The Philippines is no stranger to bizarre food. One of our delicacies balut (boiled, fertilized egg) is considered Fear Factor-worthy, while other seemingly scary snacks like adidas (grilled or sauteed chicken feet), betamax (solidified pig’s or chicken’s blood) and isaw (skewered chicken intestines) are regular fare for most Pinoys.
What I find interesting is coming across seemingly unlikely combinations in snacks during travel.
For instance, what do you get when you mix a normal snack (ex. a burger) with a local food specialty (ex. bangus or milkfish)? You guessed it – Bangus Burger! (I spotted this in a stall in Bolinao, Pangasinan along with Bangus empanada and Bangus Arrozcaldo which I was unfortunately not able to taste due to our limited time there.)
Anyway, here are a five interesting combinations that I have tried from recent trips.
- What it is: Pizza with spicy laing, bicol express, mozarella cheese and a sprinkling of crispy bagoong on top
- Where found: Camsur Watersports Complex, Naga City, Bicol
- Cost: P230.00 in CWC
Any kind of pizza (except Hawaiian) is good for me. The Laing Pizza (also called ‘Bicolano Special’) combines a thin crispy crust, rich mozzarella cheese and a generous topping of spicy laing and bicol express – traditionally made with gabi leaves and pork bits cooked in coconut milk and sili. The combination of vegetables, bagoong and cheese may seem really strange, but the first few slices can be pretty tasty. After a while you might find yourself craving for rice and pork chops. Like all pizzas, this goes down best with a bottle of beer. (Hey, in Korea they actually serve Kimchi pizza.)
- What it is: Chocolate cupcake with chili bits
- Where found: Public market in Virac, Catanduanes
- Manufactured by: GZ Lopez Food Enterprise, Catanduanes
- Cost: P4.00 each
The cupcakes look perfectly normal on the outside and you can only see the red specks of chili as you bite into it. The cupcakes taste predominantly sweet with just a little kick. While there is a bit of a spicy undertone to the cupcake, it’s not too hot to handle. Light but filling.
CRISPY TAHONG (MUSSEL CHIPS)
- What it is: Crunchy green mussel chips
- Where found: Cavite
- Manufactured by: Mo. Bonifacia Rodriguez Foundation Inc., Rosario, Cavite
- Cost: P80.25/pack (in selected grocery stores)
The first thing you’ll notice upon opening a pack is the extremely salty smell of the dried mussels. Crispy tahong tastes like crunchy dry peanuts and leaves an earthy taste in the mouth. It kind of reminds me of the taste of fried crickets sold in Bangkok’s street stalls. It’s said to be a rich source of iron, protein and magnesium, with no MSG or preservatives. Though I’m a big fan of baked mussels with cheese, I found this a bit hard to eat without a drink. It would probably make an interesting pulutan choice.
CANDIED BACON ICE CREAM
- What it is: Ice cream with bacon bits (say what?!)
- Where found: Mercato market in the Fort
- Manufactured by: Merry Moo!
- Cost: P60.00/scoop
Ice cream. Yum. Bacon bits. Yum. Together? Umm… well, it’s sweet with salty bacon bits. You get the picture. The bacon bits aren’t chunky, they’re really small, just like tiny chocolate chips or nuts so you don’t really taste an overwhelmingly bacon flavor. The bacon bits add a bit of texture to the sweet creamy ice cream. It’s interesting and defintely worth a try. (I really liked the Strawberry Basil flavor!) (Note: I know bacon is not a local specialty and was planning to include durian ice cream instead but this has already been mass marketed and is considered fairly common in the country. Bacon ice cream seemed much more interesting.)
CHICHA-RABAO (CARABAO CRACKLINGS)
- What it is: Processed carabao (water buffalo) skin made into chicharon or cracklings
- Where found: Tugugegarao, Cagayan
- Manufactured by: Lighthouse Cooperative, Tuguegarao
- Cost: P40.00/pack or 3 for P100.00 (in Tiendesitas and select groceries)
Crispy on the outside but a bit hollow on the inside, this variant of our favorite cracklings has a slightly strong smell and aftertaste. If you can get past what it’s made of, it can make a pretty good snack as it doesn’t taste as heavy as the normal pork rind cracklings. We were given packs of the hot and spicy variant during a recent trip to Tuguegarao, but it also comes in plain garlic. Another interesting bar chow choice that is still relatively unknown.
I’ll be on the lookout for more interesting combinations like these. If you’ve come across any interesting food mashups, please share them as well! 🙂
[UPDATE: A longer version of this article Weird, but Tasty was published in the June 9, 2011 issue of SIM.]