Keeping the flames of the oldest Vigan restaurant burning

Sanitary Restaurant

The capital city of Ilocos Sur, Vigan, acclaimed for its well-preserved architecture and cobblestone streets, is well-defined in many aspects. Relative to its multi-colored history, other than traditional bagnet and longaniza, Mexican-influenced pipian and delicacies of Hispanic origins like masa pudrida, turones de mani, canatillo and torta, is a subsisting Chinese eatery named Sanitary Restaurant that serves mainstays, such as canton Luzon (pancit), kwekeng (also known as ngoyong), maki, hongkue (stuffed boneless chicken), carne agre dulce (sweet and sour meat), kimlo, lomi and the more popular siopao, mami and siomai. Passed down through generations, Sanitary is said to be the oldest restaurant in Vigan. Married into the family of the original owners, its current keeper, manong Vicente “Vic” Chua, does not know exactly the year it was established. All he remembers is that Sanitary was already in existence when he was little.

Vigan, Philippines

Sanitary Restaurant is not foreign to me. I’ve heard about it from, of all people, Manila-based Chinoy friends. I remember Vigan resident Mr. Bonito Singson also recently mentioned about his occasional breakfasts at the old Chinese restaurant. A visiting friend gave us kwekeng, fried pork rolls similar to kikiam, from her Vigan trip, but I really never had the time to go there myself until yesterday. We went to Vigan only to eat kwekeng, and then we ate more.

UntitledA photo with manong Vic.Sanitary Restaurant, ViganCanton Luzon

Canton Luzon (they also have a bihon Luzon) is very similat to Laoag’s La Moda pancit, but instead of lechon de carajay bits, it is topped with meatballs and pork; the flat noodles are also narrower. I liked the bun of the siopao — dense and very old-fashioned. The carne agre dulce (there’s also chicken and  liver) is presented differently, wherein snow peas and Chinese cabbage take the place of the more common carrots, pineapples or cucumber. Compared to most makis in Binondo, theirs was runny. Likewise in the menu, hongkue, a kind of rice-stuffed chicken steamed for a long amount of time, should be ordered one day in advance. That was what my husband really wanted to try because his dad, who passed away last year, made the best hongkue. My top picks from all that we ordered were siomai and kwekeng with the accompanying sauce.

Locals go there to eat pancit and siopao, but kwekeng, according to manong Vic, is bought in bulk as pasalubong or sent to Bigueños living in Manila.

Ilocanos who grew up wishing pancit instead of spaghetti, will always feel the nostalgia of good old Chinese food.

Siopao and SiomaiBola-Bola SiopaoKwekengSanitary’s  well loved kwekeng.Sanitary RestaurantMaki MiCarne Agre Dulce

Sanitary Restaurant 18 Gen. Luna St., Vigan, Ilocos Sur, Philippines

Sanitary Restaurant exterior photos by Reny and Brandon Tan
Photographed by Blauearth © Blauearth™ All Rights Reserved 2009-2015

Vigan Living: Casa Caridad


Renowned for its old world charm, Vigan (a designated UNESCO world heritage site), in the new millennium, has multiplied its efforts to preserve the historic town. It also recently made the New7Wonder Cities.

One of Vigan’s sons, tycoon Jose “Bonito” Singson, is so passionate about heritage preservation. He welcomed his longtime friend and FoodPrints host, Sandy Daza, and the team into his nest. A Vigan house so splendidly restored — a mix of Spanish Colonial, Chinese and Ilocano influences, the details very quiet, making personal memoirs and portraits and his daughter’s artworks stand out.

The Resident of Casa CaridadPias (Kamias)

The first time we were at Casa Caridad,  his house named after his late mother, he treated us to cocktails – the finest Ilocano nosh of “bogi ti Semana Santa”, ipon with capers, fresh oysters in the shell, fine wine and pias with salt to keep us up.

The next day, at the actual shoot of Sandy and Bonito’s trusted cook, manang Tita Mendoza, a historical spread unfolded. As a blogger, I’ve always aimed to experience Ilocano food from a different perspective. Hoping to blog about the food of Vigan separately and completely soon. Meanwhile you should watch the FoodPrints Vigan and Ilocos Sur episodes to see what I mean.

With so much thanks to Bonito Singson.

Sabong ti KarabasaFoodPrints Ilocos Sur BTSChef Sandy Daza in ViganBaldoza-TiledStained GlassA Vigan HouseVigan SweetsSampling Vigan’s Spanish influenced canatillo, turones de mani and balicucha.MaseteriaPiedra ChinaPiedra ChinaVintage Moviehouse SeatsIf you will notice, we were actually seating on vintage moviehouse chairs.AtriumA Vigan house like no otherIndayonPink Garden

Stained glass photo by Nikki Alfonso, hammock and door photos by Christine Rae de Leon and movie, Vigan sweets and second photo by Melanie de Leon.
Photographed by Blauearth © Blauearth™ All Rights Reserved 2009-2015