What used to be a method of preserving excess meat has given Filipino cuisine a marvelous breakfast dish best enjoyed any time of the day. Tapa is a general term for dried and cured meat, akin to beef jerky in other countries. Cuts of raw meat are salted and dried directly under the sun in order to remove all traces of moisture. However, tapa needs to be cooked first (typically fried in hot oil)—unlike beef jerky that can be consumed right after drying. There are many versions made from different types of game: tapang kalabaw (carabeef), tapang usa (venison), tapang baboy-ramo (wild boar), and tapang kabayo (horse meat).
Tapa is usually served with sinangag (garlic fried rice) and an egg (itlog) cooked sunny side up as a breakfast dish. This combination is locally known as tapsilog, taken from the names of its components. Eateries that serve tapsilog are called tapsihan, which are present at every corner. A few tapsihan joints such as Tapsi Ni Vivian and Rufo’s have made a name for themselves with their unique takes on the tapsilog, with diners from near and far stopping by to indulge. Today’s triptych features three tapsilog dishes I’ve tried out recently. So, are you ready to tapa out?
I’m aware that Cafe Mary Grace doesn’t exactly qualify as your neighborhood tapsihan, but I’ll cut them some slack. I’ve already featured them as a bakery that serves memorable ensaymada and cheese rolls, but their version of the tapsilog is not to be missed. Besides, Cafe Mary Grace is also known for serving delicious savory fare.
Cafe Mary Grace infuses a touch of class in their tapsilog. Beef tenderloin is used for the tapa, which retains its soft texture; the usual tapa is hard because of the drying and salting process. It comes with a shiitake and button mushroom omelette instead of a sunny side up egg. The garlic fried rice takes on an orange hue—thanks to achuete (annatto) seeds, and is topped with fried garlic bits and chopped parsley. Green mango strips and sliced tomatoes serve as an accompaniment to break the savory combination. If this didn’t cost P345 per order, I would be eating this everyday—but I tell you, it’s worth it for that price.
Generations of students have enjoyed the tapsilog from Rodic’s Diner—including yours truly. This legendary joint first had its roots in the University of the Philippines’ Diliman campus, where it was established in 1949. More than sixty years later, students from far and wide still make the pilgrimage to UP Diliman for this unique tapsilog.
What makes the tapsilog at Rodic’s Diner different is the way they serve it. Instead of serving it in strips, the tapa is torn to bits—akin to adobo flakes. Since there was a Rodic’s Diner in my high school cafeteria, we had a moniker for it: tapang lupa (soil tapa). You’d think of it that way as the tapa bits looked like a mound of soil on a tray. However, this didn’t discourage us from enjoying it; I suggest mixing both the tapa and sinangag before eating. Inflation has caught up with Rodic’s Diner, just like any other long-time food establishment over the years. I remember this tapsilog setting me back at around P70 in high school, but now an order of this costs P99.
Here’s a short story: I usually pass by Kingspoint Subdivision in Novaliches when driving home. One time, I felt hungry while on the road and craved some pares with rice. I then told myself that I’ll have dinner at the first eatery I see, and fortunately there was one along the corner. That’s how I discovered Laurence and Laurenz Tapsilogan At Iba Pa.
I originally craved pares as I mentioned above, but I ordered their house specialty as they did not have it that time. The tapsilog at Laurence and Laurenz Tapsilogan At Iba Pa does not disappoint; it’s a steal for P70. They serve it in the simplest manner possible: tapa, garlic rice, and fried egg. The tapa is good enough for two cups of rice, and comes with unlimited soup to boot! Parking isn’t a problem as the joint is located in a corner lot; simply turn right and park your vehicle at the side. Laurence and Laurenz Tapsilogan At Iba Pa is open 24/7, so who says you can’t have tapsilog for dinner?
That ends today’s triptych; until the next post. And oh, have you tapa‘d out?