I have walked past the Mangan branch in Robinson’s Place Ermita countless times and I have explained to dozens of friends born and raised in Manila that “Mangan” is Ilocano word for “Let’s eat”. A room mate said that their snacks were great but I haven’t tried those. Instead, Tords and I had an early dinner there once (and you have to entice me to go back for a second time).
According to their website, the place is a fusion of traditional meets contemporary. Every time I read “fusion” I begin to cringe. Mangan is under the Cabalen brand, a famous eat-all-you-can food chain for Filipino cuisine. The difference is that Mangan focuses on the uniqueness of Kapampangan dishes (from Pampanga, a province in the Philippines). Incidentally, “Mangan” also means “let’s eat” in the dialect.
This was served while we were waiting for our orders. I don’t know what it was except that it’s shredded, almost tasteless, and an edible thing to munch on while waiting for the dishes which took forever to prepare. I knew this was a restaurant and foods don’t appear at lightning speed like they do in McDonald’s but a hungry person is impatient.
Our choices were conservative. We did not dare try dishes like “Gatang Hito with Ginger” or “Binagoongan Babi” because we did not know what the hell was “Babi”. Instead, we had Inihaw na Liempo which was far from special, just a regular grilled meat you can totally cook at home.
We also had Binagoongan. We had high hopes for this dish because Tords and I are both from the North and the Binagoongan back home is awesome. We were disappointed. The serving was wanting for 118 pesos — 4 pieces of small-cut meat (which were mostly fat) on top of two eggplants. The remaining was I think a mixture of tomato and shrimp paste. So far, nothing beats the Binagoongan of Coco Lime.
When you say Pampanga, it is almost always equated with delicious sisig. I had a room mate before who hailed from the province and she said at least one in every family there cooks sisig like an angel. I guess this is how authentic sisig is supposed to taste like. Tords and I were just used to the fake sisigs sold near our school for 40 pesos so our taste buds were clouded (Mangan’s sisig is made of pork’s head, the one near our school was made of chicken). When I eat sisig, I sometimes look for mayonnaise then I’ll remember that the dish I am recalling is “Dinakdakan”. Anyway, the sisig was good but something is missing. Maybe it’s ice cold beer? haha
For soup, we had Sinigang na Salmon Belly sa Miso, Tord’s choice because I don’t know what all the hype around Salmon is about (yeah it’s pink. So?). We were again disappointed. Not sour enough and no Salmon in sight.