When I received an offer to post an article on the cuisine of the Philippines I thought: great! I love to learn about the foods and cooking of other cultures and I was totally unfamiliar with Filipino cooking.
After I read the article I was still unfamiliar – but the food looked good and I was intrigued.
Google to the rescue.
I looked up a few of the ingredients, just to give me an idea of what I could use to make them myself.
- chayote – you probably know this one, but it’s an edible gourd from the cucurbit family.
- bulalo – beef and bone marrow stew
- sinigang – sour soup flavored (usually) with tamarind
- sinamak vinegar – a spicy vinegar
- toyo-mansi – a soy sauce based condiment
For the curious, The Philippines is the 13th most populated country in the world and was a founding member of the United Nations and the World Trade Organization. It consists of 7,641 islands.
Read on to learn about the favorite dishes of one group:
The Ilonggos, who are native to the Western Visayas Region in the Philippines, are known for their heirloom recipes prepared painstakingly by the queens of the house, or should it be the kitchen. From pancit molo (or molo soup) to binakol, these are backed by culinary traditions that the Ilonggos are known for.
In keeping the prized heritage dishes, the Ilonggos refuse fusions while staying in the confines of traditional methods of cooking. This led to signature hometown delicacies—both sweet and savory.
Speaking of which, when in Iloilo and other parts of the Panay Island, here are some Ilonggo delicacies that are worth trying.
Must-try Ilonggo delicacies
1) Pancit molo
Let’s start with the ones already mentioned—pancit molo.
Chicken molo soup is a dumpling soup made from wontons filled with shredded chicken and, sometimes, combined with ground pork or shrimp. Wontons are made from rice flour, and it was named after the old district of Iloilo where it was produced, Molo.
Much like every pancit in our cuisine, pancit molo has Chinese influences. It was localized by the Ilonggos to suit their palate.
The next is chicken binakol, which is a tinola-like dish. The chicken soup, which is also a comfort food of some Ilonggos, is flavored with ginger, garlic, and onion with chunks of chayote or papaya and chili leaves. The only difference is the addition of coconut meat shreds and cooking it in coconut water that gives binakol its milky taste.
Not just the taste, though, but also its aroma and texture that is different from tinola. Lemongrass and chili fingers are added to the dish to give it some spice.
3) La Paz batchoy
Originating from La Paz district, this dish is among Ilonggos’ favorites. La Paz batchoy is made from miki noodles with pork offal, beef loins, chicken stock, and crushed pork cracklings, toasted garlic bits, and raw egg as toppings. Miki is made using flour and egg as the main ingredients.
What makes La Paz batchoy as uniquely flavorful is the bone broth flavored with guinamos, a local shrimp paste. The Ilonggos call them kaldo. Restos serving La Paz batchoy offers a complimentary refill of kaldo since the soup is exhausted first before the noodles.
For some, kansi is the fusion of bulalo and sinigang. However, the Ilonggos want to define it on its own terms. It is a truly unique and flavorful soup. Beef shanks with rich bone marrow are its main ingredients. The already hearty broth is enhanced by a souring agent called batwan.
Like other soups in this list, the Ilonggos want to indulge in a bowl of kansi as a full meal. Though, some would want it eaten with white rice. Alternatively, the classic kansi is served as its dry version—as sisig. Batwan gravy is poured generously atop the sisig.
5) Chicken inasal
Throughout the years, the Filipinos have seen the invasion of the tasty chicken inasal which is truly an Ilonggos’ pride. It is a ubiquitous dish wherein you’ll find hole-in-the-wall diners and fine dining restos serving inasal. Chicken inasal is, of course, also popular in Bacolod.
Still, there is nothing like the inasal of Iloilo—as cooked by the Ilonggos in their homes or own restos. They make it exceptionally well, from the marinade composed of coconut vinegar, calamansi juice, annatto, and pepper. The annatto oil gives the inasal its bright orange color. The chicken is grilled and basted with the same marinade while grilling.
Aside from the chicken itself, inasal is also famous for its accompanying dipping sauces. There are two popular choices: sinamak vinegar and toyo-mansi, of course, with chili labuyo and sliced calamansi on the side.
When in Iloilo, you should not skip tasting all the hearty goodness of these Ilonggo delicacies. Eat where the locals eat and bring home some for your loved ones.
Better yet, you can ask for a recipe and recreate the same dish when you get home. In this way, your loved ones could have the same gustatory experience as you did while visiting the province. There is nothing more pleasant than telling and sharing stories over a sumptuous meal with your family.
One thing’s for sure: they do what they do best because they learned from the best culinary school in the Philippines—their home!