Friday, July 11, 2008


Ed, a reader from San Francisco, California had just made me realized that a popular refreshment that I'm yet to feature is the gulaman. So after doing my errands in Quiapo yesterday, I walked over to the southeast corner of Recto Avenue and Quezon Boulevard to take a picture of the samalamig (chilled drink) vendor (above photo).

Since Ed may be away from Manila for quite some time, like me, he may be astonished to learn that the usual sago't gulaman of decades past has evolved to a selection of different flavors from pandan to fruit salad. Typical tropical fruit drinks such as pineapple and coconut have also become regular offerings. Served in plastic cups, the street price of these drinks vary from five to ten pesos.

These samalamig refreshments are also served at Manila's popular restaurants such as Aristocrat's, Chow King, President's, and Max's, to name a few.

Gulaman is made from seaweed called agar-agar, and can be served as gelatin dessert, with fruits included if desired. Sago, other than in samalamig drinks, can also be served in taho and ginataan.

I never bought any of these samalamig drinks from street vendors because of the rumor that they use "magic sugar" as sweetener and not sugar derived from sugar cane. Magic sugar is supposedly a chemical concoction from China created to simulate the taste of sugar; much cheaper in price, too. Sago, on the other hand, is supposedly created from not so sanitary methods. However, I'm not completely sure about these claims, and would appreciate the input of fellow bloggers.

Nonetheless, whenever I crave for a tall glass of gulaman, I always head over to Chow King for its black gulaman which costs 37 pesos.

Related link:

Chilled Drinks - My Sari-Sari Store

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posted by Señor Enrique at 8:51 AM


Anonymous traveler on foot said...

Samalamig like the gulaman and sago is good not just during the warm months.

July 11, 2008 9:58 AM  

Blogger the donG said...

hindi ako masyadong adik sa sago't gulaman. pinaka gusto ko yung sa sagu. the rest hindi ko masyadong gusto.

pero totoo yan. it has already evolved. dami na talagang variance.

July 11, 2008 10:58 AM  

Anonymous rhodora said...

Last year, my son Aypee got sick with amoebiasis and was hospitalized for a week. His doctor advised him not to buy street foods and drinks especially sago and gulaman because the water being used may not be safe for drinking. But recently he disobeyed doctor's word. The amoeba recurred, and he had to be treated again for two weeks, buti na lang out patient siya, but the medicines cost like - two hundred pesos per tablet, which he had to take four times a day for two weeks! Naku, bawal magkasakit, I told him, mamumulubi tayo sa gamot. So he is being very careful now not to consume water and food with questionable character. :)

July 11, 2008 11:26 AM  

Anonymous lino said...

masarap nga ang black gulaman ng chowking eric... gusto ko kse sa gulaman yung medyo matamis... p&s ba gamit mo dyan sa quiapo?

July 11, 2008 12:04 PM  

Blogger nutart said...

It's easy to make gulaman, Eric! You can even add your favorite jam flavor and it really zests up the usual bland gulaman flavor. Yung arnibal naman just boil brown sugar and add a bit of calamansi...I even add tea flavoring.

Thanks also for that bit of info about the sugar. My favorite samalamig vendor in college says he uses a tinge of vanilla and pandan leaves to flavor the arnibal.

July 11, 2008 5:27 PM  

Anonymous gemma said...

i hate to sound like an alarmist but my brother contacted hepatitis from a drink he bought from a sidewalk stand somewhere in manila. this happened years ago when sago drinks were not common in our native davao. while vacationing in manila, he was curious to know how they taste and the rest consisted of a medical history that can never be buried as hepatits is a non-curable virus. these drinks look so tempting specially on a hot, humid day but you're better off at a chowking outlet.

here in new york, i go to chinese bakeries to satisfy my craving for sago and gulaman. they call it bubble tea and it comes in different flavors.

July 11, 2008 9:42 PM  

Blogger pelotario said...

Sago and gulaman is very popular
here in Alberta Canada during the
Heritage Festival wherein people
of different origin gather in a park and sell item and ethnic food
from their country. The combination
of Barbeque and Gulaman is very popular to the Canadians. We celebrate this festival every month
of August.

July 12, 2008 12:31 AM  

Blogger Peregrino said...

I'll never be tempted to have one of these refreshments because of possible contamination.

Even Halo-Halo is suspect for contamination.

When in the Philippines, the safest way to refresh, Mag Beer muna tayo!

July 12, 2008 7:59 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Yes, Traveler, samalamig makes a wonderful year-round refreshment.

July 12, 2008 11:17 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Personally, it's only the black gulaman that I enjoy now and then, donG.

July 12, 2008 11:18 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Whoa! Pricey medicines indeed, Rhoda.

Thanks fo reminding to be wary about the quality used in preparing street foods and drinks.

July 12, 2008 11:20 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Yes, Lino -- point & shoot cam ang gamit ko dito, which I never leave home without. I think I'd leave my cellphone behind first before my p&s ... hehehe.

July 12, 2008 11:21 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Wow! many thanks for the preparation tips, Bernadette. Had no idea those things can be added to enhance the flavor of the gulaman; I thought fruits only.

July 12, 2008 11:23 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Many thanks for the warning, Gemma.

I don't remember enjoying sago't gulaman in New York, taho only. Are you talking about somewhere on Mott Street? That's where I used to buy taho.

July 12, 2008 11:25 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

August is merely around the corner, Pelotario. I'm sure you're all looking forward to some gulaman with the cookouts, eh?


July 12, 2008 11:27 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Good idea, Peregrino, but for the seniors and minors, bottled water would be most advisable.

July 12, 2008 11:28 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Senor Enrique,

Thanks much for the update on one of the best snacks sold by the vendors around the university belt. Ayyyyyy saraaaaap. Another big smile on my face after reading it.

I drank the gulaman when I was at FEU. That was my dessert after eating my ba-on. Just looking at your pictures make me want to go back to Manila.

Sorry about those who got sick, I hope you're all okay now. I was forbidden to eat any vendor food when I was going to school at FEU, unless it was hot like the boiled corn or ta-ho,but I had to provide my own bowl & spoon. The sliced green mango was ok. as long I didnt eat the bagoong coz the mango vendor was using an old empty Pennzoil Motor oil that he used as the container for his red bagoong

Im looking forward to your next blog - Lumpiang Divisoria.
Im still catching up on your archived blogs re: FEU my alma mater.

Happy Hunting & regards,

Ed from SF

July 12, 2008 1:30 PM  

Blogger luna miranda said...

I'm not really fond of sago't gulaman or any salamig but the colorful jugs on your top photo look tempting! Growing up, my mother told us horror stories about how street foods were prepared kaya siguro hanggang ngayon takot talaga ako bumili o tumikim ng salamig or any street food. I know I'm missing a lot...pero OK na rin, mahal ang meds!:D

July 13, 2008 12:23 AM  

Blogger Panaderos said...

Count me as one of those sago't gulaman addicts! :D

I drank them all the time when I was a kid much to the chagrin of an overprotective mother.

Whenever I'm in Manila, I still order this refreshment from restaurants such as Gerry's Grill and Dencio's. And whenever I do, I ask for it "bottomless". :D

July 13, 2008 3:42 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

As much as they're readily available and cheap, better be careful in consuming those street foods, and basically, use common sense. My nephew got hepatitis from eating those quail eggs from street vendors.

Glad you're enjoying my posts, Ed.

July 13, 2008 6:58 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

You and me both, Luna :)

July 13, 2008 6:59 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

I can understand your mom's concern, Panaderos, but the samalamig from those restaurants you mentioned certainly are all right.

July 13, 2008 7:01 AM  

Anonymous gemma said...

bubble tea (sago and gulaman) places started sprouting all over nyc's chinatown and flushing a few years ago but they cater mostly to asians. those who have an "american palate" tend to dislike the sago. i think it's a textural thing much like the way they dislike jellyfish.

the taho place along mott st. seems to be popular among filipinos. do you remember the "taho" sign on the window? when i was teaching at P.S. 124, which is right by confucious plaza (the tall building along bowery), my daily afternoon snack was a container of taho from that place.

do you know about the place in chinatown which sells "filipino" siopao by any chance? i was once asked by a couple of filipinas wandering around chinatown for directions to that siopao place but i've never heard of it before.

July 13, 2008 9:35 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

My friends never liked the kaong in the halo-halo, either, Gemma ... hehehe.

Yes, it was actually the sign that made me aware of taho being sold in that bake shop.

The "Filipino siopao" if there's such a thing may be the bola-bola siopao referred to as "halo-halo" by the workers of the tea house that sells it -- on Bayard between Mott and I forgot the street name but it's east of Mott heading towards Bowery.

My favorite restaurant in Chinatown is #13 Mott Street. Loved their crabs Cantonese-style.

I used to catch the bus heading uptown that plies along Third Avenue right on Confucious Plaza.

July 13, 2008 10:20 AM  

Blogger tony said...

Hi Eric,
When I was still on my "corto" (short pants). Whenever my family got tired of eating at Ongpin or "Toho Restaurant" at calle San Jacinto near Dasmarinas street, we go eat at "Mandarin Restaurant" at the corner of San Luis street and M.H. del Pilar. This was the first Chinese restaurant that served ice cold "Black Gulaman or White Gulaman with Lechias combined with its juice, after your "Comida China" was heaven!!!
Keep up your cool blog Eric,
ka tony

July 14, 2008 2:34 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Hello Ka Tony!

Thank you for sharing with us this interesting piece of samalamig history! Truly appreciate it :)

July 15, 2008 8:13 AM  

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Life in Manila as observed by a former New Yorker who with a laptop and camera has reinvented himself as a storyteller. Winner of the PHILIPPINE BLOG AWARDS: Best Photo Blog in 2007 and three Best Single Post awards in 2008.


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