By Sara Grace C. Fojas
Images by Manny Llanes
If Cebu has its lechon, Bicol has its chili, and Iloilo has its batchoy, then Pampanga has everything your taste buds could ask for—from meat dishes, to noodles, to desserts, such as our local favorite kakanin. The province isn’t called the culinary capital of the Philippines for nothing because from its simple carinderias (eateries) to its high-end restaurants, you are assured of a great experience on the palate and in the stomach. Now, preferably on empty stomachs, let us take you through all the very best of this food nation called Pampanga.
Susie’s Cuisine like the beating of your heart
Locals say it is made with the beating of your heart, that’s why it’s called tibok-tibok. When it boils, the bubbles look like a beating heart, and that means it’s done. At Susie’s Cuisine in Angeles City, Pampanga, tibok-tibok and its sweet, creamy delights are sure to melt your heart.
“My mother Anicia Ayson started Susie’s Cuisine in 1972. We serve various delicacies to the Kapampangans such as tibok-tibok, moches, sapin-sapin, suman, ube halaya, ube kalamay, biko, and more. The crowd favorite is tibok-tibok, made with carabao’s milk and topped with latik (fried coconut meat),” says Susie Yabot, Anicia’s eldest daughter, after whom her mother named the restaurant.
Tibok-tibok is Pampanga’s version of maja blanca, only better with its 100 percent carabao’s milk goodness. According to Susie, the taste buds of Kapampangans are different, they love to eat, but they’re too picky because they always want to taste the full richness and all the flavor of everything they eat. “Kapampangans really love to eat, but they don’t want their food to lack flavor or to have too much flavor. It should be cooked just right with the right ingredients to create the exact flavor we want,” says Susie.
Pampanga’s Best The Origin of Tocino
This longganisa and tocino have become a favorite ulam among Filipinos, especially for breakfast. Through the Filipino stomach, Pampanga’s Best has surely made its way from Pampanga to many places across the Philippines and even abroad, thanks to our OFWs.
“It all started from helping a neighbor, a fresh meat vendor in the market who went home one day with about five kilos of unsold pork meat. What my mom, Apung Lolet, did with the meat was she devised a formula of her own. She thought of improving the traditional way of tapa processing. The first finished product of her experiment was sold to the butchers of San Fernando public market, who in turn disposed of it to their customers. The sweet-tasting product was well-received in the market and orders for it continued coming in. My mom eventually called her product ‘tocino,’ which she derived from the Spanish word meaning “sweet tasting meat,” says Carlo Hizon.
After that first batch, Carlo’s mom continued experimenting with her tocino. And, as the orders poured in, with not enough extra cash to accommodate the demand, his parents had to borrow R3,000 from a local savings bank to put an extension to their kitchen. “At the start, my mom was only using a basin or palanggana to manually mix small batches of tocino. That palanggana soon became a banyera as demand grew. Eventually, my father decided to design a small tumbler mixer and went to a local machine shop to fabricate it so he could help my mom in mixing around 50 kilos of tocino per tumbler. Our first sales agents in those early years were my older siblings,” recalls Carlo.
Fifty years later, Pampanga’s Best has become one of the biggest Filipino-owned food manufacturing companies and it provides Filipino households with its famous tocino, various kinds of longganisa, hotdog, and other processed meat products.
Razon’s of Gua Gua Pampanga Pride and Halo-Halo
The Filipino favorite halo-halo is usually a mix of a lot of ingredients—kaong (palm nuts), macapuno (preserved grated coconut), nata de coco (coconut gel), langka (jackfruit), leche flan, pinipig (toasted glutinous rice), and more. Put them all together in a tall glass, add crushed ice, milk, ice cream, and ube on top and you have halo-halo.
But it only took Razon’s of Gua Gua three ingredients—banana, macapuno, and leche flan—to make halo-halo that is a hit not only in Pampanga, but everywhere in the Philippines.
“My grandparents Severina, Rogelio, Elena, and Virginia, the four out of 14 siblings of the Razon family, started Razon’s in 1972. It was an ordinary snack house back then that served halo-halo and palabok. We only started branching out in 2003. I am part of the third generation, daughter of the niece of those four siblings,” says Leonora Christine “Tintin” R. Cabrera.
According to Tintin, they may have added new meals now like , kare-kare, and dinuguan but their specialty meals was still prepared the same way from the time the business was born.
“Our halo-halo is very simple but we assure our customers of the quality of the raw materials, the way it is prepared, and the finished product,” says Tintin. “Our palabok has not changed. We didn’t add or remove any ingredients. We still cook it the way our lolo and lolas cooked it back then, with fresh ingredients and the slow cooking of the sauce.”
All these stories of food, culture, and more will soon be made even more colorful and flavorful when the Shophouse District is built in Megaworld’s soon-to-rise Capital Town giving every Kapampangan and every Filipino more tibok-tibok, tocino, halo-halo, and more stories of the Kapampangan pride. The Shophouse District will be a throwback to the 1950s, when the local economy of Pampanga prospered with the patronage of locals, tourists, and American soldiers who remained in the district (Clark and Subic) during the post-colonial era of the Philippines.
The Shophouse District, Megaworld’s first offering at Capital Town, will feature sculptures as a tribute to the Kapampangan beauties, heroes, revolutionists, and playwrights, an events trade hall as venue for various local activities, an amphitheater to showcase the talents of the Kapampangans, fountains for relaxation, locally grown trees to provide beauty and shade, and cobblestones to add to its “old world charm.”
The Shophouse’s first two floors will be devoted to commercial spaces which will cater to these entrepreneurs while the topmost floor will be residential. With rich heritage to highlight, homegrown business concepts with their awe-inspiring architectural designs are envisioned to thrive along the streets of the Shophouse District.