Sabor Antiqueño: A gastronomic tour

// October 20, 2015

Kruhaaay! Experiencing the charm of Antique will never be complete without a gastronomic trip savoring its traditional dishes. The province’s ethnic cuisine is a product of ingenuity, good taste, and creativity. Last year’s Binirayan Festival featured the pride of Antique’s cuisine in a food showcase and photo exhibit dubbed as “Dapli.” Come and taste Antique’s pride – its delectable dishes and treats!

A paradise for the sweet tooth

After our three hour drive from Iloilo City, we were immediately greeted by our gracious hosts from the Antique Provincial Government with their mouth-watering display of native dishes. I, having a sweet tooth, treated myself with my favorite Antiqueño delicacy – pitsi-pitsi, peking crackers and butong-butong.

Pitsi-pitsi is made from grated cassava, sugar and flavorings. The creamy cheese and crisp grated coconut meat adds to the already savory flavor. Hmmm.

Butong-butong, another personal favorite, is made from the molasses of sugar cane. This sweet treat is made by stretching the thickened molasses to create a solid, soft and chewy candy. For a flavorful butong-butong, the sugary syrup is combined with coconut milk and pounded sesame seeds. Butong is a local term to pull; probably derived from the stretching of the molasses thereby creating a rope-like pattern of its texture.

The crispy peking crackers are also made from grated cassava – molded, dried under the sun and perfectly deep fried in cooking oil. It appears to be thin and tasty commonly topped or dipped in lasaw (sugarcane molasses).

Craving for more sweets? Try Antique’s wide selection of treats such as bandi (a candy made of peanut or coconut cyrstallized in muscovado), camote cue and turon, nilupe (grated cassava mixed with coco meat and sugar, wrapped in banana leaves and steamed), and another all-time favorite, cuchinta (transparent brown gelatinous rice cake made of rice flour, brown sugar and lye). These treats go perfect with a hot cup of choco prepared the Antiqueño way.

Seafood, crustaceans and more!

So enough of appetizers and it’s time for the main course! Antique’s kilometers of coastline and plentiful rivers are bountiful sources of delicious fishes and crustaceans.

A local favorite called ginag-ang nga isda is broiled or grilled in live charcoal and best paired by any vegetable stew. The sliced fish is seasoned with salt and soy sauce before grilling. Sinamak (spiced vinegar) is the best dip for the sinugba.

Pinarmahan is a very simple dish made of any variety of fish. After preparing and cleaning the fish, it is mixed with vinegar, a dash of salt to taste, sliced onions, garlic and ginger. The whole preparation is brought to a boil until almost dry. The dish stays edible until three days even without refrigeration when cooked in pure vinegar. The sour taste mixed with the milky quality of the fish makes this dish a must-taste!

River crustaceans are also abundant in Antique. The famous river shrimp called patuyaw or orang and kalampay (river crabs) is naturally roasted in a frying pan. The technique known to locals as “dinusdusan or sinanlag” aims to retain the natural flavors of the dish.   In other towns they stew it in gata (coconut milk) for added flavor.

Another delicacy in the town of Pandan called binabak is made of pounded river shrimps.  It is steamed with young coconut meat and ginger then wrapped in banana leaves.

Pork, chicken and beef cooked like no other

Kare-kare, even though popularly originated in other regions, tastes remarkably Antiqueños’ during our visit. Femos Kitchenette version includes ox tail, beef and occasionally offal or tripe in peanut or rice sauce with a variety of vegetables such as latoy (string beans), pechay leaves and puso saging (banana blossom). This dish is often eaten paired by sautéed ginamus (shrimp paste) spiced with chili and calamansi juice.

A native and very tasty soup dish called bingdonggadas also caught our attention. It is a thick soup that uses internal organs of a cow termed as libro (tripes) and the intestines as the main ingredients. These are cleaned very well and boiled for a certain period of time in water until tender. The tender meat cutlets are sautéed in garlic, onion and other secret herbs and spices depending on taste. Beef broth is then poured and brought to a boil; it is blended with a lots of bread crumbs to thicken the broth.

Adobo is another common popular cooking process which is very indigenous in Panay Island. It comes in many styles and innovation to create an original version and flavorful adobo. Originally our native adobo is cooked in vinegar and salt for longer storage. For innovation, chicken adobo is being stewed in gata (coconut milk), well-seasoned with our favorite condiments and spices such as vinegar, garlic, bay leaves, red long chili peppers and achuette for its appetizing color.

Then of course all-time favorite dish of the people of Western Visayas – KBL (Kadyos, baboy, langka). This dish is usually made of boiled pork leg, pigeon peas and slices of green jackfruit. The stew is soured by batwan, a local fruit which is bountifully found in Panay Island giving a peculiar sour taste to the dish. Batwan also removes the tedium of pork fat.

Vegetables galore!

Ginat-an nga dagmay is a flavorful and creamy vegetable stew made of dagmay leaves, stalks and tubers. The dish is complimented with kadyos (pigeon pea) and bagongon (river snail). The concoction is boiled in gata (coconut milk) to retain its tasty flavor. The dish is best eaten with hot rice, fried fish and pinakas or lamayu (dried fish) or with sinugba nga isda (grilled fish).

A native vegetable concoction made of balunggay, kapayas, tagabang, okra, alugbati, kalabasa, latoy, amargoso and tarong will surely be clear choice for the health conscious. Called linapwahan, this dish is prepared with vegetables combined and simply brought to a boil in water with tomatoes and onions, with a dash of ginamus (either a shrimp paste or fish sauce) to taste; they create the sweetest and most delicious stew. If the ginamus is not available, a pinch of salt to taste will do. To create a twist for the linapwahan, some add orang (fresh water shrimps), kalampay (river crabs), kalkag (dried shrimp fry), baog (dried anchovies) and slices of pinakas (dried fish). These are first brought to boil with tomatoes and onions before adding the vegetables.

So when you’re at Antique, stop over at restaurants or local carinderias, and make sure to order and taste their local dishes and delicacies. You will certainly love Antiqueño food. Kruhaaay!

DAPLI: A Food Photo Exhibit Showcasing Antiqueño Cuisines and Native Sweets, and SABOR ANTIQUEÑO was organized by Discovery Panay Island – Antique. 

Mark Segador is the author and publisher of “ILOILO: Your Guide to the Philippines’ City of Love”. The book is the first and only handy travel guide featuring Iloilo City. Now available at major bookstores.