Ghetto Grub: Totong’s DynamiteMarch 31, 2019
- Serna EstrellaWords
Kapitolyo may have now become a food-tripping hub, but it’s not exactly the best place to be if you’re down to your last PHP 30 and you’re in need of a quick, yummy snack. Fortunately, Totong’s Dynamite, a food cart in the nearby San Antonio Village, fills that hole in Kapitolyo’s dining establishments perfectly.
Once the glorious smell of frying food hits your nostrils, you know you’ve found the right place .
Situated between the streets Malvar and Capinpin, Totong’s Dynamite is easy to miss if you don’t know what you’re looking for. You have to get past the rustic fruit cariton, and the jeepney that seems to be perpetually parked right beside it, that obscures your view of the food cart. Once the glorious smell of frying food hits your nostrils, you know you’ve found the right place and that you’re in for a special treat.
Totong’s Dynamite looks like your typical food cart. It’s compact and nondescript. The hammered sheets of galvanized iron covers its facade hide the wooden supports that hold plastic containers of raw spring rolls and a wok filled with sizzling oil. A small whiteboard hangs above the display, with the food cart’s specials handwritten on it with a permanent marker. While the little stall also claims to sell chicken dinuguan, what draws customers in is the eponymous house specialty, the Dynamite Sticks (PHP 18).
Green finger chilies (or siling haba, much like the sort used in sinigang) are stuffed with a cooked ground pork mixture and a strip of cheese and then rolled up in a lumpia wrapper. The deep-fried rolls are served on thin, narrow paper plates and are eaten by hand. Bottles of vinegar and ketchup are on hand for those who need some sort of dip, but I prefer to eat them as is, with nothing getting in the way of that first spicy kick from the green sili hitting your taste buds.
You do get this pleasant lingering heat at the back of your throat after every bite.
The golden spring roll wrapper provides a crunchy contrast to the chili’s slightly stringy flesh, while the salty creaminess of the cheese and the meatiness of the ground pork beautifully rounds out the initial piquancy of the green pepper. And while they’re called ‘dynamite,’ the spiciness of the fried spring rolls is somewhat tame (I suspect that they may have removed the seeds and boiled the finger chilies shortly in a pot of salted water prior to stuffing). You do get this lingering heat at the back of your throat for quite a while after eating, however, but it’s rather pleasant, a bit soothing even.
San Antonio is a secure neighborhood, and Totong’s food cart is within a good proximity to the barangay hall too. The area surrounding it can get crowded in the afternoons, however, and there are no sanitary permits on display.
Despite the limited space, everything is laid out in an orderly manner, and the attendant uses tongs to handle the food. There are no sneeze guards, however, and the fried dynamite sticks are left to cool in the open air. (That wouldn’t stop me from eating them, though.)
Apart from the village residents who frequent the stall, I sometimes see students from the nearby University of Asia and the Pacific (UA&P) along with smartly-dressed corporate officers from the Astoria Hotel nursing one or two (or three, with some even picking up as much as twenty sticks for takeout) dynamite sticks in the early evening hours.