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Filipino Aisles : Oxnard street has the cafes, markets to make a native feel at home.

Out & About / Ventura County | At The Market

February 20, 1999|BRENDA LOREE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Saviers Road could be called "The Spice Road" in some blocks, so dotted is the thoroughfare with Oriental and Southeast Asian grocery stores and restaurants. It's a sort of Pacific Rim restaurant row.

In particular, the 3600 block of Saviers would make an immigrant from Manila feel right at home. It made the Market Lady decide she was hungry for some delicious pork adobo, which is perhaps the Philippines' most famous dish.

Within 50 feet of the corner of Yucca and Saviers Road in Oxnard, one can eat breakfast or lunch and make a 38-minute phone call to the Philippines for $10 at Pilipinas Bakery (3640 Saviers), shop for Philippine-style pancit noodles, coconut milk, long beans and beef tapa at the Fuwa Market (3823 Saviers), make a deposit at a branch of the Philippine National Bank, rent a video in Tagalog at the Oriental Mini Mart (3620 Saviers), and drop in at the Little Manila Restaurant (3630 Saviers) for a steaming bowl of pancit Canton. Just down the street, next to the KFC outlet, sits the Ilang Ilang travel agency.

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Since the restaurant wasn't yet open, Pilipinas Bakery looked like the best breakfast option. Co-owner Josie Iruguin suggested still-warm-from-the-oven pan de sal, a delicious bun that is more or less the national bread of the Philippines and that has the texture of a brown-and-serve roll. She added a hard-boiled, dyed duck egg called a salted red egg; lumpia, which is a spring roll; and a serving of sapin sapin, a sticky, slightly sweet rice cake.

By now, the little Pilipinas Bakery and cafe were packed with people ordering breakfast and takeout lunches while chatting in Filipino dialects.

Grace Chung had just ordered six servings of pancit palabok, a noodle dish with shrimp sauce, to take home to Camarillo.

"It's the Philippine version of spaghetti and sauce," Chung said, adding that now she wouldn't have to cook dinner. A native of the Philippines, Chung regularly drives from Camarillo to Saviers Road to shop for food and groceries.

Filipino cuisine is a combination of Malaysian, Chinese and Japanese flavors, with seasonings derived from its early Spanish colonizers. Compared to other Southeast Asian food, Filipino spices aren't particularly hot.

Across Saviers Road, Fuwa Market caters to all the above ethnic groups. The produce section at the market was stocked with bok choy, daikon (18-inch-long radishes), oyster mushrooms, long beans, eggplant, ginger, papayas and taro.

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Across the aisle, dozens of cellophane packs of thin noodles were piled on shelves. Two aisles over, half-gallon containers of soy sauce and canned coconut milk filled shelves that might otherwise be stocked with ketchup and mustard.

The busiest section of Fuwa Market, though, was its meat department, where three butchers chopped beef and fish cuts for customers as fast as any Benihana restaurant chef.

Back at Pilipinas Bakery, the Market Lady stood in line to order her own takeout dinner. Adobo, a pork stew with vinegar, garlic and bay leaf, was the first choice.

But there was a new, even tastier dish. Sinigang, or sour soup, a vegetable soup flavored with vinegar, contained chopped onion, tomatoes, daikon, eggplant, lemon, spinach and bok choy.

"Very good for losing weight," said Josie Iruguin.

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