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Eats always a great time in Iloilo City

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How Iloilo City’s delicious delicacies reveal the history and rich culture of the Ilonggos

During our two-day tour of Iloilo City courtesy of Seda Atria, we found out that Ilonggo cuisine is one of the most interesting culinary discoveries you’ll find in the Philippines. It is a mixture of both Spanish and Malay influences, creating a unique regional flavor that makes it stand out from the rest.

Aside from being rich in cultural heritage and history (it is a heritage lover’s dream), Iloilo City is a treasure trove of hole-in-the-wall culinary gems and classic dishes.

It is adventurous yet inviting, its flavors familiar and comforting, yet above par.

It’s a bit difficult to explain in words, so we’ll try to explain it with mouthwatering photos instead and give you a list of places on where best to try them.

Netong’s La Paz Batchoy
Inside the La Paz Public Market, La Paz

Netong’s is said to be the creators of the now famous Ilonggo dish: batchoy. Created decades ago to feed the train workers in the city, the warm and filling bowl of egg, noodles, innards, and a myriad of aromatic toppings became a staple in local merienda (afternoon snack) sessions.

Netong's original La Paz Batchoy

Netong’s original La Paz Batchoy

Netong’s recipe hasn’t changed since they opened in the 1940s, according to their operations manager Patrick Guillergan — the third generation of the family to own the business.

There’s no right or wrong way to eat batchoy, so long as you enjoy it to your filling. Although based on experience, if by the end of it, you’re not filled with batchoy goodness, you’re doing it wrong.

Madge’s Café
Inside the La Paz Public Market, La Paz

Madge’s Café inside the La Paz Public Market is proof that designer coffee is nothing
but a complete rip off!

The iconic Madge Café inside La Paz Market

The iconic Madge Café inside La Paz Market

For PhP45 (less than US$1), you can get a tall cup of iced chocolate drink made from real, locally made tablea (pure cocoa tablets). It’s not overwhelmingly sweet, it’s brewed while you wait, and it is the perfect way to beat the afternoon heat when going around Iloilo City.

Deocampo’s Barquillos
Sta. Isabel, Jaro

Mang Jun makes those crispy cylinders of milky goodness with the finesse only a 15-year barquillos veteran could muster. With a simple flick of his wrist and a wave of his wand (aka spatula), he makes thin wafers and rolls it around stainless steel cylinders to make the barquillos.

We got to taste freshly made barquillos, still warm from the flat pan, as we roamed around the store for more pasalubong (souvenirs/snacks) to buy.

It is a must to bring home packs of these cylindrical wafers because it is perfect with your morning or afternoon coffee or as an added crunch to ice cream.

Camiña Balai Nga Bato
Villa Arevalo District

Inside a beautifully preserved stone house from the 1860s is a museum-slash-restaurant.

At the ground floor is the museum with a weaving loom, a workshop and a store making and selling authentic batirol (steel pitchers for making authentic chocolate drinks) and batidor (wooden mixer), and a myriad of other local and religious items.

The second level houses the restaurant, which serves the best Molo Soup (chicken wanton soup) and Tsokolate Eh (thick hot chocolate made from authentic tablea) in the city.

At first we thought the mamon tostado (toasted bread) and biscocho (twice-baked biscuit) were for the tsokolate eh, but as it turns out, it’s the perfect accompaniment for the Molo Soup. You can never go wrong with salty and sweet, my friend.

Molo Soup from Camiña Balai Nga Bato

Molo Soup from Camiña Balai Nga Bato

Breakthrough Restaurant
Villa Arevalo District

Breakthrough Restaurant is already one of the major stops at any Iloilo City tour and there’s a great reason behind it—they serve the best and the freshest seafood in the city.

Make sure to dip your fish or shrimp on some Sinamak, their local spiced vinegar, also known as that magic elixir that makes you break your diet.

Iloilo's pride Sinamak (spiced vinegar)

Iloilo’s pride Sinamak (spiced vinegar)

Baked Talaba with Cheese from Breakthrough

Baked Talaba with Cheese from Breakthrough

Simple yet delicious Steamed Prawns from Breakthrough

Simple yet delicious Steamed Prawns from Breakthrough

Misto at Seda Atria
Seda Atria Hotel, Pison Road

Seda Atria recently celebrated their first anniversary in Iloilo City by hosting a Mardi Gras-themed party last September with a lip-smacking buffet that showcased the best of Ilonggo cuisine, Mediterranean fare, and more international treats courtesy of their executive chef Shabab “Boo” Hesni — who’s half Ilonggo and half Persian.

It doesn’t have to be a special occasion to enjoy great food at Misto. Chef Boo and his team makes sure they serve only the best items every single day.

Two days and one belly are definitely not enough to explore all the goodness that Iloilo City has to offer. So better make sure you book that next trip — soon!

Local salad from Misto at Seda AtriaMisto's

Local salad from Misto at Seda AtriaMisto’s

Misto's Signature Banana Bread

Misto’s Signature Banana Bread

Molo Church

Molo Church

 

By CHING DEE

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