One night out of the year I’ll eat a ton of Filipino food. And then I pass into a food coma and declare, never again! Until the next year. I enjoy these feasts tremendously, but my poor heart simply cannot handle such fried abundance. Friends of our family own a branch of Max’s in Waipahu and invited us out to dinner the other night.
I had barely three sips down before two plates of calamari were brought to the table. We all took a deep breath, and dug in, this was the first of many fried dishes that would compromise our evening meal.
The rice arrived next…not just any rice but FIVE MASSIVE SCOOPS of garlic stir fried rice. And by massive, I kid you not, each scoop was the size of a tennis ball…maybe even a little bigger. No waaay we can finish this all, was my first thought. Hah. I ducked that silly thought right in the trash after the first spoonful. Steaming hot with the heady crunch of fried garlic in every bite…in retrospect I could have just made a meal out of the garlic rice and dessert.
Fried chicken is a specialty of Max’s, justly so with well spiced crackling crisp skin. The innards were quite juicy, but it’s always the skin I’m after. You can order the chicken by the half or whole – but who wants half when you can get a whole? With that said…Korean fried chicken remains on top of the list whenever I have a fried chicken craving, which is, far too often for my health.
You know how fatty pork belly can sometimes be so incomprehensibly delicious? Well, take the same pork belly and then fry it…that’s ridiculousness found in the form of Lechon Kawali. Rectangular cubes browned and crisp on every visible surface breaking into hot sweet fatty dark meat. Oh goodness. The little mound of pickled carrots on the side do little to cut the fat, but the light vinegary mouthfuls are much appreciated.
We soon moved onto Daing na Bangus – milkfish marinated vinegar and garlic before hitting the deep fryer. The fish is wide, thin, and flat, maximizing fried surface area. The accompanying sauce, a clear refreshing vinegar with a sweet tang was just what we needed to compliment the crust.
And then came the dish we had been waiting all night for: Crispy Pata. Oh yeeesss, deep fried pig’s knuckles! It feel like forever since I last had crispy pata, coveted for the thick crackling skin, intense porkiness, greasy and meaty and just like ggaaaaah how-come-so-ono kind off good. We were advised to scrape the fat off the bottom surface of the skin, but when no one was looking I just popped it all in my mouth and holy jebuzzes, how could anyone not love the way fat melts in your mouth?
The lighter dishes were brought out near the end of the meal, Sinigang, a sweet and sour tamarind based soup with milkfish, squash and other leafy greens. The hot tang was a nice way to wash down the grease slowly building up around our arteries and staining our fingers.
By this point in the meal, I was so stuffed I could barely sit up straight. Instead I found myself slouched to the side of the seat, clinging onto the back rest so that I wouldn’t slide off onto the floor. And then, someone asked, “dessert?” and it was like I came back to life. I shot up, yes, yes! And it came in minutes. I couldn’t decide, so I ate two (and no, I didn’t regret eating two :)
First up, Halo Halo, a glass bucket filled with tropical fruits and jellies, hidden under a tower of ice. On top, boiled and mashed beans, diced flan and a crowning scoop of ube ice cream with a smattering of rice flakes for extra crunch. Mix, mix, mix and eat.
Pandan jelly, tapicoa and shredded young coconut are boiled down in a rich coconut sauce, then cooled to thicken, then served with a rich macapuno ice cream and rice flakes, the macapuno ice cream is some kind of insane, thick and creamy, coconut studded with a rich mouth feel. Note the ice cream + rice flake combos in all the desserts here? It’s pretty awesome.
Max’s of Manila
Waipahu Shopping Plaza
Waipahu, HI 96797