Homecooked Filipino food tends to be on the safe side, save for the occasional dinuguan (pig blood stew) and kare-kare (a peanut-based stew which makes use of oxtail and tripe as its meat component). Those, however, pale in comparison with some interesting dishes from Pampanga, the province that’s also better known as the food capital of the Philippines.
There are three popular places in Pampanga where you can sample exotic dishes—Everybody’s Cafe, Camalig Restaurant, and 19 Copung Copung Grill. We’ve probably dined at the latter for over five times already, and tried different dishes each time. Here’s what we ordered, and what you should, too:
Batute (Stuffed Frog)
Also called “tugak,” Batute or stuffed frog is a popular exotic dish in Pampanga. The frog used in the dish is typically sourced from rice paddies. It is filled with minced meat, carrots, onions and such as you would typically find in lumpia (spring rolls), before being submerged in boiling oil. The taste? For those worried that it may taste somewhat swampy, relax—it tastes just like chicken. Take our word for it.
Adobong Kamaru (Mole Crickets)
We took home Adobong Kamaru which my grandmother absolutely enjoyed. It was surprisingly good, to say the least, as compared to the greasy and cringe-inducing one that we’ve tried before at another restaurant. It’s buttery and salty, crunchy and not too oily like what we had before. If you are afraid that those tiny bug parts would get in between your teeth, it won’t. The crickets are not stringy, and deep-fried in such a way that you’d feel like you’re eating your chips.
Kalderetang Kambing (Goat Stew)
Kaldereta is a Filipino dish based in tomato sauce or ragu. It often involves the use of beef spare ribs, but goat is sometimes used as an alternative, especially when the dish will be served during special occasions. This one tastes markedly different from the Tagalog version in that there’s a hint of sweetness. The goat meat is firm, compared to the fall off the bone version that we cook at home.
Papaitang Kambing (Soup Dish)
Papaitan is a soup dish that contains goat innards, brain, skin and even eyes (the whole lot, yes). It derives its name from the Tagalog word, “pait,” which translates to bitter in English. The bitterness is due to the bile, although the dish also has a tangy flavor, with the addition of tamarind. Papaitan is an acquired taste, but you can’t get enough of it once you got used to it.
Adobong Itik (Duck in Adobo Sauce)
This is a lovely, sweet and salty dish where the adobo sauce was reduced to the point of non-existence. I have always been a fan of duck dishes, and this one did not disappoint. The duck meat was melt in your mouth tender, almost falling apart. The flavor may be a little overwhelming, but if you are big on hearty dishes, then this one should be right up your alley.
We’d have pork sisig any time of day because it’s just too sinful to pass up on. Pork sisig is a sizzling “wok” dish that is composed of pork cheeks and other tendon/collagen-rich parts of the pig. It also sometimes include liver. Pork sisig is a popular bar chow and goes very well with sub-zero beer like San Miguel Pale Pilsen; we love it as a lunch dish though.
Fried Rice in Taba ng Talangka (Crab Fat)
You can tell that we, here at BFOWB, love fatty food. While we do not recommend gorging on grease-laden food every chance you get, in 19 Copung Copung’s fried rice with crab fat/roe is a good exception. It is flavorful and rich, and the briny taste makes it go well with any kind of dish on the menu. Each serving is good for 3 to 4 persons.
Grilled Chicken Intestines
Who doesn’t love grilled chicken intestines? Rumor has it that Filipinos learned to eat innards of red meat and poultry, as these were the scraps that they were left with to eat during the Spanish times (the country was under Spanish rule for 300 years), while their colonizers enjoyed the good stuff. Spanish dishes do include innards, however, so it may just be among the country’s many influences on local culture.
These are just some of the most popular exotic food in Angeles, Pampanga that you ought to try in this lifetime. If you cannot go to Pampanga, some of these dishes can also be sampled in nearby provinces, such as Cavite and Antipolo, or even in Manila. Sisig and kaldereta are the most accessible from the list, as they are served in most Filipino restaurants.
Nearby restaurants that are somehow close to Manila that serve exotic food include Don Juan, a watering hole in Tagaytay, which serves Crocodile Meat Sisig, while family restaurant RSM Lutong Bahay serves Ginataang Kuhol (snail cooked in coconut-milk). Balaw-Balaw in Antipolo, Rizal is famous for its uok or coconut worm, which celebrity chef Andrew Zimmern famously ejected from his mouth.
Have you tried any of the dishes above? What’s a exotic popular dish in your country? Share it with our readers below.