What do you think about succulent deep-fried pork leg, with shards of crunchy skin? How about sisag? It is made with chopped pork belly, liver sauce, seasonings and spices served on a sizzling plate. A raw egg sits on top, and we were instructed to mix the egg into the bubbling hot food. These are but two of the memorable dishes we tried at Pandan. Wait, it gets better. We were a party of six, had twelve delicious dishes and the bill with tax and tip was $29 per person. While there were plenty of Thai options, it was the Philippine dishes, which are not often found in our neighborhood, that had us giggling with pleasure.
This is a very casual, small storefront restaurant that has been open for 12 years. Half of the walls are covered with bamboo wallpaper and the other half painted orange. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable.
Starters were crispy fried calamari; meaty stir-fried mussels with black beans, garlic and scallions; steamed pork dumplings filled with mushrooms, carrots and water chestnuts; and an unusual torta (egg omelet) containing grilled eggplant and ground pork. We loved everything.
Next we devoured the plate of deep-fried pork leg which was hacked into small pieces; the aforementioned sisag; grilled creamy eggplant served with lime and a fish sauce; water spinach sautéed with a shrimp paste; moist marinated chicken in Pandanus leaves; and the one dish that we thought was too sweet, Pad Thai with shrimp and chicken. Otherwise not a clunker among dishes which were all well infused with flavors.
Other dishes on our to-try list are pork simmered in pig’s blood gravy; bangus, a milkfish marinated in vinegar, garlic, pepper and other herbs; and purple yam ice cream.
While the flan for dessert was good, the yummy Sans Rival meringue layered cake with cashews and buttercream would be our recommendation.
Pandan is named for a tropical plant that grows in Asia, its leaves have a sweet, unique flavor used in both desserts and savory dishes. It is nicknamed Vanilla of the East or Asian Vanilla. For us, Pandan means a perfect neighborhood spot for Philippine food.
Pandan Asian Cuisine-Bloomfield
406 Broad St.
Mussels with black beans, garlic and scallions.
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Deep-fried pork leg.
Photos courtesy of Lowell Saferstein
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