May 28, 2024

This year has been the most unusual. When the community quarantine was imposed, it was a time to be creative about the food features. Here is something to remind us about God’s bountiful earth in all seasons and lockdowns. I reprint the best times that I had been eating this year.
Siyam, siyam at PET’S Bulaluhan
Siyam is nine, the counting number, in Filipino. “Siyam, siyam” is a saying that means it is “taking too long” or a long delay. On the other hand, it could also mean, “in nines”. At this hole in the wall kind of eating joint called Pet’s Bulaluhan, the line seldom vanishes at any time of the day. This was the nth attempt to try the legendary food that people can’t get enough of.
Silet is a generic term for intestines. In the boondocks, it is pork intestines. Liver is seldom paired with silet except for here. My memories of Bontoc come to life when I see the term because I tasted the best so far at a restaurant there. So, my standard is well cleaned tender fried intestines and the gritty bitter flavor and texture of liver stir fried together. Delighted with what I tasted and saw served in a sizzling plate, I know now where to satisfy my craving for werewolf diet – blood, intestines and liver. The salty bitter flavors with garlic, onions and some wombok sizzling as served, who could expect more!
Goto, binagoongan, Yakult tea, and kiniing pizza
Kiniing pizza and Lala’s pizza at Lala’s came in six inches diameter crusts. This snack, sliced into four, doesn’t leave much to crave for. Kiniing is smoked pork belly in the tradition of the Cordillera. Preserved by the smoke of from a wood fired hearth, this meat is used to flavor the chicken soup called pinikpikan hereabouts. It’s creative use in this European delight was a must try. I am happy that the smoky flavor of the meat was not overpowered by mozzarella and parmesan. Lala’s pizza was gratifying with its creamy sauce with mushrooms, black olives and tiny meat balls. I tried to figure out the ingredients of the spongy meatballs but I guess, that is their secret. This joint is for pasta lovers too.
Comfort food at Bruno’s
Bruno’s Batil Patong isn’t influenced by the Chinese cuisine at all. It is a class on its own. This dish is made with minced beef and beef stock. The minced beef is the main ingredient in the sauteed vegetables base with cabbage strips, carrot strips, and sweet peas in this edition. There is an excess stock from the vegetables where the fresh miki noodles are cooked and from where the egg drop sauce is taken. When the noodles are cooked from this stock that simmers with the vegetables it is placed on the bowl, topped with the vegetables and onion leeks then the smaller bagnet chips crown it. A sauce made from the beef stock and vegetable stock mix with soy sauce to flavor it and some pepper is then boiled again with an egg to make an egg drop kind of sauce. This sauce is what is poured over the noodles when you are ready to eat it. Some like a little chili and a little vinegar to spike the noodles.
Craft 1945: Baguio Craft Brewery X Casa Marcos
Baguio Craft Brewery which produces 11 flavors of craft beer has a little of everything for different taste buds. If one prefers strong malt beer or light fruity sweet beer, there is one to match your choice. Brew education says there are three kinds of beers – ale, lager, and lambic.
“Lagers are crisper and cleaner in flavor, whereas ales are more robust and complex. Lambic beers are bright, sometimes sour or fruity and always unique,” says Heather Barnet in “Basics of Beer”. So, there you have it. If you are new at it, you can sample the ale, lager or lambic beer here before you order a glass to go with your meal. I tried Englishman New York which was a lager according to my taste buds, a light and clean flavor. There are so many lambic beers made with strawberry or raspberry, depending on your favorite fruit. The bitter and robust ale might be for you, too. A fair warning to customers is the higher alcohol content in the craft beer compared with the commercial counterparts.
This choice went well with the Paella Negra dish. This Spanish rice meal has velvety squid ink as the base of the sauce and shrimps, crab, clams, and squid mixed with sweet peas, bell peppers, and onions. Garnished with slices of red and green bell peppers and topped with a boiled egg, this meal is perfect with a slice of lemon or lime squeezed over it to heighten flavors. The shrimp size was perfect, squid tender and clams just enough. I would have loved some of the chewy rice stuck at the bottom of the paellera (pan) as an added treat of all its delicious seafood flavors.
God’s menu
The Community Kitchen in La Trinidad, Benguet went viral in the early days of the lockdown.
Elmer Macalingay, 40, entrepreneur behind the five Health 100 and 101 Restorants inspired the lunch service to the frontline health and checkpoint workers for the La Trinidad area and later the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center. He and his wife, Dr. Celestrell May Oras – Macalingay, have decided to embark on the voluntary food service to empty their pantry by selling their newly stocked supplies to their staff and later to other residents.
The remaining inventory was used to prepare food at Km.5 Health 101 shop and the drop off site for food donations. The spouses decided to allow their 150 employees to go on quarantine since many lived in distant parts of Baguio City and La Trinidad but invited five volunteers to do the cooking and to stay-in the Km. 5 restaurant. Elmer says his wife was the one who thought of the health and sanitation protocol. Not only did the cooks have to stay put but no one was allowed into the facility. The pans had to be made of stainless steel because the virus can’t thrive in them. This had also become their request that hospitals and groups bring their own containers for safety and also to spare the cost of individual canisters. A window was where people received the food packs or the door would open for the pick-up of boxes of food packs for the checkpoints and hospital staff. Donations were brought to the door and left there for the cooking team to bring into the kitchen to prevent contamination and infection.
These are but a few of the adventures. For all these wonderful dishes that have nourished me through this time of reflection, I thank all of these gastronomic geniuses. I enjoyed every bite and every thought of how others have been blessed.