Enjoying great local food on a shoestring budget…
- Batac empanada by the Riverside in Batac. The crispy shell is made of rice flour and filled with grated young papaya, mongo beans, egg and longaniza. I personally love Lanie’s (renamed Joza’s). Her pinais made from empanada shell dough, and tokneneng (deep-fried battered quail eggs) are just as tempting.
- ‘Now you see papaya, now you don’t because it’s cabbage’ empanada by Mildred’s, one of the oldest empanadahans in Laoag, located west of the Laoag Supermarket. I complained one time that mine had cabbage and Mildred says that she substitutes when green papaya is out of season.
- Butter ravioli made by Italian expat Mino of Mino’s Pizza. If you’re a “Mino’s virgin”, and not a Badoc local, but passing by the town of Badoc, a stopover at his home-cum-resto in Badoc is worth trying.
- Manang Cely’s no-frills homemade siopao and empanada with menudo filling. The Chinoy lady peddles around downtown Laoag between 3:00-5:00 PM. I can eat 2 of her large siopaos in one sitting, believe me.
- Banana cue and crispy turon from the food stalls in front of the Rizal Park in Laoag. The caramelized sugar coating is generous and crunchy.
- A hot bowl of the best paksiw ever in Ilocos Norte. Paksiw is soup made from beef innards and papaitan, and what makes Dawang’s the best is its smoky flavor. The best time to go is not later than 9:00 AM. Dawang’s Place, National Highway, San Nicolas.
- Yummy fifty peso tapsilog at the tapsilogan near the Earthquake Disco. Be forewarned that it is within the red-light district of Laoag.
- Imbaliktad and paksiw at the carinderia along Caaoacan Road, north of the Laoag Cemetery. The name, I can’t remember. Gosh, so sorry. I’ll update this when I get the name.
- Hi-bol, made from paksiw and Ilocano pancit guisado at Franklin’s along Nolasco St., Laoag.
- Tayamen’s Isaw and Fishballs. If you’re alone, or chipping-in, you can’t consume all of your violet bill.
- Bistro 51 Tapa Rice, which I had just today. At P95, and with cool live band music to go with the dinner, definitely a steal! B51 is in Nangalisan, Laoag.
- The original “spaghetti by Sarah” at Tita Sarah’s Fine Foods, F.R. Castro St. Laoag City. It’s not Italian, it’s not Filipino, I just know that her spaghetti recipe is so original.
- Cuapao, a Chinese sandwich with a filling of braised pork, preserved mustard leaves and ground peanuts. It’s only Macy’s Diner who makes it here in Ilocos Norte. Macy’s is at the ground floor of the Tiffany Hotel, Gen Segundo Ave., Laoag.
- Lomi with kikiam and fishballs from one of the oldest existing panciterias in Laoag, Oriental Grill, along Rizal St.
- Tinuno at Leader’s Eatery. I haven’t tried, actually, but a friend always talks about it, so I hope to check it out one of these days. P. Gomez St., Laoag.
- Tamago sushi at the Fort Ilocandia’s Delicatessen Shop. The last time I went, a six pack cost me less than fifty pesos.
- Either el cheapo curbside native halohalo, available in the summer, or the year-round Chow King halo-halo. Chow King stores are located in Laoag and Batac.
- Candied fruits like santol, tamarind and kamias from the Laoag Carmelite Monastery, P. Gomez St.
- Cupcakes with marshmallow icing at P4.50 each from St. Annibale Bakeshop, F.R. Castro St., Laoag.
Not really homegrown…
- Pick-me-up Almond Roca chocolate drink for P95. More to choose from at Coffee and Crepes, Level I, Robinsons IN.
- Old-fashioned chocolate eclairs, English toffees, gummy bears, jelly beans and more. Grab then at Pick & Mix, Ground floor, Robinsons IN.
- Really chewy mozarella balls from good ol’ KFC. P50 per order of Chewy Cheese at KFC, Robinsons IN
- Max’s Fresh Lumpiang Ubod or Frozen Fruit Salad. If you order both, P100 isn’t enough. Max’s Restaurant, Gen. Segundo Ave., Laoag.
- Melt-in-your-mouth fresh pastillas de leche and chewy macapuno balls from Red Ribbon, 365 Mall, San Nicolas. Forget the snooty store manager who wouldn’t allow me to take photos — the very antithesis of sweet.
- McDonald apple pie, yes, still charming as ever. They have McDo stores in Laoag and San Nicolas.
I’m sure there are a lot more in Ilocos. Please leave suggestions, if you have any, so I can try them out and feature them in the future.