Philippine cuisine, as with those from other countries, has its share of gastronomic delights deemed for the adventurous. Ranging from the use of odd ingredients to conventional food items cooked with peculiar blends, local dining is peppered with “experimental” dishes all across the metro and beyond.
Truth is, one can find them both in “hole-in-the-wall” places or popular establishments. A little sleuthing should do a diner good. Let’s delve on these unique cuisines.
Beef, the source of a plethora of wonderful dishes like burgers and steaks, is appreciated by most people. Folks from the Middle East took this fact a step further by utilizing a rather unconventional cow part in making a tasty dish: the brain. Ox brain has made its way to local shores, as popular restaurant chains, like Uncle Moe’s and Mister Kabab, have embellished their menus with their version of the popular Mediterranean dish.
Buttery in texture, ox brain is soft and has a “melts-in-your-mouth” quality to it. Spices are added to the dish, making the flavors pop right out upon each bite. The serving size is usually small, so it is often paired with pita bread and other cuisines that complement its flavor, namely beef shawarma, kebabs and kofta (Mediterranean meatballs).
Where to Find It: Uncle Moe’s, Mister Kabab, Grilled Tomato (Quezon City)
Truth be told, Su-Tu-Kil sounds more like an order to eliminate armed criminals rather than a tasty dish. What it does eliminate is the yearning for a sumptuous meal, given that the main ingredients happen to be fresh prawns, squid and tropical fish cured in vinegar, seasoned with sampaloc and other spices, and then charcoal grilled until tender.
Hailing from Cebu, Su-Tu-Kil is fast gaining popularity in Metro Manila, as numerous seafood restaurants are adding the dish to their list of servings. The hint of vinegar meshes well with the signature grilled taste, creating a splendid mixture of flavors.
Where to Find It: The Mabuhay Manor (Pasay City), “Dampa” Eateries in Metro Manila
In the Cordilleras, ritual and food sometimes go together. Such is the case with the Pinikpikan. In preparing the dish, the natives beat a live chicken with a wooden peg until blood, which enhances the flavor, is drawn. It is served with broth, spices and sometimes with vegetables.
Pinikpikan, when served, appears like a slightly more flavorful version of tinola or nilaga. Restaurants in Metro Manila have done away with the ritual but bear nearly the same taste as those served in Sagada, Banaue and Baguio. Other variants include pork.
Where to Find It: Woodfire Grill Republic (Metrowalk)
Originally an Ilocano delicacy, the papaitan is a soup dish known for its sour and bitter taste, hence the name. Its main ingredient is cow or goat innards. However, if consumers get past the “ick factor” of its primary components, they’ll be treated to a refreshing dish that goes well with rice and also meshes with the flavors of local viands like sisig, lechon kawali and crispy pata.
Much like sisig, a lot of diners were at first iffy about trying papaitan due to its unconventional components. It has eventually gained public acceptance, and is now a common go-to dish for many Filipinos.
Where to Find It: Aysee Sisig (Pasig), Mang Rudy’s Tuna and Grill and Papaitan (Makati), Quattro Grill and Bar (Timog), Pepeton’s Grill and Restaurant (Quezon City)
Balut, in itself, is already an adventurous food find, considering that it is duck fetus, complete with feathers, beak and egg juice. It has gained worldwide attention when shows like Fear Factor and those from Discovery Channel featured the food item.
The guys from Andoy’s Best, whose stall at Tiendesitas attracts many food adventurers – locals and foreigners alike, decided to push the envelope and added new dimensions to the popular Filipino delicacy. They offer bottled gourmet balut in different flavors, such as Afritada Balut, Kaldereta Balut and their best-seller Balut in Brine.
Where to Find It: Andoy’s Best (Tiendesitas)
Cover photo from dishesandplaces.wordpress.com