Our badminton group marks birthdays by treating the celebrator to a wonderful meal of his choice.
We’ve been to NIU in SM Aura, Salvatore Cuomo in Uptown Parade, Ogawa in Bonifacio Global City, Vask, Duck & Buvette in Shangri-La Plaza, and a few others.
For his birthday celebration, Dennis Pineda wanted lunch in Pampanga in a place I had never been to. There are two places I know that serve interesting sit-down meals in Pampanga. Claude and Maryann Tayag’s Bale Datung, and Dennis Lim’s Denlim’s Kitchen. I have heard many good things about both.
The place we were going to was in San Matias, Pampanga. I had never been there and knew nothing about it.
San Matias Ihaw Ihaw is along McArthur Highway and is a huge open-air restaurant. It is said to transform into a vibrant dining and drinking place at night.
We found a counter with ample cooked food to choose from. There were a lot of Kapampangan specialties. We chose one dish from the display—Dennis had preordered food.
Being on intermittent fast, I set my first meal for noon and I was famished, and so were all my “eating machine” friends.
First came chicharon bulaklak. Perfectly crispy, dipped in suka and bawang, this was an unhealthy but delicious appetizer.
A piping hot soup of bulalong sinigang followed. This was very tender fall-off-the-bone beef shank attached to a huge bone with wobbly bone marrow. The broth was cloudy, thick and sour. We seasoned it with patis, calamansi, toyo and sili.
From the carinderia out front came kalderetang kambing (stewed goat). Tender, rich, a bit sweet, spicy and very tasty, this was such a winner. The sisig was OK. The chicken barbecue was also good, but all our eyes were focused on two dishes: the steamed alimango (crab) and ginataang ulang (giant freshwater shrimp).
The ginataang ulang was cooked in spicy gata sauce with sliced jalapeno chilies. There was so much flavor to be sucked from the shrimp heads. The alimango was simply steamed, but it was fresh and meaty and had lots of orange crab fat. It was very delicious.
Desserts were leche flan and freshly made halayang ube. Also good. After two hours, we were all happy, smiling, teasing and satisfied. It was indeed a unique experience.
If you want to experience something new and different, check out San Matias Ihaw Ihaw restaurant. Call to order in advance to experience the crab and ulang. Thank you, Dennis!
San Matias Ihaw Ihaw, McArthur Highway, San Matias, Santo Tomas, Pampanga. Call (045) 4354370.
My next Japan food tours will be on Nov. 18-23 (Hokkaido), and on Nov. 25-30 (Fukuoka, Hiroshima and Osaka).