JANUARY – Parañaque
FOOD: Lauya ng Parañaque
Lauya is a boiled pork knuckle dish that is anything but basic. People who are familiar with this delicacy from Parañaque swear by its sweet-savory flavors punctuated by the rich acidity of its required dish of mashed eggplant salad. There are a few variations to the recipe — whether the pork is boiled with squash and sweet potatoes or bananas to make it sweeter, if its eggplant side dish should be boiled or roasted, and there is even a beef version! Either way, Lauya is best enjoyed over a pile of steaming white rice. A word of warning: it will make you eat more rice than you are ready for. But then again, when is that ever a bad thing at the moment?
FEBRUARY – Taguig
FOOD: Tipas Hopia
For many people who grew up in the greater Manila area, hopia was a childhood staple. These round flaky pastries with a sweet bean filling occupies a soft spot in the hearts of many. The most famous local hopia come from Tipas Bakery in Ibayo-Tipas, Taguig. Founded by Belen Flores in 1988, she had set out to make hopia that could rival those made by the Chinese. And she succeeded! Thirty years later, the Tipas hopia is still one of the most in-demand pasalubong from Taguig.
MARCH – Bacoor
FOOD: Digman Halo halo
Foodies all over the country can argue where the best halo halo can be found, but those who have gone to Digman in Bacoor, Cavite and tried the famous halo halo know that the search is over. They have a winner. The Original Digman Halo Halo is like a siren call to lovers of the national dessert. People have braved the traffic to Bacoor in order to tuck themselves into the unassuming restaurant just for the legendary halo halo with its dozen of sweet and colorful fixings. All of the ingredients that go into the halo halo — from the sweetened beans, nata de coco, jellies, and leche flan — are homemade according to the recipe of Mang Boy, the owner. Dessert may come first at Digman Halo Halo, but make sure to try out their homemade siopao and mami while you’re there.
APRIL – Kawit
FOOD: Samala Rice Cake
Made of glutinous rice, sugar, and coconut milk, the Samala Rice Cake is more than the sum of its parts. Both its malagkit and pinipig variants are the quintessential pasalubong, potluck contribution, and birthday party staple for generations of Caviteños and will likely continue on to the next. After all, the Samala brand has undergone changes in every generation, but it’s still here. It started as Legaspi-Legaspi rice cake, then Samala-Legaspi, and now it is known as Pat and Sam (short for Patricio and Samala). Despite all the changes, the flavors of the rice cake has remained consistent, a guarded family secret that will surely be passed on to the next generations.
MAY – Cavite City
Bibingkoy is a chewy, sweet, and unique delicacy that could only be found in Cavite City. It was invented by Aling Ika Alejo during the Japanese period, and her daughter, Aling Lolit, still makes and sells them fresh daily at Aling Ika’s Carinderia in the Cavite City Public Market. Bibingkoy is a glutinous rice dumpling with a sweet monggo bean filling cooked like a bibingka, pugon-style with the heat on the top and bottom. It is served with a rich warm sauce of made of coconut cream, jackfruit, and sago. For a complete experience, eat the bibingkoy with coffee or hot chocolate. Those seeking to eat Aling Lolit’s bibingkoy have to move fast though, they sell out by noon. Other stores and restaurants around the market and in Cavite City may have their own bibingkoy too, but nothing beats the original.
JUNE – Rosario
FOOD: Tinapang SalinasIt is amazing to consider that this seemingly unassuming smoked fish is responsible for the improvement of a town’s economy. But that’s what Tinapang Salinas has done. This world-renowned delicacy has brought stable jobs and income to the locals of Cavite. It’s the fish variety that makes the difference — Salinyasi, a type of sardine abundant in the waters of Salinas, Rosario, Cavite. Apparently they make the best-tasting smoked fish you can find. There is only one way to find out, try it yourself.
JULY – Imus
FOOD: Longganisang Imus
Lean, garlicky, and extremely tasty, the Imus longganisa has steadily risen in the pantheon of famous longganisas in the Philippines such as the Vigan, Pampanga, and Lucena. Enthusiasts have likened the its taste to adobo. The Imus longganisa’s flavor is so distinct from other longganisas in other provinces that it is the town’s entry to the One Town One Product directory of the Department of Industry. Thanks to Big Ben Restaurant, “the home of D’famous Imus Longganisa,” its refined and all-organic heirloom version has put it on the map and in the radars of foodies all over the country and even from abroad.
AUGUST: General Trias
FOOD: Kesong Puti
Kesong Puti, or “Quesilla” is un-aged cheese made from fresh carabao’s milk. Food writers who grew up in South Luzon wax nostalgic of childhood breakfasts of white cheese wrapped in banana leaves still dripping with whey slathered onto steaming hot pan de sal. Its flavor has been compared to Italy’s buffala mozzarella, but with a bit of tang. General Trias may be growing as an industrial area in Cavite, but its dairy industry is still going strong, with kesong puti as the most popular of their offerings. The kesong puti made it on the Washington Post and New York Times when they featured Asiong restaurant’s version — served with olive oil, garlic, and parsley.
FOOD: Oyster Mushrooms
The demand for oyster mushrooms these days are larger than the supply and farms located in Dasmariñas are working to remedy that. Farms such as Redberry and Sunbright hold regular workshops for people who are interested in starting their own mushroom business. Oyster mushrooms are the least finicky of their environment making it easy even for beginners to harvest and make a profit out of them.
OCTOBER – Silang
FOOD: Pansit Pusit
The closest description that one can make for the pansit pusit) is that it is the Cavite version of Spain’s paella negra or Italy’s pasta el nero. However, that is only accounting for its color and generous use of squid ink. Pansit Pusit is an entity of its own and it is nothing like you have tasted before. It was invented only 15 years ago by Sonny Lua, the second generation owner of the famous restaurant, Asiong’s Carinderia. With some help from Cavite food expert Ige Ramos, and after a lot of trial and error with bihon noodles, squid ink, scallions, chicharon, and kamias slices, Sonny finally had his masterpiece. He called it “Pancit Choco en su Tinta” and the rest is culinary history. Asiong’s Carinderia has since moved its location from Cavite City to Silang, Cavite. This incarnation of Asiong’s is a beautiful restaurant under the willow trees in a garden.
NOVEMBER: Sta. Rosa
FOOD: Espasol, Buko Pie, and Uraro
Sta. Rosa, Laguna has grown exponentially in the recent years. From being just a town on the way to Tagaytay, it has become a destination itself. Like any destination, people have to have something to bring home as pasalubong. The classic trifecta of pasalubongs from Laguna espasol, buko pie, and uraro are ready and available in Sta. Rosa. Each delicacy is distinct from each other: Espasol is rice cooked in coconut milk, buko pie is young coconut baked in a flaky pastry crust, and uraro is made of arrowroot flour that gives it its signature powdery texture.
FOOD: Puto Biñan
Considered as the most popular among the puto varieties in the Philippines, Puto Biñan is an instant hit whenever it is given as a pasalubong or contribution to a potluck. In fact, anybody who has come from Biñan has encountered at least one demand for their puto from friends, family, or even new acquaintances. The base ingredient for the puto biñan is basic enough: ground rice, however a generous helping of eggs makes the dough richer, and its toppings of cheese, butter, and grated egg seal the deal to make it the best puto ever.