I’ve always thought of myself as a connoisseur of breakfast foods.
The warm, velvetiness of soft scrambled eggs. The crunch of a perfectly fried strip of bacon. The squirt of juice that comes from biting into a plump sausage. These were all little highs I’ve chased for the last twenty-something years of my life.
Since my pancake-loving youth, I’ve branched into many breakfasts from different cultures. I fell in love with the Mexican chilaquiles. I adore dining on dim sum. I’m even down for the occasional crepe when the opportunity arises.
However, it wasn’t until recently that I got to experience what an authentic Filipino breakfast was like.
I was on an all-day food shoot with fellow Foodbeast Richard Guinto, who made up half of the Hot Boy Duo. We were in the Koreatown area of Los Angeles and I had been sitting in traffic for nearly two hours.
Reach, Richard's nom de guerre, suggested we grab some food before starting our extensive workday.
What do you wanna eat? I asked him.
Are you down for some Filipino breakfast?
I had never tried Filipino breakfast before in my life. It wasn’t a taste thing, or a culture bias by any means necessary. I just never had the opportunity to try the cuisine before. My prior experience with Filipino cuisine was limited to fusion spots that highlighted meats like adobo (marinated meat in a stock) and sisig (sizzling pork). Though they were heavily white-washed on fries, or stuffed into a burrito.
No, we were going for traditional tapsilog, the combination of marinated meat accompanied by garlic rice and a fried egg.
We drove through the backstreets of Koreatown until we came upon a rundown looking plaza.
Tucked between a lavanderia and a Filipino corner store was a tiny restaurant and bakery. On a typical day, I would have just driven past the location without a second glance.
Bagnet Restaurant, the spot was called.
It being my first time there, and himself a local, Reach ordered our meal in his native Tagalog.
I got you, man.
There was some back-and-forth between him and the elderly Filipino woman behind the counter. She looked at me like a shy fawn walking towards human campers for the first time.
We took our seats, Reach whittling away at his Redwood tree of unanswered emails. I, on the other hand, scanned the restaurant eagerly taking in the aesthetics of the establishment. The menu was painted on the far back wall. In bold letters, a sign boasted $5 breakfast served all day with unlimited rice.
Five bucks for breakfast with all the rice you could eat? My excitement grew along with my hunger.
A few minutes later, the woman approached our table with two plates of food.
Before me was an aromatic plate of garlic fried rice, crispy fried chicken, two fried eggs, roasted pork known as lechon, and two longanisa links. The savory crimson sausage is flavored with Filipino spices that made for one hearty protein.
While I took a moment to take a photo of this magnificent meal, a habit that’s pretty hard to shake in this line of work, I could hear the earth-shattering crunch of Reach biting into his fried chicken with overwhelming satisfaction.
As I forked a stout piece of sausage, Reach offered me some words of caution.
Prepare yourself for some “longanisa burps,” he said. This meant that the flavor from the breakfast meat was so potent, you’d be burping up the taste for days to follow.
As I bit into the ample banger from the Pacific Islands, my taste buds were engulfed in flavor and juices. I immediately chased down the richness of the longanisa with a spoonful of garlic rice. Next up was the lechon.
I myself am a sucker for any kind of pork. You can roast a pig, braise it, smoke it, or even pan fry it and I’m down to nibble. The crispy texture and fatty content made the lechon a perfect parallel for bacon. It pleased me, as much as finding a front-of-the-store parking spot on an exceptionally frustrating day.
I washed the meal down with a refreshing gulp of a Filipino style of lemonade called calamansi juice. The light, citrus beverage cleansed the savory sin congregating in my mouth, my palate now a social chatter of flavor. The meal left me pretty satisfied, albeit unwilling to continue onto my forthcoming workday.
As with every successful breakfast, I just wanted to nap.
After we left the restaurant, I told myself I would make time to return and try more dishes. The savory Filipino breakfast I just devoured had left a craving in my spirit and a new restaurant to frequent whenever I’m in the area.
My trip to Bagnet further reinforced my love of breakfast, the greatest meal of the day.
Driving out of the parking lot, I let out a pretty hefty belch. He was right about those longanisa burps. I tasted the meal again, its essence dragging its feet through my tongue, anchoring its flavor to my senses and staying with me for the rest of the week.