Monday, May 26, 2008

Fishball Memories



Fishballs! Squidballs! Quail eggs! Kikiam!

I was just in Diliman for an errand yesterday, and any visit to my college alma mater is not complete without a pit-stop at the decrepit COOP to get my fill of these goodies. Not because I think it's more sanitary - it's just the only place where I've gotten street food with no adverse consequences following.

Being a doctor, you'd think I would be more wary of any kind of street food - but, truth is, it takes a good deal of willpower for me not to just buy them from anywhere.

I don't know why I love the stuff. It's all just mostly flour, binders, and flavoring (with the exception of the quail eggs in batter) - not a squid or fish or piece of meat in sight. The little suckers are deep fried in hot oil and smothered with a mysterious brown sweet and spicy sauce - the exact flavor of which I cannot seem to reproduce at home. For some reason, the sauce made by the vendors always tastes better.

But there's more to my long-standing love affair with fishballs and squidballs than an addiction to processed flour, the MSG of the mysterious brown sweet sauce, and health-risky behavior. For me, certain foods have a way of triggering certain memories by association. I have a lot of memory-triggering foods, but this is among my most favorite.

During the summers we spent in my grandfather's house in Project 2, my cousins and I used to drop whatever we were doing to gather around the fishball cart that passed by his house every afternoon. We would dip the fishball skewered by bamboo sticks into the jars of sauce - no ladles and plates back then! Five pesos worth of fishball was enough to fill the tummy and completely ruin our appetites for dinner - but lolo would each give us five pesos to spend anyway.

When I was in college
, friends and I used to frequent the fishball stand just in front of the Main Library after class - our recap and chika sessions disguised as an afternoon snack. A good number of times, a fishball session for me and my best friend would be a pretext to swapping secrets about anything and everything under the sun. We would buy two sticks each and tote them away on a paper plates, finishing them off over good conversation once we'd found a spot to sit at in the Sunken Garden. Fishballs were obviously the precursor of the ubiquitous Starbucks of this generation.

Eating this stuff again always manages to bring me back to those much happier, less complicated times of my life. And, of course, let's not forget that despite the lack of any substantial ingredients, they actually taste good.

Ever since medical school, after I made the acquaintance of typhoid fever, hepatitis A, and the other wonderful possible consequences of eating street food of any kind, I haven't really been able to indulge in them all that often - which is why it's such a treat every time I can. When I do, I cross my fingers, eat up, and hope my immune system does the rest!

For readers passing by: What is your favorite memory-triggering food and what memories do they trigger? And for fellow UP Diliman alum - which fishball stall served the best fishballs and what was your favorite UP food?

17 comments:

desperateblogger said...

the in fish ball stand now is the one off-front kalayaan dorm. i've seen students, employees, employers(?) line up for orders. i really don't care much for it.

i preferred the ala carte menu at the college of home economics and the one at the old alumni center.. in fairness, there were only a handful of snack stands and lunch counters during my stay there.

PS. i love eating at choco kiss at the bahay ng alumni.

Manggy said...

Hey Dr. Claire, this could totally be your Blog Rounds entry!
Anyway, I didn't roam a lot in the UP Campus, especially in my last year-- I stuck around the IB, our org tambayan (ABM), NSRI (for my thesis), CASAA (for quick lunches), and sometimes JC (Alcazaren) and I would take a ride to Ortigas during 3+hour breaks. My friends were car abusers and I greatly benefited from that. I'm not really a fan of fishballs because they're a little tasteless to me-- I never tried kwek-kwek which seemed to be more popular in our parts. My personal preference are squid balls- love them.

Choc Kiss seemed so expensive before, and now even when it's almost next door to my house, I still go there very rarely! Gotta love the devil's food though.

I would tell you more about my memory foods but I don't want to exhaust too much of my food blogging input! :P

dr_clairebear said...

@desperate blogger: that's mang larry - we used to got there, too, but mainly to get isaw rather than fishball. :) i never got to eat at Econ, though heard a lot about it.

choco kiss was another precursor of starbucks for us. i personally liked the prune cake, but discovered it's exactly like the one you can get from becky's kitchen.

@manggy: my favorite at CASAA was the chicken roll - can't remember what store it was from - and the giant porkchop from chinatown. i passed by that area last saturday - they've already torn it down, it seems. there go our college memories!

Vanessa said...

I want to say I'd try that, but I'm just not sure I could! I looks good though!

Mrs. Hobbes said...

I will admit I only succumbed to the allure of fish/squid balls AFTER UP. :D But who can forget bbq in the beach house, what we termed "sophisticated" coffee at greenhouse (or, after it was repainted, "crayola house"), pancit canton/malabon/etc in CASAA (PERFECT after boooooring Nat Sci lectures) and it's making my mouth water thinking about it--green mango from the manong right outside CASAA :D

dr_clairebear said...

@vanessa: it is! :) if you ever get here, let's mee tup and i'll bring you. but you should have your shots all updated. most filipinos are reared from childhood to be resistant to most of them! hehehe

@mrs. hobbes: beachouse barbeque = love! the only minus eating there is smelling like smoke afterwards. i love the mangoes in front of casaa, but i swore off the bagoong after i got a bad case of AGE after. :P

PePPeR_MD said...

i was never much of a fan of streetfood. would you believe i only tried the isaw in diliman when i was in 3rd yr med na? and i've never ever eaten the bbq in beachhouse (although i love bbq?).. so i don't really know how i acquired HEPA A lastyear. sa arte ko ba naman kumain. haha. :)

continue enjoying fishballs. walang ganyan sa perth. :p

monaco said...

I haven't had fish balls in a long time and your post just reminded me how I miss it!

Bone MD said...

Shhhh... I had days of fish balls for breakfast, lunch and dinner before...

Out of necessity of course...and not on rainy days and dirty hands...hahaha!

OT: I'd be hosting TBR13 temporarily, please join us and share your thoughts on the topic,Physician blogger, blogs and the blog rounds. Call for article is here...

Mari said...

oh i miss the kwek kwek merienda me and my gfs used to have. aside from the kwek kwek, i order squid balls, too. i get my fish/squid balls fix from the ambulant vendor in makati :D

ereyserhead: said...

last april i went to batangas city with my frat brods and tried the 'isawan' area. that was fun, never enjoyed isaw, adidas & tenga ng baboy like before. when i was in UST med i used to frequent the corner of asturias and dapitan streets for my daily dose of fish/squidballs, kwek-kweks and kikiams right after class. funny how we never got tired of eating the same things over and over again.

J.A. said...

Hi! TBR 11 is here: http://jaaraf.blogspot.com/2008/06/time-to-go-on-food-trip.html
Thanks for joining!

MerryCherry, MD said...

Favorite ko the one in front of Kalayaan. Ever since freshman days. That's where I rubbed elbows (literally) with Christine Bersola and his then bf Earl Something. Masarap din ung sa Ilang.

Hay I miss Diliman.:)

Abaniko said...

Masarap pa rin yata doon sa may Kalayaan Dorm at New Post Office building. Pero this moment, gusto ko ng isaw!

gigi said...

i like COOP fishballs too, and the ones at UP SOLAIR. :) was a CASAA girl, but was later on going to Rodics, Greenhouse, and the old alumni house. also like Chocolate Kiss and Kas, and food being served in those little stalls during the annual up fair.

a lot of doctors i know love street food :D

Got meloinks? said...

whatever happened to the isaw vendor near ilang? I prefer it over the one at Kalayaan. I miss beach house. i still love choc kiss.

Childrens Behavior Problems said...

Thanks for sharing this detail about your life.I enjoyed the each word while reading it.But the image of the food is not appealing me and not looking delicious so I am not sure whether I'll try it or not.