Home to famous Filipino dishes, Pampanga is rightfully hailed as the “Culinary Capital of the Philippines”. One of its most iconic dishes yet is “Sisig”, which consists mostly of a pig head’s parts (cheeks and ears and all that) mixed with chopped liver and seasoned with onion, chili and kalamansi.
… I am hopelessly salivating as I write this. I am getting flashbacks of the small sisig stall located across the street from my former office in Tacloban City. It was so good, I was practically addicted to it. Hahah! It was not even that authentic but I loved it anyway. My officemates would stare at me with a bewildered look, as I would munch on the huge serving during merienda time. And dinnertime, of course. hahah! I might have to run out and grab some sisig today. Phew!
Anyhow, enough of veering off topic. Sisig has come a long way from its humble beginnings, and is now a top-of-the-menu staple in Manila’s bars and nightclubs … a favorite pulutan (the Philippine version of Spanish tapa) to go with the usual bucket of beer.
I got the delightful chance to experience a piece of the food haven that is Pampanga when I got invited to The Grand Halo Halo Day of Teresita’s of San Fernando. The event was held at their SM North branch. They gave out free halo halo from 1pm to 3pm, all in celebration of their 15th anniversary. More than just the halo halo, they served me kare kare as well. All free, of course. One of the many joys of blogging.
Kare Kare – a Traditional Filipino Stew
Kare Kare is a traditional Filipino stew made flavorful by thick savory peanut sauce. It is commonly prepared with a meat base of oxtail (taken from the tail of a cow or calf), pig hock (foot joints), pig feet, calves’ feet, beef tripe (muscle wall of a cow’s stomach) or beef chunks. An assortment of vegetables – mostly green beans, Chinese cabbage, and eggplants – are added. The stew is flavored with ground roasted peanuts or peanut butter. Annatto is added to give it a reddish hue. Kare kare is best served with bagoong (shrimp paste) on the side. I was initially displeased to find that Teresita’s kare kare did not have beef tripe in it, as this is the variation of kare kare I am used to. I feel this ingredient makes the dish more authentic. Ideally, kare kare should have a combination of beef chunks and tripe (in my taste buds’ humble opinion. hahah). But tasting the beef chunks threw whatever disappointment I felt to the wind. The chunks were well-cooked. And the stew had just the right nutty taste to it. Tasting the dish instantly got me thinking that I might actually just have stepped into a genuinely Kapampangan restaurant.
Teresita’s of San Fernando – an Authentic Kapampangan Restaurant
And in an authentic Kapampangan restaurant I was. Teresita’s of San Fernando is an offshoot of Teresita R. Razon’s Halo-halo and Palabok in Pampanga. The halo-halo and palabok recipes were once only enjoyed by the extended Razon family, natives of Pampanga, until the enterprising sisters Severina, Elena, and Virginia decided to open a store in the small town of Guagua, Pampanga (the Razon Halo-halo Refreshment Parlor), offering the family’s pre-World War II halo halo recipe to the public. The modest store that opened in 1972 has come a long way, earning word-of-mouth praise and fame that has reached national level. Ryan and Paulo, fourth-generation Razons who obviously inherited the same enterprising spirit, managed to bring this celebrated Kapampangan goodness to Manila, creating the Teresita’s of San Fernando brand. The restaurant now has eleven branches, four of which are franchised.
A Different Kind of Halo Halo
Halo halo is a popular Filipino dessert made with shaved ice and evaporated milk, plus an assortment of ingredients, which commonly includes coconut, sago, sweet beans, gulaman, fruits, and tubers.
I also got to try Teresita’s halo halo, of course. I was surprised to find that it did not have the assortment of ingredients typical in halo halo servings. It did not have the usual sago, gulaman, beans, pinipig, and the like. Bewildered, I asked the waiter what was in it. “Macapuno, langka, and leche flan,” he responded. Still bewildered, I found myself saying, “Really? Are you sure that’s all in it?” Craving the usual pinipig crunch I enjoy in halo halo, it took a while before I started warming up to Teresita’s version. I later appreciated it for what it was, a smooth and creamy concoction of syrupy goodness, all bathing in shaved ice. And it was just what I needed at the time … a non-complicated refreshing treat. If not for the great food and refreshment, I would have been dead tired at the time. As mentioned earlier, I had just come from a long commute. Mind you, after eating I felt brand new! They also gave me a cup of take-out halo halo, which was perfect because I was to wait for my friend, Fae Esperas, at the mall’s outdoor atrium. We were to attend the book launching event for Young Blood 6 at the National Bookstore in the same mall (Fae is one of the book’s contributing authors. You might want to check the book out 🙂 ). I comfortably ate the halo halo while waiting outdoors, effectively beating the heat.
One of the most defining ingredients of the halo halo was its leche flan (the local version of crème caramel … it is a heavier version of the Spanish flan de leche, and is made with condensed milk and more egg yolks). At one point, I felt like I was eating iced leche flan.
I noticed a distinctive citrusy taste to the leche flan. I figured it might be green lime. I did some investigating and found out that they infused their flan with dayap rind (dayap is what Americans would call a Key Lime), what some claim to be the secret ingredient of special leche flans.
I want to go back to Teresita’s to try their other Kapampangan specialties. I’ve got my eye on their palabok and sisig. Luckily, I will be getting gift certificates. Yey! I will be sharing the experience with the fam. I’m sure they are going to love it. So excited and salivating again … phew!
The experience also made me want to take a trip to the food haven that is Pampanga. My sister’s boyfriend happens to hail from this province, so I went ahead and asked him if he could take us there. And he said yes! He said we could even stay overnight, as his ancestral home can accommodate my whole family. I cannot wait! 😀 And oh, my sister’s bf is passionate about cooking … like most true-blood Kapampangans are. 🙂
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Author: Tahna de Veyra
Voracious eater. Coffee dependent. Book sniffer. Music addict. Profound thinker. Certified ambivert. Life-hungry maverick. Nonchalant realist. Hesitant blogger.