The rains did not stop us from going to Pampanga for another gastronomic adventure during the long weekend. We met up with Pat So in front of the Marquee Ayala Mall right off the NLEX Angeles exit. We asked Pat to take us around before leaving for his chef internship in Italy this September. He gave us a culinary tour of his hometown heritage specialties.
Tibok-tibok – a milk pudding meaning “heartbeat”, this version of Maja Blanca uses carabao’s milk instead of coconut milk and is served topped with latik. It reminds me of a pannacotta… nice and delicate, with a velvety smooth creamy texture.
Pancit palabok – Susie’s has the best palabok! The noodles are topped with shrimp sauce, boiled eggs, shrimps, chicharon (pork crackling), tinapa (smoked fish flakes), spring onions, and served with calamansi
Moche - is their version of mochi made with glutinous rice stuffed with mongo and cooked in coconut cream.
2. ROSING’S CANDY STORE (Nepo Mart and beside Susie’s)– Pastillas de leche are candies made from carabao’s milk. Rosing’s candies are a bit more pricey compared to the pasalubong stores but hey it is artisan with different flavors.
3. EVERYBODY’S CAFÉ ( Nepo Mart)– is known for their exotic food like frogs (betute) and kamaru (crickets). I didn’t think I would like kamaru but they tasted nice and crunchy for as long as I didn’t have to look at them.
Pindang damulag – tocino or cured carabao meat
Paku salad – fiddle-head fern salad with tomatoes, red eggs, and vinaigrette
Butete tugak – stuffed frogs with ground pork
Kamaru – mole crickets found in rice fields. It is cooked adobo style until crunchy
Morcon – meat loaf style braised meat
Halo-halo – their version of this cold dessert is made with saba (sweetened plantain), corn kernels, sweetened white kidney beans, buko (coconut meat), and pastillas. Halo-halo literally means mix-mix….so all the ingredients are mixed together with crushed ice and milk. The pastillas makes it special.
Dinuguan – a pork stew made with coagulated blood and pork innards. Corazon’s version has lots of garlic and the blood is chunky. Really great eaten with puto (rice cakes).
5. MILA’S THE ORIGINAL TOKWA’T BABOY – (San Andres Street, Sto Domingo) This place was also not easy to find! Surprisingly it has already been discovered by some celebrities and even the likes of madame Imelda Marcos (proof of their photos hanging on the wall). Aside from tokwa’t baboy… Mila’s can now stake claim to having the best sisig in town.
Sisig – an original Pampanga dish that is now considered Filipino mainstream food. It is made with grilled chopped pork cheeks and ears, minced chicken liver, minced onions, calamansi, soy sauce, and chilli. It is served on a sizzling plate!
Tokwa’t baboy – People come to Mila’s for their tokwa’t baboy. Chopped pork ears with onions, soy sauce, and vinegar with fried tofu. I think it is the celery and the deconstructed presentation that makes it unique.
6. A LA CREME (Mac Arthur Hi-way)- This local café fulfilled our craving for dessert after eating all that meat. A la Creme is one of the few places in town with ambiance and decent coffee (aside from Starbucks a few meters away). Signature cakes are ube macapuno pound cake with walnuts, and sinful chocolate cake.
7. KULIAT (OG Road, Dolores, San Fernando) - known for their empanadas. Ham and cheese is the best seller. A box of 10 pieces is worth P150 only.
8. JUN-JUN’S - for bibingka and barbecue (Fil-Am friendship highway). The bibingka is made with rice flour and coconut milk. The barbecue I found a bit too sweet but that is how Filipino’s like it.
9.NATHANIEL’S – puto pao, soimia, siopao, and known most of all for their buko pandan
10. Marquee Mall - We ended up back at Marquee mall and it felt like we were in Greenbelt.
This Ayala mall invades Pampanga with rows of international and Manila franchise restaurants. This for sure will change the Pampanga restaurant scene for the younger generation. Luckily Nathaniel’s, Kabigting’s, and Susie’s already have branches to compete with the global brands. Hopefully the presence of more homegrown restaurants in places like this in the future.
This Pampanga food trip was done with the fun company of Patrick So (foodie guide), Jester Arellano ( treasurer), Ian Nubla (driver), and Winnie Wong (navigator and photographer).