I was dumbfounded...
Instead of asking first and foremost about what a chalupa is, I asked about Julio.
"Who's Julio?" I asked without hesitation and I got a demi-smile from one of Julio's Chalupa owner.
After glancing at the logo of Julio's, Ika proudly said,"Well Julio is a cat..." He is a play on one of the young owner's creativity, a representation with quite a catch. I was a bit skeptical about the allegory, duh! I guess I'm not that artistic enough to figure out, somehow.
And to make it way interesting, I was introduced to my very first chalupa. She might be saying at the back of her mind, " how long have you been living under the rock?"
Julio's Chalupa is located inside SM Center, Pasig and tucked at the less crowded alley. I find their location very suitable as you can grab a chalupa while you wait for your watch to be repaired or have some after having your nails done or after a haircut. It's a take out stall with a few tables and chairs right smack at the middle of the alley.
They target the foodie who wanted to try something authentic, new to the Manila food radar, yet equally gratifying and comforting.
If you are like me, who happens to find chalupa odd, well then welcome to the club.
A chalupa is a so called tostada, for me, however, it's like a cross between taco and tortilla. Many have tried reinventing it by frying a store-bought tortilla and form it like a vessel or a boat. When you actually search about chalupa, it would tell you the Mexican-English translation, and it means boat.
Julio's Chalupa is product of many kitchen tests, as they make sure to get the proper consistency as that of how the owners have it back in L.A. where TexMex grubs abound. From the carrier to the filling.
A good chalupa has to have the perfect carrier for the meat or veggies that it need to hold. It has to be first and foremost crispy and hot. So at Julio's the staff have to do the vessel from scratch. They however have a couple batches of the dough on the store and made on their commissary kitchen. A dough is re-rolled, cut and flattened to make a circular dough. Each one is then laden carefully on a wire (like the act of making "sampay") and hanged with both sides perfectly folded, then deep fried for just seconds.
What's to love about Julio's is how they have created a boat-like tostada that's crispy on the outside but chewy on the bite.
Then, let's talk about how it's stuffed.
With three main varieties to choose from, Julio’s Chalupa, Pollo Chalupa, and Baja Chalupa, you can easily grab a healthy meal. For me one is just as filling as a regular burger, but the whole experience was amazing (of course compared to eating a normal burger). Julio’s Chalupa is said to be their best seller, and happens to be my fave now. Even the filling have been accustomed to their discriminating taste for LA junk foods, in a bestest way though.
Julio's Chalupa is a ground beef filling oomphed up with spices, then tomatoes, lettuce, and cheese were added. There is one particular element in their chalupa that makes the experience really interesting, the refried beans.
Refried beans, known also as refritos, are pinto beans cooked twice. However, it's not fried twice as the name seem to imply. The beans are cooked first in water once to make the beans tender, mashed and then recooked, or refried in oil. Unlike in chilies where the beans are bigger and prepared as it is, all you'll have in your chalupa is the refritos mixed in with the ground beef, or the chicken meat in the Pollo Chalupa.
I wasn't able to try the Baja Chalupa, but also liked the Pollo, It's filled with refried beans and vegetables which, something like a vegetarian chalupa.
Another element I almost forgot about is the sauce that gives another flavor to the whole dish. You can actually customize your very own chalupa, by choosing your kind of sauce and by adding more toppings and sides by adding P 10 to P 20 to the regular price of P 79 to P 90.
You can either have the classic sauce or the special (which is another word for spicy). Though I found their special sauce just ok, not too spicy.
Of course, it didn't magically end that way, of course I had to try Chalupa Loco, their dessert take on chalupa. It's filled with vanilla ice cream and their own concoctio of chocolate syrup. It was definitely "coolio!" It's like eating a waffle ice cream but the vessel is hot. It's not eaten by the was you would a regular chalupa, you need to have a spoon this time and let me advise you to eat it quickly as the ice cream tend to melt faster since the vessel is made hot.
To make your chalupa experience complete, have your choice of chalupa with their house-blend iced tea. It was made and being sold in their store by a friend. It's an iced tea that's made citrusy with calamansi jucie and lime.