Let this be my love letter.
A love letter addressed to a man I love and may have stalked for years, just like the rest of you. Alright, maybe a little more than the rest of you. A chef, author and an award-winning TV personality, the always witty (and amusingly sarcastic) Anthony Bourdain. And since I feel like I know him in years of “following” him, allow me to call him Tony.
However this love letter is unlike any other in history, because by love i mean our mutual love for food. And here is my one chance to make Tony fall in love with the food I grew up with, the food I am proud of, and the food that everyone too is crazy about, Negrense food.
Behold, the ten mouthwatering and damn goooood reasons why Tony should pack his bags right now and book a ticket to Bacolod City, Philippines.
1. Manokan Country
Because there’s no better way to start the list than to kick it off with our famous chicken inasal aka best chicken ever. These marinated chicken pieces are grilled to perfection then enjoyed with rice drowning in chicken oil (chicken fat steeped in achuete and garlic). Now imagine Tony dunking that isol (chicken ass) with his hands into his sinamak dipping sauce. Money shot right there.
Aida’s. Manokan Country, Fr. M. Ferrero St. cor Rizal St. Bacolod City.
2. Sharyn’s Cansi House
Cansi is a Negrense comfort food known also as the Ilonggo version of the bulalo. It is a bone-in beef shank in sour soup, boiled for hours with spices, and its key souring ingredient is batwan. Trivia: Batwan is this magical wild fruit abundant in the Negros island that makes our dishes extra special.
With a soothing bowl of piping hot soup and that mighty bone marrow, Tony will get all the comforting he needs in a lifetime.
Sharyn’s. C-58 Narra Avenue, Capitol Shopping Center, Bacolod City.
3. Sandok Comfort Food
KBL (Kadios, Baboy, Langka) is the trophy dish of Sandok. The three main ingredients are well.. exactly what it’s called, Kadios (vegetable legume), Baboy (pork) and Langka (jackfruit). And its souring agent—you guessed it, batwan. The earthiness of the kadios beans and the sourness of the batwan makes this a standout. A true Ilonggo dish that is rich, filling and tastes like home.
Talk about hitting two birds with one stone, Sandok makes a mean cansi steak. Cansi as mentioned above is a slow-cooked beef shank soup. Now reduce that stock and thicken it to make an earth-shattering gravy. Throw the tender beef and some tendon on a sizzling hot plate and pour that gravy. There’s your cansi steak.
Sandok Comfort Food. Narra Ave, Bacolod City.
4. Byron’s Back Ribs
The name of the establishment is straightforward and simple. It serves back ribs. But it’s not just ribs, it’s the ribs of our dreams. Its slides-off-the-bone-meat and its close-to-heaven secret sauce made this once small neighborhood hut into a legend in barbecued meats.
Byron’s Backribs. Block 8 Stork St., Homesite,Barangay Montevista, Bacolod City.
5. Enting’s Special of Sagay
Enting, the owner is known as a kinilaw artist, now that’s something you don’t take lightly. But what is kinilaw? It’s basically uncooked fish cooked in vinegar marinade, if I can be any less technical. Kinilaw is derived from a bisaya word kilaw which means “eaten fresh”. And Enting makes the freshest and flawless kinilaw in town, quite possibly in the Philippines.
Hard not to mention Enting’s exceptional dinuguan (pork blood stew) when it’s common knowledge that Tony craves the exciting and the interesting, in other words the innards and the blood. Then there’s the lechon baka (roasted calf) and the fried chicken. Okay, okay, I know it’s just fried chicken. But wait ’til you try these fried chicken. Game changer.Enting’s Special of Sagay. The Market Place at Villa Angela, Bacolod City.
6. Super Batchoy House
If there’s one thing Tony and I have in common, it’s our undying love for holes-in-the-wall. It’s unpretentious, easy and most of the time authentic. And Super Batchoy House is one hole-in-the-wall close to my heart like many locals, that serves up powerful to the point of “super” batchoy noodle soup. A dish with sliced pork, pork innards, crushed pork cracklings, bone marrow, noodles and the broth that can move mountains. I mean, I had Tony at pork, pork and more pork. Super Batchoy House. Locsin Street, Bacolod City.
7. Emma Lacson’s Delicacies
A stop-over at Emma Lacson’s heritage house in Silay City, 30 mins from Bacolod is worth the trip for its freshly made empanadas and lumpiang ubod. Ubod (heart of palm) is a vegetable extensively used in the Visayas region, then wrapped in thin flour crepes to make a lumpia. The empanada is a testament to our Spanish influences and we decided to make our own just as delicious version. Emma Lacson’s recipe has been passed on for four generations in their family and is still hailed the best lumpiang ubod and empanada in the island.
8. Moling Talabahan
A drive by the city will get Tony the freshest and tastiest talaba (oysters) he can find in the island. These talaba from Roxas are firm, sweet and everything you love about your mollusks. Have your talaba at the side of the street, raw and no condiments— it’s like tasting the sea! Absolutely one of the many perks of living the provincial life. Moling Talabahan. Lacson Extension, Taculing, Bacolod City. (beside Abad church)
9. Purok Litsonan
Purok litsonan or Lechon district in English got its name for a reason. As Lechon vendors line the busy street, through the back alleys you can find the glorious pigs lined in a spit for hours over open fire. A feast for the eyes, and your tummy. Now we all know (and rejoiced!) when Tony said Cebu’s lechon is “the best pig ever”, but who are we to deprive Tony of that crispy pig skin and its juicy meat drenched in lemon grass and spices? Jessel’s Lechon. Purok Litsonan, Araneta Street, Barangay 36, Bacolod City.
10. Bailon Foods
Capping off our list on a sweet note is Bailon’s piaya. The Negros Island, being the sugar capital of the Philippines got all the glucose it needs for this beloved delicacy. Piaya is a muscovado-filled unleavened flatbread, crispy on the outside and gooey good on the inside. Even with Bailon’s recipe that dates back to the 1960’s, it is still considered a hidden gem of Bacolod compared to its more commercialized rivals. And it is exactly what we love about it.Bailon Foods. #17 San Sebastian Street, Bacolod City.
Creating a list of only 10 is tough as it is hunger inducing, knowing there are a hundred more reasons why Tony should make Bacolod part of his itinerary. But if I were to add one more, and this is totally random, it would be a home-cooked meal by yours truly. Or okay, we can just have anyone of our brilliant Negrense chefs whip up a feast, maybe some laswa, apan apan or— I’ll leave it up to the pros. Because we all know there’s nothing better than good old fashioned home-cooking. One thing for sure, Tony is welcome to our home and to the City of Smiles any day.