Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Wednesday, January 04, 2017
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Pancit Palabok by New Iona's Refreshment Parlor
A shot of lambanog














Quezon Province's fast-developing town of Infanta is known as the gateway to the Pacific Ocean because it's where most travelers bound for the coast's natural attractions take a long stopover after travelling from different locations in mainland Luzon. Before hitting the travel route again for Polillo, Panukulan, Burdeos, Patnanungan Island or Jomalig Island, the town is where they eat a hefty meal. Adventurers bound for the exotic coast of General Nakar also choose to spend a few hours here. It's only reasonable that eateries in this part of the province are accessible when they're needed.

Unfortunately, there is a bit of shortage in excellent choices here because, for the longest time, most locals have not bothered to eat out for sustenance until only a few years ago. It's not because they're not into delicious food, but most residents have a tradition of sticking to the local fare like binagkat, sinantol, espasol and pasingaw. These are delicacies that their mothers and fathers whip up every day from scratch in the kitchen. As a result, household members are always properly fed and they're proud of what they eat. Even the men are still fond of their lambanog over Western liquor so much so that a drink has been named after the town -- Infanta Lambanog. Locals who have migrated to Metro Manila actually have a steady supply of traditional treats in their kitchens since Infanta is just three hours away.

St. Mark Parish Church of Infanta
Where lambanog is sourced
The dining area of New Iona's Refreshment Parlor
With the recent increase in tourist arrivals on layover, the town now has restaurants that serve mainstream food options that are normally found in Metro Manila. If you're looking for the offbeat eateries, though, especially the known dining institutions, you should scope the town past the van and bus terminals. Head to the following locations for your unique grub:

Halo-halo by New Iona's Refreshment Parlor
Pancit Mami by New Iona's Refreshment Parlor
New Iona's Refreshment Parlor
Must-try: Halo-halo, Palabok, and Pancit Mami

Long before there was tourism in Infanta, Iona's has been around. Located across the town's old Catholic church, it was just a simple eatery that opened in 1977 to serve immediate residents. Since the Infanta-Real-Famy Road was still in bad shape as a Sierra Madre dirt road at that time, families needed a venue to hold intimate revelries. Thanks to the lone eatery that was Iona's, locals were able to celebrate different special occasions like graduation, town fiesta or birthdays with enough pomp like a serving of halo-halo or a plate of palabok. The place has been a Sunday tradition as well after church mass when families would eat something fancy instead of home-cooked meals.

New Iona's Refreshment Parlor is located across the old Catholic church.
Now on its 39th year under the caring hands of Iona Establecida, and with an enhanced name as New Iona's Refreshment Parlor, the brand is a full-fledged restaurant with air conditioning, well-trained waitresses, and a high-end dining area. Home-cooked viands can now be had as well as other interesting menu options like Pancit Mami and Panict Lomi.

Today, locals still flock to the restaurant for the reliable taste of its halo-halo and palabok even with the presence of new commercial stores that serve similar treats in the area. There really isn't anything unusual about the halo-halo except for its balanced flavor. It's neither overwhelming nor disappointing for a dessert. It's probably close to the neighborhood version that we all grew up liking as kids. As for the palabok, it's unlike the typical bihon format and the delicious secret is in the extra-creamy sauce and generous add-on of crushed chicharon.

Lumpiang Ubod by Froi's Lutong Pinoy
Preparing the fresh Lumpiang Ubod is as fast as less than a minute
Froi's Lutong Pinoy
Must-try: Lumpiang Ubod

If you're looking for something cheap to save cost for your island-hopping in the Polillo Group of Islands or hiking adventure to General Nakar, you can also try a savory serving of lumpiang ubod or fresh vegetable egg roll at Froi's Lutong Pinoy. The eatery can be found at the second floor of the town's public market.

Froi's Lutong Pinoy at the public market
A few years ago, it started serving lumpiang ubod for as low as Php12. Today, the same quality costs Php35 but it's still something affordable that you can consider for a cheap meal.

"...try a savory serving of lumpiang ubod or fresh vegetable egg roll at Froi's Lutong Pinoy."

It's a filling alternative to seafood, pork or beef dishes that can be pricey to anyone on a tight budget. It's also fast to prepare so you can order one and have it in less than a minute for dine-in or take-out.

The store also serves home-cooked viands as part of its menu options.

(left) Binagkat; (top right) Pasingaw; (bottom right) Sinantol
(top left) Bulinaw or anchovies; (bottom left) Infanta Public Market; (right) A market butcher
Infanta Public Market
Must-try: Sinantol, Pasingaw, and Binagkat

Most tour guides of island-hopping tours in the area get their supplies from the Infanta Public Market because they're cheap, fresh, and in a hefty variety of options. It's also where they recommend tourists to get a sampling of local fare.

Galyang or large gabi for Binagkat
Highly recommended is Sinantol, an exotic dish that's a blend of the rind of a santol (cottonfruit) and gata (coconut milk). It takes hours to prepare, but it tastes sensational with shrimp or crab. Servings at the market are normally out of stock by lunch time because most locals consider it as a staple food for breakfast, so the next batch of servings are usually available after lunch.

"Highly recommended is Sinantol, an exotic dish that's a blend of the rind of a santol..."

Pasingaw is a steamed delicacy that locals love to have as a snack at odd hours of the day because it's quite filling like kalamay. If anything, it keeps the hunger pangs away for hours which makes it nifty to have in one's kitchen. A lot of residents recommend it to tourists to include in their loot of pasalubong treats.

Another snack that's of a sweet kind that's available at the public market is Binagkat, a delicacy that originated in Polillo. A serving is made from the root crop called galyang or a large type of gabi that's usually found near a stream or spring. Before it's cooked in gata or coconut milk, the root crop is traditionally whipped against a hard object to bring out its flavor. It's considered by locals as a healthy alternative to bread or desserts.

Lambanog is also sourced from sasa or nipa palm that grows next to rivers
Infanta Lambanog, distributed in the US (Photo by InfantaLambanog.com)
Before you hit the road, make sure you also get to taste Infanta's lambanog. It doesn't have to be in a labeled bottle from a store because, chances are, every household in the area has a stock. The town is known to be the biggest producer of the craft spirit. Ironically, it's what kept most of the local men sane after the tragic 2004 disaster that crippled the landscape when three successive typhoons submerged everything in 20 feet of flash floods. A lot of people died in the area unfortunately. You can just imagine why local delicacies are still beloved here. They are what represents their old way of life even after most of their loved ones have perished.

1 comments:

  1. From an infantahin:
    Thanks for featuring us in your blog.Just would like to clarify some points.

    Our lambabog are made from sasa not from coconut trees. (As stated in the caption of coco trees after the church). Though there are parts in quezon which make lambanog from coconut trees.

    There is only no NEW catholic church. So I guess it should be properly called as the Cathedral. There are some new chapels but they are also under the same parish.

    ReplyDelete

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