On our way to Paraiso ti Caribquib in Banna, where we had so much fun from a zipline adventure, we were already planning where to eat a late merienda. Herencia Café in Paoay won over Shakey’s at the 365 Mall in San Nicolas.
Before leaving, I noticed Alexa playing with this Taiwanese creature close to the creek below the zipline cable. Or, perhaps, mestizo because Ilocano bisokols have darker and smaller shells. This bisokol belongs to the edible snail family. Bisokols are cooked in many ways. (Here’s one recipe, by the way.) That was the start of a string of diversified food sights for us.
We took the shorter Banna-Batac-Paoay route. No more lomboy (duhat), sarguelas and tropical halo-halo from makeshift stands on the sides of the roads. Summer is so over! The babies had the year-round ice scramble instead.
In Batac, near the plaza, I got curious what were inside the casseroles. My grandmother on my father’s side was from Batac, The Home of Great Leaders. To me, it is also the home of great cooks. When my siblings and I were little, my grandmother, who settled down in Laoag after marrying a Chinese immigrant in Laoag (which makes me a Chinese-Ilocano), fed us with callos, tomato shell macaroni casserole, miki (Batac style) and other dishes only she can cook with great success. Hers were very distinct in taste. Moreover, it was only in Batac where I had a sample of unforgettable papaya bark inkalti (fondue). It is also Batac’s empanada and either Tops or Ilaga meringue that make me go to Batac pretty often.
Ilocano pulutan were inside the casseroles. The vendor in the photo had dinakdakan, insarabasab, crispy bagbagis (pig intestines), callente (beef skin) and kilawen a dilis. Pulutan are like hors d’oeuvres, perfect with alcoholic drinks.
It was a novel experience for me to see fish kilawen being peddled on the streets. Kilawen a dilis is a mix of raw anchovies, Ilocos vinegar, crushed ginger bits and a tad of salt. Some cooks add a sprinkling of calamansi or lemon juice.
Fish vendors gravitate to the Tops Bakery entrance, even though it is located on a side street in Batac. Business must be good for everyone. Unfortunately, Tops ran out of their browned egg white sweets known as meringue.
L’heure bleue was the perfect time to reach Paoay. Standing splendidly against the blue lit painterly skies is the famous Earthquake Baroque Paoay Church, also known as St. Augustine Church, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Herencia Café across the small street fronting the church is also a souvenir shop. They offer their own novel food products, cornik, Ilocos wines, postcards and a few knickknacks.
The multeity of food we got to see on our roadside food trip is a clear representation of the multiculturalism in Ilocos Norte as a society — a hodgepodge of different grooves, characters, colors and tastes.
-AT THE END OF THE ROAD-
Home Sweet Home
After an entire afternoon of fun and stimulating sights, we were back in our home, where, oh my, a goat dinner was ready. The hubby couldn’t resist the person who sold his goat for his child’s tuition. There are several goat dishes that an Ilocano can come up with. We had suam (soup made from goat innards), adobo, kaldereta and kilawen.
Kaldereta is my fave. It is a stew made of ribs, shank and other bony parts; bell pepper slices, pineapple chunks, tomato sauce, cheese, and crushed crackers; and whole black olives for the more finicky in taste.
Very Ilocano kilawen a kalding (grilled goat meat) is only for the adventurous palate. The easy method to prepare kilawen is by grilling the whole goat with flame from a blowtorch (yes, that welding tool), after which it is cut-up to make smaller portions for it and the other dishes. Red onion slices and calamansi juice are added to the thin meat slices. I prefer giving mine a zing with sweet pickle relish.
An eyeful and tummyful of yum!
-SAY A LITTLE BEDTIME PRAYER-
“Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
See me safely through the night,
And wake me with the morning light.
Thank you, God
You blessed my work
you blessed my play.”