Tapa Threeway: A Battle Between Rufo’s Famous Tapa, Sinangag Express, and Tapa KingMarch 2, 2016
Tapa is one of those pervasive dishes—found both in tiny eateries and fancy hotels and everything in between—that everyone can relate to. Regardless of your social standing, there’s something about those salty cured slices of meat that make them a staple for breakfast, or anytime of the day for that matter. It is, however, considered the morning meal jerky, having found itself in an open relationship with fried rice and eggs (although the “silogs” tend to experiment with other meats). So we decided to take a look at three of the large tapa chains around the city and pit their star dishes against each other. We came, we sat, we ordered. Here’s what we found.
Rufo’s Famous Tapa: The Rufo’s Famous Tapa
The tapa comes in traditional thin slices, but with an unorthodox gravy, that has been given its own tagline: Sauce pa lang, ulam na! The claim makes sense and ordering another cup of rice because of it is a big possibility. The meat, however, runs close to being beef steak more than it does tapa.
The Rice and Egg:
The fried rice label is a little bit of a letdown, when in truth it’s pretty much a mound of steamed rice with garlic bits. The egg is decent—cooked in a ring—with a crisp outer halo, and a runny yolk. When mixed with the tapa’s sauce, it turns the dish immensely creamy.
The atchara was absent table-side. Vinegar, along with soy sauce, are at your disposal but don’t really work well with the gravy. You can order atchara (P10) but more than that, extra sauce is also available (P7).
Ratio of rice to meat is around 60:40. It might seem that there’s more meat but it’s just being carried by the gravy, which is really the star of the show, making it a bit pricey at P119.
Sinangag Express: The Tapsilog
The tapa of SEx is unique. It comes in the form of seemingly re-hydrated tapa flakes, which can be deceiving. While it might look like wet goop, the meat is simply well coated with a thin layer of sauce. It has the same resistance and slightly tough bite you get when eating the traditional tapa but hovers more on the sweet side.
The Rice and Egg:
Whether it’s butter or margarine used isn’t clear, but Sinangag Express serves a mound of subtly sunny-colored rice, with bits of garlic mixed in. Because of its color you’d expect a richer hit to the rice, but it hits the palate like a normal spoonful would. The upside to it is how it chews just right. The egg, on the other hand, is somewhat rubbery, but still retains its runny center.
The meal doesn’t come with the mandatory pickled papayas. Both regular and spicy vinegar are available, which are mandatory for the tapa, making it taste more traditional. For the odd and truly adventurous: ketchup.
Ratio of rice to meat is around 50:50, which is perfect. An extra order of rice is also a possibility if you’re stingy with the meat, or if you’re incredibly hungry on a high school kid’s lunch budget. Clocking in at P75, it’s the bang for buck tapa you probably already know about.
Tapa King: The Tapa King
The Meat: It’s the traditional tapa we’ve all come to know and love; slivers of cured meat with the right amount of saltiness and chewiness, with edges of fat for that cheap thrills rich aftertaste. It may seem under seasoned, however, in comparison to its garlic-loaded counterparts.
The Rice and Egg:
It comes with your typical fried rice, slightly brown with the garlic bits incorporated in it, rather than separately placed on top. The egg, while slightly runny, is also rubbery, which is a bit disappointing.
The meal comes with atchara and options of spicy and regular vinegar. While not really a condiment, the meal comes with a cup of soup on the side. The broth works well with the tapa, either draped on the rice, or taken alternatively between bites of the tapsi combo.
Tapa King’s house special has a generous portion of tapa, with a 40:60 rice to meat ratio. It is the most expensive of the three at P142, but it’s worth every peso because of the amount of meat you get, plus the atchara and that little cup of soup thrown in.