Pinoy Passion: the desserts of Loriekot’s Lutong Bahay

The cuisine of the sunny Philippines isn’t easy to hunt down in Ho Chi Minh City, but there are a few enclaves where eager and inquisitive gourmands can check out the taste of Manila for themselves.

One of these – Loriekot’s Lutong Bahay at 193 Dien Bien Phu – has come a long way since we first reviewed it back in our September 2014 issue. At the time, the simple street-side stall was indistinguishable from a local snack stand except for its exotic menu items. Loriekot’s has changed much, however, and it’s now a dine-in restaurant with a whole range of new dishes. The most welcome feature on its new lineup is the selection of traditional desserts, and the standout of these has to be the colorful Pinoy delicacy that has recently taken off in New York, described by celebrity foodie Anthony Bourdain as being “oddly beautiful” – halo-halo.

A blend of sweet tubers, beans and fruit stirred through shaved ice like an Asian- style slushee (and topped with a generous hunk of purple taro ice cream), halo-halo (VND60,000) isn’t all that dissimilar to some forms of Vietnam’s sweet che desserts.

Loriekot-halo halo

What distinguishes it from its local cousin are both the choice of ingredients and the caramelized evaporated milk base that imbues it with rich, malty overtones. While the list of ingredients is variable  by nature (the name literally means “all mixed up”), you won’t tend to find lychees, water chestnut, or so much fruit as you do in Vietnamese che – but you will find jackfruit, cassava, banana, and delicious, nutty chunks of a rare form of Filipino coconut called macapuno. The resultant bomb-blast of colorful debris suspended in its creamy white gel has to be one of the best remedies there is for cooling down on warm, sweaty evenings both here and back in the Philippines.

Loriekot-turon

Loriekot’s recipe is fairly standard – proprietress Marie Malit claims it’s an extremely familiar treat that has been prepared by Filipino families for a very long time, something she remembers enjoying as a child. Those who do remember this delight from their early years won’t be disappointed with this version: authenticity at Loriekot’s is pretty much guaranteed by the fact that the restaurant imports its essential ingredients straight from the Philippines.

Moving to the larger premises has enabled Marie to consistently provide this fondly-remembered treat to the local Filipino community – and halo-halo isn’t the only popular sweet that’s found a place on her menu. Some are takes on familiar dishes here – the leche plan is a more intensely caramelized version of the local banh flan, and the turon is a particularly delicious deep-fried banana wrapped up like a spring roll.

Loriekot-puto

Other desserts are more unusual – buko pie is a coconut-cake pastry, while pichi pichi is a down-to-earth dish from the Filipino south that features gelatinous cassava balls sprinkled with a special savory cheese that nicely sets off its creamy sweetness. With these and other new additions to the menu, Loriekot’s is on a winning streak – making it a good time to stop by and sweeten up on these rarely-seen desserts after a healthy dinner of some of this city’s hardest-to-find delicacies.

 

* Text by James Pham, Michael Arnold, NPD Khanh

* Images by Ngoc Tran, Neil Featherstone

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