Bubblicitea Cafe – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Bubblicitea in Albuquerque’s Uptown Area

According to the United States Census Bureau, by 2016 the Asian American population–including those of multiracial, Hispanic and Latino ancestry–had reached nearly 21 million, constituting about six-percent of the Fruited Plain’s total population.  As the table below illustrates, there’s absolutely no correlation between population and the number of restaurants across the fruited plain representing the listed Asian ethnicities. 

Ethnicity Population Restaurants Source
Chinese
3.79 million
41,000
Chinese Restaurant News
Filipino
3.41 million
????
????
Indian
3.18 million
5,000
Washington Post
Vietnamese
1.73 million
8,900
Institute for Immigration Research
Korean
1.7 million
5,000
Korea Trade-Investment Promotion
Agency (KOTRA)
Japanese
1.3 million
25,100
Japanese Overseas Diplomatic
Establishments

 

Pan de Coco

Just try finding an authoritative source enumerating the country’s Filipino restaurants.  There is none.  Despite being the second most populous Asian-American ethnic group under the spacious skies, there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence indicating there are very few Filipino restaurants in the United States–even in California where Filipinos are the largest ethnic group in the state at at 1.5 million.  Contrast that with Thai restaurants.  Despite a population of only 300,000 Thai-Americans, Thai restaurants have exploded across the country, today numbering around 5,300

So why aren’t there more Filipino restaurants in this country?  It certain baffles the culinary cognoscenti who in recent years have predicted the ascendancy of this diverse cuisine.  Travel Channel Bizarre Foods” host Andrew Zimmern foretold in 2012: I predict, two years from now, Filipino food will be what we will have been talking about for six months … I think that’s going to be the next big thing.”  Similarly, legendary raconteur and television personality Anthony Bourdain expressed in 2017 that “American palates are just starting to “become seriously interested” in Filipino food, but they’re to begin “embracing and learning” about one of the most underrated but delicious cuisines out there.”  Jonathan Gold, the only food critic to ever win a Pulitzer Prize stated in 2012: “the Filipino Food moment” is now upon us, and its unique yet familiar flavors and cheap prices have finally thrust it into the gaze of American food culture.” 

Pork Siopao

These enthusiastic endorsements again beg the question “why aren’t there more Filipino restaurants in this country.”  Allow me to posit my own theory, one based on having shared a lot of lumpia with Air Force colleagues of Pinoy descent or who married Filipino women.   Filipinos are probably the most hospitable and happy people you’ll ever find and they love to eat (my kind of people). In fact, the Filipino greeting, “Kumain ka na ba?” literally means, “Have you eaten?”  When they hadn’t seen me in a while, they felt comfortable enough to remark, “Look how fat you’ve gotten,” meant not as an insult, but as a genial observation that I seemed to have been eating well.  It’s my theory that Filipinos would rather host you at home where they can lavish you with attention than they would feed you at a restaurant where they might not get to know you.

During our 24 years in the Land of Enchantment since my Air Force retirement, we’ve seen only three Filipino restaurants give it the old college try in the Duke City.  Two–including the Fil-Am Fast Food Mart which I believed really had a chance to break through–were short-lived.  The third, a  Lilliputian eatery in Albuquerque’s Uptown area, appears to have staying power.  It’s been around since November, 2015 though I somehow didn’t figure out that the quaintly-named Bubblicitea Cafe served Filipino food.  In my defense, that name has probably fooled a lot of people who assumed (as I did) that the cafe is solely a place for boba tea.

Beef Mami Noodle

Filipino cuisine has been described as “the original fusion cuisine.”  Indeed, contemporary Filipino cuisine is a mishmash of Spanish, Western, Chinese, Japanese, and Pacific Islander flavors and ingredients.  It’s similar to, but also vastly different from the cuisine of other Southeast nations.   Hot, salty, sweet, savory and sour define the flavor profile of many Filipino dishes, but it’s an affinity for vinegar and sourness that makes Filipino food unique.  Unlike the cuisine of other Southeast Asian nations, you generally won’t find many overly sweetened dishes (despite the tendency to mix sweet and savory foods).

1 February 2019: That said, Filipinos love sweet pastries and breads, several of which are displayed gloriously in pastry cases just before you reach the counter where you place your order.  My long-time favorite is the pan de coco which translates to English as “coconut bread.”  Pan de coco is a golden hued roll stuffed with sweetened shredded coconut meat.  This plump pastry which resembles a dinner roll has its genesis in Central America.  It was brought to the Philippines by the Spaniards in the 1600s and is sold in meriendas (neighborhood bakeries or panaderias) throughout the island nation. Pan de coco may remind you of Vietnamese pastries.

Ube Crinkles

1 February 2019: Filipino cuisine’s biggest nod to Chinese food is probably Pork Asado Siopao, a larger version of the Cantonese steamed bun.  These steamed flour buns are usually stuffed with sweetened pork, chicken or beef (but never cat as a popular Filipino urban legend once contended) and are served on bamboo steamer baskets.   Their soft and fluffy “balls of dough” appearance is off-putting to some, but only until their first bite.  The asado (grilled) pork is a melding of sweet and savory flavors, the latter courtesy of soy sauce.  Though you can order them individually, they’re best when paired with the Mami.  Make sure to order Bubblicitea’s “Mami Combo,” beef mami noodle with two siopao.

1 February 2019: Beef mami noodle (tender beef brisket and egg noodles, boiled eggs, scallions, cabbage, salt, pepper and other toppings in a beef broth) is the Philippines’ answer to the beef noodle soups served across Southeast Asia.  It’s a comfort food favorite enjoyed throughout the year, but particularly in cold weather.  It doesn’t have the anise-cinammon-ginger-kissed sweet notes of its Vietnamese counterpart nor the garlicky-fish oil flavors of Thai beef noodle soups, but more than other Southeast Asian soups, it showcases the savory elements of beef and beef broth.  The egg noodles are a delight to slurp up while the hard-boiled eggs are a very pleasant surprise.  Instead of devouring them whole, try mashing them into the soup.

Pork Sigsig

6 February 2019: Though often referred to as purple sweet potatoes, ube are yams with a dark, rough-looking skin. Ground into a powder, ube is then used in Filipino desserts characterized by their bright purple color.  Among those desserts is ube crinkles, delightfully delicious and dense cookies with a crunchy (not like potato chips; more like bread) exterior.  They’re gooey and moist on the inside and coated with powdered sugar sure to get on your clothes.  Four per order of these grape-colored cookies will please your sweet tooth.

6 February 2019: During my inaugural visit, all seven diners sitting on six two-top tables cobbled together ordered the very same thing, albeit at different levels of heat.  Their dish of choice was pork sigsig, a dish Anthony Bourdain believed: “is perfectly positioned to win the hearts and minds of the world as a whole.”  He proclaimed pork sigsig is “most likely to convince people abroad who have had no exposure to Filipino food to maybe look further and investigate further beyond sisig.”  If anything, pork sigsig is so good, you may not want to do any further investigation.  It’s so good, you may not want to order anything else. 

That, of course, would be a tragedy because there are many dishes worthy of exploration.  Still, that sigsig is so preternaturally good it’ll be a challenge to order something else.  Bubblicitea probably doesn’t prepare it with parts of pig head and chicken liver as the dish was first conceived. If the notion makes you queasy, it’s probably best not to ask.  You’ll revel in a delicious montage of crunchy and velvety soft pork bits reminiscent of slow-cooked (barbecue), chopped pork.  The tender, not quite caramelized pork is tossed with scallions, jalapeños, citrus juice and sundry seasonings then topped with a sunnyside-up egg and served on sizzling metal plate that retains its heat.  It’s one of the best dishes to cross my lips in 2019, a savory medley of piquant, savory, umami flavors you could easily become addicted to.

If you’ve never visited a Filipino restaurant, much less a very good one, plan a trip soon to Bubblicitea Cafe, a terrific restaurant that may just have you asking why there aren’t more Filipino restaurants in Albuquerque.

Bubblicitea Cafe
2325 San Pedro, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 289-9719
Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 6 February 2019
1st VISIT: 1 February 2019
# OF VISITS: 2
RATING: 21
COST: $ – $$
BEST BET: Beef Mami Noodle, Pork Siopao, Pan de Coco, Ube Crinkles, Pork Sigsig
REVIEW #1092

Bubblicitea Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

About Gil Garduno

Since 2008, the tagline on Gil’s Thrilling (And Filling) Blog has invited you to “Follow the Culinary Ruminations of New Mexico’s Sesquipedalian Sybarite.” To date, nearly 1 million visitors have trusted (or at least visited) my recommendations on nearly 1,100 restaurant reviews. Please take a few minutes to tell me what you think. Whether you agree or disagree with me, I'd love to hear about it.

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9 Comments on “Bubblicitea Cafe – Albuquerque, New Mexico”

  1. Sad to report that they are now only serving meals on Saturdays. Bakery and drinks the rest of the week.

    “Effective Tuesday, May 14th, we will be serving breads, pastries, and bubble tea daily. Filipino dishes will only be available on Saturdays. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. Thank you for your understanding and continued support!”

    Bummer.

  2. The Bubblicitea’s “Mami Combo,” beef mami noodle with two siopao is down to one siopao, alas. Still, it’s a nice bowl of meat and soup, and a fine savory pastry at a good price. Great red hot paste with lots of flavor. Ask for it if they don’t bring it. Liked the restaurant and will be back.

  3. Bubblicitea Cafe was our first total disappointment in a place you’re reviewed. I lived in Cavite City for a year courtesy of the Navy during the Vietnam era. We didn’t eat out much but fondly remember the street vendors at the open air market a few blocks from home with their adobo skewers and the lumpia. Bubblicitea Cafe does not do lumpia at all. If there was vinegar in the adobo, it hid well and was undetectable. Not bad but not what I expected. The beef mami noodle did have a great broth but it wasn’t something I knew and the noodles were heavy (been spoiled by the silky phos i’m more familiar with. ) The guy behind the counter was friendly but not helpful and my husband had never had any Filipino food. He said we can add spice however you like which wasn’t clarifying. We sat at the back as most of the few tables were occupied by coffee drinkers. The table felt like we were in a closet facing a room divider that looked it was hiding all kinds of miscellaneous stuff. The music was jarring and I guess we are too geezerish to appreciate it.

      1. Lumpia is indeed the Filipino version of an egg roll–much better than Chinese egg rolls and not quite as good as Thai and Vietnamese egg rolls.

        Half a lifetime ago, my friend John Ruark’s Pinoy bride would prepare a feast of lumpia, fried rice and rabbit for us while we watched Georgia Championship Wrestling on TBS. I’ve never found better lumpia.

        1. Do any of the ex-pat’s observations below ring true in your experience regarding the lack of popularity of Filipino cuisine in America?

          1. Far be it for me to consider myself any sort of expert when it comes to Filipino cuisine, but everything expressed on the Quora post rings true, especially with regards to appearance. For me, however, the experiential aspects of eating various adobo graced dishes, lechon and other dishes with Pinoy friends far outweighs esthetics. When sharing a meal with happy people and good friends, who cares what it looks like. I only cared that we were have a good time and enjoying warm fellowship with really terrific people.

            I also believe my theory holds veracity–that many Filipinos would rather host you at home where they can lavish you with attention than they would feed you at a restaurant where they might not get to know you. Restaurants HAVE to pay a lot more attention to presentation than home cooks do.

            1. You’re right about appearance, Gil. Just look at this dish of smoked duck gumbo from Prejean’s I had. Looks like a bowl of Bayou swamp water, but tastes like heaven incarnate.

  4. Why Filipino cuisine is not very popular outside of the Philippines is quite a lively thread on Quora. I thought I’d post this answer from an expat living as an immigrant in the Philippines with his Filipino family. It’s unorthodoxly long for this blog, but since I know zip about Filipino cuisine, I choose to post his answer unedited for the edification of all the Filipino cuisine unawares out there such as me:

    “I really enjoy the food, but note a few things that might shape the discussion a little differently.

    “(1) Presentation: Many of the tastiest of classic, common, (and humble,) Filipino dishes do not have great visual appeal. Many Filipino dishes are stews or soups in a thin broth. Oh sure, not all, and photos of those can be found in the posts within these other answers. But even though I love a great Caldereta or Afritada, they really don’t look much different than a can of Dinty Moore stew. The taste? When cooked well, they are fabulous, but presentation? Not so much.

    “Last night we had a party here and one of the signature dishes was Paella made in the Ilonggo Filipino style with sticky rice, pork liver, and raisins. It is one of my favorites, but presentation? Not so good as the huge chunks of paella have to be almost carved out of the bowl in which the offering sits. You can put a huge chunk on a fork and eat the rice based offering by working the edges.

    “A real Filipino love is Lechon Baboy, Whole Roast Pig. It is great and the crunchy skin is a favorite, but Filipinos don’t carve the pig up, they tend to chop it up with a machete. It makes for small and sharp bones. (They do the same with the meat you buy in the the markets, including chicken. Those who butcher don’t find the joints. They use cleavers to just chop pieces off. )

    “Another real favorite is Tuna Kinilaw. To make it you have to use high quality fresh or fresh frozen tuna, Sashimi grade. You chunk it up with some vegetables and sour mangoes, and do a quick pickle of it in vinegar. It tastes great, but looks like crap.

    “Lomi, which is a rich fish and noodle soup, tastes out of this world, but it is considered here a main course and in other cultures that doesn’t make as much sense.

    “(2) Sweet: Filipinos tend to use a far greater amount of sugar in things that normally aren’t associated with sweetness. Two things come to mind instantly: Spaghetti and white bread. The Filipino palate can be confusing for outsiders.

    They also use a lot of Vinegar.

    The Filipino palette tends to work between, sweet, sour, and bile. It can be a challenge, or just confusing, for outsiders.

    “(3) Identity: While other cultures push things that “don’t belong here” out of their identity, Filipinos are like proverbial sponges, absorbing, and making their own, things from all over the world. And so sweet Filipino Spaghetti contains chucks of hotdogs and “Eden” cheese which is similar to Velveeta. In a way it’s much like the USA in that you do get a mix of cultural influences, even if the influences are not as well identified within the culture here,

    “What does a Filipino kid want to eat? A hotdog, or spaghetti, or a donut, or fried chicken.

    “What foods will you find on a buffet? You will find Chopsuey. (In the USA you spell it Chop Suey, but not here.) Chopsuey seems to have been imported to these shores by the US Marines in the early US military involvement in this nation. Here the food is ubiquitous. Go figure. You will find Lumpia, which is a Spring Roll. Sure it’s great, but not unique to the Philippines as Spring Rolls are found all over Asia.

    “Other foods such as Shumai (Dimsum) and Siopao are also found through Asia.

    “A family favorite here is Macaroni Salad. It’s sweet, with canned fruit cocktail, condensed milk, a sweet Filipino style mayo, and Eden cheese. Once again, while it is well liked here, the Italian pasta, the condensed milk, and sweet mayo, the canned fruit, do not announce a culture. They announce a happy acceptance of all that hits their shores and a ready desire to work with all they find to make it theirs.

    “(4) Fresh and local: Many Filipino dishes simply relay on the fresh offerings at the Palengke (open air markets) rather than involved recipes. The use of spices, compared with other cultures is minimal and while there are a few spicy dishes, Filipinos do not have a signature such as the Spicy and Peanut base as do the Thai as a “for instance’.

    “Maybe you can call ‘Adobo’ as signature flavor. Sometimes you will hear the Philippines called the Adobo Nation. Adobo sauce contains: sautéed garlic , soy sauce, vinegar, bay leaf, pepper and water. But while the flavor can easily be described as a Filipino comfort flavor, I don’t believe it rises to cultural cuisine identity.

    “(5) Over cooking: When it comes to cooking fish, Filipinos cook the very essence out of the fish. What they can do to a beautiful tuna can make you want to cry. Yes, they love it. But, no, if you are from the USA or the EU… not so much.

    “In conclusion: To eat in the Philippines is to taste many cultures. Many of the dishes are wonderful, though many have influences from afar. So while the food is great, it’s harder to say, ‘This is real Filipino cuisine,’ without straying into things that you really might have difficulty with or find not as pretty to look at, or a bit more challenging to wrap you head around.”

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