Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Wednesday, July 06, 2016
(left) Pinangat; (right) Chicken Tinutungan, Pinakro and Pili Nut


D E L I G H T S 

A visit of Albay is not complete without a taste of its native and tourist-favorite dishes. It's even impossible to have a stroll in a random street of the province and not stumble upon an unusual snack. Seeing the famous Mount Mayon is simply not enough. Being there demands that you have to get your lips unevenly smeared with coconut cream from a serving of pinangat or aroused by a frozen delight made from chili pepper. The flavors of the province can be both enticing and revolting at the onset. The culmination, however, is almost always a tasty ending. The satiation makes you return and sample more of its exotic variants for dine-in or pasalubong.

Like the volcano that its residents adore, the province has a roster of delicious finds that's beginning to represent the rest of Bicol as must-eat gems. After spending annual vacations in different parts of the area since 2013, I've managed to list down these tasty discoveries that are bound to complement your tour of Albay soon:
Mazapan De Pili
Pinangat at Let's Pinangat
Pili Nut

Pinangat and Mazapan De Pili of Camalig

Camalig is where the locals will point you to for a taste of the delicious delicacy called pinangat, a succulent dish that combines taro leaves, chili, meat and coconut milk. The neighboring town of Legazpi City is rightfully called as such because tucked in this Southern portion of Mount Mayon are century-old Spanish houses that used to stand next to native huts known as camarin that were used by early residents for lodging and storage during planting and harvest time. The side of the volcano is where the vegetable gabi is grown in abundance.

The town's unpretentious eatery called Let’s Pinangat sells pinangat as its best-selling dish over other traditional Filipino viands. Spicy or regular-flavored, it's also considered a popular treat by locals and tourists for brunch, merienda, and midnight snack.

Pasta Pinangat at Small Talk Cafe
A plate of Pinangat

In Legazpi City, tourists can skip tasting the dish in its native form and opt to sample Small Talk Cafe's pasta version called Pasta Pinangat which I recommend with an order of fruit shake.

The inland town of Camalig is also the source of the Bicolano favorite pili nut which is harvested from the pili tree that the region has a lot of. From pulp to kernel, the low-maintenance crop is dynamic. Newly-harvested pili nuts are normally lined up along a main road of the town for easy access by tourists. Those that undergo deshelling are mixed into pastries or turned into Mazapan De Pili as sweet bars or balls of confection.

The town's popular handicraft store called R.A.I.N.S. sells some of it but the tasty ones are actually purchased like contraband drugs from holes in walls of the residential area. I particularly witnessed this when my Bicolano friend got one after stopping at a gated house. After a quick call on his mobile phone, he simply approached a hole in the wall of one residence and out came a hand dangling the sweet treat!

Boneless Chicken Tinutungan at Balay Cena Una
The dining area of Balay Cena Una
Boneless Chicken Tinutungan

Daraga's Boneless Chicken Tinutungan

Another certified Bicolano dish is Chicken Tinutungan or tinutong sa gata and one can be had in the town of Daraga via the dining attraction called Balay Cena Una.

I tasted one for lunch during my 2014 visit of the province and it wasn't because I ordered the dish. Enticed by the order of my friend who sat next to me inside the elegant dining area of the heritage house, I was not able to resist to steal a morsel off of his plate and discover why he decided to have the same dish that he had the day prior. Basked in coconut cream, the rich-tasting chicken was both savory and smokey.

I learned from our attending waiter that there were other local ingredients also tossed in the mix that made the whole thing quite remarkable and an easy choice to re-order.

DJC Halo-halo

Snack of Tiwi's Cheese-Topped Halo-halo

Tiwi in Albay is a reliable destination for the traditional Filipino favorite concoction of halo-halo. However, its version is remarkably creamy for being topped with cheese which the conventional version doesn't have. For that alone, visiting the province is worth a side trip to a store of DJC Halo-halo where this snack is featured.

For nagging cravings that come in odd hours of the day, you can ask locals and they will tell you that the store has other outlets in the area wherever you are in the province.


Street Finds of Pinakro and Buchi

Touring the province via its streets is how you can ideally discover traditional snacks for brunch or merienda. I happened to experience this after scoping Tabaco's city proper when I had the chance to stop by a random eatery that was selling Buchi, a deep-fried snack made of simply rice dough or sometimes sweet potato. It's not entirely unique to the area as my mom used to have one as a child in Quezon Province.

Pinakro, though, is one authentic Bicol snack that residents in Albay still cook. I got the chance to taste the cassava delight when my tour guide prepared one for merienda in Bacacay. It's basically made of kamoteng kahoy that's boiled in coconut milk until cooked and tender.

Guinobatang Longganisa fro breakfast
Guinobatan's Longganisa

The Filipino sausage we know as longganisa is also thriving as a stellar meal banner in Albay's Guinobatan where I once stayed for an overnight experience of a resort called Casa Basilisa. The savory delicacy was a featured breakfast and I couldn't be more happy than when I indulged on it surrounded by the town's age-old trees. It's usually smaller in size than its rivals in Lucban and Ilocos Norte but that's because it's manually made without using meat grinders according to locals.

The next time you visit Albay, skip the mall and weave through its cities and towns' less glossy enclaves. It's where the truly delicious finds are anyway!

Check out the recap of my Albay-related blog posts:


  1. Shared this post in G+. and my God! Ang dami mong write up about Albay! It's one of those places that I love doing food trails with.Kudos!


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