Sabor Ilonggo

Ang mga manamit sa Iloilo.

This is Iloilo. Beyond the Dinagyang festival; past it’s history, culture and heritage; apart from the melodious accent of warm and friendly people, Iloilo is, and will always be, associated with food and none is more popular than La Paz batchoy.

This is La Paz batchoy. Noodles with pork, liver, innards topped with chicharon and served in pork broth boiled with onions, seasoned with guinamos and made even tastier with soy sauce and ground pepper. Originated and named after one of Iloilo City’s districts just like Pancit Molo.

This is Pancit Molo. A “noodle-less” pancit dish from Molo district with Chinese influence in it’s wonton like Molo balls made with ground pork, chicken, shrimps and vegetables seasoned and wrapped in Molo wrapper served in chicken broth with chicken strips. Want more chicken? Then it’s time for chicken inasal.

This is chicken inasal. Now made accessible nationwide by an aptly named fastfood chain, Mang Inasal, Iloilo’s export fastfood chain. This Ilonggo adaptation of chicken barbecue uses local spiced vinegar known as sinamak as both marinade and dip since it is not soup based like tinu-om na manok.

This is tinu-om na manok. The only dish that has its own festival (every September in the town of Cabatuan) and is basically chicken pieces in packets of banana leaves with potato, ginger, lemon grass, onions, garlic and tomatoes cooked in seasoned plain water, unlike chicken binakol.

This is chicken binakol. With ingredients almost like that of tinu-om na manok or chicken tinola, chicken binakol differs with it’s use coconut water, has coconut meat, and traditionally cooked inside bamboo tubes over fire. Don’t have bamboo tubes at home? Just cook it in big pots just like the much loved K-B-L.

This is K-B-L. Kadyos-baboy-langka is an all time favorite dish of the Ilonggos especially those away from home. It consists of kadyos beans, broiled pork and unripe langka soured with local fruit called batuan. A simple dish with simple ingredients but the tenderizing of “K, B & L” that demands long cooking time unlike laswa.

This is laswa. The Ilonggo version of mixed vegetable soup. A quick dish to cook using vegetables including kalabasa, okra, patola, sitaw, takway, talong with saluyot, malunggay or alugbati leaves as greens. Shrimps, crabs or local snails called bago-ngon can be added as sahog. It’s a smorgasbord of different ingredients just like valenciana.

This is valenciana. A staple in fiestas, valenciana is the local paella. Made with pieces of pork, liver, chicken, shrimps with green peas, bell peppers, raisins cooked with malagkit rice (with kalawag) and garnished with hard boiled eggs. Some valenciana uses coconut (milk) just like most native delicacies like baye-baye.

This is baye-baye. A popular native delicacy made with toasted glutinous rice mixed with sugar and young coconut then pounded until sticky and well-blended. Akin to espasol in taste, look and texture but softer and without the powdery “make up”. Numerous baye baye kiosks welcome tourists to Iloilo as they are sold as pasalubong along the airport highway but can also be found in the city just like bandi.

This is bandi. A candy made from hardened mixture of peanuts and carameled sugar topped with sesame seeds. It’s the One Town One Product item of the San Joaquin as Brgy. Qui-anan is known as the bandi capital of Iloilo. Sold in groceries, shops and by sidewalk vendors this is a delight to those who having a sweet tooth just like butterscotch.

This is butterscotch. The best selling and most sought after pasalubong item from Iloilo. It’s a must-try, must-buy and must bring home treat but beware of those riding in this butterscotch bandwagon. Famous brands include Rgies, PJ’s and Biscocho Haus, the pasalubong shop “built” by biscocho.

This is biscocho. Originally made from stale breads that were again baked, biscocho is the (local) generic term for breads twice baked and comes in different varieties like biscocho de cana, principe, kinihad and others. Very popular that almost all bakeshops create their own biscocho just like barquillos

These are barquillos. Thin wafers of milk, sugar, egg and flour, heated and rolled into tube-like treats hand-made by most bakeshops led by Deocampo since 1890. Barquillos filled with polvoron are called barquiron. They also come in different varieties; ube, pandan, strawberry just like piaya.

This is piaya. Flattened (unleavened) bread filled with molasses, piaya best represents this region and its sweet history with sugar. Aside from having a variety of flavours and colors, piaya now comes in thin crisps and fruit filled varieties like mango, pineapple, langka or in combinations just like with Iloilo’s famous buko pie.

This is Iloilo’s famous buko pie. With very generous slices (not strips) of buko coming from four coconuts for each whole pie, Nang Palang’s buko pie of Trapiche, Oton can rival (and beat) those hyped buko pies elsewhere. They also make buko pandan, buko pinya pies plus other buko-based products as coconuts are abundant in this town adjacent to Villa Arevalo.

This is Villa Arevalo. Firecrackers, flowers and seafood complete the triumvirate Villa Arevalo is known for. Rows of beachfront restaurants and roadside stalls serve a variety of seafood and other Ilonggo specialties; from talaba and scallops to kasag and hipon plus fish of all kinds, native litsong manok and lechon baboy. Most popular are Tatoy’s and Breakthrough restaurants which takes a few minutes ride from Molo.

This is Molo. Aside from the soupy pancit associated with it, Molo is also synonymous with Panaderia de Molo. A century old bakery famous for its Spanish sounding biscuits namely galletas, hojaldres, bañadas and rosquetes to local faves kinamonsil, kinihad, pulseras and other baked goodies. Word has it that egg yolks discarded in the making of the Molo church played a major part in the founding of this bakery. Truly a place for nostalgic pasalubong shopping just like in Jaro.

This is Jaro. Ancestral houses and mansion dot this heritage district famous for its fiesta, cockfights and pasalubong. Most recognizable is Biscocho Haus whose signature red and white boxes filled with butterscotch, yemas, biscocho and other goodies are usual sights with travelers from Iloilo. Jaro also has a variety of restaurants from restobars and grills to those with international flavor and flair rivaling that of Mandurriao.

This is Mandurriao. It was known before as the airport town but now considered to be the hippest part of Iloilo city as it is the center of nightlife that translates to food and entertainment. Dine in trendy restos in the Smallville Complex and Riverside Boardwalk. Enjoy the night away in numerous bars, clubs or in native themed restos mostly dotting the Diversion road connecting it to Downtown Iloilo.

This is Downtown Iloilo. This is the heart of the city being the center of finance, commerce, governance and gastronomy. From old-time favorite restaurants and snack shops along Calle Real to modern cafes and fastfood along the Valeria street and its vicinity, the number and variety of food places make this the gastronomical center of the city. And that includes the flagship branches of the two competing restaurants serving the famous batchoy of La Paz.

This is La Paz. As the rivalry of batchoyans, Ted’s Oldtimer and Deco’s Original, continues, batchoy will always be La Paz and La Paz will always be batchoy. A dish that started from a small market stall, found its way to national fame and became the food icon of Iloilo.

And, again, this is Iloilo. Experience the beat of Dinagyang; marvel in its history, culture and heritage; feel the warmth of the Ilonggos; and indulge in gastronomic delights to enjoy the heart of the Philippines ……............…. through your stomach.

This is the ONLINE version of my article as published in the PANAY NEWS April 6, 2009. Check out the scanned article here. Photo,,, FOOD magazine)


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