By Abigail Javellana
Discover the City of Love--beyond it's famed Dinagyang Festival, century-old churches, majestic mansions, and unspoiled countryside--through its exotic delicacies.
Iloilo is hometown to the grandmother of Abi of Team Our Awesome Planet. So expect a local's perspective as her friends and relatives tour her around the town.
Here are the top 8 dishes you should try to complete your Iloilo culinary experience...
Iloilo's most famous culinary contribution!
A serving of egg noodles called miki, topped with generous amounts of fried garlic, crushed chicharon (crispy fried pork skin), scallions, slivers of pork meat, intestines, and liver, and for the finishing touch--a spoonful of bone marrow.
The secret to the dish is in the buto-buto broth, which is slow-cooked for hours with beef, pork, and bulalo mixed with local guinamos (shrimp paste) for flavoring.
We also loved the extra serving of soup, fried garlic, and chicharon! Best paired with sweet puto. It's a cholesterol-laden nightmare but quite the treat every now and then! :)
If you really want to taste authentic batchoy, you have to eat at Netong's inside the La Paz Public Market. You can also try Deco's and Ted's.
Netong's Original Lapaz Batchoy
Inside La Paz Public Market, La Paz, Iloilo
Operating Hours: 7.00am - 7.00pm
Phone: +63 33 396-2189
Facebook: Netong's Original Special La Paz Batchoy
2. TATOY'S NATIVE LECHON MANOK
Tatoy's and Breakthrough are probably the most popular restaurants in Iloilo. But when at Tatoy's, one must order their famed lechon manok.
The charcoal-roasted native chicken called "daraag" is marinated in vinegar and calamansi then stuffed with lemongrass and sampalok leaves.
It's crisped to a golden brown, with a very flavorful and slightly sour taste from the marinade. Native chicken is known to have a gamey taste and stringy texture because it's leaner with less fat.
Tatoy's Manokan and Seafoods
Sto. Nino Sur Arevalo Iloilo City, 5000 Iloilo City
Phone: Main Branch +63 33 337-1360, 337-4276
When visiting Iloilo, eating talaba is definitely a must! The creamy-milky treat is one to not miss!
The oysters are cooked parboiled/steamed to make them easier to open. Good quality oysters have a fresh taste and smell and are very fat and succulent.
Ilonggos prefer to pair these with the iconic spicy vinegar "sinamak" that's sometimes mixed with soy sauce and calamansi.
Besides the vinegar, our friend Renzo told us to drink soft drinks to minimize the chance of an upset stomach.
For those who aren't fans of or are new to eating talaba, I suggest you try the baked talaba with garlic and cheese.
It's a savory creamy treat with a generous amount of cheese and fried garlic on top (though 3x more expensive than the steamed version).
We had talaba at Tatoy's and Breakthrough but they can also be found in many talabahan and seafood restaurants in the city.
4. PANCIT MOLO
Pancit Molo is a soup dish made of meat-filled dumplings, with shredded chicken, and a very savory thick broth.
It originated from the town of Molo in the province of Iloilo, influenced by the wanton soups brought in by the community of Chinese settlers in the area.
We ate Pancit Molo in the beautiful 150-year old ancestral house Camiña Balay nga Bato. You need to make a reservation but there's a tour around the museum as part of the experience, then followed with local snacks including assorted popular local biscuits, Pancit Molo, cucumber calamansi juice, and...
...piping hot thick tskolate batirol.
Camiña Balay nga Bato in Iloilo
20 Osmeña Street, Iloilo
Phone: +63 33 336-3858 or 336-5075
Mobile: +63 917-305-5355
5. BREAKTHROUGH FRESH SEAFOOD
Breakthrough Seafood Restaurant offers fresh catch from the sea just like Tatoy's.
The Managat fish (also known as red snapper or mangrove jack), however, they culture on their own. It's only taken out when ordered, then butterflied and grilled inasal style.
Imbao, a large, fatty type of clam is a pride of the Visayan region and best eaten raw. It has a jelly-like texture.
If you're lucky, you can also eat the seasonal angel-wing shaped diwal from Capiz! They have a similar taste to mussels and the texture of fresh oyster, giving it a distinct flavor. They are usually baked, steamed, or grilled and topped with fresh garlic.
Villa Beach, Barangay Sto. Niño Norte, Arevalo, Iloilo, Philippines
Phone: +63 33 337-3027
KBL is a favorite local dish composed of pigeon peas, pork, and green jackfruit. The pork is boiled until tender and the broth has a distinct sour taste from the fruit batwan and kadios, which are used in the base. The batwan is a native fruit only found in the Negros Region and is used in many local dishes.
7. CHICKEN BINAKOL
Binakol is another Ilonggo specialty that’s like tinola but with a twist--using coconut water and meat in the soup.
8. ROBERTO'S SIOPAO
The Queen Siopao is legendary among the local foodies for its huge size and flavor. You don't even need any sauce to make it yummy.
JM Basa St Iloilo City, 5000 Iloilo City
Phone: +63 33 335-0484,+63 33 337-1595
Live an Awesome Life,
Abi & Chola of Team Our Awesome Planet
Full Disclosure: Nothing to disclose. We paid for our meals. We are not connected with the owners or the organizations promoting these restaurants.
P.S. We stayed at Madison Hotel PHL, located at Delgado St., Iloilo City, just a convenient 5 minutes away from the port by car.
We got the superior room (1 double and 1 single bed) good for 3 pax. The hotel is budget friendly with the room rate ranging from the promo rate of Php 1699 to the peak rate of Php 2040.
Madison Hotel PHL
Delgado St., 5000 Iloilo City
Phone: +63 (33) 335-3788