Mabuhay Bakery - Anaheim
You've heard it over and over again: the best food discoveries in Orange County are often made in anonymous, beaten-down strip malls far away from the master-planned communities some of us live in.
Case in point: Mabuhay Bakery -- a Filipino bakeshop we stumbled into recently in a blink-and-you-miss-it dilapidated row of stores facing the wrong direction on a busy Anaheim thoroughfare. Had it not been next door to the Ethiopian restaurant that was our intended destination, we wouldn't have found it in a million years.
A proud, middle-aged Filipina tended the store, curious at the sight of our curiousity at her selection of goods.
There was the ever popular pan de sal, the Filipino version of the dinner roll, tied up in bags. Ensaymadas -- the sweet brioche-like breads frosted with butter and shredded cheese -- came in plain, ube, and macapuno flavors. The chicken empanadas looked plump, the edges of its pastry shell crimped with a fork. A modest selection of Filipino pantry essentials lined metal racks. These would be your banana ketchups, cheese spreads, and patis (fish sauce).
But what caught our eyes were some Technicolored, twirly-topped meringues (8 for $1) set on cooling trays, existing in more hues than Benetton can dream up. The confections, we later discover, has got a tacky, sticky outer texture similar to taffy, which relents and turns to foam in your mouth.
Some squat, golden brown muffins that looked like cornbread also tasted like it. But these had a dense, compact crumb and more a determined sense of purpose. Cheese rolls had the shape of a flattened hot dog bun, but ate more substantially, especially because it was slathered with butter.
As we paid for our haul, I asked the proprietress how long they'd been in business.
"Four years," she said, too matter-of-factly.
"Are you not from the neighborhood?" she queried in return.
"No," I said, almost embarrassed. "We're from Irvine."
2620 W La Palma Ave
Anaheim, CA 92801