Weekend food trips with papa were highlights of my first years in Manila. Weekends were spent sampling frogs legs at the Estero or sharing burgers at Dayrit's. On days when money was tighter than usual, he would still take me out to eat at Ma Mon Luk's Aurora Boulevard branch.
We would share a bowl of hot mami and split an asado siopao. I remember the ceiling fans whirring above us, working hard to evaporate the sweat on our brows as we partook of the hot soup and noodles that made me forget all my worries.
Papa would take the paper covering of the siopao and split the steaming bun to reveal delicate ly shredded meat with fatty bits and dark amber sauce. It would be my job to pour on each of our portions the sweet, salty and sticky brown siopao sauce. Papa would always wait for me to take my first bite before he would ask, "Masarap ba?" To which I would always reply in the affirmative.
Last weekend, I had the chance to share a Ma Mon Luk experience with A.
The place more or less looked the same as it did several decades back. I didn't mind it much as it gave the eatery a nostalgic feel. And Mr. Luk staring down at you from the wall his portrait was perched provided that museum-like vibe. And true to its form, the place reeked of something old. A. colorfully describes the pungent smell that permeated the place, "Amoy-asong di naligo ng isang buwan pero gumulong-gulong sa patis."
As we sat ourselves down, I was so looking forward to experience a glimpse of my childhood., I dind't mind the smell. We ordered my standard fare- The Original Mami and Asado siopao.
But no happy childhood memories in a a bowl was served. What came instead were two lukewarm noodle bowls and dry siopao buns. And it was all downhill from there. After his first spoonfuls of the soup, Augie, went all Kung Fu Panda with his review of what he was eating, "Bland ang siopao at lasang paa ang mami." Even the siopao sauce was not sticky, nor sweet. Just plain salty.
Out of respect for my good childhood memories, I tried my best to finish my meal. A. however, couldn't be appeased and declared that even Chowking was better than what he was served.
We drove away from the place, sad and disappointed, with parts of my happy childhood memories drowned in bland, watery soup.