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Travel EATinerary: Four Iconic Kapampangan Dishes for the Foodie in You

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“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.

Sisig

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

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.

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Discovering Pampanga: Six Homegrown Kapangpangan Restaurants You Must Try!

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“Food is our common ground. A universal experience.” -James Beard

Pampanga is known to be the gastronomic and culinary capital of the Philippines. With an array of delectable homegrown restaurants and authentic Kapampangan dishes that is rivaled nowhere else in the country, you are guaranteed an incredible and epic food journey when you have the chance to visit. However, not all of their epicurean offers are the same; some are more authentic than the others and some dishes would be more delectable when they are prepared by the innovators themselves. So, if you have a weekend planned in Pampanga—whether to visit the Sandbox in Porac, Pampanga Alviera, here are some of the best homegrown restaurants with dishes you can sink your teeth into:

1.) Binulo Restaurant- Clarkfield

This restaurant got its moniker from the Aeta method of cooking food in fresh bamboo. Known as one of the only restaurants to prepare food this way, Binulo is popularly known for serving diners only the best and authentic Campangpangan cuisine. To complement their array of local dishes, US grilled steaks are also on the menu. If you have a hankering for good home-cooked food, Binulo is the best place to go. Finish your meal with their excellent dessert of Suman and Mango ice cream which doubles as an ideal snack on a hot summer day.

2.) Historic Camalig Restaurant

If you have a penchant for trying a lot of Capangpangan dishes at once, then head on over to Historic Camalig Restaurant. Established on a century old ancestral grain depot restored in 1980, Camalig is now a restaurant that serves the famous Kapangpangan Pizza. The ambiance and good food would all be worth the long trip. For those who love to indulge themselves, the restaurant offers a Kapangpangan buffet as well.

3.) Angeles Fried Chicken

Known to be the Philippines’ counterpart and rendition to United States’ friend chicken joint, AFC or Angeles Fried Chicken is the restaurant for fried chicken lovers. Known to be one of the most popular restaurants in the city, their chicken has been perfected to be succulent and juicy at the same time. The recipe has remained largely unchanged and has been passed down from generation to generation.

4.) Everybody’s Cafe

No trip to Pampanga is ever complete without stopping over and having a meal at Everybody’s cafe. As the name itself suggests, the restaurant is just about for anyone and has some of the most exotic things in their menu. Unlike your typical cafeteria, you can find things such as betute (stuffed frogs) and camaru (crickets) on the menu which is perfect for those who are looking for a bit of a culinary dining adventure. Known to be one of the longest running restaurants in the city, this cafeteria has a lot of local dishes visitors should sample—from the Damulag (cured carabao meat) to the crispy duck adobo.

5.) Rainforest Kichene

If you are looking for a restaurant with a bit of an ambiance, head over to Rainforest Kichene in San Fernando. Owned by Chef Vince Garcia, the restaurant presents a subtle charm of forest-inspired ambiance that makes it not only inviting to eat but hang out as well. Largely inspired by a healthy and green eating lifestyle, some of the items on the menu are perfect for fitness buffs and sports enthusiasts looking to eat healthier.

6.) Susie’s Cuisine

Of course, a trip to the culinary capital deserves a souvenir and a treat which you can bring back home to share with your friends and family. If you are on the search for delectable kakanins and different Kapangpangan dishes which you can later feast on or give to family and friends, then visit Susie’s Cuisine. Although the restaurant is popularly known for its pancit lug lug, it has become the go-to place for people looking for something to bring home to their families.

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Culinary gems from Old Pampanga

Chef Gene Gonzalez will demonstrate how to cook traditional Pampanga cuisine on Feb. 6, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., at The Maya Kitchen Culinary Center.

Recipes include Adobo del Diablo (Kapampangan adobo) with a deep bronze color produced by constant simmering and deglazing of the pan with stock when a crust is formed; Menudo Sulipeña (oxtail stew), slow-simmered dish of oxtail, ham and chorizo Bilbao with brandy; Pato Al Caparas (duck with capers), braised duck with ham and liver; Pasta Juan, chewy coconut bars; and Princess Cake, layers of butter cake iced with buttercream.

Gonzalez owns and runs Café Ysabel at 455 P. Guevarra St., San Juan. Together with his chef son Gino, they run Buenisimo by Café Ysabel at Scout Tuazon cor. Scout Lozano, Diliman, QC.

For inquiries, visit www.themayakitchen.com or e-mail contactus@themayakitchen.com. The Maya Kitchen Culinary Center is at 8/F, Liberty Bldg., 835 A. Arnaiz Ave., Makati, tel. 8921185, 8925011 loc. 108, 0929-6796102.

Winter food show

Sixteen homegrown social enterprises take the spotlight in Food Philippines’ third participation in Winter Fancy Food Show (WFFS) on Jan. 17-19 at Moscone Convention Center, San Francisco, US.

“What food the Philippines will be bringing to WFFS are products that do not only stand out given their high food export quality, but those that advocate social, cultural and environmental stands,” says Rosvi C. Gaetos, executive director of Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions, the export promotions arm of the Department of Trade and Industry.

“It is already recognized that specialty food items from the Philippines are of premium quality—natural, healthy and functional.”

Participating companies include Brandexports Philippines Inc. with Peace and Equity Foundation, Eighth Wonder Inc., Fruits of Life, JUD Products Philippines Inc., Mama Sita’s (Marigold Manufacturing Corp) and Philfresh Corp.

The Philippine pavilion will be at the South Hall of Moscone Convention Center.