Makansutra: Get a local taste of Manila at Aling Sosing's canteen
True streetside food at the edge of Makati
The locals can tell I am not one of them with just a casual glance, despite my best attempt to blend in, with my tee, jeans, cap and well-worn sport shoes.
It is not because they'll give me better service, it is just that I want to observe and eat like a fly on the eatery wall.
After all, Aling Sosing's Carinderia is truly a streetside Manila barangay (residential village) class carinderia, and insects and pets do hang around for leftovers.
It is regarded as one of the best no-frills street canteens there.
In this area at the edge of Makati, you realise you're in the working-class residential corner when you don't see fancy restaurants but a lot of pushcart stalls, local food shops and car workshops.
The fare at Aling Sosing's fits right in with this crowd - it is absolutely, unforgivingly local.
I went just after lunch to avoid the peak-hour madness and the place is easy to miss - it is boarded up every afternoon to keep the sun out.
It is essentially a "turo-turo" (or point-point) Pinoy-style chap chye rice place, except you'll see a sooty homemade smoker where pork (liempo), fish and squid are barbecued.
There are almost 20 true-blue Philippine goodies on the full menu and Aling Sosing's packs them in from 9am every day.
I pointed at the beef kaldereta, barbecued pork, grilled tilapia, banana blossom in coconut and bagoong (fish or shrimp paste) and the bulalo (beef marrow) soup.
The tilapia was post-lunch temperature but fresh enough, sweet and with subtle hints of char and nary any marinade.
It was perfect with the lime-chilli-soy dip over fragrant rice.
Equally comforting was the beef kaldereta, soft chunks of beef fried in garlic then simmered in tomato paste, bay leaves and chicken liver pate. It is their version of rendang, if you must.
I thoroughly enjoyed the banana blossom stew with bits of pork, done in coconut milk and bagoong - softly crunchy sweet blossoms in that rich, savoury sauce.
I could have just had this alone with a bowl of rice.
The beef bulalo is like our local beef soup, except it comes sans spices to calm the beefiness.
It is merely sweetened with some vegetables and salt, which leaves the marrow goodness intact.
I adored the lighty salted and freshly grilled liempo by the side of the street, a perfect distraction if you are hungry and passing by.
I know I am missing out on a lot of Aling Sosing's other dishes but five is a lot for one of me (the whole meal set me back about $10).
But I will be back for the squid, adobo, sinigang barbecued skewers and whatever is shining in its chafing dishes.
Aling Sosing's Carinderia, 912, Zobel Roxas Street, 1235 Metro Manila, Philippines