan de Sal, slice a few of them through the middle, put a good pat of butter on them and put them in the toaster oven. My daughter and I sit in silence, waiting for her mother to wake up, enjoying our lovely little rolls.

[Tweet “I’m not a praying man per se, but I mutter to myself, “give us this day, our daily bread”.”]

She has hers simply with butter and dunks them in her hot cocoa every so often, and I put a slice of salami between mine (no canned goods in the house these days for health reasons). I’m not a praying man per se, but I mutter to myself, “give us this day, our daily bread”.

I feel great joy at this moment. I can see the sun starting to rise above the clouds, I hear Brenda finally getting up. The day is about to start. It’s about to get loud.

Have you been to the Philippines? Do you have any tips or advice for us? If you’re Filipino living in the Philippines, tell us where we should go. We’d love some help and please share this post with your friends, Salamat Po.

We’ve since left NYC on July 4th, 2015 and have visited Boracay and Manila. Stay tuned for more posts on the Philippines.


0 Replies to “Our Daily Bread”

  1. Oh man, Filipino food is so delicious! My mouth is watering.

    1. Yes, Lily it is quite good, so good sometimes, it’s hard for us to stop ordering! Thank you for reading and joining our adventures.

      1. I have never tried Filipino cuisine. What would you recommend for the beginning? 😉

        1. Isabella: A good starting off point would be our stews called adobo, either in pork or chicken. You should also give one of our barbecue sticks a try also available in chicken and pork for the most part. Thank you for reading our journeys, hope you join us again. Best, Andrew

  2. I grew up on a completely different kind of cuisine in rural Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, but I’m stuck by how many similarities there are. In Cape Breton, it was tea, huge mugs of milky tea. And our bread was homemade biscuits, often served with molasses. There was nothing close to peanut sauce (oh, how I wish) but inexpensive cuts of meat were used in creative ways, long simmered in stews until they were tender. Endless piles of potatoes. And more tea.

    1. Vanessa: Isn’t that the beauty our world, no matter how different the cultures, food seems to be a vehicle for similarities. Thank you for reading and hope that you journey along with us again soon. Best, Andrew

  3. Now I know what foods to look out for when I eventually get to the Philippines! Everything looks so tasty, especially the BBQ.

    1. Richelle: Thank you so much for reading. I hope you get yourself to the Philippines one day soon. In the meantime, maybe there’s a Filipino joint near you so you can get your barbecue fix in. All the Best, Andrew

  4. The food looks fantastic! I don’t know how you stop from pointing out more and more delicious dishes to try.

    1. Dana: It’s hard to stop pointing for sure. I point away every opportunity I get; what’s the worse that can happen, there’ll be more for later. Thanks for reading, hope you join us agin soon. Best, Andrew

  5. I loved this post, not just for the delicious description of the food but also for the beautiful memories shared.

    1. Sarah: Memories are the greatest seasoning for food. Thank you for reading along and hope that you join our journey again. All the best, Andrew

  6. OOooo I live less than a half hour away from Tropical Hut, I need to try it! And I have some amazing memories of my grandparents and food, it was lovely to read your reminiscence.

    1. Karen: You should definitely give the place a try, I think you’ll have fun and satisfy some cravings. As for reminiscing, it’s memories of my grandmother that makes most of the offerings so tasty for me. Hope you join us again soon; thank you for reading. All the Best, Andrew

  7. My neighbors are Filipino so I always joke that I’m an “honorary” Filipino. I love their spring rolls and rice dishes, as well as their pork and various kebabs!

    1. Andrea: I grew up with a lot of honorary Filipinos. Glad you are a fan of our cookery. Thanks for reading along; hope you continue to keep up with our journeys. All the Best, Andrew

  8. I’ve always been around Filipinos in school, the military, and church. My mouth is watering just thinking about lumpia rolls… It’s so great that you have so many great memories that are brought back by food and you are passing that along to your little girl. I’m looking forward to reading about your adventures when you move to the Philippines.

    1. Vicky and Buddy: Thank you so much for reading along and following our journey through food. Hope you get your hands on some lumpia soon and satisfy your cravings. All the best, Andrew

    1. Thank you so much for joining our journey through food. Glad you have a good appetite. You have to bring it with you, if you ever get to the Philippines. All the Best, Andrew

  9. Really great post, Brenda! I really love how you tied in your family’s history in juxtaposition with the food motif, wonderful read! 😉

    1. Alli: Thank you so much for reading along. When it comes to tales of my family, food certainly plays a huge role. Hope you’re able to join us again soon. Best, Andrew

  10. I think we all have foods that can instantly transport us back to our childhoods. I’ve never been to the Philippines but I’d love to go, all the Filipinos I’ve met were lovely!

    1. Stephanie: My fondest memories always involve food. Hope you make it to the Philippines one day soon and get immersed in the people and their food traditions. Thank you for reading along our journeys. All the Best, Andrew

  11. Nicole: Glad to hear you’re a fan of adobo chicken. Thanks for reading along. Hope that you continue to follow our journeys. All the Best, Andrew

  12. I have a couple of Filipino friends, but sadly I haven’t had much of the food. In fact… I don’t think I’ve ever tried any Filipino dishes! I enjoyed your account of your childhood and how food can spark up such nostalgia. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    1. Francesca: You must take advantage of the kindness of your Filipino friends. Most of them will be so happy to introduce you to our cuisine. Thanks for reading and hope you join us again soon. Best, Andrew

  13. I am here in the Philippines, if you will be in Manila, try to visit Luneta, Fort Santiago and nearby cities. Then you can go to Palawan, if you like beaches, go to El Nido in Palawan. There are many beautiful places here, if you will stay here longer i’m sure you will love the Philippines, its beautiful places and its people.

    1. Anne: We can’t wait to arrive at our ancestral home. We plan to be there 6 to 8 months and hope to see all it’s beauty. Thank you for reading, and hope you continue to join us in our journeys. Best, Andrew

Leave a Reply