For sure, there is one soulful kiss forever etched in your mind.
The time and day it took place are stamped on your lips. Along with the name of the special person who made it possible.
And there are certain “tastes” that were so good, you never forget the first time you enjoyed them.
Let me share my list while you try and recall yours.
1. Spam. I was around 7 years old and my whole family came to visit our newly born sister at Clinica Lopez (a cozy, little maternity hospital on Pennsylvania St., Paco — a street renamed Leon Guinto). We hadn’t taken breakfast yet so my brother was tasked to buy food at the corner Chinese sari sari store on Herran. He came back with piping-hot pan de sals stuffed with strange, rectangular-shaped 1/4 inch-thick pieces of grilled meat. My first bite into my sandwich was sheer delight… a taste sensation never experienced before. An alien taste but such a wonderful one.
2. Kimchi. I was a 19-year old adman always “game” to discover new hotspots in the Makati area. I found myself inside a Korean restaurant but was at a loss as to what to order. The owner, a kind and motherly Korean lady, came to the rescue and explained what to expect from several dishes on the menu. She also asked the waiter to bring me some appetizers (all free) to enjoy while I made up my mind. My first taste of kimchi felt strange, but became pleasant with each additional mouthful. Little did I know then that the motherly Korean lady would someday become my mother-in-law.
3. Nasi Goreng. I became addicted to this Indonesian specialty in Kuala Lumpur. It was 10 AM and my band mates and I had just come from a photosession near the place where we nightly perform – the Regent of Kuala Lumpur. Tired of nothing but hotel food, we decided to try something new. We passed a small alley and were attracted like magnet to the spicy, overwhelming smell of something being cooked on a kwok. We ended up in a hole-in-the-wall restaurant owned by an Indonesian Chinese. That Nasi Goreng that lucky day has never ever been forgotten since.
4. Durian. Growing up, I hated the fruit with passion because of the pungent smell and its sticky, messy look when being consumed. Little did I know that I would see much, much more of the fruit when I became an expat adman in Kuala Lumpur. One day, my wife’s parents and her sister came to visit us in Malaysia. After a day of blitz shopping, I found them in my porch enjoying their prized “refrigerated” durian. They wanted me to try it… I said “no thanks”. But after much prodding, I gave it a try… and found out for myself – what my Malaysian officemates have known all their lives – that durian is indeed a taste of… HEAVEN.
5. Mamou Steak. I spent much of my youth thinking that a plate of steak is something you smother with gravy and worcestershire sauce and/or Tabasco. At least, that’s how I enjoyed it in places like Alfredo’s and Mario’s in Manila, and Black Angus in Los Angeles. Until one fateful day: I had been hospitalized for nearly two weeks and was starving. Hospital food had totally killed my appetite and my desire to eat. My kind sisters came to visit and asked what treat they can bring me. I told them that I had read about a new steak joint that has mastered the steak preparation of a famous steakhouse in Brooklyn.
And that glorious, tender, tasty steak has become my default choice when I’m in the mood to give myself an extra-special treat.
I cannot end this piece without sharing with you the one taste that has haunted me all these years. Haunted me to the point of near obsession.
In the 70s, on Yakal St. (or was it Malugay?), Makati was a small cafe called YumYum Kitchen. There were around four tables and a long counter.
The place was always full.
The cafe’s specialty was what they called YumYum Sausage served with YumYum rice.
The sausage was a kikiam-like creation (but not quite) with a crunchy, crispy outside and a savory, perfectly marinated inside. This was best enjoyed with their special rice and their hot sauce – which had more punch than our present day Tabasco.
To this day, I can still relish that special of specials… and would gladly pay an arm and a leg to experience it one more time.