Dessert Comes First

An obsession with dessert and other unabashed opinions of a food writer

Magnum White King

Cheapskate of the Universe

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I know someone who calls himself C.O.T.U. literally, “Cheapskate of the Universe.”

We don’t eat together – surprise, surprise. I’m no cheapskate and he can’t abide dessert. That’s a deal-breaker right there. But I’m fascinated by his drive to find the best places that’ll serve the best, if not the most food, for under P100. Obviously, I don’t approve of his choices (again – which is why we don’t eat together) but his food, er … “philosophy”, if I can even call it that, gets me to thinking about the cheap-“er” things I like to eat.

Now you know why this week’s DiscOVIries by Nokia theme is What’s Your Favorite Cheap Eat?. Let’s say it all together now, shall we: “Ahhh.”

So here, in no definitive order, is a (rather short) list of cheap eats that I hope to add to in the future. I want to add Marty’s Vegetable Chicharon here but I can’t find it anywhere. For those of you who are looking, there are no cheap meals here. Frankly, I’d be hesitant to do a post on that since what I consider cheap or even “affordable,” might be someone else’s “exorbitant.”

Goldilocks polvoron
Price: P79/pack of 10 (approximately P7.90/piece)

This has been an enduring favorite of mine since I was a freshman in high school. And unlike McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish sandwich, Red Ribbon’s empanada, and KFC’s Zinger, it hasn’t gotten smaller over the years. I’m grateful to the Goldilocks powers-that-be for retaining the polvoron’s quaint scalloped shape and for its sufficient hunger-buster size: roughly two inches in diameter.

Who would think that something immensely satisfying could be made from just toasted flour, butter, sugar, and powdered milk? Solid in form yet crumbly on first bite, I love the grittiness of the sugar in the Goldilocks polvoron, the crunch, crunch that echoes in my ears; sound then sweetness. When that symphony has been silenced, there’s the almost indiscernible flavor of butter (or is it margarine?) followed by the dryness of the powdered milk. When I make polvoron at home, Boo is very strict that I use only Bear Brand powdered milk because that’s the milk that she drinks. Strangely enough, it’s this allegiance to a powdered milk brand that some say is the secret to (their) polvoron. Could that be why I love Goldilocks polvoron so?


Goldilocks nut brownies
Price: P29/pack of 4 small squares

No, this isn’t a Goldilocks product post but I do like their nut brownies. I’m laughed at when I tell a group of colleagues about my penchant for these cheap bars. “God, they even look cheap,” one says. “Perhaps,” I reply. “But they’re so fudgy!” “Chock-full of glucose,” snorts another.

Plain as can be, moistened with glucose, and plied with the cheapest of cocoa powders, my colleagues are right. But that doesn’t change the way I feel about these blocks of edible midnight that shine with their glucose sheen and stick to my teeth like crazy. A somewhat chalky flavor dominates in these brownies thanks to a low-quality cocoa powder but it seems entirely appropriate coupled with its one-dimensional sweetness. I too, tire of singing paeans to chocolate possessing notes of smoke and citrus. Sometimes painfully plain is what I want.

Curry puffs from Old Chang Kee
Price: P35/piece

C.O.T.U. brought me a box of these when I was in the hospital after giving birth to Boo. It’s the only food we both agree on, come to think of it.

If you like spicy food, then there’s nothing to dislike about these fried pockets. A Singaporean franchise that has unfortunately dwindled to just two branches in Manila, Old Chang Kee specializes in on-the-go finger foods that consist of fish balls, crab claws, and chicken nuggets. But it’s the curry puff that started it all and it’s still the star.

curry puff

A mixture of chicken, potatoes, chunks of hard-boiled egg and carrot shreds are kicked up with enough curry to make the back of my throat tingle, and enough turmeric to make my tongue yellow. Encased in a doughy wrap, I like to start eating this by nibbling on the braided ends which are crispy, and then biting my way to the soft inside. Paired with my occasional Coke Zero, this is lunch.

Old Chang Kee
Branches at V-Mall, outside near Haagen-Dazs, and at Mall of Asia.


Pandesal from Pan de Amerikana
Price: P5.50/piece

I rejoiced when this venerable Marikina establishment opened a branch near me. I’d previously been driving ten kilometers to a Pan de Manila just to get my weekly pan de pugon fix.

There’s nothing like bread baked in a wood-burning oven. It’s pillow-soft and has an aroma and taste redolent of wood of course, and something more, like old times. Unlike other panaderias, pandesal from Pan de Amerikana is browner and bigger. The former because the bread is made from (whole) wheat flour sans sugar, and the latter because well, they’re just made BIG. There’s an even bigger pandesal that they have called pan de sal na pang Amerikano because it’s big enough to feed an American. Now that I want to buy sometime when I visit the Marikina branch.

my favorite mug
everybody wants this mug of mine. I got it at Team Manila.

I usually buy enough pandesal to feed breakfast to my family of three and then I save one for merienda. I toast it lightly and eat it with cheese or smear it with condensed milk chased with sips of coffee from my favorite mug (above). Wow, now that’s what I call a retro snack.

Pan de Amerikana website

24 Responses to “Cheapskate of the Universe”

  • Fave cheap eat for me: Hot Fudge Sundae and a small order of french fries (eaten together) from McDonalds. Total = P50.


    renee Reply:

    @wysgal – this brings back memories! Same for me since high school, except I usually have the strawberry sundae in Mcdo, too bad they don’t have it anymore :'(


  • I am addicted to goldilocks polvoron!!


  • there’s a cheapskate in all of us! :)


  • “I want to add Marty’s Vegetable Chicharon here but I can’t find it anywhere.”

    — my gawd! i was supposed to upload a photo of Marty’s Vegetable Chicharon last night for DicOVIries Week 3 I can’t seem to find the upload button. =(

    dashashash – Did you find the upload button already?



  • hi lori, looove your mug!!! where dya get it?


  • i can relate with cheapstake =)
    …i also had a post before about pan de amerikana right after i brought my family to their place in marikina. i must say, it’s one of the best breads i’ve tasted! budget-friendly too.


  • I like your mug. May I know where you bought it?


  • LoL! Indeed Lori, everybody likes your mug. :) Nice post. My fave cheap eat was the choco-mallow dessert pie of Jollibee. They don’t make them any more (sob sob). Deep fried pocket pies filled with liquid gooey marshmallows and chocolate fudge for only 25 pesos.

    Ingrid – “… fried pocket pies filled with liquid gooey marshmallows and chocolate fudge for only 25 pesos.” And they don’t sell it anymore?? For shame!



  • i love goldilocks polvoron too!


  • cheap eats escape would have to be Cakes & Bakes at Cherry, and my all time fave, Happy Cream Puff in Makati. Hehe. :)

    And a plain misua soup (P40) and fresh lumpia (P70) at Little Store.


  • I only discovered the goldilocks brownies recently. And yes, THEY ARE GOOD! :D Try storing them in the ref for a couple of days. They turn out a bit hard, but still gooooooey!


  • mmmmm! the polvoron is making my mouth water.

    i’m a cheap date- a McDo cheeseburger meal will keep me smiling for 6 hours. :D


  • My dad is a Goldilocks Polvoron addict. Never a day in the house without polvoron. I’m now married and live at another house. When I go home to visit, his pabaon will be a bag (or box) of Goldilocks polvoron.

    My own cheap eat would be cloud9.mmm…


  • I love the Goldilock’s brownies. But my fave cheapskate snack is warm, soft monay from UP Diliman (it’s in boxes on bikes driven by the manongs with horns to catch the students’ attention). It used to be only 5 pesos for a large piece (about 6-7 inches diameter circle) and can be ordered with a slice of Kraft cheese (+ 2 pesos).


  • My fave cheapskate snacks:

    – Holy Kettle Corn popcorn (P30)
    – Goldilocks marble slice (P21)
    – Goldilocks cookies and cream polvoron
    – Goldilocks caramel popcorn (P19)
    – McDo’s french fries (P25)
    – Jollibee’s peach mango pie (P22?) & spaghetti (P42)
    – wheat pandesal + condensed milk or peanut butter



  • I love haw flakes!!! (those red circles which we would put on our playmates’ tongues and say ‘body of christ’ — remember??) i also love, love dried mangoes still.


  • For me it’s the Fresh Lumpia of POLLAND in Mayon Street Quezon City, you will seldom see it because it literally runs out in the afternoon because of its awesome taste! Chinese and Filipino patrons adore it… I only take out the cilantro because I hate that part =)


  • mine too goldilocks brownies soooooo gooey :D and yeah marty’s veggie chicharon :D and chocnut


  • want that mug too!! (^_^) I have one with the flag and map layout of all the islands. I expect to bring back more treasures from Manila when we visit May 2011….


  • For me it would have to be Max’s Caramel Bar… Mmm.. it goes really well with coffee! And it comes free with the meals. Heehee.


  • Current favorite: Siomai House’s 25-peso, 4pc siomai.


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