Friday, March 1, 2013

Philippines, Palawan: Food

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The KFC Grandfather meets the Jollibee, um, bee. Jollibee is a popular Filippino fried chicken chain (Savory being the main competition); the Colonel is available on the main island, but not yet in Palawan. I ordered the value meal, which was as follows, for 99 PHP:

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There's a piece of greasy over-breaded chicken, a packet of rice, some pineapple-ade, and macaroni soup. There are numerous fast food chains, including internationals like Shakeys, and indigenous ones such as Noki-Nocs, where I had a delicious creamy beef and mushroom "topping", meaning it goes on top of your rice.

Another chicken chain, though not fast, is called Ka Inato, which wins a mild endorsement for the spicy grilled chicken leg, and nothing else:

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Puerto Princesa is not a big city, but even as the culinary hub of Palawan, the choices are limited, and mostly not too far from the airport. Good seafood is available at Ugong Rock, where I had a starter of Bagnet, which is crispy deep-fried fatback pork with skin on, followed by a creamy white-fleshed Bangus, aka, milkfish:

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Puerto is also the best place to obtain some of the island's unusual foods. First up, and perhaps most famously, is "balut"; this is a duck or chicken egg that has been allowed to develop for seventeen days so there is a recognizable embryo inside, then it is boiled in vinegar:

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Though the liquid inside is rather strong, overall it tastes like a hard-boiled egg, only a bit crunchy.

Two more unusual foods are tamilok, which is the raw worm from the bark of a mangrove tree, dipped in vinegar and pepper sauce (at 6 to 8 inches long, three was enough for me); and crocodile sisig--sisig is a preparation style where the meat is chopped and pan-fried with salt and black pepper:

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I spent several days in the west coast village of Port Barton, where the best restaurant was this place, called Kusinero del Barrio, which doubles as a travel agency:

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Everything I ate there was really good. Typical fare, Filipino beef stew, called Kaldereta:

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Nice rustic scene in the village. What's for dinner? Chicken and pork adobo, I suspect:

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Indeed, chicken and pork adobo was one of the dishes we made in Mr Ventura's kitchen though the ingredients came from the market. The key ingredients, prepped:

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First, you add a little oil to a hot wok, and fry the garlic. Add shallots, then dump in the pork. Let it cook for a while before adding the chicken. Then coat everything with soy sauce, turn down the heat, cover and simmer. Say, 20 minutes later, add vinegar (preferably coconut vinegar), and let simmer until you're ready to eat it (over rice):

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We also grilled blue marlin ...

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... and made a spicy crabs and prawns dish, using finely minced garlic, more chopped shallots, six or seven tiny but super-hot chillies, chopped fine and a half-cup or so of ketchup. Steam the shellfish first, then crack and/or peel them, then stir 'em around in the pan for a few minutes. Lovely:

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Art Ventura took me to a hang-out called Katabom on my first night, and I went back whenever possible; there was a really great vibe there, super-cold beer, and live music. He introduced me to Jud, a guitarist whose sets invariably included several Simon and Garfunkel tunes, some Cat Stevens, and even a bit of Pink Floyd:

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The next band seems to always be a five-piece traditional group, with a big drum sound, for whom the bar gets packed.

Of course, a lot of the pleasure of travel is in meeting people, so Thanks! Art, Jud, Dexter the Eldorado bartender, the movie FX Canadians Nick and Tanya, Sabina and Manfred, and Mister Colorado. Remember to take a hat, we may end up miles from here!

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