Red Ribbon Bake Shop - Cerritos
Whenever I drive to Cerritos on a growling stomach in search of Filipino food, I often ask myself this question: Why is Cerritos part of L.A. County?
More succinctly: why is this city, which is mere minutes or ten miles from Disneyland but at least an hour or twenty miles from downtown L.A., not considered part of Orange County instead?
By claiming Cerritos, and its less attractive sister Artesia, L.A. County hogs the Filipino enclave closest to O.C., when it already has many to call its own in Panorama City, Glendale, and Eagle Rock, just to name a few.
Like a spoiled rich kid who refuses to let the other children play with his toys, L.A. County leaves O.C. bereft of all the great Pinoy places to chow. Excellent eateries like Magic Wok, and even middling ones like Goldilocks and Salo-Salo Grill, are all within reach to O.C.'s citizenry but lie officially on the other side of the L.A./O.C. line.
But rather than fight city hall, I prefer to eat. And this week, my trip to Cerritos brings me to the Red Ribbon Bake Shop, which is neighbors to two other Filipino eating houses, Chowking and Pinoy Pinay, none of which, I might add, exists in O.C either.
Red Ribbon is famous for their sublime cakes, which are always the talk of every party they grace. The Mango Cake, in particular -- one of their best and most popular -- is a perfectly constructed and not-too-sweet feather-soft sponge-cake lovingly frosted with whipped cream, sandwiching a layer of ripe mangoes perkier than Lea Salonga.
Although it is, first and foremost, a bakery, inside their cramped, claustrophobic store, there's a tiny dining area where you can feast on a number of savory specials that they also offer as merienda (snacks) and light meals for a pittance of $3.99. One of them is my current obsession in the phylum noodle: Pancit Palabok.
To order a plate of Red Ribbon's Pancit Palabok, is to get a styrofoam dish of jiggly rice vermicelli threads, smothered with an orange, porky gravy as thick as goo. Topped with diced green onions, ground pork, hard-boiled egg quarters, and pulverized pork rinds, it's food you'd typically see being sold by hawkers out of roving carts on the streets of Manila.
I started by drizzling on a few packets of factory-sealed lemon juice, proceeding to mix up the whole mess together with a fork until every strand was lubed in that unctuous sauce. Slurp, after sloppy slurp, I reveled in the lemony tart and salty flavors that was simultaneously subtler and more complex than pad thai, but less cloying than spaghetti. I loved this dish, but seriously, who wouldn't love a dish that utilizes pork rinds?
Another dish that played directly to my comfort-food sensibilities is their Embutido, a steamed meat-loaf made of pork and pockmarked with raisins. Cut into silver-dollar rounds as thick as steaks, it is draped with a zig-zag of neon-red banana sauce and then served with hot, steamed rice. The taste is akin to Oscar Meyer bologna, with a bite that is just as bouncy.
As I drove the short distance back to O.C., I rethought my gripe about Cerritos, Artesia, and L.A. County. It mattered less what jurisdiction these cities fell under, and mattered more that my stomach was full of Pancit Palabok and Embutido. More importantly, I was happy that I didn't have to drive to Glendale to get it.
I also realized that I get grumpy when I'm hungry.
Red Ribbon Bake Shop
11900 South St # 106
Cerritos, CA 90703