Latest Stories

Country Cooking

Savoring flavors both familiar and new in Iloilo City


“fiery water” at the Santa Barbara poso;

“Is the Queen Siopao available?”

The question will not make sense to someone who hasn’t been to Roberto’s  (JM Basa Street) in Iloilo but the answer is awaited by those who have. This particular siopao is celebrated in this city. It’s the biggest of its kind in the restaurant (that includes the regular, jumbo and the King). As in chess, the Queen is the most prized because there isn’t a logical time for it to be there according to its fans. Contained within its dough that took years to perfect are boiled egg, Chinese sausage, bacon, chicken and pork adobo.

Claude Yap, one of the proprietors, was manning the cash register that day, making sure the line of customers was orderly. Oh yes, there is a line of takeout customers. Diners go into the main restaurant to  order their favorites of dim sum choices, pancit or even a hamburger. Posters of the fat ladies of Fernando Botero will amuse  but also warn that if you eat too much of Queen Siopao, you might end up like them. Yap is an art-lover who particularly likes Malang.

Maridel Padilla Uygongco of Maridel’s

Malang posters and invitations to gallery shows adorn the walls of another restaurant in Iloilo, Markim’s (Diversion Road). It’s run by Yap’s nephews and nieces and, just like Roberto’s, there is a specialty that isn’t available daily—the family recipe of Chinese lumpia, the centerpiece of most Chinese family celebrations. It’s usually a recipe handed down from generation to generation, and takes the whole day to chop all the vegetables that go into it.

And so at Markim’s we tasted the lumpia on the designated day, and if it’s that way, a diner will feel lucky to have been there, just like on the Queen Siopao day of Roberto’s. Markim’s, sometimes mistaken for a Korean restaurant, labels itself a Chinese restaurant. But it is also known for its daily specialty—the barbecues. There is pork or chicken, also scallops and pork liempo. Try as well the pancit molo.

After all that, there are still the cakes of Maridel Padilla Uygongco at her place, Maridel’s (Plazuela de Iloilo). I still love her Snickers pie but it is the potato praline cake that is quite special because of its story. The cake recipe was dreamt of by her mother (also known for her pastries) and Maridel had to be the one to bake it for a White King flour contest. The cake was a finalist but because the judges took a long time to judge, the cake couldn’t keep its form and so the entry only came in second. Maridel not only churns out cakes but breads as well, and cooks heritage recipes.

CLAUDE Yap of Roberto’s

Heather Maloto and Hyacinth King were waiting for us at Panaderia de Molo. The original shop in Molo (Avanceña Street) was recently remodeled. They are two of the five Las Nietas de Luisa who run the century-old bakery of their grandmother, Luisa Jason Sanson. Over a treat of their biscuits, pancit molo and lumpiang ubod, they told us that  while the recipes are intact, the place needs some refurbishing to include a small eating area, for instance.

Eating was the main agenda for guests of Tibong Jardeleza, organizer of “Tabu-an,” the annual Western Visayas Ilonggo Heritage Cooking Competition, together with the Department of Tourism’s Helen Catalbas. There was a food festival as part of Kahilwayan Festival of Santa Barbara and then lunch at the market. The buffet table had pinamalhan (paksiw, cooked in vinegar) of lupoy (a small silvery fish), tabagak (sardine, tawilis) and pantat (catfish, hito). There was steamed kasag (crabs, alimasag) and shrimps, callos and steamed vegetables, mangoes and banana turon for dessert. We strolled through the market to reacquaint ourselves with Ilonggo ingredients—the takway or roots of yam, batuan or a fruit used for souring, and black-eyed peas or kadios.

For foodies, Iloilo is a rich destination. If you wanted to have afternoon tsokolate in  one of the old houses, there is Camiña Balay nga Bato in Arevalo. But we had new experiences on our umpteenth visit to the province.

Heather Maloto and Hyacinth King of Panaderia deMolo

One was a taste of Santa Barbara’s water from the poso (well) of Amelia Cordova. Whisky in color but tasting rather normal, we were assured it was safe to drink by Cordova, a senior citizen, whose son, Henry, also demonstrated that the water can be ignited.

The other was a taste of wild pig lechon (no fat but tasty meat) with the Alecen Falls in the background hosted by Mayor Aley Centena, of Lambunao municipality, who owns the gorge around the falls. But you have to have strong knees and thick-soled, nimble feet as the excursion requires fording rivers, wading through mud and crossing rickety bamboo bridges. Be prepared to sweat for your lunch.

E-mail pinoyfood04@yahoo.com

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Food , Iloilo City , Lifestyle

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/ICUTGLNK3W7WPU7L6UDM2VNJXU sam

    Alex (not Aley) Centena is mayor of the town of Calinog, not Lambunao

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. 12 other things you can do at Pico de Loro Cove
  2. Lover’s quarrel linked to hunger – study
  3. Encounter with a ‘Mangkukulam’
  4. ‘Kamias’ for fever, ‘siling labuyo’ for headache–first aid in the kitchen
  5. How Vitamin B can be a remedy for ‘manhid’ and neuropathy
  6. Summer treat for your aspiring astronomers
  7. Sarah Geronimo and Matteo Giudicelli sing ‘All of Me’–and we all swoon
  8. Marcos grandson to wed beautiful Rocha scion
  9. 90 percent of Filipino households don’t practice proper toilet hygiene, sanitation
  10. ‘Heaven is for Real’: Nonfiction book on life after death reaches screen
  1. Dominique–Gretchen and Tonyboy Cojuangco’s daughter–now an endorser
  2. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  3. Marcos grandson to wed beautiful Rocha scion
  4. France makes work beyond 6 p.m. illegal
  5. Sarah Geronimo and Matteo Giudicelli sing ‘All of Me’–and we all swoon
  6. South Koreans crave Asia’s smelliest fish
  7. How Vitamin B can be a remedy for ‘manhid’ and neuropathy
  8. Ever heard of HydroBob?
  9. 90 percent of Filipino households don’t practice proper toilet hygiene, sanitation
  10. Boots Anson-Roa to wed in Eddie Baddeo
  1. Mary Jean Lastimosa is new Miss Universe Philippines
  2. Did Angara ruin Pia Wurtzbach’s chances at Bb. Pilipinas?
  3. Dominique–Gretchen and Tonyboy Cojuangco’s daughter–now an endorser
  4. Manila in shock over model Helena Belmonte’s death
  5. Vinegar test helpful vs cervical cancer
  6. From Jeannie to mom of suicide victim
  7. San Vicente beaches hidden but not for long
  8. Borgy and Georgina are back; others are off–again
  9. Sen. Angara: I thought Pia Wurtzbach gave a good answer
  10. Ex-Givenchy model fights for ‘Yolanda’ survivors


  • Our Lady of Piat: Centerpiece of Cagayan’s gifts to Christianity
  • Sign maker to be nailed to cross for 28th time
  • 50 Quezon City cops each carry 30-kg crosses
  • AFP: Abu Sayyaf group, not MILF, target of Basilan operation
  • Massive infra spending set
  • Sports

  • Federer would skip tennis to be with wife, newborn
  • Manny Pacquiao in PBA? If so, he’ll wear No. 17
  • PSC sets Blu Girls US training
  • Power Pinoys settle for 7th place
  • Successful coaches to get raise
  • Lifestyle

  • Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week break?
  • Celebrate Easter Sunday at Buddha-Bar Manila
  • Moriones feast: A slow, steady transformation
  • Weaving ‘palaspas’ a tradition kept alive in Tayabas City
  • Finalists announced for best translated books
  • Entertainment

  • Why Lucky has not bought an engagement ring for Angel
  • Derek more private with new girlfriend
  • ‘Community’ star happy with return of show’s creator
  • Jealousy is kid stuff
  • Mommy-daughter adventure continues
  • Business

  • PH presses bid to keep rice import controls
  • PSEi continues to gain
  • Number of retrenched workers rose by 42% in ’13
  • PH seen to sustain rise in FDIs
  • Gov’t subsidies to state firms fell in first 2 months
  • Technology

  • Smart phone apps and sites perfect for the Holy Week
  • Tech company: Change passwords or suffer ‘Heartbleed’
  • Filling the digital talent gap
  • SSS to shut down website for Holy Week
  • Another reason to quit social media this Holy Week: your safety
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, April 17, 2014
  • A humbler Church
  • Deepest darkness
  • ‘Agnihotra’ for Earth’s health
  • It’s the Holy Week, time to think of others
  • Global Nation

  • First Fil-Am elected to Sierra Madre, Calif. city council
  • UC Irvine cultural night to dramatize clash of values in immigrant family
  • Filipino sweets and info served at UC Berkeley Spring Fest
  • Milpitas, California kids wrap up a successful run of ‘The Wiz’
  • Netizens welcome Japan’s visa-free travel plan