FoodFindsAsia.com | Philippine cuisine is as diverse as its 7,000+ islands and its people. You can travel from north to south without eating exactly the same dishes and desserts. Each province also has specialty foods that have then been adapted and modified by Filipinos from other locations, resulting in even more delicious fare.
If you happen to be visiting the Visayas or want to sample Visayan cuisine, here are some of the local delcicacies you shouldn’t miss.
This Bacolod specialty is similar to the chicken tinola. However, binakol has an extra ingredient: coconut milk. This gives the soup a creamier consistency and a richer flavor. What’s more, binakol uses native chicken, which has a tougher but tastier meat. The stew requires several hours of boiling to make the chicken meat tender enough, which means you’ll also get a more flavorful stock.
Tip: Bacolod also has a lot of sweet treats like piaya, napoleones, and barquillos which are all great for pasalubong. Another Bacolod pasalubong is muscovado sugar, which you can find aplenty in Bacolod Central Public Market near Ong Bun Pension House Bacolod.
This is another specialty from the City of Smiles. You may say that you’ve already had enough of inasal from various restaurants in Metro Manila alone, but Bacolod-style inasal is the real deal and a definite must-try. The recipe calls for annatto (atsuete) seeds and oil for flavoring, which results in a unique smoky flavor and color. For full effect, eat your inasal with heaps of rice using your hands!
This dish’s name, which is derived from Molo, Iloilo City, is a bit misleading. Pancit Molo doesn’t really contain pancit or noodles. Instead, it has dumplings filled with chopped prawns, ground pork, and minced chicken. These dumplings are cooked with chicken broth soup, releasing and tying in all of their delicious flavors. This dish is also called chicken Molo soup, chicken dumpling soup, or simply Molo.
La Paz Batchoy
Another soup specialty from Iloilo, the batchoy is an original recipe from the town of La Paz and is a favorite among the many Filipino noodle soups. Like the inasal of Bacolod, there have been multiple versions of this dish in restaurants both in and out of Visayas. However, “legit” La Paz batchoy should have miki noodles, pork liver, and kidney, and sliced pork in a slow-cooked pork broth. The toppings should include a fresh egg cracked on top of the noodles, chives, crunchy roasted garlic, and bits of chicharron.
Tip: Once you’ve tasted the original batchoy, you should also give another variation of this soup a try: buko batchoy. Instead of just the miki noodles and the pork broth, shredded or sliced coconut meat and coconut juice is added for a touch of sweetness.
Humba is often dubbed as the “Visayan adobo” since it also uses the same base ingredients. However, humba is actually derived from Chinese red braised pork belly which is also called hong ba or hong ma. The dish was introduced by Hokkien immigrants, and has evolved to have a more Filipino flavor by using more vinegar. Aside from the vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, black pepper corn, and bay leaves, humba also uses tausi or fermented black beans and is sweetened with muscovado.
Tip: You can also use other sweeteners instead of muscovado. Brown sugar and pineapple juice are popular alternatives.
If you’re fond of raw foods like sashimi, poke, or ceviche, you’ll love kinilaw or kilawin. You can use almost any kind of fish for this dish, but the most popular are tanigue, tuna, and dilis. It’s easy to prepare using your choice of vinegar to marinate the fish, then adding siling labuyo, garlic, spring onions, onions, and some ginger to remove the “lansa” or the fishy smell. Other souring agents like calamansi, kamias, tamarind, and green mangoes are added to enhance the tartness.
Tip: There’s no real recipe in making kinilaw. It all depends on your preferred levels of the sour, salty, bitter, and spicy flavors. However, you shouldn’t “cook” the fish for too long since it will make the flesh rubbery. The ideal marinating time is about 10 to 20 minutes depending on the kind of fish you use.
This version of the pochero might confuse those seeing it for the first time because it looks like bulalo. However, when you taste it, you’ll immediately notice the unique flavor. Pocherong Bisaya is seasoned with lemongrass broth, giving it a lighter, fresher flavor. The garlic adds a savory touch, while the Japanese corn and saba bananas give a lightly sweet taste. It’s definitely a surprisingly delightful dish, especially for first-timers.
The next time you’re having a “food trip” or traveling somewhere in the Visayas, make it a point to give these dishes a try. You may have tasted them before, but you might be surprised just how different the authentic versions are.