I can’t believe that I’ve been here for eight long months and haven’t written anything about FOOD! This could be one of the biggest oversight of my stay here, as everyone close to me knows, I’m fond of eating, let me rephrase that, I’m very fond of eating!
I know how to eat Visayan because my parents are both Bisaya. So I’m adapted to the Visayan way long before I even went here. Unlike my colleagues in the office that are from Manila (to Cebuanos known as Tagalogs) that would hardly ever venture out of the familiar food – I love lutong Bisaya. The good thing (for the Manila folks) is that many carinderias here cook familiar Filipino dish, I observe that there are slight variation, like the adobo for example – theirs is cooked in a way that the sauce evaporates while simmering, making their adobo almost dry, while for us back home the sauce is important for flavoring the rice (pang sabao).
Sari-sari or what my Nanay would call Utan Bisaya, meaning Visayan vegetables is a common way of preparing vegetables here. This would be their version of the Ilocano’s diningding. Back home, my parents would prepare it using Daing, usually Bisugo or Dilis, to add flavor, around here they use meat usually pork. The main ingredients are calabasa, sitao and talong (occasionally veggies like patola, camansi, talbos ng camote, malunggay would be included but this depends on its availability).
Another must try while in the Visayas is Puso. This is rice steamed using leaves (like the ones used for suman) as wrap. Its shape resembles the heart thus the name. Puso is perhaps the greatest Bisayan cooking innovation. By using this unique technique, cooked rice last longer, the wrap is said to delay the expiration process that is typically fast when the weather is warm. Ginabot and all the other street chow you’ll find around Cebu have these bundles of puso suspended in their store area. With a cut from the middle portion, the tasty steamed rice is ready to be consumed.
Tagalogs would be surprised to find here that pochero is what we know as nilaga back in Manila since pochero to us is a dish with beef or pork cooked like the nilaga but with a tomato flavored broth. Speaking of Nilaga, I terribly miss my Nanay’s nilaga, I dream of once again sipping its sabaw (I’m weeks away thank God!), gazing at my bowl loaded with crunchy half-cooked repolyo and pechay, while the potato soft and hot! Their pochero (or nilaga) is fine but home is where the best nilaga is made of course. It’s true that when you’re away from your home what you miss most is the cooking. I remember reading some letters of Rizal and Plaridel (well compiled by NHI into two volumes) that indicates how much they miss the familiar Filipino dish.
Tinola also takes on a different form here, its fresh fish with a delicious broth made flavored with salt, tomato and sibuyas (they call onion bombay here, the Bombay we know, the Indian nationals, they call Turko). Tinola for us is chicken with a soup seasoned with luya, paminta, sibuyas and dahong sili. Back home we prefer the papaya.
Pucha, all these food talk made me hungry.