Fonso’s pares and pigar-pigar

Fonso's

Pares is not new to me. It’s ubiquitous on the side streets of Metro Manila, but I actually discovered its makeup in Laoag (here). Pares is a Filipino word for paring or combo, so it consists of beef stew, fried rice and soup. Whoever invented it, pares has come a long way. If you are not yet acquainted with its bold flavors, you should give it a try. There’s this new carinderia, Fonso’s, situated on Paoay Road in the Northwestern University neighborhood, which serves beef pares and pares mami. Their version is very Asian, what with the distinctive star anise element and dusting of sesame seeds, giving it a bit of teriyaki-like savor. You get a good deal for just 60 pesos (pares mami is only 40 pesos).

You will also find Ilocano favorites such as hi-bol and paksiw, as well as budget meals, perfect for students and sales reps living in the vicinity. But they’ve also introduced another street food phenomenon, the pigar-pigar, a Pangasinenses dish made with carabeef, cabbage  and thick slices of onions. For those with an aversion to carabeef like me, Fonso’s uses only beef. Pigar-pigar may look simple, but it’s packed with relatable audacious flavors ideal for rice. There’s always a first time for everything. Ate everything in the photos and ended the carinderia meal with a bottle of Sparkle.

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Filling up at The Gas(tro) Station

The Gastro Station

Just how one new food spot in Laoag could awaken memories of home in the last 12 months. At the zenith of rice bowls, I find it wonderful that LA celebrity chef Roi Choi has Filipino chicken adobo alongside kimchi spam bowl on his Chego menu, while Laoag’s prominent son, Jeff Fariñas (refreshing to know he set aside his political career to jack up a love for food and cooking), cooks Korean bibimbap along with pares and his other favorite comfort food at The Gas(tro) Station, which replaces their old gas station on busy General Luna corner Villanueva Streets.

the gastro station bibimbappepper rice

Chanced upon owners Jeff and Charisma who made me try the gastro wraps, inspired by a dish by David Chang of Momofuku fame. Well, found it an affordable rendition of Red 8’s Peking duck skin rolls. Jeff used pork to match the same hoisin sauce, and added a kick of sriracha. My baby Alexandra liked it and she loved her pepper rice and she is so finicky with food.

The big rice eater might not be gratified with just one bowl of bibimbap. It’s an intention to present it as a healthy option. To date bibimbap is their bestseller.

Charisma says it was Jeff who developed all the dishes and keeps on whipping up more like cheesesteak  sandwich while she takes care of the business side.

gastro wrap

I like the easy feel of the place. With upcycled interiors and pretenseless furniture, the food stands out. I think it’s a current global trend — commissaries, counter-service, communal seating, eclecticism and modern food.

If gassing up means this good, then make mine full tank again and again.

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