Eating is not only about food. The act itself is part cultural experience, a matter of socioeconomic class, and a moment that indicates a country’s resourcefulness. Beef pares is a local dish indicative of our country’s history and unique taste: the beef cutlets are drowned in sweet soy sauce and spiced with anise, but the meal is completed Pinoy-style with a bowl of beef broth, fried rice, and chili sauce. What was usually a meal taken by workers along the busy street sides can now be had in sit-down restaurants. In the last 15 years, the Cocoy Mami House Restaurant in Project 6, Quezon City has been serving consistently tasty pares to Filipinos.
Cocoy Mami is along the stretch of Visayas Avenue and a household name when it comes to authentic pares. The place was easy to find thanks to the large sign and the space filled with tables large enough for group meals. The restaurant’s windows and doors are open, so its climate depends on the actual weather, but the food here will make you forget such a minor inconvenience. At lunchtime, there were about four individuals before me, indicating that the place had not lost its appeal and consistency in the last decade. The crowd was a mix of residents, workers, and even couples grabbing a filling lunch. Their menu not only includes Beef Pares, Halo Pares, and Asado Pares (all at PHP 75), but also steak and chops options such as T-Bone (PHP 130), Pork Chop (PHP 85), and the Pinoy menu staple of Sisig (PHP 80). Their Mami options are just as diverse as the pares, and include Beef, Chicken, Siomai, and Wanton Mami (all at PHP 75), while a combination of all these can be had in the Special Mami (PHP 85).
We ordered one of each type in the menu: the Beef Pares, a bowl of Special Mami, and a plate of Pork Chop. The service was well paced even if I was fifth in line: all the ingredients have been prepared prior, so the staff just gets the broth from a large bowl, cuts the noodles for the mami, and combines the other ingredients as the final touch. The chops and steaks orders are the only items you actually have to wait for from your table.
The pares is every hungry drunk-slash-hungover individual’s dream, but also extra tasty when sober: the beef cuts have the right meat-to-fat ratio, and the sauce it’s drowning in soaks the meat in pares’ signature sweetness. The garlic rice isn’t overwhelming at all with the pares, as the fried texture and garlic contrasts the beef’s sweet flavor. You can also add a little more punch with the chili sauce that’s actually quite spicy. But we preferred the chili with the Special Mami: a hot, oily, garlicky mess that combined all the ingredients in the restaurant’s menu. The noodles were not too thin or thick; their length just enough to slurp in and balance the sweetness of the pares and the intensity of the garlic. The wonton was so large that we had to split it into two. The dumpling didn’t leave us shortchanged, despite the bowl’s PHP 85 price, as its meat wasn’t bursting out of the wrapper yet thick enough on each bite. I imagine this bowl would awaken the dead taste buds of someone with the flu.
The Pork Chop was served sizzling hot; the meat was drowned in butter-based gravy sauce and served with java-looking (but probably more butter) rice. Even after eating half of the pares and rice, and slurp after slurp of the mami, we didn’t mind the extra oil from the fried pork chop plate. The butter gave a redundant after taste, but we couldn’t really complain given its less-than-a-hundred-pesos price. Their sizzling plates probably really hit the spot after a few beers or a night of getting wasted.
Filipino street food will always have a special place in my heart: it satisfies in between tiring commute rides, the quantities are generous despite the price, and dishes like pares show just how resourceful our people can be when it comes to taste. I look forward to visiting Cocoy Mami drunk or sober in the future, and I hope that more individuals discover the experience only certain Filipino foods can offer.
Have you tried the pares and other items in Cocoy Mami House? What’s your favorite dish from this pares place? Let us know what you think in the comments below!
Cocoy Mami House Restaurant
Address: 118 Visayas Ave cor Lepesma Court, Vasra, Project 6, Quezon City