A few days ago, some of my friends and I visited Cucina Andare, the first food truck market in the Philippines. We were accommodated by Ian Madera, a marketing officer for Mercato Centrale. He generously offered to let us try some of the best that “indie” cuisine has to offer.
We were invited to try select dishes from a restaurant on wheels, Jasper’s House of Chicken. As we patiently and hungrily waited for the food to be served, we had a chat with the owner and head chef, Joseph Pe, better known as “uncle” to loyal patrons, about what makes Jasper’s House of Chicken a cut above other chicken chain restaurants.
They originally had a branch our alma mater, the University of Santo Tomas. Due to certain business complications, they had to resort to other markets and locations to keep their business afloat.
Sino si Jasper? The name of the restaurant would prompt one’s curiosity to ask the question. The answer? He is the taste tester of the restaurant’s array of dishes and the son of Joseph Pe. Whether or not a certain dish makes it on the menu would depend on his son’s approval. Mr. Pe has been a chef for several years now. With the help of his son, he constantly experiments and upgrades his cooking in order to keep up with the varying and discriminating taste of foodies.
Joseph Pe is a highly amicable person who seems like everyone’s favorite uncle. He had a lot of anecdotes and stories to tell about his family, his restaurant and the experiences he had in trying to capture the perfect gustatory flavors. The conversations served well enough as appetizers before digging into our meals.
Chicken Karaage (Php 95)
We were first served with a bowl of fresh-off-the-pan chicken karaage which was an instant favorite in our group. The crispy texture crunched right at the perfect moment upon biting on a piece. As I chewed, the tangy flavors played around in my mouth. It reminded me a little of sour cream, with some slight tones of sweetness and salt. Although the mix of crisp and flavor were a hit, I’d have liked it to have been cooked a little bit more chicken meat.
Due to popular demand and upon request of his many customers, uncle is now introducing a new sauce to pair with everyone’s favorite crispy chicken karaage. He introduces the “special sauce” to us as a taste amplifier combining sweet, salty, tangy and other sensations to make for the perfect karaage experience.
Jasper’s Chicken (Php 120)
Here were have Jasper’s famous chicken! Juicy, crispy, absolutely delicious. The honey barbeque sauce blended well with the slightly salty flavor of chicken. Although I am not a fan of barbeque sauces, I really like how the flavors worked together to achieve a distinct juicy flavor only Jasper’s chicken can give.
Tapa Flakes (Php 120)
When it came to creating the perfect tapa flakes, Mr. Pe had to get down to serious business. From the right flavor, cut, texture and appearance, it all had to come out a par above the tapa flakes served by other restaurants. Through researching, recreating and udergoing numerous taste tests, I think all his hard work certainly paid off. Every single person in our group loved the tapa flakes! They weren’t sliced too thin that you could floss with them. Crunchy, delectable and flavorful, needless to say, the flakes were great.
Tapa flakes without eggs would be like a year without summer — incomplete. In the true style of Filipino cuisine, tapa flakes and eggs go together, with only minimum traces of oil. Just the way we like it.
Garlic Chicken (Php 120)
Unforunately, I wasn’t able to taste much of the garlic chicken because it was gone as soon as it was served! A few bites into it and I knew I couldn’t blame my friends for whisking it away before I could get another bite. Luckily, I was able to savor the flavor I experienced with this garlic chicken. What I love most about this dish is the fact that the garlic did not overpower the flavor of the chicken. With the right crisp and linger-in-your-mouth taste, this was a guaranteed hit with our group.
For our panulak, we washed down our meals with calamansi iced tea. It tasted fresh and cool without the face-scrunching flavor of calamansi. It was sugared at the right level, not too sweet, not too bland.