Adobo Fried Rice from the Sari Sari Store
In the Philippines, the sari-sari store is the neighborhood convenience store, usually family-run, where you can pick up things like soft drinks, snacks, and other small goods. I remember going to the sari-sari store with my cousins to buy candies and to pick up soft drinks served in small plastic bags with plastic straws. I even remember one summer when my cousin would buy Ninja Turtle trading cards and action figures from the sari-sari store.
Now in Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles, there's a new kind of sari-sari store. This summer, James Beard nominated chef Margarita Manzke and her husband, opened up a food stall serving Filipino comfort food -- like arroz caldo, lechon manor, tortang talong, sisig fried rice, and adobo fried rice. They even serve desserts like halo halo.
The Sari Sari Store, which is aptly named and designed to look like a typical sari-sari storefront, is near the back of Grand Central Market (the side facing Angels Flight) near The Oyster Gourmet and G&B Coffee. When I stopped by for brunch -- they serve Filipino breakfast dishes! -- there was a long line, but it moved quickly and the food didn't take too long to come out (at least during this visit). There's bar seating around the Sari Sari Store, and you can watch the team prepare your food with speed and efficiency.
I decided to order one of my faves: the adobo fried rice. The dish featured juicy pork belly from Salmon Creek Farms on a bed of garlic fried rice, and topped with sliced peppers, scallions, and a fried egg. There was a bottle of chili-infused vinegar on the counter that I added to my bowl, which is what my dad would have done if he were eating this at home. There was some Sriracha also available on the counter, but I decided not to add any because I didn't want to overtake the vinegary and garlicky flavor of the fried rice that reminded me of childhood dinners.
I'll be honest... I probably could've made this myself, and if I did, I would have increased the ratio of pork belly to rice. And maybe cut the pork belly into larger chunks. I might've added some atsara to the dish, too, to provide some extra tanginess against the richness of the pork belly and the fried egg. But overall, the adobo fried rice was pretty spot on with its combination of sweet, sour, salty, and savory flavors -- and there's no doubt that a spoonful of this bowl brought me back to quick and easy dinners that my mom would make when I was growing up.
FIND THE FOOD!
Want more details on the food in my blog post? Check out the map and link below.