Photos courtesy of Manu Mano
On rainy days like these, a good morning can be as simple as dipping freshly baked pan de sal in a hot cup of coffee. Or sometimes it’s not so much the bread itself as it is the act of sharing it with loved ones. Anytime I get to visit my favorite bakery, part of the fun is in choosing what to bring home for my family, knowing that warm rolls in a paper bag will bring smiles to their faces.
Metro Manila is no stranger to new bakeries opening. But when I heard that this one in Quezon City was causing such a frenzy that customers would finish up their entire stock before lunchtime, I just had to see what the hype was all about.
Manu Mano stands on the corner of Banawe and Scout Alcaraz, next to a store sign depicting two hands joined in prayer. Here, customers can buy their bread directly over the counter or order them online.
It started when Samantha Gonzales, Madeleine dela Torre, Cyril Cabotage, Chef Alexa Versoza, and Panaderya Toyo’s Chef Richie Manapat (the “bread genius,” as they fondly call him) wanted to share their love for good bread in their neighborhood, and thus, this friendly wholesome bakery in Quezon City came to be.
At Manu Mano, they believe in going back to the traditional way of baking bread, using healthier ingredients and rolling their dough entirely by hand, even if it takes longer. “When making bread, you have to really feel it with your hands,” said Chef Verzosa, who trained in the United States as a pastry chef. “You need to have patience when you bake bread.”
Aside from the hybrid pan de sal which sells at P10 apiece, Manu Mano is also offering baguettes, sourdough loaves, churros (with tsokolate or cinnamon), and Auro’s spreads.
I tasted a slice of their baguette and the crust did not disappoint, yielding a strong and satisfying crunch. Meanwhile, their pan de sal was firm and toasted along the top, swept in breadcrumbs and so wonderfully chewy inside that I didn’t notice myself inhaling three more until they were gone.
Chances are that most customers will gobble up four to six of Manu Mano’s pan de sal without feeling the effects in their stomachs. This is because unbleached flour is used for their dough. Chef Verzosa, probably seeing a question mark float up my face at hearing “unbleached” to describe flour, explained to me that using unbleached flour allows their bread to undergo a more natural development of its color and flavor.
“Mas buo ang lasa. You’ll feel full, but not bloated,” said Chef Verzosa. Nodding vigorously, I took this to heart and made sure to order 10 more rolls before leaving the bakery. To share it with, uh, friends.
As someone who loves baked goods, I find Manu Mano’s breads tasty enough to be consumed on their own. But try them with Auro’s roasted white chocolate and cashew spread and you might never go back to peanut butter again. Chunky and delicately sweet, it’s a filling whose richness never overpowers the bread so much as enhances its flavor. If you’re someone who’s never been crazy about white chocolate—guilty as charged—this spread just might convert you.
Days later, I’m still fantasizing about their pan de sal, and I don’t seem to be the only one. Ever since Manu Mano opened their store to the public, the demand for their products has only gotten stronger. Not even the rain appears to be stopping people from coming all the way from Greenhills or Katipunan just to carry these breads home.
“Some people have told me that when they crave bread now, they literally think of us,” said Gonzales, laughing. “We hope to invade households with our bread, so they can have a good morning with our products.”
Manu Mano is located in Banawe St. cor. Scout Alcaraz St., Quezon City. You can follow them on Facebook and Instagram.