I live in a far away place. Even in my own province, the town of Bagac is considered far. It is 28 kms away from the city and it is a pretty rural town. When I was in college my friend and I would joke that this place is so barriotic. There is only one rural bank without an ATM service, no movie house, not even a restaurant! But what Bagac lacks in glam, it makes up for with scenic views, fresh air, and many other environment wonders.
The food is very Filipino, simple and humble, rich in seafood and fresh produce. After all, Bagac is primarily a farming and fishing town. However, you cannot truly say that the food from here is ordinary because like other places in the country, there are those plates that truly count as the town’s own delicacies. Only in Bagac, shall we say?
Just last weekend I had a taste of this unique Filipino food that is distinctly from Bagac. On the menu: bayawak (monitor lizard) adobo, bolinao (fish) tinola, and cashew curly cookies. While these main dishes are not everyday food here, they are a must try. I think they qualify as exotic food, at least bayawak adobo is for sure! It was my first time to sample them too (thanks Daddy!) because as much as I want to say I am a food lover, I cannot say my tongue is truly adventurous. But I guess because I ate these dishes I am going in the right direction!
Let me tell you something about bayawak adobo. It looks every bit like regular chicken adobo only that it is made from the meat of a monitor lizard. I must admit it took a lot of courage on my end to eat it but I thought “Hey, there is no harm in trying anything once right?” so I grabbed one meaty cut and into my mouth it went.
I found that there was nothing exactly like the meat of bayawak. It is similar to chicken but it has more flavor, like a sweetness to it. But the texture is more like beef. You have to really chew it and break the meat apart and there is a good heartiness to it. The flavor is really full bodied considering that it was a reptile that I was eating. Actually it was not awful like I thought it would be! So I went for more and tasted the skin.
On the photo, the skin is the little black parts that you see on the meat. There is really not much flavor on the skin or any crispiness but what struck me the most was the texture. You can actually feel the ridges on the skin and with this comes the disturbing reminder that “Hey, you are actually eating a monitor lizard here!”
Next is bolinao tinola. I think the main component is the same fish used in dried dilis. Believe it or not, I was more hesitant to try this than the bayawak adobo. I am not really the biggest fish fan, especially when it is wet and this is practically the epitome of wet fish. You can see the white flesh of the fish and it is soaked in a watery broth. But in the spirit of adventure, I had to give it a try, and you know what, it tasted real nice!
What made it for me was the broth. It was spicy because of the leaves of siling labuyo (chili) and it had just the right amount of fishy-ness to it. The ginger adds that wonderful finishing kick and the whole dish just grows on you with every spoonful. On its own, the fish did not have a lot of flavor and really you have to be careful of ingesting the bones but over all, it is a warm, hearty bowl that I would eat again.
If there is one thing I wish Bagac wold be famous for, it would not be for the perfect sunsets or the freshest quality of air, but for these cashew curly cookies. I swear when I get rich I would feed this to the world to make everyone happy. Too bad I do not know how to bake these cookies but they are literally heaven. You should come to Bagac for these cookies alone!
They are these little cookies with a cashew nut tucked inside. See Bagac is famous for its cashews. I think the ones in Antipolo actually came from here! If I am guessing correctly, these cookies are a very special kind of butter cookies. I am not really sure but every piece is buttery, creamy, with the perfect amount of sweetness, and it is just melt in your mouth goodness.
You know how sometimes your mouth orgasms when you eat something good? This is really that kind of yummy-ness that you should never miss. I know they do not look like much on the photo but do not let the looks deceive you because you will be surprised how much you can eat in one sitting! A single container sells for P125 but I assure you, the taste of these cookies are worth more than that. I will buy them even if you double that price.
So these are the tastes, flavors, and textures that capture my hometown on a plate. Indeed, Bagac is a warm, hearty, exotic, and sweet place all rolled into one. Bataan may be famous for its fall, but its food is definitely going anywhere but that.