Let me quote the late Doreen Fernandez “A recipe is a social document. Its ingredients come from a particular natural setting, its procedures from a specific cooking tradition, its place a dietary pattern of evolution within a history and society” as a take off point in describing my personal view of Batanes cuisine.
Batanes was a subject of Spain in 1782. Basco was named after the Spanish Governor General. This explains the many churches and religious nature of the Ivatans. I think the Ivatan nose is very distinct. As a race they are beautiful people with sharp noses. Most of the Ivatans we have met have a very strong command of the English language backed up by a very good educational system introcuded by the Americans in 1909. During WWII the Japanese built strong holds and tunnels which are now tourist attractions.
The Ivatans live a simple life of fishing, farming, with plenty of grazing land for cattle and goats. The UNESCO world heritage stone houses were built to protect the people from the harsh weather during the stormy season. The kitchens of the homes are always separate form the main cottages. The locals still use firewood for cooking despite the fact that 24 hours electricity, cable TV, Cellphone and Internet connections are already available.
A typical Ivatan kitchen
Let me start this food trip with wonderful breakfast prepared daily by Chef Paul of B&B Fundacion Pacita:
In Batanes there is an abundance of tuber and root crops like turmeric, garlic, ginger, red and white shallots, gabi, ube (purple yam) and different varaties of kamote (yam). Corn is also a very common produce. Ginger is dried and made into “salabat” or ginger tea. Turmeric is added in their rice and even to the yellow lumpia (spring roll) wrappers.
Garlic, shallots, and corn
Yellow, purple, and white kamote are a favorite snack among the locals
The sea is also very abundant with lobsters, crabs, prawns, and cuttlefish. A very common fish is know as the “dibang” of flying fish. Dibang is also called “day old fish” when it is marinated with a little salt and vinegar and is hang out to dry in the sun for a day.
day old fish
Lobster lunch by the beach. There is not much banana trees in the island so breadfruit leaves are used to line plates.
The “Tatus” or coconut crab is found only in these parts of the Philippine islands. They live by the beach and feed on young coconut husks. I found the crab meat too oily. If you are a foodie..this you must try!
Sea urchin sells only for P25 for this much! Best eaten raw!
Since the islands are located at the northern most tip of the country, groceries and other food supply logistics come mostly from Tuguegaroa or are flown in via Manila. Food is not heavily seasoned and is kept simple. For authentic local dishes try Therese Coffee Shop at Pension Ivan (+63 921 4428841, +63 926 2917686). The restaurant and pension home is owned by Tess Valiante. Here are some of the Ivatan dishes:
Coconut crabs, Pancit Ivatan with homemade noodles topped with egg
Turmeric rice, Luniz (their version of adobo, pork rendered in its own fat with salt), kananiz ( like a cuttlefish or giant squid)
Dinakdakan -cattle’s skin chopped up with vinegar
Inihaw na tadyang (grilled ribs)
Venus – gabi stalks
Uvod balls – from banana ubod
Mixed Ivatan salad of blanched ampalaya, mangoes, fern, eggplant, tomatoes, onions, with bagoong (fermented fish/shrimp sauce)
Lauya or nilagang baka
Before you judge us (the four “young” chefs) for being such gluttons in this food trip…yes all that food for only the four of us!… May I say that aside from our original orders, Ms. Valiente kept on sending food for us to try when she found out we were there. Thanks Ms. Tess!
Another great find in Sabtang island – traditional Basi making!!!
Machine for extracting sugar cane juice which is fermented to make BASI wine. The stone press can also be pushed by a carabao.
Today the Ivatans are reconstructing, conserving, and preserving their cultural and natural heritage in order to become a full pledged UNESCO world heritage site. The people are kind and honest. Mother nature provides them food supply from its natural terrain and bountiful sea. No one is hungry so the local crime rate is almost zero. I could hide away in Batanes by myself without having to worry about safety. Oops! Now you know where to find me when I’m gone missing.hehe!
Happy Birthday Peachy!!!