Ninak was one of our favorite go to places in Kapitolyo for good and affordable Asian-inspired dishes from Singapore, Thailand, Malayasia, Indonesia, Vietnam and of course the Philippines. Unfortunately, it closed down a few years ago. We were thrilled to find out that it has reopened in Ayala Malls the 30th, so we immediately visited to reminisce their good food.
For Asians, rice is life. It is a staple that a meal would not be complete without it. In fact, Ninak is derived from kanin (spelled backwards), a Filipino word for rice. They serve the best of Southeast Asian dishes, with each dish delivering the unique and intense flavors distinct to each country, making them perfect when paired with rice.
Rice is Life
Ninak Rice is the local version of sinangag, or garlic rice. Simple as it may seem, what we liked in their version is that they are less oily but still flavorful with the balance of garlicky and saltiness of rice.
You get more than just rice and bagoong (shrimp paste) with their version of Bagoong Rice. On top of the bagoong rice, one can find generous amount of egg strips, onion slices, pork chunks, slices of green mango, and colorful chillies that are not only a delight to the eyes, but offers a playful notes of sweet, sour, salty, and spicy flavor combinations that will leave you wanting for more.
Curry Me, Baby!
Thai Green Curry Chicken is one of their well-loved dishes. You’ll immediately know why once you’ve tasted it. There is something about its creamy coconut curry sauce – with hint of freshness of basil and spiciness of chillies that is just perfect with white rice, along with the tender chicken bites, carrots and potatoes chunks that comes with it. Oh, you can also have the spiciness level adjust to your liking, just tell the server.
While not as popular as the Thai Green Curry, Ninak’s Indonesian-inspired Beef Rendang is an understated gem of a dish you definitely should not miss. Slowly cooked in coconut milk, mixed spices and chillies until all liquid is gone, allowed the beef to absorb all the flavors of the spices and becomes tender. Just one bite, the complex and unique flavor of the spicy meat just explodes in your mouth. An extra order of rice would be a fitting way to show your high regard to the dish.
With almost every restaurant from fine to casual dining and packaged food of every kind offering their own salted egg something, you can’t help but raise a bit of a brow when you see another salted egg version in the menu. For the sake of curiosity, we ordered their Salted Egg Yolk Squid. We were surprised that it was really good, that we asked for another order of it. The squid was so tender and each piece was well-coated and well-seasoned with salted egg without being too salty.
To complement the rich flavors of the meat dishes, we decided to order Bean Sprouts with Salted Fish. The bean sprouts and bell peppers were deliciously fun to eat with its crunchy texture. Not sure if we tasted the salted fish though.
Babi Guling is Indonesia’s version of our local lechon, but more of the lechon kawali style. Just like ours, the pork skin is very crunchy and the meat is tender. But what made it different was its strong lemon grass or tanglad taste, and the buro-like (fermented fish) flavor of the sauce, but not Mang Tomas (which we still prefer). Ninak is selling this by grams and it is usually only available during weekends.
So if you are craving for some Southeast Asian food and you happened to be at Ayala the 30th Malls in Meralco Ave., Pasig City, you know where to go.