Ever since I first tried Taglish in late 2019, chef-owner Michael Collantes’ Filipino-American fusion restaurant located inside Lotte Plaza Market‘s food court, I have been obsessed with the flavors of Filipino food. I’ve been back to Taglish several times and tried many different dishes, each more delicious than the next, but Orlando just doesn’t have that many Filipino restaurants. A former co-worker who left our workplace to marry a Filipino guy in Montreal used to bring in takeout from DeGuzman Oriental Food Mart (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Deguzman-Oriental-Food-Mart/149298135096257), a Filipino convenience store on East Colonial Drive, just west of State Road 417. Thanks to his generosity, I had sampled some of their dishes before, but never been there, so I recently decided to do something about that.
DeGuzman Oriental Food Mart is a humble convenience store connected to a Citgo gas station. In addition to the usual snacks you would expect at a convenience store, they carry an assortment of Filipino groceries, but the star is the shining steam table of fresh, hot food they prepare daily. A few weeks ago, on a busy, chilly day, I stopped in for an early lunch and decided to order a few different things to treat myself.
Unfortunately I was eating in my office, so I avoided the tempting-looking crispy fried milkfish, which I figured would be too messy to eat on the job. Next time, milkfish!
I had been craving pancit, so I got a large serving ($10.00) and made a few meals out of it. Pancit is a dish of tender rice noodles stir-fried with chicken, eggs, onions, celery, and carrots, and soy sauce. It wasn’t overly salty or greasy, which is always a relief. It it totally hit the spot.
I also got a small container of pork adobo ($5.50), a stew of large, tender chunks of pork braised in a rich, thick gravy made of soy sauce, vinegar and garlic, with plenty of whole black peppercorns in there too. Soy sauce and vinegar are common ingredients in Filipino cuisine, and I just love the vinegar-heavy flavors that bring sourness and also sweetness, complemented by the saltiness of the soy sauce. It is really nothing like adobo seasoning or adobo dishes from Latin-American countries that I’ve had.
Since this was a rare cold day in Orlando, I couldn’t resist ordering a small container of beef caldereta ($7.50) too, another rich, heavy braised dish. Caldereta is a Filipino take on beef stew, definitely spicier than the pork adobo, but still pretty mild. “Tangy” might be the best descriptor, due to the tomatoey sauce with chunks of potato, onion, red bell pepper, carrot, and even black olives in there. The meat was extremely tender, and the broth had a great flavor. I am such a sucker for braised meats, especially in the wintertime (which is just a few weeks here in Central Florida), but I love them year-round.
Don’t worry — like I said, I got three or four meals out of everything I ordered. I tried spooning the pork adobo and beef caldereta juices over the pancit — both separately and together, creating new and exciting flavor combinations. As a guy with a vinegar collection that rivals my multitude of mustards, familiarizing myself with vinegar-centric Filipino food has been a fun adventure. I have bought a few seasoned Filipino vinegars of my own — Suka Pinakurat spicy coconut vinegar and Datu Puti spicy cane vinegar — and I’ve made my own version of the dish adobong sitaw at home several times now, substituting green beans for the more traditional (and harder to find) long beans. But I haven’t attempted to recreate any other Filipino dishes. It’s intimidating, but I am more than happy to leave it to the experts in the meantime.
Don’t let the fact that DeGuzman is a convenience store connected to a gas station put you off. I have always tried to highlight “non-traditional” restaurants on The Saboscrivner, because if you’re willing to take a chance and try new things, you can find some incredible, memorable meals at food trucks, food courts and food halls, farmer’s markets, restaurants inside grocery stores, convenience stores, bowling alleys, and more. Here we are, eleven months into this pandemic, and restaurants are still struggling everywhere. Businesses like these are clever, focusing on takeout business rather than customers dining in and doing what they can to survive, and I’m glad we have options like them. Now I am really glad to have the option of amazing, fresh, homemade food at DeGuzman Oriental Food Mart, just moments from my job and easily accessible from most parts of Orlando.