My parents would say lechon manok but I was too young to witness that. So, as far as I can recall—there was shawarma. I was in elementary and teeny-bopper show T.G.I.S. showed a character named Kiko (played by Red Sternberg, how can you forget) working in a shawarma stall. Everywhere you go, you can smell beef and garlic-yogurt sauce. Then, there came the pearl shakes--beverages with black, chewy tapioca balls, which everyone lined up for everyday. These shakes generated a lot of copycats and black propaganda via email. Then, there came the barrage of bread & pastries. The Pinoy breakfast staple pan de sal got an “upgrade,” oddly became sweeter (even if pan de sal literally translates to salted bread) and soon, people weren’t so discreet about bringing these bread rolls to work or school. Then, there were the melt-in-your-mouth donuts, which seriously rivaled the good old store where I get my Bavarian munchkins fix. There were also those frosted cupcakes that were reproached for having twice the price tag of a similar-sized cupcake, while most people continued to hoard, nevertheless.
It’s not just a Filipino thing, mind you. There will always be food crazes, no matter what country you’re in. At the risk of selling out by jumping in the bandwagon, I can’t really dismiss the idea altogether. If there’s one thing I like about food crazes, it’s making more options available to the Filipino consumer. Bottom line: relax and enjoy, it’s still only food.
Last year, Manila was hit by the frozen yogurt (“froyo”) craze, the way the U.S. was hit by the same craze around 2007. It’s not like we’ve only discovered yogurt and its numerous health benefits now, but we’ve definitely entered a time when more consumers have become health-conscious and an increasing number of food manufacturers are responding to the need. In yogurt’s case, they’ve upped it a notch by thinking of new and exciting ways to enjoy it, so that it becomes more of a treat than a chore.
Eat it frozen, for example. Top it off with fresh mangoes, almond slices, blueberries, maybe some red beans. Or you can just head to Red Mango.
I went to its second Philippine branch in SM Megamall and saw that the place was packed. There were families in several tables, a young couple, a group of middle-aged ladies, kids and a Korean-looking barkada. I had to wait a while to find a table and sit down with my friends. People just kept on coming, despite it being a rainy day.
Red Mango in SM Megamall, Trinoma Mall, the new Eastwood Mall and Greenbelt 3 is the same Red Mango that started the frozen yogurt trend in Seoul seven years ago and now also found in Los Angeles, New York, Bangkok, South Africa, Indonesia and Singapore. It has the same fresh, relaxing, modern interior with red-orange and white furnishings characteristic of all Red Mango stores. The ambiance lends a youthful, laid-back vibe perfect for lounging and long conversations. If you’ve been a Red Mango fan ever since sampling it in maybe one of your trips abroad, then thank Sherika Tanmantiong for finally bringing it to the Philippines this year.
The Red Mango we have here also offers two yogurt variants: Original and Green Tea. Both are all-natural, low-calorie, gluten-free and certified kosher. A small serving is just 90 calories with 0 grams of fat, 3 grams of protein, and 19 grams of carbohydrate. Red Mango was also the first retailer given the National Yogurt Association's Live and Active Culture Seal, a certification given to yogurt manufacturers whose products possess live and active culture in amounts that researchers have determined to give health benefits. For a frozen yogurt manufacturer to get the seal, there must be at least 10 million cultures per gram at the time the frozen yogurt is made.
A medium-sized (6 oz.) bowl of Original yogurt (P115) topped with fresh mangoes, watermelon and sliced almonds, and accompanied by flat silver spoons, made its way to our table. I was told frozen yogurt tastes perfect when eaten in slivers, thus the need for spoons flatter than normal.
Medium Original (P115), with 3 toppings (P40)
I shave off from the mountain of plain yogurt and savor the tangy taste in my mouth. It has the texture of ice cream--real, creamy yogurt with a delicate balance of the tart and the sweet. Eat it with fresh fruit toppings like mangoes and watermelon, and even throw in some almond slices for added crunch and flavor—then, it simply becomes dessert debauchery without the guilt.
As of now, Red Mango offers at least 21 toppings, which range from the usual fruits like strawberries, blueberries and mangoes, to the more exotic like pomelo and mochi, to the more kid-friendly ones like cereals, chocolates and nuts. You can order up to 5 toppings per yogurt serving, which amounts to only P60 (P20 for 1 topping, P30 for 2). So, load ‘em up for a healthy feast.
Red Mango offers yogurt On Shaved Ice (P125, one size with 3 toppings), too, if you prefer to explore a more sherbet-like consistency. Surprisingly, it doesn’t taste watered down with the addition of the shaved ice. Our toppings consisted of fresh (not frozen) sliced red grapes, pomelo and melon. Since it’s like eating creamier halo-halo, rounder spoons were given to us this time so we can scoop everything—yogurt soup and all. This version is perfect for hot summer days because it is very refreshing. You can even just “drink” everything once it melted and voila!--instant yogurt shake.
Original Yogurt on Shaved Ice with red grapes, pomelo and melon
Another way to enjoy yogurt in Red Mango is to get one of their Frozen Yogurt Blenders (P125, 14 oz.), available in mango, banana, kiwi and green tea.
This is real mango shake blended with non-frozen original yogurt and then topped with the original frozen yogurt. The tart yogurt taste mixes with the sweet-sour mango without either flavor overpowering the other. It’s smooth and creamy, like drinking blended ice cream. It’s quite filling, too, if you don’t share it with anyone.
Apart from yogurt, Red Mango also serves waffles. (I know, right—it just keeps getting better.) They serve their heart-shaped waffles golden brown, soft in the inside, crisp on the outside and smelling like a good morning.
Banana Almond Waffles
The Banana Almond Waffles (P85) are freshly-made waffles topped with slices of bananas, sliced almonds and yogurt cream cheese—exactly the kind of breakfast I would gladly wake up for. I scooped a small amount of original yogurt, topped it on a forkful of waffle, banana, almond and cream cheese and chucked everything in my mouth.
You can also enjoy your waffle with a side order of yogurt and turn it into waffle a la mode. An organic coffee and tea line is also available in case you prefer those with your waffles.
Then, finally, the pièce de résistance: Green Tea yogurt topped with mochi and red beans. So good, it was gone before anyone could spell froyo.
Medium Green Tea yogurt (P120) with 2 toppings (P30)
The green tea yogurt is thankfully not bitter, nor does it taste like leaves. It offered just the right green tea kick while still retaining the tartness of the original yogurt. With soft, chewy mochi chunks and fresh red beans (not to be confused with monggo), it’s just the perfect blend of flavors and textures. This combination continued to haunt me days after my visit.
Good thing Red Mango has opened a branch in Makati just recently, at Greenbelt 3. Such fantastic news for us Southern dwellers, don’t you think?
Healthy, fat-free and delicious, either you’re angry at the world or just plain mad not to succumb to this food craze.
But is frozen yogurt really just a food craze? I don’t think so. Not when Red Mango is around.