At Sonny Lua’s Asiong Caviteño restaurant in Silang, we ordered pancit pusit. Caviteños speaking Chavacano call it pancit choco en su tinta.
We also had crispy pata and kare-kare. Someone in our group was observing the no-meat rule for Lent and was thankful we had laing and pako salad as well.
We were not disappointed.
Cavite cuisine, like all regional cuisines, cannot be summed up based on only one area. Ige Ramos, Caviteño and author of “Republic of Taste: The Untold Stories of Cavite Cuisine” (Ramos Design Studio, 2018), said that his province has “three distinctive topographic features: the coastal area, the midland plains and the highlands.”
The first volume of his book was only about the coastal area, which is the cuisine that Asiong represents, even if it is now located in the highlands. (Maybe Lua can later add highlands cooking to his menu.)
Food writers tend to concentrate research and writing about food in the places they visit or where their sources are from.
My first forays into Cavite were on the invitation of Dez Bautista, who is actually from Bulacan. He made friends in Cavite, especially those who want to preserve its local culture which includes the food. He invited us to the formal opening of the remodeled Aguinaldo Shrine, where I found out about two noodle dishes.
Pancit Henoy is from Bacoor with a mix of yellow miki and white bihon and a sauce that looks like chopsuey.
Pancit Istasyon from Tanza doesn’t have noodles but uses togue (monggo bean sprout) and its sauce is like the orange palabok.
Again, on Bautista’s invitation, I was introduced to Lua and the food at Asiong. Another pancit, the one with pusit, was tasted and which my son tries to do at home.
Funny how, on leaving Cavite City, a vendor was selling pancit puso that we had to stop to ask Lua what it was. He said the sahog or ingredients had puso ng saging (banana heart).
Ramos wrote that pancit puso was originally called pancit de carajay (wok) and that it has two kinds of noodles—miki and bihon.
The first Cavite pancit I had was luglog at Yaying Pimentel Dragon’s house, cooked by her brother-in-law Bob. It originated from the town of General Trias—white blanched bihon was topped with monggo sprouts and a sauce made with chicken broth, shredded chicken, ground pork, shrimps, sliced cabbage and flavorings from pounded shrimp heads, alimasag (crabs), alupihang dagat (crayfish) and shellfish. Toppings were tinapa (smoked fish), crushed chicharon, hard-boiled eggs and toasted garlic.
Flavorings were added by grated green mangoes, patis (fish sauce), calamansi, kinchay (Chinese parsley) and one ingredient that can be found only in Cavite—unsoy—that looks like dill but is a variety of wansoy or cilantro. Everything mixed together can give you the best pancit luglog.
The blue pea flower that is so present in many salads today reminds me of Cavite because the local name for it is ternate. Ternate is a municipality in Cavite. Its origins were written about by Gilda Cordero Fernando in her book, “Philippine Food and Life” (Anvil Publishing, 1992).
In 1674, 200 Malay Christians were evacuated from Ternate of the Moluccas to Ermita, Manila, to avoid persecution by the Muslims. But the group got into trouble with the Tagalogs, and so were evacuated again to Cavite where they established themselves in Tanza, San Roque, and a place they named Ternate.
It is said that Chavacano came from the Ternate evacuees derived from their Portuguese-Malay patois. Fernando gave examples of these in terms of food. Patis is lava mano (hand wash). For the “rice pot is boiling over,” they say, ta sali ya el prusisyon (the procession emerged from the church).”