Pampanga is one the food capitals of the Philippines.
In this Filipino food tour blog post I’m going to share with you some local food gems, mostly in Pampanga (but in Manila as well), that I had a chance to try on a full-on 15 hour food tour frenzy with Makansutra.
World Street Food Congress 2017
Makansutra, founded by KF Seetoh – a Singaporean food personality and advocate for the preservation of street food – had an idea to organize a street food festival of vendors from around the world in one place serving authentic local dishes.
So when I was invited to join KF Seetoh and team for a food tour in the Philippines prior to the main World Street Food Congress 2017 event, I was excited to go.
Although we enjoyed a few local restaurants in Manila as well, much of the 15 hour Filipino food tour was in Pampanga, just north of Manila, a region that’s known throughout the Philippines for their food.
1. Bulaluhan sa España
Our first stop on this epic Filipino food tour was a small carinderia (local Filipino restaurant) located at the back of a petrol station in Manila called Bulaluhan sa España.
This is a place where you’ll find an amazing version of bulalo, a beef bone marrow soup.
The broth has been boiled for so long that it has a rich meaty flavor, and some of the marrow begins to melt into the broth. It’s pure meaty goodness.
Also here, I really enjoyed a Filipino eggplant dish that was flattened and coated in egg (tortang talong), as well as the plate of extra crispy deep fried pig fallopian tubes.
Bulalohan sa España
Address: Corner of España Blvd, Sampaloc, Manila, Metro Manila
Open hours: open 24 hours
2. Atching Lillian
We then took the 1 hour drive to Pampanga to start feasting.
Atching Lillian is an extremely special lady who is legendary for preserving traditional food from Pampamnga (known as Kapampangan cuisine). She’s so well known for her food that her single name is associated with the purest and the most traditional Kapampangan cuisine in the country.
She doesn’t run a typical restaurant, but she cooks from her home, and you have to call ahead to make a reservation in her private dining room.
Many of the traditional dishes she cooks are challenging to find elsewhere, and have a unique story and history that surrounds them.
One of the most interesting dishes that I wanted to try at Atching Lillian were her version of Filipino tamales, since Mexican tamales are always something I enjoy eating.
While Mexican tamales are typically made with corn flour and wrapped in corn husk then steamed, these tamales were made from rice flour and wrapped in banana leaves before being steamed.
The rice flour was very pudding like in texture, while the filling included eggs and bits of meat. They were delicious, and had that banana leaf aroma to them as well, like you get when you cook anything in a banana leaf.
Eating at Atching Lillian was a once in a lifetime opportunity to learn about traditional food from Pampanga, she’s truly a special lady.
Address: 2021, 174 3, Mexico, Pampanga
Open hours: breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but you need to reserve weeks in advance: (045) 966 0211
I’ve been a huge lover of goat since before I can remember. As a kid growing up in Kenya, one of my favorite activities to do was hang out and eat roasted goat. So anytime I have the opportunity to eat goat I’m usually quite happy.
Taldawa is a local restaurant, or more like backyard eatery, in Pampanga, that serves only goat and duck, both of which are raised either right in the yard where they are being served, or very nearby.
We tried 3 main dishes, kaldereta – a goat stew with tomatoes and carrots and potatoes, goat sinigang – a Filipino sour soup, and lastly duck adobo – one of the Filipino national dishes made with duck.
All three dishes were stunning, the meat was so tender, and really tasted like real natural meat – that’s the way I like it.
The goat sinigang soup was rich and oily, full of meaty flavor and the chunks of goat were fall off the bone tender.
Throughout my number of trips to the Philippines I’ve eaten quite a few versions of adobo, but this was my first time to eat duck adobe.
The bite sized chunks of duck were stewed with soy sauce and vinegar until ultra tender. It was salty, and wonderfully tender.
Taldawa Kambingan Grill
Address: Santo Cristo Rd, Angeles, Pampanga
Open hours: Definitely open for lunch
4. 25 Seeds
Along with KF Seetoh and the Makansutra team from Singapore, Chef Sau Del Rosario, a renowned Filipino chef, was also along with our group on the food tour.
Chef Sau is originally from Pampanga, and one of his signature restaurants is 25 Seeds located right in the center of Angeles City.
Although you’ll find some modern interpretations of Filipino dishes at 25 Seeds, one of the things I really liked is that they use local high quality Filipino ingredients in their dishes.
Pampanga is famous for its original sisig, a Filipino dish of chopped up pigs face.
But KF Seetoh and Chef Sau masterminded a progression of sisig and created a sisig paella – and it was exactly as good as it sounds.
First chef roasted the pigs face, then chopped it up, and sauteed it with onions and magarine and light spices. He then added rice, and covered the mixture with banana leaves to steam and bake it.
Final step of the paella was to top it with diced chilies, cilantro, and calamansis all around.
It was brilliant, gooey rice with the chewy bits of pig face, all wrapped up in an incredible smoky flavor.
Address: 2F Dycaico Ancestral House, Barangay Sto. Rosario, Angeles, 2009 Pampanga
Open hours: 11 am – 10 pm daily
5. Susie’s Cuisine
Located in the heart of Angeles City in Pampanga, Susie’s Cuisine is known for serving desserts, and just about all Filipinos with a sweet tooth are bound to know about them.
I have to be honest and tell you that I’m not into sweets, so Susie’s Cuisine wasn’t my favorite stop on this Filipino food tour in Pampanga. However, I did taste their signature desserts.
The first dessert I tried was tibok tibok, which is made from both carabao’s milk and coconut milk, and had a gooey pudding like texture.
The second Filipino dessert I sampled is called sapin-sapin, a glutinous rice flour cake with coconut milk and plenty of sugar. Traditionally the purple layer was flavored with ube, a Filipino purple yam.
A couple bites of the desserts was enough for me, they were very sweet.
Address: MacArthur Highway, Balibago, Angeles, Pampanga
6. Makansutra Hawkers
After finishing with the desserts at Susie’s Cuisine, we drove back to Manila. The traffic was brutal.
Located at SM Megamall in Manila, KF Seetoh recently opened Makansutra Hawkers, a hawker food court serving dishes mostly from Singapore and Malaysia.
At this point we took a quick break from the eating to attend the World Street Food Congress 2017 press conference where KF Seetoh and a number of others spoke about the event that will bring together unique street food dishes and stalls from around the world into a single food market in Manila.
After the event, they served up a full spread of food at Makansutra Hawkers market.
Probably my favorite dish was the claypot rice, which has to be one of the world’s most comforting of all dishes. It brought me right back to a hawker center in Singapore.
7. Zubuchon Lechon
It wouldn’t be a complete Filipino food tour without lechon on the menu.
Lechon, the famous Filipino style of whole roast pig, is often known as one of the best versions of roasted pig in the world.
Years ago, Anthony Bourdain went to Zubuchon in Cebu, Philippines and proclaimed it as the “Best pig ever.”
Since then Zubuchon has become a legend and they even opened a branch in Manila, serving the same pig recipe.
There’s no other way to say it other than the lechon was spectacular.
The skin is easily one of the most crispy things you can possible put in your mouth, and the meat underneath is so soft and tender it melts in your mouth. The combination of both at once is heavenly.
One of the things I love the most about KF Seetoh and Makansutra, and why I support them, is that they are aiming to look to the future of street food and find a solution to preserve so many incredible family recipes and stories.
I’m not sure if we know all the answers or ever will, but the World Street Food Congress event, is certainly making steps in the right direction and is an amazing initiative to preserve the best street food.
I had a fantastic time on this Filipino food tour, mostly in Pamapanga, but also eating at a few places in Manila. I hope that this post will give you just a taste of the multitude of flavors and dishes to try in the Philippines.
World Street Food Congress 2017 – If you’re in Manila from 31 May – 4 June 2017, don’t miss eating at World Street Food Congress 2017. It’s going to be a huge event, with a curated selection of street food hawkers that I can almost guarantee will impress your taste buds.