Attention Foodies: Bacolod City Is Not Only About Chicken Inasal!
Choose Philippines | October 03, 2019
Story and photos by Yasmin Pascual-Dormido
Banner image from @chichajo
Over the years, Bacolod has gained popularity in food tourism. Every tourist who has been to Bacolod will agree that the city is home not only to people who love to eat but also to those who have a talent for whipping up good food. As such, when in the City of Smiles, tourists must go restaurant-hopping and taste the delectable dishes prepared by the meticulous hands of Bacolod chefs and cooks.
Soup lovers should not miss having a bowl of Bacolod's famous Batchoy. Tourists troop to a restaurant at the corner of 21st and Lacson Streets where this hearty soup made of noodles, pork, chicken, and beef, swimming in a rich stock and topped with bone marrow and chicharron, is served alongside a couple of slices of buttered toast.
21 Restaurant opened in 1984 as a snack house. On regular days, the restaurant is able to sell over 50 bowls of piping hot Bachoy. During the “ber” months, their orders could reach 200 bowls and beyond per day.
The bowls of Batchoy, an original recipe of the Gamboa family, was offered in what used to be known as the Food Corner. Iloilo may be famous for its La Paz Batchoy, but Chef Karen Vallota said the Batchoy in Bacolod has a distinct flavor. “The secret to our sumptuous Batchoy, I believe, lies in the stock,” reveals Chef Karen, “The flavor is in the broth. That is why our Batchoy is flavorful.”
Meanwhile, those who crave for homecooked goodness troop to Aboy’s, a restaurant known for its Laing or Pangat in Hiligaynon. Laing, a Bicolano dish made of dried taro leaves cooked in coconut milk with pork belly and chili peppers, is among the restaurant’s bestsellers. Other specialties include Linabog Nga Pagi, Grilled Blue Marlin, Squid Ink and Fat Adobo and Sautéed Oyster Mushrooms.
“When Aboy’s started in 1992, it first served Laing and Bicol Express,” said Operations Manager Joemarie Matulac, “We also introduced Ihaw-Ihaw (grilled food). Ang Blue Marlin talaga namin ang pumapatok dito eh (The Blue Marlin is among the most popular offerings).”
The restaurant now has pre-prepared and ready to cook specialties that tourists and visitors can bring home after a vacation in the city. Vacuum-packed Laing, Blue Marlin, and other specialties of the house are now available for customers to bring back to family and friends.
“Pwede mo ng pasalubong kasi naka-vacuum na siya,” Joemarie adds, “Kahit na 10 hours na dadalhin mo sa malayo sa Manila, pwede pa siya. Hindi masisira, i-heat mo nalang. (You can bring it home as a gift because the food is vacuum packed. It will stay fresh after 10 hours of travelling far, even all the way to Manila. It won’t spoil. Just heat it to enjoy.)”
Those craving for comfort food like Manok Sa Ubad or native chicken soup with banana pith and Linagang Baka have a place to go in the City of Smiles.
Sandok, a casual restaurant is known for its delicious and comforting native recipes. Tiffany Chua put up the restaurant along with Tamara Javelosa and Thea Valdez in 2014. Most tourists call it the home of the best KBL. “I used to stay in Manila for the longest time, and every time I go home. I look for KBL,” shares Tiffany, “It’s the KBL which is usually served at home. It’s what made us popular. Now, you can just buy it anytime.”
An abbreviation for its main ingredients, KBL is an Ilonggo dish that consists of Kadyos (pigeon peas), Baboy (pata or pork hock), and Langka (Jackfruit), simmered in a rich broth and given a sweet and sour finish by Batwan, a souring ingredient that is hard to find outside the Ilonggo region. The soup is served piping hot in a clay pot.
Tamara believes that no matter how many good restaurants there are in the city, people will always go back to home cooked meals. She observes that Bacolod used to be known only for its chicken inasal but after they’ve introduced KBL as a specialty in their restaurant, the dish got attention. “When you say Bacolod, it’s Inasal because they always think of Inasal. But now, I think, they can also relate it with KBL,” says Tamara.
[related: The Home of the Best KBL in Bacolod]
One of the oldest restaurants and the very first drive-in restaurant in the city established in 1965 is Bob’s. The owners got inspired by a restaurant in the United States and thought of putting up a similar resto when they got back home. “It was really American influenced. The very first meals we had were pizza, burgers, sandwiches, and steak. The steak dinner during that time was only P10 for imported steak,” shares Bob Magalona, son in law of the owners, “Slowly, as the restaurant grew, my mother-in-law, Conchita Varela Sicangco, who loves to cook, introduced the local dishes. One of them is the best-seller, Sate Babe.”
The restaurant’s bestsellers are heirloom recipes handed down through several generations: from the great grand matriarch, Gloria Yulo Varela to his mother-in-law Conchita Varela Sicangco, to her daughter Cynthia, who is now continuing the legacy. Sate Babe, Lumpiang Ubod and Sizzling Boneless Bangus are among the specialties. The restaurant is also famous for its signature fruit punch.
To give a sweet finish to a hearty meal, Calea is the place to go to. The pastry shop along Lacson Strip is the go-to place for the sweet tooth. It is best known for its cheesecakes and imported moist chocolate cake. Its ice cream cakes are a hit too.
Tourists never fail to drop by and grab a few boxes of cakes for pasalubong before heading back home. The store is busiest during the “ber” months as cake orders pile up. During the holidays, orders for pick-up could reach 200 whole cakes and beyond daily.
With the many restaurants old and new, offering a wide array of dishes, tourists are assured of a gastronomically satisfying stay in the City of Smiles.