LIST: What to eat in Catanduanes
Catanduanes has been quietly luring Westerners to Puraran, an idyllic surfing site that is an hour drive from Virac town.They've been routinely coming back there; locals have made a welcome tradition only for them.
Nature also seemed to have been accustomed on their arrival. “I don’t know about these Canadians, but it would always rain when they’re arriving” said a resort beach owner.
While some have settled there charmed by the island living where time is slow, the local dialect languid and both the scenery and food, which writer Andre Orandain describes best, are of earth submerged in flavors.
So consider our attention to this eastern part of Luzon belated. But that’s alright because today Catanduanes, not just Puraran, is ready than ever.
Before you go, here's a rundown of their delicacies which are so intertwined with their environment.
Reserved for special occasions, this snack food and dessert is steamed rice cake topped with coconut syrup locals call bañar, Spanish term for bathe or to pour syrup on.
Historian Kurt Zepeda said Bicol latik is like the latik of Cebu where coconut milk is mixed with brown sugar and water, and used as topping.
According to him, its original meaning is the residue from coconut milk when heated until it releases its natural oil. These solid bits turned brown like roast crumbs, then separated from oil, to be used as topping. In Albay, it's called lunok.
The suman (rice cake which is now called latik itself) is greenish from the addition of moringga liquid.
Simplicio Mendoza, owner of Impleng's Native Delicacies, said the liquid extract from chili leaves is more delicious but moringga leaves are more available.
“The tradeoff is moringga is more nutritious,” he said.
He also ferments coconut juice to make use of this leftover when coconut meat is grated for milk.
Tilmok is steamed seafood with coconut meat. Catandungans used buyod (freshwater shrimp) instead of crab meat and add oregano. It's spicy too.
According to Mendoza, you can pair this with suman, if you don’t fancy a sweet topping like latik. Impling’s also sell these frozen for pasalubong. While the latik (sauce) is sealed in plastic packaging.
This is taro root stuffed with sweetened grated taro and young coconut meat, then cooked in coconut milk. Pandan leaves may be added for additional flavor.
Impling's occasionally makes kaluko for afternoon snack, but not as regular as latik and tilmok.
This is also a famous delicacy in Rapu-Rapu, Albay.
Carabeef are carabao meat dishes cooked like caldereta or sinigang. It is their substitute for beef as water buffaloes abound in this province.
Whether it’s ginataan (cooked in coconut milk) or sizzling, an edible snail tastes of earth loaded in hot spices.
Cocido is Bicolano's fish stew tangy with calamansi. Their version doesn’t have vegetable in it, but some resorts in Catanduanes have. Try it too as a hot side dish for ginataang vegetable or fresh fried fish.
Sinalpungan (Fried Carabao Tripe)
This unique organ meat dish of Catandungans is sauteed libro (omasum/book tripe) with lots of onion. Compared to isaw (barbecue pork/chicken intestines), this is chewier, coarser, and has a strong odor of an organ meat.
This is dry bopis with a Bicol twist: the stir-fried pig's heart and lungs with onion, garlic, ginger, chili, and vinegar is bathed in coconut milk. Diced kangkong (water spinach) stalks add crunch to the hash of soft and oily pieces of meat.
If an organ meat sounds not too appealing, there's kinilaw na tanigue, which is fish marinated in coconut milk with flavorings the same as above.
Take your pick: buttered or garlic-coconut? Find both in a Virac beach front restaurant or in Puraran. The new roadside eatery next to the arc to Puraran beach resorts sells alive lobster at a cheaper price. They'll cook it without additional fee.
The owner said that slipper lobster tastes better, hence its slightly higher price.
Ginataang mud crab
Locals call this crab an-it, cooked with gata (coconut milk), ginger, and topped with pako (edible fern). The addition of a kuyog sauce (fermented fish sauce) gives a savory kick. Get ready for extra rice.
Chocolate coated pili
Taste and know what sweet success means with Belen's Pinahamis na Pili Atbp. –a local brand of candied pili and other innovative products by Evelyn Bonifacio.
Evelyn started as a pili candy vendor at Virac port with P1500 capital and eventually grow, thanks to her DOST (Department of Science and Technology) training for the production of pili chocolate under the Small Enterprises Technology Upgrading Program (SETUP); approved equipment assistance requests; and further training with Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) for product packaging.
This openness for technology intervention and innovation, coupled with hard work, is crucial to Belen's success, according to Cel Guevarra who had engaged with Belen when she was still with DTI before moving to Provincial Tourism Office.
With improved products come significant business growths, benefiting not only her family’s income but also her fellow Catandungans and Bicolanos for providing jobs with her multi-awarded business.
Now, it has grown into a small enterprise from a micro-enterprise and there’s no stopping Belen and her husband, who co-manages their business, from making it bigger.
Find them in their souvenir store near the Virac port, as well as in Virac Pasalubong Center for OTOP (One Town One Product). – Rappler.com