Join wannabe food blogger Shari in an out of the ordinary food trip!
|Exotic food from around the world! (Google Images)|
There is always that adventurous feel when you eat food that can only be found from a certain country. To relish the delicacies of another country is to immerse in its culture. When tourists and explorers go about, they always include the country’s famed dishes in the must-try list. For many, the traveling endeavor is not complete if the cuisine is not experienced. In fact, some people even take it to the next level. They travel around the globe to search for the most exotic dish they can find because they pride in being able to taste the weirdest of foods in the farthest of places.
However, travel expenses and restaurant bills can bust a deep hole in our financial pockets and that is just not a good thing for the thrifty traveler. So allow me, your humble blogger friend, to present a solution:
|Cebu! (Google Images)|
Come to Cebu, Philippines! In here, who said exotic had to be expensive? If you’re on for a vacation and just decide to stop by some random local eatery to get a taste of its interesting delicacies, then Philippines is the right place. Here in the Philippines, particularly Cebu, exotic can simply be found in the streets – for very affordable prices. It is merely part of the everyday local cuisine and diet. Filipinos see all animals or plants of different shapes and sizes, no matter how unorthodox, as a delicious eating opportunity. Not only do they stop at the animal’s meats, they throw in whatever else is in there: internal organs, blood and every other bit of the animal. In fact, some may look very weird or inappropriate to digest inside that you might have second thoughts about just ditching and running off to the nearest McDonalds. Nevertheless, if you get past the cover and read the book, you just might be able to enjoy these foods to the full extent.
So here I am, typing away at what is about to become the journal of my one-day exotic food trip. Yes, I did exactly what I just recommended. For the reason that I yearn for convenient, accessible and inexpensive exotic food. Without further ado, here is my experience with Cebu’s exotic pride.
|Photo from Google Images|
I recall that Fear Factor once dared its contestants to eat this iconic Filipino treat. The grossed out looks of the contestants still never fail to put a smile on my face as I imagine my countrymen happily eating the same chow. Ofcourse, to the locals, there is absolutely nothing daring about eating balut. To them, what’s so gruesome about that soupy, nearly-developed duck embryo boiled alive and eaten right in the shell? In fact, they would love to be paid a million dollars just to eat their favorite snack.
According to my mom, balut can only be purchased during the night. (It is sold this way so people won’t be able to see what they’re eating. ) The image of bustling markets and busy streets is never complete without the street food peddlers. In turn, the group of street food peddlers is never complete without Mr. Balut.
Balut is available in different age denominations depending on how old the embryo has developed. Sixteen day-eggs are the youngest, with the least developed features whereas eighteen day-eggs are the eldest, with the skeleton and feathers fully developed.
|Photo from Google Images|
Approaching one vendor in his cart filled with a row of eggs, I asked for the youngest 16-day egg. For 15 pesos, I bought one and took it home while it was still warm. From the outside, the egg was a shade of whitish-brown, and felt heavier than a chicken’s. Following the steps my friend told me on how to eat balut, I proceeded to crack a small hole on the rounder side of the egg. Once the hole was big enough to drink from, I peeked at the insides for one whole minute. It took me this much time until I could gather up the courage to finally suck the broth out of the egg. Surprisingly, that wasn’t so hard. The soupy substance, which is the egg’s amniotic fluid, tastes just like chicken egg soup. The next step was to continue removing the eggshell until the partially formed hatchling is exposed. Eat that and dip in salt and vinegar as you go.
|right before drinking the broth|
|Please don't eat me!!|
To be honest, I never got to that stage of the eating process. Well, I did take a bite off the custardy yolk but I couldn’t bring myself to eat the partially formed duckling. I felt its lifeless face staring right through me so helplessly, that I couldn’t bear to consume those limp, pink limbs and moist, feathery body.
Although it was a pretty interesting experience, I think I’ll abstain from eating balut for now. However, I’ll certainly applaud anyone who can devour the whole thing without hesistating in their first try.
|Dinuguan from Anna's Lechon, Robinsons Talisay|
I can still remember that scene in third grade, when I first encountered Dinuguan. My classmate bought this chocolate pudding-like soup from the canteen and ate it with rice. Intrigued, I went over and asked what it was. “Dinuguan” she replied. (At that time my Bisaya was really bad so I couldn’t tell the obvious reference of “dugo” in “dinuguan”) So I asked what it was made of. “Chocolate” she said as if it was no big deal. Even more intrigued, I asked if I could have a little taste. Just as I was about to swallow the spoonful of what I thought was some weird-tasting chocolate, another classmate blurted out “That’s pig’s blood!” At that moment, time stopped for my digestive system.” This has to be a joke right?” I asked, but the expression on her face remained seriously convincing. I asked my parents later and they confirmed that it really was pig blood. From then on, I knew I could not eat this pork blood stew again.
I had lunch in Robinsons Talisay’s food court and luckily, there was a stall that sold Dinuguan for Forty pesos a bowl. As I held the bowl close while walking slowly to my table, I could smell the peppery aroma of the stew. The warm small and green plastic bowl was filled to the brim with the thick broth of pork blood and floating bits of various pork offal, minced with different spices.
This time, there was no more hesitation. I gripped my spoon and had my first spoonful in a long time. Then I had my second, and then my third and before I knew it, I was enjoying my lunch. Hey, it actually doesn’t tastes so bad after all! It has that same tangy, greasy taste you get from lechon with added flavor from the blood and spices.
As I ate the spicy and vinegary stew, I passed by some pork meat and pork fat. However, I stopped when I came across a part that felt like the liver, which is something I also don’t eat. Now this is another challenge I’m going to look into.
|Gelatinous fat with lean, meaty pieces|
When my friend first mentioned Lansiao to me, I couldn’t help but laugh. Bull Testicle (and Penis) Soup?! What have the Filipinos come up with now? We truly live up to the saying that in Philippines, no animal part is wasted. Said to be an aphrodisiac, lansiao is mainly composed of a bull or horse’s private part stewed in rich broth with choice spices.
|Lord Christy Larangan, Lawaan, Talisay City|
It was no trouble finding a place to eat Lansiao here in Talisay because just outside Robinson’s Supermarket is Lord Christy Larangan. This local eatery specializes in the more interesting types of carenderia food, namely: Larang (meat with coconut stew), Balbacua (ox feet), and everyone’s favorite, Lansiao.
As I entered, I walked through the row of big kalderos (metal pots) to examine the different specialties. The air was thick with the steamy aroma coming from the stewing broths. After being offered a few different choices, I asked for a bowl of Lansiao. When it was handed to me, I politely asked the cook what it was made of. Manong Jerry, head cook of LC Larangan, then shyly replied “Bugan sa baka” or in English translated means “the bull's private part”.
With apprehension, I seated myself near the light and began scooping around the thick, sticky soup to check what was in there. At first glance, you couldn’t tell that the soup was made of testicles because the parts were diced and cut to smaller pieces. There were some lean meaty pieces and also gelatin-like fatty cubes floating about the broth.
I took a sip of the soup first. It was salty for my taste but it also had a hint of garlic, onion and pepper along with it too. I then took a few bites from the soft and tender slices of meat. Finally, I got to the gelatinous, fatty pieces with skin-like covering. This must be it, right? With a little trepidation, I sunk my teeth into that firm fatty piece and swallowed it whole. I just fed into my mouth the very organ that serves the bull's excretory functions.
Overall, I must say that this remarkable experience of mine proved two things. One, that Cebu's everyday street food is already considered exotic due to its unconventional style and two, that I definitely do not have a stomach of steel.
Online References Used:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dinuguan (retrieved 10/16/2011)