The Spanish dining experience at Terry’s Selection in Salcedo Makati provided the perfect backdrop to a lazy Friday evening. I know that for many Filipinos, going back to our Spanish-influenced roots means hitting the sack at two in the afternoon for a siesta. But for Eve and I, experiencing what it’s like to be an Insular or Creole in the Philippines in this time and age means savoring authentic Spanish dishes.
There are many Spanish restaurants scattered all across Metro Manila. Other than Catholic edifices, afternoon siestas, and a couple of favorite expletives among Filipinos, Spanish dining places are all that remain of the Conquistadores’ legacy. But for honest to goodness fares from Spain, there are only a handful of restaurants that can truly be described as unquestionably authentic. And one of them, I dare say, is Terry’s Selection.
Don’t Say Appetizer, Say Pica-Pica (Except when You’re in Zamboanga!)
Tapas or Pica-Picas are a mainstay of Spanish dining experience. I really don’t know the difference between these two terms but I believe Tapas is the general term for traditional Spanish appetizers and snacks. Whenever we order tapas, I always have this bizarre feeling that I’m dining in the Captain’s quarters of some galleon crossing the Pacific Ocean back in the 1500’s.
At Terry’s, their Jamon Serrano Gran Reserva (PHP 590.00 per 100 grams) is a must try. This is basically a ham that’s air-dried for eighteen months and freshly carved as you order. A serving of Jamon Serrano comes with hot slices of grilled bread. In their Salcedo Makati branch, Terry’s Selection displays a whole leg of Jamon Serrano by the restaurant window. No doubt, adding to the allure of the place.
I was told that Jamon Serrano is processed according to strict bodega methods traditional in the western parts of Spain. The pigs used come from the traditional stock grown and raised in the pasturelands of Salamanca region. Jamon Serrano owes its unique aroma and taste from the fact that the pigs are grown in the mountainous outdoors, which is why this type of ham is also referred to as mountain ham.
Jamon Serrano is different from Jamon Iberico which is made exclusively from Iberian pigs. And while it is often compared to Italian Prosciutto, Jamon Serrano has a longer curing period making it tastier and leaner.
The Paella with Melted Cheese
No Spanish dining experience is complete without Paella. Deemed as one of Spain’s most recognizable symbols, paella is a rice dish cooked in saffron and other ingredients like meats and vegetables using a pan or paellera. However, on this visit to Terry’s Selection in Salcedo Makati, we opted to try a different item from the Arroces y Pastas selection. Instead of the worn-out Paella Valenciana, we ordered a unique type of rice dish called Chistorrado (PHP 690.00).
I doubt very much if Chistorrado is a type of Paella. For one, it was served on a clay casserole and not on a paellera. Moreover, it was ridiculous of me to assume that the name of the dish came from the fact that it was cooked with melted cheese – you know, cheese for Cheese-torrado (Hey, I was hungry so brain gizmos not working properly).
Well, I learned later on that this dish is named after one of its key ingredients, the Chistorra de Pamplona. This is a long fine textured variety of chorizo found only in Pamplona and made using choice meat cuts, native purple garlic and sweet paprika. Traditionally, it is sold as thin horseshoe-shaped sausage.
Apart from the Chistorra de Pamplona, the Chistorrado uses a delicious red capsicum sauce, Pequillo peppers, plenty of melted cheese and, of course, white rice. My only complaint was that our order was a bit too salty for my taste. But the luscious melted cheese made it bearable to the palate (Eve, for her part, suspected that the saltiness came from the cheese).
Specialty Spanish Dining Experience from Madrid
How many people are brave enough to complement a baked rice dish with soupy entrée? Well, that’s us. But before you laugh at the big contradiction that was in front of us, consider the facts. We ordered Cocido Madrileño (PHP 690.00) because it is a unique stew from Madrid made with black Jabugo sausage, chorizo, beef, chicken, pork belly, chickpeas, cabbage, carrots and potatoes. All these ingredients are simmered in a smooth tasty beef broth. If you ask me, Cocido Madrileño is very much like my old man’s Pochero minus the Cardaba bananas, commonly known as saging na saba.
Chickpeas are essential in cooking Cocido Madrileño. In fact, this dish is described as a chickpea stew that originated from Madrid, Spain. Hearty is the one word that perfectly describes this dish. It’s the thing that most of us would look for on a rainy day. If Big Mac is considered in the US as a complete meal in a sandwich, then Cocido Madrileño is a 3-course meal rolled into one steamy stew. It’s got appetizers (chorizo and sausage), soup (mash the potatoes into the broth), and entrée (carrots, beef, pork, and chicken). All that’s missing is the dessert.
Tocino for Dessert – Say What?!
I hear you asking when did tocino become a dessert. In the Philippines, tocino is widely known as pork or chicken cured in tons of sugar and saltpeter (Potassium nitrate). Hence, the very thought of having tocino to cap a very meaty dinner is not only horrific, it’s downright suicidal. Fortunately for us, Tocino de Cielo (PHP 110.00) from Terry’s Selection in Salcedo Makati is basically caramel custard – also called flan – and it totally has nothing to do with the local version of tocino.
Tocino de Cielo can be roughly translated as Heaven’s Pig or Bacon from Heaven. It’s one of Spain’s most amusing dessert fares. It is said that this treat originated from Jerez de la Frontera in Cádiz. The wineries there would donate leftover egg yolks (egg whites are used for the clarification process of wines, but egg yolks are discarded) to the convents where enterprising nuns would transform them into this caramel custard delight.
Tocino de Cielo is truly worthy of its name. It’s a flan from heaven. It has just the right sweetness and the rich creamy caramel on top added a subtle burnt flavor that perfectly complemented the creaminess of the silky custard. I could have easily ordered a second serving. But as you may already know, the secret to really enjoying something as good as this heavenly Tocino – or this exquisite Spanish dining experience, for that matter – is moderation.