Philippines Yum 2

The May Universal Yum box was another repeat country and while none of the snacks were a repeat exactly I decided it was time to move on from the Yum boxes. The subscription has a few months left so I’ll have a some more entries but now I’m searching for something new.

In the meantime let’s look at what this box offered.

There were a couple of nice treats but they were outnumbered by the sub-par snacks. My favorite was the ChocoMucho bar.

Not a pretty bar but quite tasty. The chocolate outer coating was a decent quality dark over crispy rice. That crispy rice covered a chocolate cookie with a caramel blanket. I could have eaten a whole box of these. Thankfully, for my weight, that wasn’t an option. Number two on my list was a bit more numerous and was enjoyed over several snackings.

Soft cookies with mango bits. I’m a mango fan so I loved these. They were kind of soft and doughy and each one was individually wrapped in a foil pack to keep them soft.  The mango bits tasted fresh and had an excellent flavor.   The cookies also had a bit of granular sugar that gave the occasional satisfying crunch.  Now let’s look at the weird and worst.

This Hulk colored sponge mess was supposed to have a cream filling but if there was any it had long since degraded into some goo that was absorbed by the cake around it. This was supposed to be flavored with Macapuno coconut which is, and I quote the booklet, “filled with a soft, jelly-like flesh.” It was as appetizing as that sounds. Not a winner.

Sticking with the offputting colors let’s move onto the Cupp Keyk Coco Ube.

If it had been the bright color of the package it would have at least had that going for it. Instead it was the grey purple that was more akin to the skin color of a floater fished from the river on a crime procedural. The taste wasn’t quite as bad as it looked but again it was not something I’d ever want to have again unless the option was a macapuno sponge cake, then it would be a coin toss.

Now there were some additional snacks that were serviceable like the cheese puffs, a cookies & cream ChocoMucho bar, some adobo corn nuts and a couple of hard candies. But the Farmer John BBQ sausage chips were just loaded with artificial and chemical tastes that were almost enough to edge past the mutant sponge and cup cakes.

Overall the box was average at best and made the decision to not renew the subscription pretty easy. Next post should be either a new spice or a restaurant visit.

Filipino Yum


So I canceled one of my monthly nerd boxes a few months ago and last month I saw an ad for a different kind of subscription box that fit nicely with the theme of this blog.  The Universal Yums subscription box is a monthly box of snacks from a different country each month.

There are 3 different box sizes; 6+, 12+, & 20+ snacks.  I went with the Yum Yum box (12) items as that seemed like a good number to get a decent sample size and 20 seemed like too much.  The May box was my first and the country was the Philippines.

Flipping over the cover sheet as directed I found a ballot to vote for a favorite item, runner up, worst yum and most unusual plus the first of the activities, match the neighboring countries, solve a secret code with answers from the booklet included and a guess next months country.

Under this was the booklet mentioned above.  The booklet tells you more about the country, includes more activities, provides a link to a curated list of music from the country as well as a description of each of the snacks included and finally the answers to activities on the cover card.

After flipping through the book it was time to have a look at the included snacks (see the restraint I showed by looking at words and not food first).  Here’s a snap of the haul.

There were indeed 12 different snack items and I don’t want to take you through each one because that would be wordier than my common blog entry.  What I decided to do for the boxes is follow the ballot model and give details about my two favorites plus the most unusual and the one I liked the least.  This month I realized I didn’t take photos of the individual snack items which I’ll do going forward to provide a visual to go with the narrative.  Here are the snacks laid out in their original packaging though.

In general let me say the box had a good blend of sweet & savory snacks and most of the savory ones were crispy and / or crunchy.  Some were similar to mainstream snacks we have in the US but other decidedly not.  Here is a rundown of the 4 I chose for the ballot.

Favorite – Pinipig polvoron, a crisped sticky rice short bread cookie. It had a bit of dairy flavor and an interesting texture.  It was a nice solid cookie when removed from the package but as soon as I bit it the piece in my mouth lost all cohesion and turned into a silky powder with lumps of the crispy rice surfing through to be crunched between teeth.  It was an odd but pleasant textural touch. It was sweet but not overly so and in spite of the simpleness of it I liked this one a lot.

Runner up – Potato Fries Ketchup Flavor.  I was surprised at this coming in as #2 since ketchup is like my #3 condiment.  These were french fry shaped potato products that was light and had a snappy crunch along with a real, albeit slight, potato taste. And as much as I’m not a fan of tomato barbecue powder flavors this ketchup flavor was really good. It had a distinctive tomato taste with sweetness and a little tang you expect from ketchup.

Worst – Mr Mais chewy candy.  This little nugget was perhaps the closest to gag inducing of anything in the box, including the box. The candy is “chewy sweet corn” with a “butter” filling. Wow, it tasted like semi hardened corn syrup and then when chewed the artificial butter flavor spilled out like some noxious leak from a barrel of rancid butter wannabe.  It wasn’t tasty is what I’m saying.

Most Unusual – Mr Keso, another of the chewy candies.  I actually expected this one to be the nastiest of the lot but surprisingly it was not as you know from the previous award winner. The chewy outer had a mild sweet cheese flavor that wasn’t too bad and then the liquid hits with a much stronger cheesy flavor. Now this was not a real natural cheese flavor but more like a liquid version of the cheese “sauce” from boxed mac & cheese. Not exactly something I’m itching to try again but not the worst.  Oh and notice what they did with the names of the chewy candies?

I did get introduced to two new flavors, pandan & ube which added color as well, green & purple respectively.  In the snacks their flavors were much more subtle than the artificial colors that accompanied them so I truly don’t know if I could pick them out if I tasted them again.  For the interested pandan is a green plant that is apparently popular in southeast Asian circles and ube is a purple yam.

Overall the box was a fun, filling, educational romp through another culture’s snacks and I can’t wait until June’s box of Brazilian (I cracked that coded hint) snacks arrives.

I Shall Return


This weekend I was able to add a new stamp on the Culinary-Passport by visiting a Filipino restaurant with great friends and previous blog participants, Andy, Melanie and Ian McGehee.  Any meal shared with friends I’m predisposed to like but Hot4Wings / Filipino Flair in Lexington, SC earned my like by serving up some great dishes.

The restaurant is in a busy little shopping center and isn’t very big but the few booths and tables they had accommodated the small number of patrons that visited while we were there. That was good for us but this place should be busier than it was on a Saturday afternoon.  As the name implies the place has wings and in quite a large number of flavors but that wasn’t what we came for and judging by what we heard I think the Filipino Flair side of the menu is what’s growing and was certainly what we came for.

The gentleman working the counter and we presumed an owner of the establishment was very glad to answer any questions and offer up suggestions from the menu.  One thing to note is this is a smaller place and they may be out of some of the items temporarily or have limited supply.  He was quick to point out what he was out of or was limited in so as to set expectations which is a great customer service move.  As we talked through out orders we made it clear there would be sharing and he brought plates and the meals were set in the middle of the table so they could be communally shared.

We started with the lumpia rolls.  We got pork and allegedly they had vegetarian as well but there was an option with meat so….

Lumpia are basically a deep fried egg / spring roll kind of deal but these had some very tasty marinated pork in it and not just a speck but a significant porcine presence.  The dipping sauce was a fairly spicy chili sauce, not too hot and a little sweet.  Great way to whet the appetite for the feast to come.

Next up we got the house pancit.

This dish was rice noodles with meat and shrimp and a lot of goodness.  The noodles were light and flavorful while the meat was tender and tasty.  The shrimp all disappeared as well so I’m assuming it was good.  We quickly put a dent in this which was good because the next two dishes arrived soon after.

Here we had the pork adobo and sizzling sisig.  Both came with white rice and the adobo had some vegetable garnish as well.  The adobo was marinated pork bites served in some of the marinade that made a nice gravy for the semi-sticky rice.  The sizzling sisig was shredded pork cooked in a sauce that has mayonnaise as a key ingredient and those red peppers on top added spice aplenty.  For the curious sisig was originally made from the pigs face being all chopped up with other ingredients that wouldn’t necessarily make the first cut at your finer dining establishments.  I doubt this was pig face sisig but even if it was I don’t care because it was good.  The last of the entrees we were told would take a little bit longer and it showed up after we had done some serious damage to the these two.

The final entrée was crispy pata which is deep fried pork leg.  I expect this takes longer because as I now understand it the joint is typically boiled to tenderize it a bit and then deep fried.  The deep frying turns the skin into crackling and actually cooks out some but not all of the fat.  The pata was served with two sauces, one vinegar based and one we couldn’t determine the composition of but it was brownish grey, a little bit sweet and complimented the pork very well.  I think the vinegar was rice wine vinegar but I wouldn’t swear to it.  Dipping the pork in the vinegar gave it a kind of eastern NC BBQ flavor.  Oh yeah it had that unnecessary vegetable garnish as well.

As full as we were we had to try one of the deserts and opted for the banana lumpia.

The banana lumpia is pretty much what you could guess.  Banana and some mystery ingredient (we forgot to ask) wrapped in a roll, deep fried and topped with powdered sugar.  It really wasn’t that sweet and there was general agreement with Melanie’s observation that they would go great with ice cream.

I’d definitely recommend this place to anyone.  I know most of our dishes had pork but they have a number of chicken and other shrimp dishes as well as wings and sandwiches.  If you can round up friends to take all the better.  Give them a try if you’re in the area and if you want to know more about the Philippines check out the Tell Me More page.