By Mike Buceta
TAAL– While everyone is busy spending their holy week vacation either in beaches or churches, I, myself (since I’m single for more than 3 years now), decide to drive back to my hometown for self-reflection and for a sumptuous food trip that I missed while working in the city. All of these are readily available at the town’s public market.
Eats more fun in Taal
Taal, a third class municipality in the province of Batangas is known for its well preserved ancestral houses that are designated as National Historical Landmarks, large basilica and proximity to Taal lake.
More than that, It is also known for its native and sumptuous delicacies that are not only known locally but also in neighboring provinces. So let me take you on a walk through time and history with Taal comfort foods from breakfast to midnight snacks.
Breakfast in Taal
Sumang Taal, Kapeng Barako and Tablea
Taaleños’ breakfast is not complete without these three local cuisines. Sumang Taal, a deliciously homemade kakanin from glutinous rice cooked in coconut milk while wrapped in banana leaves. This sweet and sticky delicacy is best served warm with sprinkled mascuvado sugar or shredded coconut meat. The best suman in town.
Another is Kapeng Barako or the Philippines’ version of espresso, or simply Batangueño coffee. The well recognized strong flavor and rich aroma will surely give you the boost you need in the morning.
The coffee is also associated with the nature of Batangueños who bravely fought for Philippine independence during colonial period. Truly, Taal is home of some brave men and women of the country such as Felipe Agoncillo, the first Filipino diplomat, his wife, Marcela Agoncillo, one of the makers of the national flag, Gliceria Marella de Villavicencio, the Godmother of the Revolution, the Dioknos, Apacibles, and many more.
For non-coffee lovers, the local favorite hot chocolate or tablea can be served as a tasteful alternative. This local drink is made from locally grown cacao seeds, dried and roasted into perfection then grinned manually using in handcrafted mortar of Taaleños.
These three local breakfast starters were best for light or morning snacks to give you enough shot of energy for the long day of history around the town. Also, it is best as pasalubong.
Unlike large empanadas of Ilocos, Taal’s empanadas are petite. The homemade pies are stuffed with choice of ground pork, chicken or vegetables, mixed with potatoes, raisins and carrots. Distinguishing from Ilocos’ empanada, Taal’s empanada also includes rice noodles or sotanghon, which gives it a local touch. This makes the empanada best for a merienda or snacks.
The local version of pork steak is thinly sliced and diced marinated in a strong mixture of perfectly Taalenos’ secret ingredients. Best paired with fried rice and native dip mixture of native vinegar (from kaong tree) or soy sauce with chopped lasuna (native onions), calamansi or lime extract and fresh chilli (siling labuyo). The best way of preparing this meal is by pan frying or by Bistek Tagalog. Visitors shall give this cuisine a try when they visit the heritage town.
Unlike other variety of longanizas in the country, Longanisang Taal (Taal sausage) is a tasty pork wrapped in perfectly dried pork intestine, then marinated in special soy sauce, garlic, sugar and calamansi that gave it the savvy and adobo-like flavor. Visitors can find stalls in the public market that sells freshly marinated sausages for an affordable price ranging from Php200 – Php250 or $5 per kilo.
Adobo sa Dilaw
Adobo, the most commonly known cuisine of the country has its own version in Taal’s ancestral and delicate history. Taal’s Abodo is that the pork or chicken is marinated first then cooked with turmeric or luyang dilaw , that gives the cuisine a flavourful curry twist.
Sinaing na Tulingan
A native tuna mackerel harvested from Taal Lake and Balayan Bay, the dish symbolises the Taaleno’s patience and perseverance. The cuisine is cooked in a pot for about 4 to 6 hours in a medium heat using charcoal or wood fire for its perfection, broiled under a portion of pork fat and simmer with dried kamias for a savvy flavor and extra “bite”. After long hours of slow cooking, it can be further cooked with coconut milk, pechay, eggplant and green chilli for a tasteful and sumptuous ginataan for lunch. Best served with iced soda or juice.
This native delicacy is truly best for an afternoon snack. This delicacy is freshly made from cooked glutinous rice stuffed with mixture of ground pork, salted eggs and nuts, cooked and wrapped in banana leaves. For best taste, you can add a flavorful sauce made from sugar and coconut milk.
The local version of Baguio’s peanut brittle that completes a Taaleños’ meal. Unlike its counterpart, Taal’s Panutsa comes with whole locally grown peanuts, soaked in caramelized sugar and shaped in round form. The sugar mixture also has a thicker texture and a distinct dark color that identifiable to Taal’s.
After the long walks and food trips, I highly suggest that you take a break at Taal Basilica (Basilica Minore de San Martin de Tours). The church belfry offers the scenic view of the whole town and the perfect place for seeking some quiet time.
It is true that my hometown never fails to amaze me every time I went home for a holiday break or even when I sought self reflection. I had an absolutely amazing and self-fulfilling holy week vacation this year and I hope that Taal will be on your list soon. See you!