999 is a 168

Title seems like a lot of numbers, right?… If you haven’t heard of 999 or 168, don’t worry. It’s not some Matrix-like computer code. Both are actually malls that specialize in tiangge stalls and whole sale goods. And if you want to get a really good shopping spree in, you’d probably be stuck in just 1 mall for the whole afternoon because of the sheer number of small shops there.

What appeals to me with these malls, in addition to the shopping opportunities, are their food courts! It’s not your typical fast food offerings up there, which makes the experience quite refreshing. There are a multitude of Chinese vendors in the area, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that there is also a lot of Chinese food around.

We went upstairs (999’s 3rd floor) for a quick restroom stop, but ended up staying for an afternoon snack instead. Mom was instantly enamored by the turo-turo (cafeteria-style) viands. While I was drawn to the Tracolla milk tea stand.

Tracolla

Prices range from P25-P70-ish. They have a selection of milk teas, shakes, and teas. Sugar levels are adjustable, and you have the option of getting a hot or cold drink. The milk tea already comes with sago (black tapioca pearls). They also have Buko Pandan Shake that I would like to sample next time.

Drink Sizes

I asked to try a small cup of their Original flavor because the man said that that is their bestseller, while my aunt got herself a Green Tea milk tea without sugar.

Our Drinks (mine is on the right side)

My Verdict: I found the milk tea too milky, but there was a hint of caramel flavor that I liked. The sweetness, though at 100%, was not too sweet. The tapioca pearls formed a cluster at the bottom of the cup, so I only got to eat them after I finished my drink. My aunt’s drink was more potently flavored, especially without the sugar. Next time, I’d try the Buko Pandan.

Next up was HK 88 dessert. This was one of the first establishments I immediately noticed upon alighting from the escalator. I, right away, knew that I wanted to try the desserts there.

HK Dessert: Exciting!

Compared to the other food shops in the area, the menu items are a bit pricey. You can already get a meal at P60 from another stall. But what you get here is a unique dessert that, from what I’ve seen, is authentic. Take E1, for example: “Black Pearl Sago Dessert with Mango, Grapefruit & Sago”. I didn’t try it out yesterday, but from the looks of it, it’s similar to the yummy mango-sago “soup” with grapefruit pulp that I once had in Makati New World Hotel’s Jasmine Restaurant.

The Dessert Menu

The salesperson recommended E4, which is Mango with Black Glutinous Rice at P100. I was unsure about it at first, since it looked like mushed azuki beans so I imagined something sticky/gooey/mushy. But I ordered it, telling myself to keep an open mind and try it out because of my search for the authentic.

Mango with Black Glutinous rice

Turns out, I made the right decision. The cold dessert contains kernels of corn, a splash of cream, and a sliced cheek of mango. I was trying to find the closest thing in my mind that could be comparable to this. At first, I came up with guinataan (a traditional Filipino mirienda item that contains tapioca pearls, coconut milk, corn, taro, and glutinous rice balls; the name literally translates to “applied coconut milk to”), though without the gata (coconut milk). Basically, my aunt had a laugh and told me that there was no sense in comparing it to guinataan without the star ingredient.

The next thing we came up with was the champorado (another Filipino favorite for breakfast or mirienda that consists of glutinous rice, sugar, and tablea chocolate; it’s like Filipino porridge). This was more accurate, because of the rice and the texture of the dessert.

I liked it because I found a pretty good balance to the flavors. It’s not too sweet. The cream is a great contranst to the glutinous rice, but I wouldn’t mix the whole thing up before eating. What I would do is take a bit of cream with the rice and a small bite of mango. The rice is in there whole, not mushy, which makes for good textures. Unfortunately, mango isn’t in season, so it was really tart. Meh, what do you expect?

I’d have to save up P120 for the Mango Soup, but I’m definitely coming back for more. 🙂

P.S. On the way home, at the Recto LRT station, I discovered fried potato balls flavored with curry. It looks rumpled because it had to survive take-out in a flimsy sheet of cling wrap. It’s a P39 potato ball burger innovation, but a double carb-fest too (bread + potato – meat). And the taste is so-so. The main flavoring is curry powder (typical, heavy on the turmeric stuff). Though I like that, at least, something new can be found in train stations that tend to have the most generic stuff (e.g. siomai and donut stands).

Curry Potato Burger

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