Crispy crackling chicharon with pork fat and meat dipped in native vinegar spiced with garlic, onions and siling labuyo from Santa Maria. White and orange mini cup-shaped rice cakes from Marilao. Deep-fried but tender and juicy itik (native duck) from Plaridel. Creamy pastillas made from fresh carabao’s milk from San Miguel. Sweet, spongy and soft fluffy inipit cake with yema-like filling from Guiguinto.
If you haven’t eaten in Bulacan or, to say the least, bought any of its delicacies for pasalubong or take-home treats, then you better do soon.
There’s so much to explore and savor in the historic and culturally rich province.
Over the past years, many travelers have discovered and made multiple visits to the province, specifically to check out its ever-expanding food scene.
More and more food establishments are sprouting up here and there, with a few old favorites still going strong.
Bulacan boasts a number of historical sites, resorts and native products, such as jewelry, clothes, bags and accessories, which have already reached international oceans.
It’s also home to well-known and respected food historian Mila Enriquez and culinary icon Teresita “Mama Sita” Reyes, who both dedicated their lives to promoting Philippine cuisine.
If you’re planning a culinary adventure this summer, Bulacan should be at the top of your itinerary.
Here’s Inquirer Lifestyle’s ultimate guide to help you fully relish what each town has to offer.
Start your food exploration in Monumento, proceeding to MacArthur Highway all the way up to Valenzuela, Meycauayan, Marilao to Calumpit.
Or, you may opt to drive smoothly via North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) and exit in Bocaue and on to Tabang, Santa Rita or Pulilan.
National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima
Home of the national pilgrim image of Our Lady of Fatima, it has been declared by the Diocese of Malolos as one of the three major pilgrimage sites, aside from the National Shrine of Saint Anne in Hagonoy and National Shrine of Divine Mercy in Marilao.
Right beside the shrine is Museo Valenzuela that showcases the life and works of its local hero, Pio Valenzuela.
Little Beijing Restaurant
There’s nothing like a hearty Chinese meal to prep you for the food trip. Enjoy fish fillet with taosi tofu, chopsuey, sweet and sour pork, buttered chicken and yang chow fried rice.
Valenzuela’s Town Center/People’s Park
Another pit stop for a wider range of food, from fast-food to homegrown restaurants.
Only two years old, Café Nenzo is a haven for both meat lovers and vegetarians. Bestsellers include Back Back Ribs, Trio Cheese and Mighty Meat Pizzas, and T-Bone Steak.
Vegetarians may opt for Veggie Sisig, Veggie Shawarma, and Organic Garden Salads.
Owner Ann Abacan uses organic vegetables and fruits and does not serve soda and alcoholic beverages. Instead, she serves frappes and shakes that use no sugar or sweetener.
Nenzo also has green smoothies, called Weight Loss and Body Detox, which contain organic greens, saba, lakatan and chia seeds, to name a few.
Desserts, such as Macadamia Sans Rival, Frozen Brazo de Mercedes, and various cheesecakes have less fat and sugar as well.
A major pit stop for quick snack and pasalubong treats. Top choices are Malunggay and Kalabasa Pandesal, Cheesy Ensaymada, Cheese Roll and Cream Loaf.
Sweet Bite’s Red Velvet Crinkles are simply to die for—a dollop of cream cheese sandwiched between two moist cookies.
The nine-year-old bakeshop is run by the husband-and-wife team of Caloy and Trina Pungutan.
Their breads are freshly baked every day in their huge commissary on Arcega Street in Marilao.
Location: MacArthur Highway Tabing-Ilog, Marilao; tel. 0925-8588355 and 0917-8588255
These diminutive rice cakes are Bulacan’s pride. The putong puti, putong pula and cochinta have been traditionally prepared since 1947. Used to be sold on sidewalks and in wet markets, these traditional favorites have become a hit, sometimes causing huge traffic on MacArthur Highway.
Just off Marilao Exit on North Luzon Expressway is this newly built three-story building of Rosalie’s Bibingka that offers native rice cakes in various flavors, hues and shapes. It’s your one-stop pasalubong place offering bibingka special, bibingka cassava, sapin-sapin, pork chicharon, puto pao pandan, suman/biko langka special.
Open seven days a week.
Location: Bulacan Brgy. Patubig, Marilao, Bulacan
Popular for its fluffy and sweet inipit (available in small box, single-layer, and big box, double-layer) and other delicacies, such as ensaymada (available in small, medium and large sizes). The dining area at the back of the store offers all-day breakfast and merienda meals for weary travelers.
A one-stop shop of all Bulacan-made products, food and nonfood items: pastillas from San Miguel; minasa cookies made from cassava flour from Bustos; ensaymada and inipit from Malolos; chicharon from Sta. Maria; sukang Bulacan from Paombong; garlicky longganisa from Calumpit; buntal products (handwoven items in their finest weaving style) from Baliuag and San Ildefonso; stylish gowns and embroidered barongs from Pandi; and intricate pieces of jewelry from Meycauayan.
Location: Provincial Capitol Compound, Malolos City, Bulacan; tel. 0935-9289270 and (044) 7910884
La Familia Sizzlers and Restaurants
It’s your turo-turo-style of dining in an air-conditioned setting. It’s spacious and ideal for big groups touring the countryside. It also has an al fresco dining area. Standouts include okoy kalabasa, bulalo, lumpiang togue, garlic longganisa, paksiw and kare-kare. A la carte dishes include sizzling tuna belly, lengua pastel and crispy pata.
For a quick sweet treat, drop by Little Frostings and grab a box or two of its cupcakes (Oreo, S’mores, Dulce de Leche, Bananarama); cookies (choco revel bars, lemon squares, marbled cheesecake).
Location: DRT Highway, Bagong Nayon, Baliuag, Bulacan; tel. (044) 7662037 and 0932-8643381
A casual restaurant serving grilled dishes—tuna belly, squid, gindara. It has set meals good for 15 to 30 persons. Recommended are binagoongang baboy, bistek tagalog, adobong atay and camaron rebusado.
Location: 780 Bagbaguin, Santa Maria, Bulacan; tel. 0917-8671111
Nina’s Fried Itik and Restaurant
For the adventurous foodies, don’t miss this fried itik cooked in a variety of ways: kalderitik, adobong itik, sinigang na fried itik, nilagang fried itik, sisig itik and adobong itik flakes. Not for the fainthearted is sizzling tapang usa (deer meat).
Location: 358 Santan St., San Jose, Plaridel, Bulacan; tel. 0906-4587353 and 0916-5576543