Piaya is top of mind when you think of pasalubong from Negros Occidental. The flatbread filled with muscovado sugar has become synonymous with the province. Every town makes it fresh in the morning, like pan de sal. In Bacolod Central Market, bakeries make them right in front of you whatever time of the day. You can buy them for P10 apiece and eat them hot from a brown paper bag while you do your shopping.
Lanai by Fresh Start Organic in Bacolod offers different flavors: muscovado, calamansi, peanut and honey. The calamansi flavor is a very refreshing twist to the classic.
A must-try is the version from Silay market. The piaya here is so thin that it’s crispy. It’s sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds, adding a layer of nuttiness.
Piaya makes the perfect pasalubong. It can last for days, as long as you store it in the refrigerator.
But there are other food items you can bring home with you when you visit the province. Make sure to save some space in your luggage for them.
‘Kadyos’ and ‘batwan’
It’s fairly common to pack and bring home mangoes, mangosteen or nuts from other places in the country. It’s high time we also normalize bringing home kadyos and batwan when you’re visiting a Western Visayan province.
Kadyos, baboy, langka or KBL is a well-loved dish not a lot of people outside the region are familiar with. It’s a simple, hearty dish that you’d want to share with your family.
The best kadyos (pigeon peas) are the ones you have to remove from the pods yourself. They taste sweeter, just like any freshly picked vegetable. But when they are not in season, dried kadyos from the market will do just as well. Soak them overnight or pressure-cook them for 45 minutes to enjoy the starchy, nutty flavor with your pork hocks. Kadyos can also be used for tinola.
You only need four to seven pieces of batwan fruit for each pot of KBL. They have a subtle sour flavor and they cook pretty fast.
You can’t find these babies in Metro Manila marketplaces. Surprisingly, they are available in online shopping apps but at much higher prices.
Some online recipes for KBL suggest using sinigang mix as a replacement for batwan, but it’s not the same. Sinigang mix should only be used when you have no other choice.
‘Barungoy’ dried fish
The fisherfolk of Sipalay make their own assortment of dried fish, but the must-try is their barungoy uga or dried flying fish. Barungoy is black-finned flying fish. The fish is meaty, making it chewy when dried. Pair it with fried rice and egg, with vinegar on the side, for a perfect Pinoy breakfast.
Perlyn Cañete dries herring caught fresh from Cadiz. She then fries them, removes the head, scales and innards and bottles them with olive oil.
She started her business a year ago and now has resellers all over the country. Each bottle costs P100. However, what you shouldn’t miss is her bottled aligue. Use it for fried rice, pasta or as topping to freshly cooked rice. (Order directly from Cañete at tel. 0959-8981323.)
The pride of La Castellana is the saba sticks that Mary Jhoy Dagang makes and sells. She started the EJJ’s Food Products in 2016; everyone in her hometown swears by her products.
Before Typhoon “Odette,” she sourced their main ingredients from their own farm. They now get their saba bananas from Davao.
Dagang’s saba sticks may remind you of the flavors and texture of a famous shoestring potato snack. The biggest jar of the saba sticks costs P105, while 26 small bags are at P130. She also sells taro sticks.
Bago has its version of empanada called panara. It’s filled mainly with vegetables and some ground meat. It’s made so thinly that you won’t even notice you’ve finished at least five pieces in one sitting. It’s that good. They are available in the city’s food market.
The boquerones of Casa A. Gamboa in Silay deserves a space in your luggage. It’s an appetizer of white sardine fillets soaked in olive oil. The soft texture of the fish combined with crispy crackers makes for a divine pairing. Sardines have a natural umami flavor, hence it doesn’t need a lot of salt for its flavor to come through. Each bottle costs P285. (Message @casaa.gamboa on Instagram for orders.) INQ