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If you ask Ilonggos what else is there to do in Iloilo, aside from touring popular destinations that is, they'd surely recommend that you try out some gustatory delights uniquely Ilonggo.
Tourists who want to sample the city's local recipes should not miss out on these food stops on the list.
The best place to get your batchoy is inside the La Paz market (tap to check location). There you'll find a busy eatery/batchoyan that proudly announces itself as "The Pride of Iloilo." If you've seen this sign, then you've arrived at Netong's Original Lapaz Batchoy, where they still make this soup concoction from recipes of 50 years ago.
Batchoy is a clear broth recipe with the noodles as base and pork, liver, and intestines added to the soup. It is topped with a sprinkling of chicharon, garlic, and chives. It's not true batchoy if you don't see bone marrow floating around on the caldo (broth).
Authentic batchoyans have this large container containing broth in constant boil all throughout the day Netong's is accessible from both Rizal and Huervana Streets. It is open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m.
While there were uprising in some parts of the country towards the end of the 19th century, a revolution of another kind was happening in Jaro, Iloilo - one started by flour, eggs, and sugar that gave birth to popular Ilonggo delicacy called barquillos.
These crisp wafer rolls are found in almost all pasalubong shops and are often partnered with ice cream. It's deliciously crunchy and melts in the mouth.
Synonymous with these wafer rolls is the name Deocampo, which started the business of barquillos-making in 1896, according to Alicia Deocampo. The packaging in their barquillos dates the start of the business to since 1898 but she explained that this is a packaging error that they failed to correct.
Barquillos-making is easy to make but the process involves tedious manual work. It needs the right consistency of the batter consisting of flour, eggs, butter, milk, sugar, vanilla, cooking oil, and water, which is then poured on a specially designed wafer iron called baquillera made of two flat smooth surfaces on top of a stove.
Deocampo’s pasalubong shop is along Sta. Isabel Street in Jaro.
Once considered a pest because it eats milkfish fingerlings in fishponds, the managat fish is now an expensive delicacy that is available only in Panay.
A restaurant in Villa Arevalo, Breakthrough, claims to be the one who made the managat a favorite among diners. The managat has a soft and fatty flesh and usually served two ways: the head is prepared as soup while its lower body part is grilled.
The best sauce for managat is the Ilonggo vinegar-based "sinamak," a tangy concoction of ginger, garlic, the ginger-like langkauas (scientific name Alpinia galangal Swartz), and kutitot (Philippine jalapeno or siling labuyo).
Named after an Iloilo City district, Pancit Molo is one of the more identifiable pancit dishes in the country. It stands out from among the noodle dishes mainly because of its non-traditional pancit look.
Pancit Molo is a derivative of the Chinese wonton (filled dumplings) turned into a soup. Its broth is clear and, like the original recipe, has flavors of pork, shrimps and chicken. Bits of garlic are sprinkled as toppings.
Instead of the usual thin and long noodles, the recipe calls for the use of wonton wrapper to encase the dumplings with ground pork, chicken, and/or shrimps mixed together vegetables and spices.
There are several ways of shaping the dumplings depending on the recipe specification. One often encounters the following shapes – folded triangles, sio mai pouches known as wontons, or ravioli or tortellini shapes. These are then dropped in a boiling chicken broth where they are simmered until cooked (that is when these pouches float) and then ladled into bowls or soup tureens before being served.
A favorite of Ilonggos, the coffee served at Madge Cafe inside the La Paz Market can rival any expensive kind and made from a recipe handed down for around 50 years.
Costing only P25 a cup, Madge's Cafe lures ordinary residents as well celebrities and Iloilo's well-to-do. Madge's coffee recipe, they say, was concocted by Vicente de la Cruz back in pre-war times and is still being used today.
The cafe is named Madge after Vicente's wife Magdalena.
Instead of cafe latte, Madge has coffee lata, so named because your to-go orders will be served in empty milk tin cans.
A rice-based native delicacy, baye-baye tastes best when it comes from the town of Santa Barbara and Pavia in Iloilo Province. The best known makers of this specialty is Barangay Cabugao Sur in Santa Barbara. Baye-baye making is among the oldest industries in the town.
The best baye-baye is made from carefully selected ingredients. The choice of coconut, kind of sugar, and pinipig (pounded rice grains) preparation count a lot in the finished product. The taste will also depend on the proportion of the ingredients used.
Since Pavia and Sta. Barbara are adjacent towns, stalls selling baye-baye along the street in both towns are common.