May 18, 2024
Dugang ning kapalaran or the “wheel of fortune” is a spoof and a good laugh.

Regional food are delicious adventures but as one friend points out, you must know what to order. While we were in Pampanga looking for a dining option, “Matam-Ih” was suggested. The strange name didn’t ring a bell and my curiosity went on overdrive.
Matam-ih means delicious in the Aeta vernacular. This group is the indigenous people’s group that dwells in the mountain area of Pampanga, near Mt. Pinatubo. This restaurant is arranged as a cluster of gazebos or kiosks for private groups and one main hall with large and small tables. There are monitors which run photos of food and captions that are in the menu and tarps with photos and captions, as well. But this reminded me of my trip to Honolulu where the pavements around intersections would have Hawaiian terms and the English translations side by side on the pavement. It was a way to learn about the language while waiting for the green light to go on for pedestrians.

Crispy crablets are neatly served on a metal grill.

Mahampat is men, matampa is women, and payabit is pull as spelled out using manila rope on the doors of the toilet. Each small room was given a local name and translated in English too.
There was also the dugang ning kapalaran orwheel of fate outdoors that had amusing Kapampangan dialect entries.
My fate stopped at 13 which read, “Ekupasabyanngeni” or “Better not tell you now.” This evoked laughter because the other entries were as funny.

Rice is neatly served wrapped in banana leaves.

The choice for soup was sinigang nakambing. You could almost pucker your lips with the tart, which is how this Filipino dish should be served to neutralize the musky scent of the meat. The meat was tender and the radish, mustard, eggplant, and okra fresh. This was refreshing on a warm day.
The small shrimps were crispy. This reminds you of okoy made with squash and shrimps but better. These are actually the fresh small shrimps used in making alamang dipped in cornstarch batter and deep fried. This was made in round thin chips, each bit dipped in chili vinegar is highly recommended.

Chicharon small shrimps is like the okoy, or the vegetable fritter and crunchily divine.

The guinataang suso were sweet and tender. The fresh snails were simmered in the coconut milk with garlic and ginger that made the sauce sweet and creamy. The green chili peppers, string beans, and squash were added to the snails to give it spice and some vegetables to balance the dish. One usually sips the meat out of the big hole or picks it out with a toothpick.

Sinigang na kambing is served in tamarind soup with radish, bok choy, and lots of ginger.

Adobong kangkong sauteed and simmered in garlic, vinegar, and soy sauce was a crunchy option. This was salty and sour and matched the other food selected. This is a favorite when this vegetable is fresh. For highlanders, this is a treat.

Ginataang suso or snails cooked in coconut milk.

Crispy crablets was the other treat eaten for lunch. Fortunate that crablets were still available at the time, these were served without the upper shell of the crustaceans. These were eaten in their entirety – legs and shell. Again, this is dipped in vinegar to enjoy the crunchy texture of the bite size crabs. This was chewy in some parts because the crab meat was soft in some parts.

Adobong kangkong is crispy and not cooked too long.

The rice here is wrapped in banana leaves. This gives the rice an additional flavor and aroma that makes it more delicious.

Dugang means wheels and this old cart wheel was turned into a fun activity for visitors with a sense of humor.

The whole experience of enjoying a meal is dependent on what you order or on what each member of the eating party would like to savor for the day. We opted for the not so popular fare of the region and enjoyed each minute. I was happy to eat with fellow crunch mates.
Matam-ih, masarap, delicious, oishi!
There’s something for everyone at this restaurant in Clark, Pampanga.

Mahampat is male in the vernacular.