Tip: I am promoting a knowledge-based, in-depth, immersive traveling, so take time to learn the history of the places you’re visiting. You can read about their culture, or even learn a few words of their dialect. That way, you’ll return more enriched with not just Instagram-worthy photos. Remember to respect the place: keep it clean and bring only your memories – your photographs. Oh, ok, souvenirs from the local shops (support local!).
Part III. Ilocano Food Trip
Food tours are always on a Filipino’s itinerary for a very simple reason: we love to eat. Finding the route to the most affordable and delectable treats is one great adventure. It is also one exciting way to know a place and its people: every dish is a story.
For example, I am a Bicolano. Pinangat made Camalig, Albay famous. But our hometown’s pinangat tells the story of who we are. Buffeted by storms, what thrives are what we can take to the kitchen: taro or gabi survives in an abundance of water; coconuts fall to the ground; and bird chilies provide heat when it gets chilly. Pinangat is more than just about survival, it is the image of our resilience. Indeed we become what we eat.
So when you eat for the first time in a place or encountered a dish new to your palate, allow the food to tell you their story.
Food Trip at Batac Riverside Empanadahan
Because it was raining that evening at Batac, Peewee prodded that I try the famous Ilocos Miki and Glory’s empanada. A hot miki soup and fresh empanada got me imagining comfort food, so I readily yielded.
a. Ilocos Miki at Jannete’s Place
The Ilocos Miki did not disappoint. It was a thick soup made of chicken stock and meat (I think it had slivers of chicken breast), annatto powder, and flat noodles topped with a whole boiled egg and chicharon. It went well with their skewered longganisa (garlic sausage).
Special miki: Php 30.00 only. Longganisa: Php 15.00.00
b. Glory’s Empanada
Glory’s empanada had been famous for decades. It was named after Gloria Aduana Cocson, who made her meat pastry famous. Born on 4 April 1942 in Barani, Batac, Ilocos Norte, Glory learned empanada making from her sister-in-law at a very young age. She soon set out on her own to sell her empanadas. Years later, her empanada prowess was showcased at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in 2000, and then was awarded with the “Kalipi Award” in 2008.
Ilocos special empanada I tasted had grated unripe papaya, chorizo, egg, and balatong (munggo, mung bean). “Special empanada” meant that it simply had chorizo in it. 😀 As of this trip (June 2016), the special empanada was sold at Php 40.00.
Watch the slides below to see how the famous Batac empanada had been made. The woman here was Mrs. Glory’s relative.
2. Seaweed Pizza at Herencia Restaurant
Just across the famous Paoay church was Herencia Restaurant, popular for its Ilocano fare, but more known for its insane pizzas. The seaweed (gamet) pizza reminded me of sushi because of the dried seaweed generously spread on pizza crust. I was told that the dried seaweed had been sourced locally.
There were other flavors available. Order the pinakbet, bagnet, or dinuguan pizza. Try all of them if you find yourself in Paoay.
3. Saramsam Ylocano Restaurant, Laoag City
Saramsam’s Dinakdakan was memorable. It was like sisig, except that the pig’s ears, face and liver were not finely chopped. This dinakdakan (pictured below) had a thick texture, like mayonnaise. However, authentic Ilocanos would use pork brain (I am not sure, whether Saramsam use pork brain here). The perfect combination of sliced onions, ginger and bird’s eye chili made this dish highly commendable.
Dinakdakan was an appetizer greatly paired with beer, but I didn’t mind having it with Saramsam’s fresh basil iced tea. You can check their pizzas, poque-poque salad, and their beef soup, Lauya a baka.
b. Poque-poque salad
Poque-poque is made of roasted eggplants (charred skin removed), eggs and tomatoes. Here’s a link if you want to cook this vegetable dish (though Kawaling Pinoy called it poqui-poqui).
c. Balay de Blas
Saramsam was the in-house restaurant of Balay de Blas. The ambience of Balay was romantic, homey, and comforting. Displays of old collectibles and paintings made the whole place attractive. Check these photos.
4. A Laoag Eatery’s Food Fare
Let me first show you this photo. See that orange arrow? That’s the passage to the eatery. When we were there, we did not see any signages for this backyard cafeteria (and no, it is not that Laoag Lechon House). The eatery was in Rizal Street and the markers were the Lechon House and the Caltex Gasoline Station.
Peewee and his mom, Mrs. Charity Ligot, said that they used to visit this simple eatery in the past because of its food. To its numerous patrons who needed a quick and cheap meal, this eatery was the place to go. And I did see why: you get good food that would not break the bank.
a. The Ilocano Igado
The Igado is made of pork tenderloin, liver, kidney and heart. For color and texture, chick peas and bell peppers are added.
b. Insarabasab (below the rice)
This dish is made of marinated pork slices, with freshly pressed calamansi (Philippine lemon) juice and spices.
c. Sabong ti Katuday salad
The yellow salad is made of blanched Katuday (Sesbania grandiflora) flowers, minced ginger and tomatoes, and drizzled with fish bagoong. This is my first time to encounter katuday. “Katuday” in Ilocano is the corkwood tree (English) or “katuray” in Tagalog.
d. The beef kinilaw
ONLY for the brave with a resilient stomach. So, if you are not sure, DO NOT try this. I am including this here because it is bizarre. And bizarre is interesting! haha! Honestly, I avoided it. Peewee had to make several trips to the loo a few hours later. So we DO NOT recommend it.
e. Soup No. 5
This soup is made of cow’s balls and organ (you know what organ, haha!). I love the soup because I love bulalo! Enough said.
The rest of the food was worth the adventure. You can also try their papaitan or sinanglaw.
Thank you to Mrs. Charity Ligot and her son, Peewee for this wonderful trip to the Ilocos! Till the next time!