Lists for me are really fun.Â My dear five readers, urge you to try these things at least once in your life, because I cannot imagine my life without them:
1. Uni sashimi- basically sea urchin that is raw, and served with good soy sauce and citrus (calamansi is my favorite). Smooth, melting in your mouth and basically tasting like the sea, this indulgent treat is a must for any sashimi lover. The best one I’ve ever tasted was from Hana in Little Tokyo, like buttah, but better. For the good stuff, you don’t need to dip it into anything, or do anything but take it out of the shell and eat it. For inexpensive uni by the bowl, try Tokyu in Pioneer or Panay Avenue, it’s a favorite place for fresh, good stuff.
2. Bone marrow- Whether eaten on its own, roasted in an oven, or like any normal Filipino, in a fresh bulalo (beef stew), bone marrow is sinfully delicious. It is high in cholesterol, delightfully addicting, and for me, best with bagoong balayan and calamansi. Bone marrow should be enjoyed while you can. Best place to get it? Behind the Mahogany market in Tagaytay, where it’s guaranteed fresh, and very simply prepared to show off its incredible flavor.
3. Vigan empanada- Dastardly deceptive, the orange crust on this Ilocano treat masks three simple ingredients. Shredded monggo sprouts or papaya, egg, and Vigan longganisa in a simple rice flour shell deep fried till golden, this is my Sunday treat. Why Sunday? Because the best I’ve tasted in the metro of this Ilocano merienda is at the Eton Sunday market, with real Vigan longganisa and the freshest eggs. Every other place I’ve tried this in the metro is a pale comparison, but okay to bridge that craving gap. Get it at Ilocos Empanada at Katipunan, or other Ilocos Emapanada branches at other locations.
4. Chicharon bituka- Crispy fried, cleaned out pork or chicken intestines make up this simple and sinful treat. Introduced to me by my dad one morning when going through Laloma to the province, I ate and fell in love. Dipped in spicy vinegar, the umay to this sinful treat is cut with a the acidity of the natural cane vinegar, while adding another layer of interesting flavor. Get it fresh and best at Laloma, where they fry the intestines from the lechon they just roasted (cleaned of course, i hope).
5. Isaw– Another way to eat animal guts, isaw is basically intestines cleaned out, looped on a barbecue stick, roasted on an open fire. One can usually find this treat in outdoor stalls in the afternoon. You can’t have just one, as these things are addictive, dipped in a spicy vinegar. I like the one from Mang Larry’s stall in UP, where it’s P2 a stick, plus P2 for spicy vinegar. I usually get fifteen sticks to justify the one hour usual wait from the time we park, to the time we settle to eat.
6. Lugaw– Whether with chicken (arroz caldo), or my favorite beef tripe (goto), lugaw is the perfect hangover cure. Hot, comforting, and simple, lugaw is a simple meal for anyone and everyone. The foamy stuff on top that accumulates as it cooks even serves as a milk alternative for when people cannot afford milk. I may be staunchly Filipino since I love lugaw more than its Chinese counterpart, congee.
7. Durian– Strange, smelly and absolutely polarizing people when served on the table, durian is a sweet, creamy fruit ensconced in a stinky, spiky outside. It’s quite expensive for fruit and is a bi+ch to open, but for us who love it, is worth all the trouble. The flesh melts in your mouth and offers layers of flavor you cannot find in any other fruit. Somehow it’s as creamy as frozen yogurt with a fruity layer. The best and worst part of it is that the stinkier it is, the sweeter the taste will be, so when you smell it from two aisles away from the supermarket, prepare yourself for the best (or worst) experience of your fruit consumption. For those who have never tried this because of the smell, I urge you to try it twice and see if it changes your mind. Most of us had adults give us a taste as a joke, but maybe you’ve grown to like it between the years.
8. Carabao milk– Full fat, creamy and best bought from your provincial market, carabao milk is a sin and a piece of heaven at the same time. The humble Philippine carabao, in my opinion just produces the best milk I’ve ever had (I had to drink goat milk as a child okay, and it still makes me gag). My aunt used to buy it at the market at 5 am for us to mix in with rice and eat with dried fish. My grandfather used to have bottles of it in the ref, and I would always beg for them when I went home to the province. Until now, the best carabao milk is the one from the neighborhood carabao lady at the palengke and not the one you can buy (so expensively) at the mall. Just remember and heat it up first to make sure it’s pasteurized, as most are sold untreated and straight from the teat. Also, if you’ve ever had pastillas from Bulacan, the creamy, pillowy treats, you just might be interested to know that those are traditionally made with carabao milk to achieve the creaminess from all its natural butterfat.
This is not my first food list, or my last. This is just what I can remember today. Count on a part 2, 3, 4 and 5 in the future.