The last time I went to Dubai was in October. Almost half a year eh? And one of the purposes of my visit was to dine in Jollibee. Incidentally, in Abu Dhabi we only have Chowking and Barrio Fiesta (which Dubai does not have). To my (but I should not be) surprise at 12:00 noon, this Jollibee branch near Burjurman Mall is closed. I should have known this because that was a Friday (and 12pm-3pm is strictly prayer time for the Muslims). There is unusual store hours in UAE, as regulated by the government for some religious reasons. So you could just imagine how hungrier I got as I imagined chickenjoy.
So we went to the nearby mall to kill time and finally the store opened at 2pm. Majority of its employees are Filipinos. With my Philippine dining mindset, I thought I just had to order as simple as chickenjoy/ palabok/ spaghetti meals. There are no combo meals pala. They have bigger servings here, but the recipes in the Philippines were not (and cannot be) fully replicated. Basically because of difference in brand and/or of ingredients. Just like when I was savouring my palabok. Hinahanap hanap ko yung lasa na may patak ng kalamansi imbes na lemon. Wala kasing kalamansi dito. But it’s good that their chicken joy’s gravy is almost close with Philippine’s whip. This is a big help when homesickness attacks. Only Jollibee and Mary Brown sell fried chicken with ala Pinoy gravy, the rest serves it with ketchup or garlic mayonnaise.
I remember when I was still trying to locate this store in Dubai, a friend told me, ‘basta pag may nakita kang Filipino itanong mo lang at siguradong alam niya kung nasan ang Jollibee’. Strange as it may seem but Jollibee is like a password for a mafia (read as Filipino community). It’s indeed a ‘Filipino thing’. That’s why I was laughing as I read the review from NY Times on the newly opened Jollibee branch in Woodside, Queens. It says,
On a recent Sunday afternoon beneath the No. 7 train tracks in Woodside, Queens, a thin, pale man with a goatee approached the 30-odd people waiting to enter the shiny new restaurant with the friendly apian mascot, and asked what was going on. A jumble of excited responses followed, which he summarized thusly: “So it’s a Filipino thing?”
It’s interesting to know how the other nationalities view our fastfood, that they call it the Mc Donald’s of the Philippines.
Chickenjoy, Jollibee’s specialty (one piece, $2.99; three pieces, $6.89; 18 pieces, $38.99), is straightforward fried chicken, with moist meat, a crispy but not too thick batter and, when ordered spicy, a dusting of potent chili powder. It’s a bit salty, but as one diner explained, that’s why Filipinos enjoy Chickenjoy.
After a passel of forgettable burgers ($1.39 to $6.29) and fresh, honest sides (buttered corn, mashed potatoes — regular $1.99, large $3.59), the menu heads for odder territory.
Spaghetti ($4.49) is topped with a sweet, hot-dog-and-ham-studded tomato sauce, and is frighteningly addictive. Palabok Fiesta ($5.79) is the only recognizably Asian dish: rice noodles in a gummy-but-yummy sauce of fish flakes, pork, shrimp, egg and crumbled chicharrón.
Jollibee’s signature deep-fried peach-mango pie ($2.29) is crusty and intensely fruity, at once a Filipino thing, a Georgia thing and something else entirely. It’s worth the wait.
Well, Jollibee is indeed a Filipino thing. For people like us who are miles away, we appreciate it a lot despite the non-100% replication of recipe. I remember the words from my professor (one of the consultants in Jollibee) in my review class ages ago. “Hindi itinuturing ng Jollibee na kakumpitensya ang Mc Donald’s, kundi ang “sawa” ng mga mamimili. Kaya kailangang hulihin ang lasang Filipino.”