As a college student in UP Manila, my route then would pass through Quezon Boulevard, Quiapo, all the way to Padre Faura, Manila.
I would pass many food institutions such as Butterfly in Diliman, D&E, Ma Mon Luk, Brown Derby, etc. It was also during these times when some friends and I would go on food trips.
In one of those food binges, I was introduced to something I found extremely delicious: chicharon bulaklak.
Being young and carefree then, the last thing I was concerned about was my health. I was an active athlete with a very healthy appetite and ate anything I found good—the chicken skin and garlic rice of Robina restaurant, La Loma’s lechon, the crispy pata of Barrio Fiesta (to me, still one of the best) and many others. Unhealthy didn’t exist in my vocabulary.
My friend Sonny Tolentino reminded me that the place that sold that fantastic chicharon bulaklak was Asia Lard and Chicharon Factory along CM Recto in Quiapo. The name alone could make one either shudder in fear or swallow in hungry anticipation. I dropped by that place many times, grabbing a brown paper bag that would end up empty after a few minutes, still slick with oil. And so were my lips. But I didn’t care. It was delicious!
Of late, the best chicharon bulaklak I have tried is made by Aling Mila of Angeles City, who also cooks a most delicious sisig.
Crunchy for days
In many of our badminton get-togethers, one item would always disappear first: chicharon bituka. After some resistance, I also tried this version, and there was never any looking back. Chicharon bituka stays crunchy for days, or even up to a week, but in front of us it never lasts the night.
Most chicharon varieties are oily. Not this one. There is no trace of oil at all. So, there is a semblance of it being a healthier choice—or at least an excuse you can use to ease the guilt. It is not too salty, perfectly seasoned and best dipped in the suka it comes with.
I asked my friend Bien where this particular chicharon bituka was made. “A, si Hector,” he said. “Ask any tricycle driver, kilala ’yon sa amin.”
Hector’s Chicharon Bituka and Bulaklak, at 122 MH Del Pilar St., Pasig (tel. 0906-2661564 or 6545436) is run by Beth and Mac, the wife and son of the late Hector. Apart from chicharon bituka, they also produce chicharon bulaklak, crispy pata and a few other items.
I once read this food writer’s excellent question: What would you let Anthony Bordain try among our Pinoy dishes? For me, it would be Hector’s chicharon bituka. I would love for the Michelin-star Spanish chef to try this.