Photos | facebook.com/nanayskitchenmobile
Nanay’s Filipino Kitchen
1956 S. University Blvd., Unit B
Mobile, AL 36609
We headed out for Korean, but ended up in a Filipino restaurant. That’s how our late afternoon lunch began. Rob and I were discussing the nearly criminal shortage of Korean food in the Port City. Maybe there is a dish or two here and there from restaurants claiming heritage from other Asian countries, but a strictly Korean restaurant we are yet to find.
Still on our quest, we managed to save the day by hitting on what could be the second-rarest cuisine in Mobile. This is, of course, a taste of the Philippines. Lucky for us, we landed in Nanay’s Filipino Kitchen on University. It’s in the shopping center that stretches from Cottage Hill all the way to the nearly-as-rare Pizza Hut buffet.
With the appetite of a pride of lions, the two of us excitedly entered as the only customers in a smallish dining room, with a hard-to-place scent. We had the house to ourselves. It was our first time having Filipino food since the Springhill restaurant Ang Bahay Kubo closed down, and we were fans of that place, so we looked forward to what we were about to receive.
Rob was into the ice water, as was I after the unsweetened tea I ordered came out syrupy. Sadly it was all they had, but I’ll live. I was hoping to treat Rob to some siopao, one of my Filipino student’s favorite dishes, but they were out. Much like a Korean barbecue, I’ve been on a quest for those steamed buns filled with meat, but no such luck today.
We instead settled on siomai ($5). This was basically a Filipino pot sticker, steamed, but it was as if the dumplings were so overstuffed that they burst. This is a pretty good portion for an Abe Lincoln, and I could see a potsticker fan (like Lucas or Graham) making a meal out of a couple of orders.
I would say as much as we liked the siomai, it wasn’t the best appetizer we had. Even better was the ukoy ($5). Sold to us as crispy shrimp fritters, the ukoy was a pile of shredded vegetables I’m told were carrots, potatoes and sweet potatoes cut into angel hair thickness and fried like haystacks. What a great departure from any appetizer we were used to. I’ll definitely be getting this again. The cup of vinaigrette on the side was slightly sweet to counteract the saltiness of the snack.
Although our lunch was a little later than normal, it was still before 3 p.m., which qualified us for daily lunch special access. Out of four choices, they were out of Nanay’s fried chicken, and I wasn’t in the mood for chicken adobo or barbecue chicken. This left me with pancit bihon ($8.99). An upturned bowl of garlic-fried rice stretched skyward, overlooking a generous portion of thin noodles with shredded chicken. It’s hard for me to guess the spice combination, but the saltiness of the chicken was toned down by chopped celery, cabbage, carrots and green onions. The dish was garnished with a lemon, which I promptly squeezed to brighten it up.
Served with a vegetarian egg roll and a demi cup of sweet and sour sauce, all this dish needed was some heat. We found it in the form of a requested cup of chili sauce that will clear your sinuses. I used it sparingly, and relied more on the less spicy Sriracha. I barely touched my rice. I was full.
Rob was fortunate enough to draw out the steak special of the day ($10.50) from our waitress. With the same mountain of garlic rice as my dish, the rest of his plate was covered by a giant portion of thin cut sirloin on a bed of lettuce. Lightly grilled white onions and green onions and a side of halved cherry tomatoes with a slice of boiled egg made me wish I’d ordered the same. This is definitely a low-carb option (not what we were going for) if you avoid the garlic-fried rice. He didn’t. With steak and rice, he was in a better position to enjoy the aforementioned hot chili sauce.
So here is my breakdown of Nanay’s. I like it a good bit. You should know I don’t love making it out to that part of the country unless I have to, but University doesn’t seem as far away as it used to. On the day we went, it seemed they were out of a few things we were hoping to try. Maybe another visit is in order. I would have loved to have tried a small bowl of soup, but all of their soups are giant bowls intent on being meals and will cost you a ten spot.
I couldn’t really get what they were going for when the menu mentioned I could add chicken livers for an upcharge. I love chicken livers, but was told they would be chopped up into the dish with the other meats. That may be something I have to explore, but could use some guidance.
If you find these dishes a little odd (they really aren’t, only in name), rest easy knowing a less-adventurous diner could find themselves enjoying an empanada or lettuce wrap. I’d also like to explore the desserts here, but not after the amount of food we took down.
The menu is longish and free from description. If you aren’t in the know, read up on it online and do a little research. We just stumbled upon this place, open for about a year now, and didn’t have that luxury. I’d like to come back with some of my Filipino friends and see what they think of the authenticity. You should give it a try.
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