Saturday, April 19, 2008

Love in the Land of Gata and Sili

photo from flickr


It's true. I admit it. I am no longer going to fight the urge to tell the world at large that I am utterly, absolutely, head-over-heels in love...

... with Bicol food.

I don't know if you've noticed how I've avoided blogging about food all these months. This, of course, does not signify my indifference to food... quite the opposite, in fact! I absolutely love food, of almost any kind (as long as no creepy-crawlies or weird animals are part of the menu). Which is why I don't trust myself to make reliable reviews, hoity-toity or otherwise - to me, it's all good.

I'm making an exception in this case and devoting an entire post to Bicol food because I am, obviously, completely taken in by the cuisine. What's not to love?

Fresh coconut milk - check! Chili peppers in abundant quantity - check! Fresh vegetables - check! Super fresh fish, shrimp, crab, and other varieties of seafood - check, check, check, CHECK! I could rest my case right there, but I will go on and show you guys how huge a gourmand I can be.

I fell in love with it when my friends and I stayed in Daet a few months ago, and I had my first sample of the true Bicolandia home cooking. Some people may argue that my memories of that first encounter have been swayed by the enormous quantities of food rather than its quality, but that is so not true.




Before then, I only had a vague acquaintance with and . But after days of living on the day's freshest catch made even more yum-yum appetizing by this concoction called "sinantol" - a mix of shrimp and santol rind cooked soft in coconut milk - I became a convert and am now wondering why there aren't any restaurants in Manila carrying this great stuff. It's awesome with shrimp, fish, crab... what am I saying, it's just plain awesome!

When we went back to Bicol a few weeks ago, there wasn't enough time to prepare "sinantol" for us - apparently it takes time for the rind to soften. As a substitute, we were served "iba" - kamias fruit cooked in shrimp and coconut milk - that's similar to the "sinantol" and just as heavenly with the feast of seafood they served it with.

Then there was this dish called "pinangat" which is made of taro leaves wrapped around this mushy stuff (such sophisticated culinary lingo, girl!) with some chopped shrimp and I don't know what else, all awash in coconut milk and chili. Amazing stuff.


picture by verenitagreen


A caveat for those who are trying to cut their carbs - Bicol food is really made to be eaten with rice. Lots and lots of it. It was at Daet that my fellow food-worshiper friends and I named identified "The Kanin-Ulam Conundrum." It is that very Pinoy phenomenon of not quite being able to stop filling your plate until the amount of viand on it is just enough for the amount of rice on it to make the last spoonful. Quite often though, it's usually that stopping point when you can't really eat anything more.

Since I've already mentioned laing, I can't very well end my post without extolling the virtues of Camsur Watersports Center's amazing Bicol Special Pizza. Topped with cheese, laing, and shrimp cooked in coconut milk, I fell in love with this 8-inch wonder just as quickly as I stumbled into love of all things Bicol. While certain friends of mine (particularly the native Bicolana) insist that Laing is best eaten with rice, my other Manila friends and I (not knowing any better) swear by the pizza being an adequate substitute.




I could go on and on about it, but Bicol food is best experience to be believed. So if anyone can let me know the name of any restaurant that serves this awesome cuisine in Manila, I'll be eternally grateful. Otherwise, I'm going to have to wait for our next trip back - which, given my current infatuation with the wonderful region itself - will be hopefully very soon.

(Okay, now it's pretty obvious why I don't do food posts. :))

****

Post-script: I know people are wondering what happened to that Caramoan trip I was telling you guys about... well, we made it, and we had a wonderful time. And... no rain until the last day. I'm going to work on writing about that particular trip soon, so watch out for it. In the meantime, I suggest you guys start planning your trips while it's still an undiscovered paradise! :)

11 comments:

Manggy said...

Lol, Dr. Claire, I think you do just fine on the food posts. It is, after all, mushy stuff. Ha ha ha. :)

Take it easy on the gata! Your jaw will drop when you take a peek at the nutrition info! :O

Panaderos said...

Doc, halika rito at papaluin kita. Puro pampa-high blood iyang mga diniscuss mo eh!! :D

Just kidding (about the palo), Claire. Great and very informative post. Learned a lot of things about Bicolano food. :)

dr_clairebear said...

@manggy and panaderos: i know! i am in denial about coconut milk. what can i say? i really, really love the stuff.

that being said, i wonder if there have been systematic studies comparing the cardiovascular mortality rate of people in regions where they live on coconut milk vs. people who do not. i wonder... hmmmm....

Ann said...

My dad is from Bicol but I've never set foot there. I've never had any real Bicol food and I also don't eat gata. But this post is so enthusiastic, I want to get my hands on some of the dishes you mentioned (esp the Sinantol).

And about the questions you left in my blog: I take my lessons at a music center inside our village. It's run by Ms. S.usana P.ichay. I paid Php8000 for 12 sessions.

It's never too late to take voice lessons. I remember the moms of the kids in the other music center I went too also ended up having voice lessons. :)

bambit said...

wow, totoong pic ng mayon volcano and the cagsawa ruins! ako hanggang nayong pilipino lang :(

iris said...

wow nagutom ako sa post mo! :) but i do have to agree with you that bicol food is one of the best around. i loooove pinangat ang laing (if not too spicy), and everything characteristic of bicolano food that you mentioned, except the loads of sili part :)

and yeah, agree with manggy, you're ok with the food review. hehe. hindi naman lahat ng food critique dapat neutral lang. what's the point if it lack as much passion you've shown diba? hehehe.

Mari said...

ay sarap! i love anything with gata. veggies, seafood, meat! lahat! :D

dr_clairebear said...

@ann: sayang, i can't afford it! :( siguro when i find na a job. hehehehe... enjoy your summer and do try that bicol food one of these days! punta ka, it's really beautiful.

@bambit: these are not my own pics, but you can find mine over here. hindi kasi nagpakita si mayon sa amin when we first went to albay.

@ris and mari: sarap sarap, noh? gata is one of my favorite food sins, almost up there with chocolate and ice cream and cheesecake (ang dami!).

Joey said...

Grabe, your post made me hungry! LOL

MegaMom said...

Hey, great food review! Never the lack of glossy metaphors - that's pambobola lang naman anyway. Your post though was written from the heart, which by now is heavily laden with LDL, hehehe...
Glad you found the Laing PIzza I was raving about! Sarap di ba? ;)

dr_clairebear said...

@joey: me, too! hehehe... i get hungry just thinking about it...

@megamom: the laing pizza was superb! i really think coconut milk is being given a bad rap, hehehe.(denial!) someone really should look into that study...