It’s strange how our relatives could only get together after years. If it were not for a cousin’s special occasion, my mom and I wouldn’t get a chance to visit Pampanga.
Pampanga is a province located in Central Luzon. Should you begin your travel point from Manila, go in a two-hour northward travel to get to Pampanga, or longer depending on the city to visit. Since my province Bulacan is adjacent to Pampanga, travel going there is quicker. From the district of Bocaue, Bulacan to the city of San Fernando, Pampanga, it takes about an hour’s ride. So what’s so special about this place? For foodies like me, of course, it would be food.
I had the privilege to taste of the authenticity of Kapampangan dishes as my cousin invited us for the christening of her first baby. Now, add up the mini-reunion of relatives on my mother’s side, our visit is worth to remember.
Kapampangan dishes are known for their richness. Besides that, their food can range from simply being savory to exotic. I’ll give you a peek to one of the restaurants there.
My craving to taste the best of Pampanga has been answered by having the privilege to visit and have lunch in this cozy restaurant, located in Dolores, San Fernando, Pampanga. The buffet it offers has a variety of dishes, igniting the curiosity and the hunger pangs in me.
There are the classic dishes of bulalo (cow soup), pinakbet (vegetables cooked in sauce made of seafood like shrimp or fish), bistig damulag (the Kapampangan version of beefsteak). I’d take only a little of each, since they are very rich in ingredients. The each sauce of these dishes is filled with much flavour. It embodies the homestyle cooking. Besides, the place is a good place for family reunions as it gives a homey feel.
There are also exotic food like the pasta aligue (pasta made with crab paste), susong supsop (yes, it’s
made of cooked, small snails) and adobong balut (the matured chicken egg now cooked adobo-style). These are but a few in the whole bunch of buffet offered by this restaurant. I bet you’ll keep on coming back once you take a bite of them.
As most Filipinos, we had the habit of ignoring the people around us while we eat. Perhaps, it’s an inborn ability to take note of the food first before we get to talk much. Or perhaps, we heed what the elders say: “Don’t eat when your mouth is full.”
Of course, Filipino meals are not complete without sweets. After a plateful of the main course, we’d line up for halo-halo (or mixed up, literally in English). Just fill your glass with sweet banana, red sago (round starch pearls), mongo, pinipig (uncooked glutunous rice), sugar, crushed ice and milk. A cold treat to chase the summer heat away.
Aside from that, there are also other sweets and rice cakes like the palitaw.
I guess this place gave us much to talk about, like language differences. Yes, that’s right. The signs are mostly in Kapampangan. In the Philippines, each provinces have unique dialects. Pampanga has its own dialect, aside from the Tagalog widely spoken in the whole country. Even my uncle admits that he was still confused with some of the words, being a Bicolano himself.
The calming atmosphere of the restaurant made us stay, relax, dive into nostalgia and crack jokes at one another. Because it shunned us from the terrifying heat of the day, I did not notice that we were staying there for more than five hours! It was past three in the afternoon, and we would have wished to stay longer with our relatives.
After scouting for pasalubong, my cousins invited us to try the popular cheese bread and Spanish bread of a bakery just beside Bale Capampangan.
When the door was opened, the smell of freshly baked bread gave us the tingling sensation of home in the city. Started in 1985, this bakeshop had its humble beginnings at one of this city’s market. But the populace would flock this store because of its tasty cheese bread, thus it grew into a cafe and resto-bakery.
Unlike some usual cheese bread bought in other bakeries, this one is oozing with much cheese and it’snot airy; even though it looks smaller compared to other breads. The Spanish bread is sweetly superb, as well. A box of it would make a good pasalubong. Aside from being tasty, a box of it is worth its price. Even if you reheat it in the oven, it still smell as if freshly baked, provided that you keep it in a safe place. My mother said that instead of using lard, real butter and egg yolks were used for the dough. If we had much more time, we’d stay with our cousins and have coffee in this homey little bakeshop. Perhaps, I would not stop myself from its offer of unlimited coffee and bread. Yes, coffeeeeee… 🙂
My cousins introduced us other shops just near these places where we’ve been. I promised them and myself that we would return and try them all. But I would enjoy these places and food better with my relatives. That would make every bite and taste more sumptuous and even memorable.