Blood, sweat, and Bicol express.
If you consider yourself a foodie, you’ve thought about opening a restaurant at least once. Anna Princesa (yup, real last name) not only did this, but she went from entertaining an idea to opening night in less than a month.
Anna, a recent graduate of UP, has always had a soft spot for food. Like many Filipino families, there was always a party or get together that involved an elaborate spread of pancit and barbeque or steaks and cordon bleu, with plenty of leftovers for everyone’s breakfast the next day.
On the home front, bribing a young Anna with Mcdo was a sure fire way to get her to smile, be happy, or do something for you. To put simply, food—whether eating it, preparing it, or going to the market for it—was a part of Anna’s upbringing.
“You can tell a lot about a person based on their food choices” – Anna Princesa
To show just how often Anna had food on her mind, in college she wrote her senior thesis on the topic—Sugar and Spice: An Afternoon Delight was a study on food and its ability to represent certain aspects of life. “I branded certain dishes as sacred because of the memories I associated them with. You can tell a lot about a person based on their food choices… I essentially put food on a pedestal,” she admits. Samsies, Anna, samsies.
When opportunity comes a-knockin’
After graduation, the plan was to find a job, take culinary classes on the side, build a network in the food industry, and save enough money to eventually put up a restaurant. That plan took an unexpected turn when news that a new food park was opening near their home in Congressional Ave.
Anna’s cousin, JB, approached her with the idea of partnering up to open a stall in the park. His only condition? It had to be Bicolano food to pay homage to where the family hailed from. Anna said yes thinking it would be like dipping her toes into the restaurant business.
So it was during one of those family barbeques that Anna and JB talked restaurant plans, probably over a dish of tita’s homemade fruit salad, and by the bottom of the bowl, they had come up with the first fruits of Sa Guilid. This was July 2, 2016 and the park had set the date for the grand opening: July 23.
Hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s off to work we go
Tossing menu ideas back and forth, Anna’s family played guinea pig to her experiments in the kitchen.
Childhood summers in Bicol weren’t complete without trips to the market and coming home to lola’s Bicol express.
She was, after all, reinventing some of the dishes that she and her cousins had grown up eating.
Childhood summers in the province were not complete without trips to the market and coming home to her lola’s recipe for Bicol express waiting for the cousins. These recipes were family heirlooms and Anna was basically butchering them so, naturally, the family was ruthless in their taste tests.
After adjustments in the home kitchen, Sa Guilid’s Bicolano fusion menu was born.
On July 14, the new menu auditioned in front of the food park owners and got the golden ticket a few days later to start building the stall.
The trips to suppliers, Divisoria, and managing the construction was all a blur as Anna transformed into Superwoman for a week and a half. Her days were spent coordinating with designers and artists, overseeing construction, and making sure they had everything for opening night.
Anna transformed into Superwoman for a week and a half.
If you did the math, Anna and Sa Guilid didn’t make opening night as scheduled but an extra week of hustle and they had their own opening on the 30th, exactly 28 days after that fateful family barbeque.
Of Bicorritos and Laing Bombs
Fusion food is almost always exciting. It’s a creativity spree for chefs and cooks to see what combinations and mashups they can come up with. The hands and minds behind Sa Guilid have took Bicolano food for a ride and presented us with a spread that takes favorites like laing, Bicol express, and sisig to a new realm.
A combination of laing, rice, and a special version of the Bicol express without the gata
Sizzling Bicol Express
Traditional recipe from Ligao, Albay with balaw imported straight from Bicol
Insider tip: The sizzling Bicol express is also available in chicken for a healthier option.
“The biggest challenge was coming up with a way to present Bicolano favorites differently. How could we take these well loved, traditional dishes and turn them into something not only unique but delicious?”
Deep fried kamote and potato balls filled with laing, topped with garlic aoili and chimichurri
Fun fact: Remember when your parents wrapped your ulam in rice and rolled it into a ball? That was the inspiration behind the Laing Bombs.
Pancit Luglug and Pancit Dinuguan
Made with pancit bato, the famous Bicolano noodles
Tweaking recipes was a necessity for the fusion restaurant but there were some recipes, like the Pancit Luglug and Pancit Dinuguan, that Anna insisted on not touching in order to preserve her childhood memories of falling in love with Bicolano food, hoping that patrons of Sa Guilid would do the same.
Bicolano style bopis cooked with vinegar and kangkong stems
In addition to reimagining favorites, Anna wanted to shed light on some lesser known dishes from the province. Her aunts, who grew up in Bicol, drew from their roots to bring in dishes like Kandingga and Sizzling Inalob that aren’t too well known in Manila for an extra Bicolano flare.
Sa Guilid’s version of a less sinful sisig made with liempo
Fun fact: "Inalob" is the Bicolano term for grilled or inihaw.
Anna has no formal training in the kitchen but when you have someone who is this passionate (and frankly, obsessed with food) preparing it, you can bet it’s going to be good. And with nothing on the menu going beyond P160, it’s damn well worth it too.
Sa Guilid today
Sa Guilid is going strong and in the next few weeks, they are going to introduce new items like Laing Cordon Bleu into the menu, launch party platters, and a delivery service for you to enjoy at your own family gatherings.
What was the hardest part of it all? “The crazy time constraint… Things went by so quickly that there was literally no time to second guess myself or the decisions I was making,” says Anna.
“Things went by so quickly that there was literally no time to second guess myself or the decisions I was making.” – Anna Princesa
“In hindsight, I’m glad it was made in such haste. If I was given more time to execute the plans, I might have, at some point, wanted to, or maybe even pushed through, with backing out… It’s a risky move—gambling my life savings—on something that we suddenly decided to do. Luckily, it worked out and the risk was worth it.”
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