In my previous post, I featured how seafood is more fun here in the Philippines. I began with Luzon, talking about shellfish that I enjoyed in Batanes, mollusks in Marikina. Then I went down to the Visayas, uni in a remote sandbar in Bohol. Read it here:
As promised, I will feature more seafood. This time, I will be in Mindanao, the southernmost group of islands in the country. By the end of this post, you will agree when I say that it is our national food basket. The diversity of food produce is beyond amazing, and its freshness is topnotch!
You will hear a lot of Davao from me. It’s because I visited it most often. I swear it’s not because our new President hails from there. Coincidentally, he will be installed in office on this very day.
That said, I might as well start from there…
On a boat trip to Talicud Island in the Garden City of Samal, I was amazed by the manila clams or halaan that they served by the beach. It was served in a clear ginger soup, and with bird’s eye chili tops.
Look at that clam meat! Have you ever seen something so luscious? It looks like the lanzones fruit or internationally known as langsat. Plump, translucent.. Lami!
Meanwhile in the city, I passed by a signage that caught my eye. It read Lyndon’s World’s Worst Ribs and Awful Chicken:
Yes, you read that right. It made me stop and give into the urge of finding out if it was true. It was THAT effective.
It did for me. Unimpressive, I thought as I entered the restaurant. I browsed through the menu. I thought twice about the ribs or the chicken. Maybe they were as advertised- that bad and awful!
Was I being militant, or afraid of being clairvoyant that I ordered the… umm.. the baked scallops. Wouldn’t you?
This was a half order, by the way, all for $3-4.. Cheesy, buttery scallops that taste almost like the ocean. Not bad. Not bad at all..
A meal plan with my Davao friends involves eating every two hours. I kid you not! Not long after we had the scallops, they brought me to coffee and cake. As soon as we got to their home, a seafood smorgasborg was ready for the taking. Food was up to my chin, I was stuffed. But on the centerpiece was this spectacle.
Tell me, how do I say no to that? This crab was not a big piece. But, oh my, it was full of white, juicy crab meat and a generous portion of roe. It was as much a masterpiece in taste as it is a visual delight.
The next day, we hopped on a bus to take a three hour ride to General Santos City or GenSan as we call it. It was a picturesque trip, the gorgeous mountain range that fenced the winding road. That bus ride was really, a break from all that eating, more than anything.
As soon as we arrived in GenSan, we resumed to regular programming. We stopped by a store along the road to pick up live midsized white prawns. That was how accessible seafood was there. My eyes were wide with envy. We don’t get that in Manila. And if we do, we have to pay good money for that!
This dish did not need any sprucing up. We wanted to enjoy freshness and natural sweetness of the prawns. So we ordered it steamed, and we were right. We ripped the heads off, enjoyed the juice. Anthony Bourdain came to mind when he said, “Basically, if you don’t like what’s in a shrimp’s head, I can’t be your friend.” And I could not agree with him more, this is some of nature’s best stuff! After laboriously peeling the shell off, we feasted on the prawns. All we needed was a vinegar dipping sauce and steaming white rice.
Our next stop was Lake Sebu, one of the three lakes you find around town. It is an important part in the lives of the townsfolk. It was a source of water, livelihood, food and energy. It was central also to the tourism in the area.
What was waiting for us for lunch? Anything and everything Tilapia (or St. Peter’s Fish)! Deep fried tilapia fish fingers, tilapia chopsuey (stirfried vegetables), and fried whole tilapia. Honestly, I was not a big fan of this freshwater fish. It has a tendency of having this muddy flavor, that makes me lose my appetite. But confident that the fish was caught within minutes from its preparation, I dove in. It was like a well-made powerpoint presentation, Simple, straightforward, on point.
I will not prolong your agony. This is the last stop of my seafood tour. For my last feature, I choose the quintessential SUTUKIL. I learned about the art of sutukil in Cebu. But I will share with you my best SUTUKIL experience in a roadside eatery in Camiguin.
Camiguin is another one of those island provinces. Camiguin is special in that it boasts of any water form you can imagine! Pristine beaches, pocket sandbars, hot springs and waterfalls, you name it! There’s more though. Lonely Planet describes as the most densely populated in terms of volcanoes. No wonder it has so much beauty. It is surrounded by rings of fire!
Okay now, moving on to the SUTUKIL. What is that? Sounds very crime like… shoot to kill? Don’t be deceived. It is a Visayan mnemonic, describing a fish cooked three ways. SU for Sugba (Grill), TU for Tuwa (Soup) and KIL for Kilaw (Ceviche). So, the idea is you order one whole fish. And then, the head is served in a clear soup, the belly into a ceviche and the tail goes to the grill. Enjoy it from the head to the tail, from skin to the bones.
Michelle’s Sutukil to Remember