When I think of pandesal, I think of the run-off-the-mill sari-sari store bread my dad buys every Sunday morning. That's all there is to it—a fist-sized Filipino delicacy to tide you through breakfast. But if you think pandesal is as simple as that, the owners of Manu Mano are here to prove you wrong.
A relatively new artisanal bakery in Banawe, Manu Mano takes bread to a whole new level, using prime European techniques to bake the Pinoy mainstay. "Using unbleached flour and making the breads by hand brings the product into the next level. Making bread by hand enables the bakers to feel and shape the bread the correct way as opposed to doing it by machine," Samantha Gonzales, the store's CEO tells Preview. "Unbleached flour enhances the flavor and texture while making it healthier, too. Our processes take longer and we produce in lower quantities, but the end product needs that time, patience, and prayer."
The result? A fluffy sourdough-like treat with a delectable airy quality to fill your mouth, as handmade by a team of bread and pastry connoiseurs including Chef Richie Manapat of Panaderya Toyo and Chef Alexa Versoza of Metronome. "We want to spread a movement towards good bread to those who consume it or those who have this idea that bread is just this gummy piece of food you have to deal with. Evidently, our chefs are so gung ho on spreading the word about good bread. They knew it existed, they knew it could be done."
Read up for more, below as Samantha talks to Preview about Manu Mano, their techniques, and the perfect Pinoy pandesal.
Tell us about Manu Mano. How did it start out?
"Chef Alexa and I conceptualized the business last November 2018. She was originally planning on putting up a churros stall in our current space and I suggested we launch a brand that merged European techniques with Filipino concepts since I knew she had training at Panaderya Toyo with Chef Richie Manapat, who eventually became one of our partners. Madeleine dela Torre is our partner who is the daughter of the owner of Banawe Bakery who also owns the building. We knew that in our area, where we grew up in, there was a space in the market for artisanal bread."
What's the story behind the name?
"In Filipino, manu-mano means made by hand and sometimes used to mean done by hand in a crude manner. We placed paramount importance on hand-made products since it affects the final product, so we wanted to reclaim the word to relate to the craftsmanship."
What's your inspiration behind putting up an artisinal bakery, especially in a rice dominated country? Has it always been a dream of yours?
"Well for one, we're not out here to change a national habit. We want to spread a movement towards good bread to those who consume it or those who have this idea that bread is just this gummy piece of food you have to deal with. Evidently, our chefs are so gung ho on spreading the word about good bread. They knew it existed, they knew it could be done. For my part, I wanted it to be a little more accessible because it was going to be in Quezon City, and lowering the prices was part of that. So we wanted it to be artisanal but a little more reachable."
Could you give us a rundown of your menu?
Describe your best-seller.
"Our Hybrid Pan De Sal is kind of the star of the show. They're hand made with unbleached flour and is a mixture of traditional pan de sal and sourdough. Unbleached flour takes longer to whiten compared to bleached flour (two to three weeks, as opposed to two to three days) but enables the flour to develop flavor naturally, making it unnecessary to use fillers and enhancers when we make our dough. This is one of the big differences between us and commercially-made breads that use bleached flour. And you can literally taste and feel the difference."
What would you recommend to someone who's trying out your bread for the first time?
"Our Hybrid Pan De Sal pairs so well with Auro's White Chocolate and Cashew Spread served warm!"
In your opinion, what makes the perfect Pinoy pandesal?
"The best pan de sal is not gummy, too dense or too light, and bland. I love a crunchy exterior with a fluffy interior that is also not too sweet. The bread should pull apart nicely and must be good by itself or enhances your meal."
What's next for Manu Mano?
"We're releasing more kinds of breads and desserts this year which I'm so excited about. Our customers have been waiting for our take on the sourdough loaf, so we're doing that in September. We're also collaborating with brands to make a dessert in the next quarter."
Where can we find your bakery?
Manu Mano is at 755 Banawe cor. Sct Alcaraz, Quezon City. We accept deliveries through Lalamove or Grab Pabili, and through pre-orders, all done through SMS at 0996 642 2755.