SpiceCityTo

Journalist Sarah Efron explores strip malls and hole-in-the-wall restaurants in search of the city's best ethnic food

Monday, November 15, 2010

It may look like a divey KFC rip-off, but it's really a Filipino restaurant in disguise

Chae's Chester Chicken Express is at 23 Howard Street, just next to the housing projects of St. James Town. On the strip there's also a mini strip of Filipino shops, a variety store, remittance shop catering to the Filipino community.


"Chester Fried--The Crispy Moisturized Chicken" 

I've spent some time in the Philippines and although the people are absolutely lovely and the scenery is fantastic, it feels like the Asian country that food forgot. How can a place near food meccas like Malaysia and Thailand have such mediocre food? Perhaps the years of American rule are to blame.

The typical fast food in the Philippines is flavourless chicken or pork dish, cut up and fried in the morning, and left in a pot all day and served lukewarm at some later point. Canadian Filipino restaurants often recreate the effect by leaving food in the steam tray for extended periods of time.

So I wasn't expected much here. I got the chicken pancit--a noodle dish that is influenced by Chinese cuisine. I also got the pork adobo. Adobo is the national dish of the Philippines, marinated meat made with soy and vinegar.

To my surprise, the food was tasty. The pancit had nice fresh veggies. The adobo had generous chunks of good quality, tender pork and a nice, salty flavour. I got a generous portion for only $4 and ate it in the restaurant as a parade of Filipino visitors came in, many to enjoy the chicken.

They also have a bunch of Filipino baked goods there. I picked up one of my favourites, hopia baboy. These are wonderful flaky, chewy little cookies they sell all over in the Philippines. However, I was a bit disturbed to read the ingredients: flour, sugar, salt, onion rings. Onion rings?!?! I had never realized that onion pieces are standard in hopia baboy and found the thrill of eating it was gone. Sometimes ignorance is better. Next time I'll get the cookies with ube, the strange purple yam that's a Filipino classic.


A nice range of Filipino dishes, adobo, pancit, caldereta, etc. 



Last ingredient is "onion rings." Hmmmm. 
My hopia baboy will never taste the same again. 
Spice City Doggie Bag Index: Three stars
★ Don't bother taking any leftovers home
★ ★ Take leftovers home and stuff in the back of the fridge indefinitely
★ ★ ★ Tomorrow's lunch
★ ★ ★ ★ Proudly present the leftover as a present to significant other or roommate and then wait impatiently for them to eat it so you can steal some
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Midnight snack. Is it midnight yet?



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