Along Kapitan Miong Street in a residential neighborhood in Marikina City, there is a carinderia where my family has been a regular customer for over a decade. It was my husband’s co-workers who introduced him to the place, a favorite among sales agents on field work who preferred good but inexpensive meals. Simply called Genia’s after its owner and cook, it offers the best lechon kawali that I have ever enjoyed in my entire life.
Genia’s lechon kawali starts with good quality pork liempo (belly). The animal must be young enough so that the rind is thin and the layers of fat between the meat is no more than a few millimeters thick. The pre-cut slabs of pork belly are boiled in highly salted water then deep fried until the skins are puffy and crisp.
I have eaten lechon kawali in countless places including the so-called “institutions” like Max’s and Barrio Fiesta. But none compares to Genia’s lechon kawali which, over the years, has remained consistent in quality. Imagine the Ilocano bagnet — the crispiness is comparable. But, unlike the bagnet, Genia’s lechon kawali is not sun-dried. Hence, the insides are moist — you can actually see the juices run clear when the pork belly is chopped right before it is served.
The carinderia is a small affair. It makes more money from customers who order “pabalot” (take-out) than from those who dine in. In the first place, the carinderia cannot seat too many customers with its size and those who are fussy about ambience would probably balk at the idea of eating at Genia’s. Wooden tables and wooden benches in a front room of a small house… there are no waiters and waitresses; Genia’s daughters and mother serve and Genia cooks.
Dine-in and “pabalot” are not the only ways to enjoy Genia’s cooking. She accepts orders for parties as well. Not a catering service but more of an order-and-pick-up kind of thing. The last time we were there, Genia was busy finishing a huge order of lumpiang ubod (spring rolls stuffed with the heart of palm). She peeked through the kitchen doorway when she heard us and she asked if we wanted to try the lumpiang ubod with her special handmade egg wrappers. In the decade or so that we had been going there, I had never tried her lumpiang ubod. After I did, I decided I now have two reasons to keep going back to Genia’s — her lechon kawali and her lumpiang ubod.
Genia’s is a small unassuming place. But the food is just wonderful. Traditional Marikina cooking at its best.