Food notes: Under one hundred peso thrills up North

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.

Photos by Blauearth Copyright © Blauearth™ ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Ilocos Norte Roadside Food Diversity (love eat pray)

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.

Blissfully enjoying their milk and shaved ice coolers

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.

Balaki and large dilis

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.

Barquillos and cornik

The dad and the kids had their favorite Ilocandia pizza and creamy corn soup, while I tried their asparagus soup and baked macaroni.

Though it looked good, there wasn’t anything very special about its taste.

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.


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!


“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
for today,
You blessed my work
you blessed my play.”

Photos by Blauearth Copyright © Blauearth™ ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Tayamen’s: Street food outside of the streets

Street food can be found all over the world. New York wouldn’t be New York without hotdog and pretzel stands. Can you imagine the Arab countries without the ubiquitous shawarma stalls? Or  Japan without the curb-side ramen and soba places? What if Hong Kong’s popular Mong Kok area lost all the dimsum and Peking duck food-booths? And what if esoteric isaw, quec-quec, betamax, helmet, tokneneng and adidas could no longer be found in the streets of Manila? Most definitely, a  bland world for someone who wants to have a taste of  the culture of a particular country or region he, or she, gets to visit.

There are fish ball vendors roaming the streets of  Laoag — the capital city of the northernmost province in the Philippines. But there is also Tayamen’s, which started as a makeshift  food stand in front of the owners’ home. In 1997, the owners receptively opened their home to  their regular habitués, who have become accustomed to calling them “tiyong” and “tiyang”, uncle and auntie in the vernacular.

No risky business when it comes to common Filipino street food — that is what Tayamen’s is all about. Freshness and safety is their foremost concern. Plus, its homey feel makes the place a magnet for school kids and young professionals, who want to let loose and enjoy  their food.

Fish Balls, fish nuggets, kikiam, chicken feet, isaw and  barbecue are the bestsellers of Taya, short for Tayamen’s, and a term popularized by their regular patrons. They also make the best take-out Ilocos longaniza which is sold by the kilo.

Isaw (pig intestines)

Fish nuggets and kikiam with sweet dipping sauce and the ever-present suka ken sili (vinegar and chili)

Once in a while, drinking ice-cold soda, especially after having fried food, won’t hurt *burps*


Tayamen’s Don E. Ruiz St. Laoag Ilocos Norte Philippines

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