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Discovering Ilocos, Bulacan cuisines: A blast from the past


“Foodprints” is a new show on the ABS-CBN Lifestyle Channel. It is a food show many viewers will be able to relate with. Its ultimate goal is to bring world recognition to Philippine cuisine via reports on undiscovered or little-known dishes of the country. So far, we in the show have visited two provinces, Ilocos Norte and Bulacan.

I had been to Ilocos Norte many times in the past but never saw it the way I did recently. It was such an exciting adventure discovering new Ilocos dishes, or getting to know the origins and history of popular Ilocano dishes, such as empanada and bagnet.

We also made new friends along the way. It is not common to find a hotel that also serves very good and authentic Ilocos cooking. But this we found at Rio Grande Laoag Resort Hotel, located just beside Laoag River.

From breakfast to dinner, it was just simple, delicious Ilocano cooking. The owner, a former local beauty queen, was gracious enough to share authentic Ilocano recipes and cooking demos with us.

The show will air September 21 on the Lifestyle Channel.

During a production huddle on which province to visit next, I kept insisting on Bulacan. Though not as well-known as neighboring Pampanga for its food, Bulcan has many undiscovered culinary and historical treasures as well.

My picture of the delicious provincial dishes are ones made by manang (old sisters) with wobbly arms cooking away in their kitchen. We did find them in Bulacan and learned so much on how cooking secrets were passed on from generation to generation, how to source the best ingredients, the heartfelt preparation, and other fond stories revolving around food and the dining table.


Breakfast at San Miguel

The highlight of our visit was our breakfast at the ancestral home in San Miguel, Bulacan, of our fellow writer and foodie, Margaux Salcedo, a TBB (true-blooded Bulakeña).

We were told stories of a bakery that her mother’s family used to run in that same site and other food shops in the town. One neighbor produced pastillas from carabao’s milk. Another neighbor produced quesong puti, another the chicharon, so on and so forth.

All of these, Margaux said, have become her comfort food.

It was all a blast from the past. How nice to imagine the talk or even gossip that went around that table!

I was fascinated by the selection of her dishes. She remembered the family breakfast she took as a kid. On the table was fantastic-tasting tsokolate. It was hot, thick, had a taste of peanuts and was served in the exact metal pot her lola had previously used.

On the table were three kinds of colored suman, tindang tapa or tapang kalabaw, sinangag, quesong puti, fried eggs, and pan de sal produced from the family’s bakery.

Wonderful and fascinating stories were told while eating.

I just had to get a bottle of that tsokolate. They come in two varieties. One is made with peanuts, the other with cashew. It is very simple to make. Boil 2 cups water; add 3 tablespoons of tsokolate; then add ¼ cup of evaporated or full cream milk.

I have an idea. Get hotcake mix and do the recipe; put it in a pastry bag; squeeze and deep-fry it in hot oil. When golden brown, drain, coat with sugar and have instant and homemade churros con tsokolate.

Nana Meng’s Special Tsokolate can be ordered at 0920-9023216 or 0917-8339539.

Bulacan was such a revelation. Imagine discovering all these goodies with us. Now how can work be tough?

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Tags: Bulacan , Culture , Food , Foodprints , Ilocos Norte , Lifestyle

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