Tag: Queens

Hog heaven

Saturday, November 3rd, 2007 | All Things, Eats, Friends

After weeks of intermittent discussions, we finally organized our group trip to Woodside, Queens for a visit to Ihawan, the self-proclaimed “home of the best barbecue in town.”


Located just a block east of the 69th Street stop on the 7 train, Ihawan offers a broad range of Filipino dishes, with heavy emphasis on the pig parts, for which the restaurant received the dubious distinction on the Village Voice‘s “Best of NYC” list (2000) of having the “Most Extensive Organ Meat Selection” in the city. One scan of the extensive menu and I do not doubt it.

I’d never before sampled Filipino food, which is far less widely available than other Southeast Asian cuisines–more on this when I get around to blogging the “Found In Translation” panel discussion I attended at NYU on November 13. The dishes are a mix of Chinese, Spanish, Mexican, Malay and American influences, reflecting a blend of cuisines with which the country has interacted throughout the centuries. There is a distinct preference for sour and salty flavors, and several traditional dishes still retain their foreign names, such as the perennial favorite “lechón” (Spanish for suckling pig.)

We had heard that this place is immensely popular with Filipino families, so we decided upon the off-peak time of Saturday at 3:00 PM to ensure that our group of 8 could be accommodated. The strategy worked, but only barely: almost every table in the modest, second floor dining room was filled.

In the week leading up to our visit, JL tempted us via email with hints of good things to come: as Chowhound star “bigjeff,” he waxed rhapsodic over the Avocado Con Hielo (avocado with milk and crushed ice–outrageous!), among other Filipino specialties unfamiliar to the uninitiated. That afternoon, we left the ordering in his and and fellow regular RL’s capable hands. Vegetarians not welcome.

Naturally, we kicked things off with Ihawan’s specialty barbecue: a couple of bamboo sticks of smoky, slightly charred, flat-cut pork, glazed in a sweet sauce. Also a couple orders of their “weekend special” Lumpiang Sariwa–a pair of light flour crepes rolled with assorted vegetables and topped with a crunchy peanut sauce. For contrast, we added an order of the fried version as well: the Lumpiang Shanghai–a dozen crunchy (i.e., deep fried) pieces of finger-sized wrapped rolls filled with minced pork and shrimp.

Pork BBQ

From there, it was back on to the meat, and combinations of deep fried–sometimes unidentifiable–organs. Plates of hot, fragrant food began to hit the table at a dizzying pace.

Chicharon Bulaklak–a tasty delicacy described on the menu as “deep fried crispy ruffle fat.” What is ruffle fat, you may ask? I didn’t know it at the time, but it’s the incongruously dainty name for the part of the pig known as the greater omentum: a thin fat-filled membranous sac that hangs down from the stomach, over the top of the small intestine. (Hey, the descriptions can only improve from here.)

Chicharon Bulaklak

Lechón Kawali–deep fried crispy pork, served with a small bowl of vinegary liver sauce… which perhaps sounds vaguely heinous, but is actually rather good. So good that SC reserved one final, fatty bite next to her plate, for post-dessert. (Hmm, what’s that tingling sensation running down my left arm?)

Lechon Kawali

The pièce de résistance: Crispy Pata–deep fried pork knuckles. This incarnation of crunchy, gooey fried goodness–plates of which appeared before almost every group of diners–was accompanied by a chili vinegar to help cut through some of the fat. I find it hard to believe, though, that anything short of an angioplasty would be effective in that regard. But at least the pig feet keep you young-looking.

Crispy pata

The rest of the spread: Inihaw Na Langonisa (grilled pork sausage), Pansit Bihon (sauteed rice noodles with shrimp, chicken, chinese sausage and vegetables), Kare-Kare (oxtail, tripe, eggplant and bok choy stew stewed in a thick peanut sauce), fan favorite Dinuguan (pork stewed in pork blood gravy, sometimes known by the Westernized euphemism “chocolate meat“)… There may have been more, but after a while, as the blood chugged laboriously through my veins, I lost track.

Ihawan spread

And yet, there’s always room for dessert. Here, the Halo-Halo (mixed tropical fruits, red & white beans with crushed ice and milk), topped with a delicate chunk of flan.


I regret that I had but one stomach to devote to this cause.

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