“I am not a great cook, I am not a great artist, but I love art and I love food, so I am the perfect traveler.” –Michael Palin
It has been said that in order to truly get to know a foreign place, you have to eat your way through it.
As a result, so many travels now are centered on one goal: To sample and taste a foreign destination’s finest and most popular food offerings. The glamorous rise of food travels can be attributed to the almost ubiquitous presence of food in social media pages—so much so that people are willing to pay an airfare ticket just to indulge the foodie in them as well as satisfy their avid curiosity. In the Philippines, the most well-known and beloved food destination is none other than Pampanga. As a matter of fact, apart from being well-regarded as the gastronomic capital of the Philippines, the province is famed for its food crawls—one of the many things you can do in Pampanga. The unique talent and skill of the many cooks and chefs of Pampanga are from the resulting tutelage and training by the Spaniards during the colonial period. Fortunately, these cooks are not selfish with their unique prowess and have passed on their culinary expertise from generation to generation. For this reason, recipes for authentic Kapampangan dishes are still in existence and could still be tasted today. Among the Filipinos, it has been said that none can rival the Kapampangans passion for food and cooking which is why they always come up with exemplary and stellar dishes. This very passion they have for cooking is echoed in dishes such as the ubiquitous Filipino beer match, sisig as well as their cooking and preserving techniques distinct only to them.
In any case, if you have slated Pampanga to be your next food destination, here are some of the iconic and noteworthy Kapampangan dishes you should definitely try:
Tocino or Pindang
It has been said that the most delicious tocino comes from Pampanga. In fact, it is one of the famed products of the province and since then, it has become a Filipino breakfast staple for years. To the uninitiated, tocino is basically cured or processed pork meat that is sweet and savory at the same time. The fusion of flavors, as well as its unique tanginess, makes it the perfect pair for rice and sunny-side-up eggs. Fortunately, tocino can be found in almost every Filipino grocery store. But, you should never miss out on the chance to taste authentically prepared Kapampangan tocino that is offered only in the province which is referred to as “Pindang Damulag”—thinly sliced carabao meat cured with vinegar and seasonings.
Of course, no list would be complete without this well-known and revered Kapampangan food item. Locally recognized as the perfect beer match, sisig is a well-loved dish that found its roots in Pampanga. Although it can be found in most Filipino restaurants, none can compare to how its creators really make it. To those who have not heard of the dish, sisig is a sizzling dish consisting of different pig parts—from the face to the liver (Filipinos are known not to waste any part of the animal, after all). A visit to Pampanga would be incomplete if you do not at least sample an authentic Kapampangan sisig.
Betute and Camaru
What is a food travel if it is not peppered with a little bit of adventure? Of course, a food travel excursion would not be complete without at least sampling one exotic dish. Apart from testing your fortitude and your drive to try new things, you might actually find that you would like it. Betute and Camaru are two dishes available only in Pampanga as the province is known to have expansive rice fields throughout the province. Inevitably, critters such as crickets and frogs would find themselves being considered as a snack at some point. While frogs are most notably attributed to being a French delicacy, Kapampangans are also known to serve this delicacy. However, they eat the frog whole by stuffing it with ground pork meat and deep frying it. Sure, eating insects and frogs might not rank so high in your list, but just think about the bragging rights it would afford you when you have successfully done it.
Buro is not for the faint of heart and definitely not for the unimaginative eater. The dish is basically fermented rice mixed with either shrimp of fish—a popular Kapampangan condiment. However, owing to its pungent smell and appearance, many individuals would rather steer clear away from it. But, if you can get past the thought of eating fermented rice, you might find that the dish is actually taste—especially when mixed with boiled vegetables or deep fried catfish.