The Filipino community take up a large percentage of the expat population in the UAE, and it is heartening to see we finally have a little piece of the Philippines right in the commercial nook of Deira, Dubai catering for the authentic cuisines our Filipino brethren have been missing from back home. Little Manila is not a restaurant; it is a whole food-court of well-loved foodie brands hailing from the Philippines. I had the pleasure of attending their opening in September (read all about it here), and then I got invited for a ‘Boodle Fight’!
Always up for the exhilarating challenge of trying something new as a foodie, I was curious to see what this ‘fight’ would entail. What is a Boodle Fight? Made popular by the Filipino military, this is an elaborate Filipino feast served on banana leaves, that is eaten communal style with bare hands. In the army, officers would circle around a table and have the ‘Boodle Fight’ standing.
Thankfully we had ours sitting down in the comfort of the cushy seating at Little Manila! At Little Manila, they have a variety of Boodle Fights on offer and each can be customized for a fight for two, or four to six people.
The Boodle Fights at Little Manila have been created by Jay-J’s Inasal, a very popular foodie chain in the Philippines best known for their traditional ‘Inasal’ roast chicken.
We had the honor of being Little Manila’s very first patrons for trying out the Seafood Lover Boodle Fight.
The table was first covered up in cling-wrap for hygiene, and then laid out with banana leaves. No need to wash hands and get them dirty here; we were given disposable gloves to slip on. I have never eaten with disposable gloves on before, but there’s always a first time and I took to it like a duck to water!
And here comes out Seafood Lover Boodle Fight! The pictures don’t do it justice, this humongous serving of rice and an elaborate mix of seafood looks so beautifully exotic, and we could see other tables getting as click-happy as us when the Boodle hit the table (rhyme intended!).
This very generous serving can easily feed a table of 6 hungry adults, and best of all, it only costs AED 199!
The rice itself is so very delicious, that I could have easily eaten it all on its own. This is Filipino Bagoong Rice; a traditional rice dish made of Jasmine rice that has been accentuated with the salty-sharp zing of shrimp paste and the boldness of garlic.
The seafood served on top of the rice pilaf includes soft-shell crab, shrimps, squid and Bangus fish.
The seafood has been marinated in special, authentic sauces and grilled to perfection. I really enjoyed the crab. Cooked a medium-rare, the inner meat was soft and juicy enough to chew, and all that crabby seafood goodness just flooded through beautifully.
The squid disappeared in no time! Soft, spongy and succulent, it was a real treat having these with the shrimp paste served on the side.
The shrimps were plump and fleshy, which made peeling off the shell super easy. We were served a chili vinegar and a soya sauce with chilies on the side, and these were the perfect dips with the shrimps.
The grilled Bangus fish is one meaty serving! The flesh is steamy soft, and the skin a deliciously salty crisp. Even between the four of us, we couldn’t do justice to this serving.
On the top of the seafood, a very fresh, exotic salad sits as garnish. The salad includes tangy hits of green mango and thin slivers of green papaya. It is a much needed refreshing side for this very satiating, overly generous seafood fare.
As if this impossibly large Boodle Fight was not enough to fill us up, Executive Chef Jojo Joaquin insisted we try their famous Inasal roasted chicken as well.
The chicken has been char-grilled to perfection! Despite the skin being charred and crisp, the inner meat is moist and juicy, and is very well marinated with a delicate flavor of garlic and herbs. A plate of this on its own (and a bowl of that Bagoong rice perhaps!) is what I plan to order on my next visit here 😉
To drown all this decadence, we were served a chilled jug of Little Manila’s Iced Tea. This is a freshly brewed jug of tea with lemon (no artificial powder mixes are used here), and the sweetness of the mix makes it taste more like a juice than a tea.
For dessert, we had a variety of mochis from Mochi Creme. Mochi is a Japanese concept. It consists of a sweet bun made of sticky rice, that has been filled with ice-cream. At Little Manila, the mochi flavors are dedicated to Filipino favorites. We had Ube mochi, Mango mochi, Durian mochi and Azuki Bean mochi.
To end with yet another Filipino classic, we had Little Manila’s most sought-after dessert, the Ensaymada. This is a sweet bun served with cheese. The bun is incredibly soft, and to me it tastes like having a cloud of butter with an after-taste of cheddar. Who would have thought a cheese bun for dessert would taste this good?!
I have had a taste of Filipino cuisine in the past, but the Seafood Lover Boodle Fight at Little Manila was an epic affair I can’t rave enough on! A feast for 6 for a mere AED 199, this is a must-try for anyone curious enough to try Filipino cuisine.
The Seafood Lover Boodle Fight has been especially created for Valentines Day, and will be available to the public from 1st February 2016. It is available in the 4-6 people portion, or you can go for the table for 2. Skip the cliche candlelit dinners, here is one ‘fight’ you really would like to have for Valentines!
Book a Boodle Fight at Little Manila today! Little Manila is located in K6 Building, Al Muraqqabat Street, Deira (Dubai). Call 04 299 9315 for details