Wednesday, August 10, 2011


I don't know what possessed me Monday evening but I suddenly had a hankering for good old bulalo. Among my favorite bulalohans are Sosing's Carineria on Dian and Zobel Roxas in Makati City, Hoseña's on Libertad, Mandaluyong City, Rose & Grace in Batangas and Sta. Rosa, Laguna, Diners in Tagaytay City, Aviles in Laguna, Abuhan in Cebu City and R&J on Boni, Mandaluyong City. R&J was the closest to me at the time of my craving so R&J it was.

This place is an in-your-face carinderia so sosyal types need not go. Sit at will upon arrival, and watch the PBA on two 23-inch tube TVs and listen - whether you'd care to or not - to a dissonant karaoke singer while perusing the menu. I have never tried anything else at R&J so I settled for the Special Bulalo and a cup of rice. My order arrived faster than I could say "UTAK!" There it sat, a huge bowl of broth, in which a few leaves of pechay swam, along with a good-sized piece of shank and generous hunks of tender beef. Perfect with your self-made sawsawan (dipping sauce) of patis (fish sauce), kalamansi (Philippine lime) and chili. 

The broth was perfectly hot, with a dark sediment made up of boiled meat. I found the broth too salty, but the top note of onion was perfect. Now to the meat of the matter: the utak or the marrow.

Growing up in a beef-centric household, bulalo or nilat-ang baka (literally, tenderized beef), was a staple on our table. Mom always made sure that there was enough shank to go around, and part of the fun of partaking of this treat was the many ways by which the utok (literally, brain, but referring in this case to the marrow) would be extracted. Lucky was the family member who got a shank that was cut through on both ends because all he needed to do was to blow that utok out from one hole through the other. If only one end was cut through, then the utok would be extracted using the narrow handle of a teaspoon. 

My shank that evening was cut through on both ends, and was about 4 inches long. It was utok heaven. Pouring some broth over the extracted utok and eschewing any dip, I cut of a bit and slowly made it melt in my mouth. Butter. Beef fat. Cream. A bit of caramel. Those were the flavors I thought I got from that first bite. Then I thought of my 49-year old body and what that delightful 4-inch utok was doing to it. Oh well, what are ampalaya and doctors for.

Utok and rice and bulalo broth. Heaven on a plate.

I am looking forward to going home to Ozamiz and partaking of my Mom's unique take on nilat-ang baka. She makes it with "veal," with thinner shanks, with the broth made thick with gabi and sour from some overripe tomatoes. Ginger and onion tops off the broth components. The utok may be thinner, but that's not really a bad thing.

R&J BULALO is a 24-hour carinderia on Boni Avenue, right beside/behind the Petron Gasoline Station across the Mandaluyong City Hall on Maysilo Circle. No reservations are taken, and food can be ordered to go. But hey. Why deprive yourself of the experience of watching a current basketball game on retro TV while the next table is full of karaoke krays singing Celine Dion's discography away. Badly.

1 comment:

anonymous paul said...

omg. that is one big quivering piece of marrow. the weather of late just calls for bulalo!


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