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Walking Down Memory Lane: Perfect Pairings In Food And Friendship

Walking Down Memory Lane: Perfect Pairings In Food And Friendship

Food & Entertaining | July 15, 2021
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Looking back on some of his favorite food pairings, Chef Robby Goco shares his epicurean journey, along with a steak and dessert recipe.

“Chemistry—you can’t beat chemistry.”

– Lauren Bacall

There’s a certain romance and nostalgia when we think of perfect pairings. I asked around and some of the answers I got are Bogart and Bacall, or even Tracy and Hepburn (from the arguably older set). My personal orientation, however, is of the epicurean variety—food pairings.

Nostalgic Food Pairings

My thoughts go back to my younger self, whose idea of blissful food pairings involved Max’s fried chicken with banana ketchup and Worchestershire sauce. Who else remembers Burger Machine’s roast beef sandwich eaten with coleslaw then sans rival? That combination is particularly tastier in the wee hours of the morning, if I may add.

There was also Alfredo’s sizzling steak—awash with gravy—and served alongside a salad with Thousand Island dressing, bread, and soup of the day. Mind you, my memory is crystal clear vis-a-vis having eaten all these at the same time!

More nostalgic favorites include the Army Navy club sandwich smothered with cheese sauce and Pancake House’s pancakes with syrup, country sausage, and a side of sunny-side-up eggs. Then there’s also Aristocrat’s barbecue with java rice—eaten side by side with pancit canton and crab foo young.

Plus, who hasn’t enjoyed these pleasures at Greenhills? There’s Chocful of Nuts’ cua pao and siomai, and a hotdog sandwich from Orange Julius. And then, there’s Coney Island’s bubblegum ice cream or strawberry cheesecake ice cream—after which we crossed over to Mom and Pops to get Japanese corn with butter! Yum!

Of course, I grew up and learned to love anything in Tia Maria’s menu—best paired with their Zombie or WengWeng. And from there, I developed a liking for sisig and mayonnaise plus beer.  About the same time frame, I remember Dad enjoying Ma Mon Luk Mami with those huge pieces of siomai—complete with its trademark slimy sauce.

Expanding My Culinary Horizons

When I finally studied abroad, I sort of switched to pairing things that I used to enjoy with ketchup with mustard. Hangovers were dealt with pho noodle soup, and I developed a deep appreciation for fish and chips with malt vinegar.

I suddenly craved for anything fermented or pickled with big and bold meats and had a gentle side that melted over smoked salmon, cream cheese, and bagels. Pizza was enjoyed with spicy honey, and I have braved inclement weather for a bowl of clam chowder with sourdough. I could eat any Mexican food with guacamole, and even evolved from my childhood sashimi into ceviche, poke, and oysters.  

Now, I’m all grown up and find that I need ramen and gyoza, or steak and fries. I’ve gone back to traditional ice cream flavors, and want to eat sourdough with really good butter. I need excellent coffee to go with anything, and truly appreciate small bites with wine or beer. Now, it’s less sugar for me, yet more of the complexity of how salty and sweet can coexist.

Good Things Come in Pairs

The tricky (and delicious) part is introducing all these to my children. Their initial reactions range from small shrieks of yuck to mollified shock. They are exposed to good roast beef and have traveled to eat Michelin-starred dim sum, so the mock outrage and hesitation are forgivable.

But when they hear the stories that surround each favorite, and think back to their dad as a young man (enjoying the first throb of independence by being trusted with the family car for a night out with friends), the warmth of memories and nostalgia move in. And from there, we understand each other better. They take a second bite and the chemistry kicks in.

Here is a video recipe of me and my lifelong friends making Steak Frites with cafe de Paris butter, paired with great reds. We even made a really easy puff pastry dessert with Camembert walnuts and honey. All these are, of course, paired with our favorite dessert wine.

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With more than 20 years of professional cooking, kitchen management and restaurant experience, Chef Robby Goco is responsible for all-time favourites such as Cyma, Souv! By Cyma, Green Pastures, Charlie’s Grind and Grill, Cangrejos Locos and the list goes on. He believes in constant innovation and outdoing himself each and every time. He is a staunch supporter of everything sustainable and local. When he is not grinding in his restaurants’ kitchens, he is happily whipping up feasts for his wife and two daughters at home.
More from Robby Goco
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