They say the best lechon in the Philippines can be found in Cebu. But Cebu is not just about Lechon, it has other traditional food spots worth checking out.

We took a food tour through the municipalities of Cebu to see what else awaits foodies visiting Cebu. Not only were we able to get a taste, but we also took a look behind the scenes on how all the products are made.

Here are the stories of other food spots in Cebu:

JESSIE’S TORTA

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For most Filipinos, the word “torta” brings to mind an image of tortang talong or an eggplant omelet. However, for the people of Argao in Cebu, Torta is a light and fluffy cake similar to that of bibingka.

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Jessie’s Torta is the last remaining Torta maker that makes use of traditional ingredients and methods.

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She still uses tuba (coconut wine) as leavening, and prefers hand mixing as opposed to using commercial mixers.

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And she still uses traditional Filipino measurements like chupa and ganta.

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Jessie has a lot of stories to tell but she shifts the conversation to a different topic once you ask about her recipe – it’s a secret only to be shared within a trusted circle.

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The cakes turn out fluffy and make for a great breakfast starter or afternoon merienda. It is also best paired with sikwate (hot chocolate).


BAHAL MAX SUKARAP AND BAHALINA

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Bahal Max offers products all based from Coconut extract.

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Coconut wine in its early stages is called tuba.

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After a week of fermentation, the taste shifts into the sweeter spectrum and is called bahal. They add barley for a hint of bitterness, and ages it for more than a year.

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The longer it’s aged, the better it gets.

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Other coconut-based products are the Sukarap and Sulirap.

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Sukarap is a Coconut Vinegar sauce best paired with chicharon (fried pork rinds). While the Sulirap is a slightly sweeter and spicier version of the Sukarap.

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They also have a special Mango Wine which tastes mostly like white wine with a hint of mango and glides smooth. Be careful with drinking too much – you can’t taste much of the alcohol but it’s strong at 12%.


GUILANG TABLEYA

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In the 1940s, majority of the families in Argao relied on Tablea as a source of livelihood. These days, only one family remains and they are now the sole supplier of Tablea in Argao.

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The process begins with cacao beans from Davao. They are now in the process of growing their own cacao trees to have more control over the quality.

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The beans are manually roasted in high heat, until they become charred.

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The thresher gives the beans a rough grinding.

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Winnowing is done so the charred bits are removed. All the disposed charred bits can be used as fertilizer.

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A two-step grinding process follows, which extracts the natural oils of the beans. The end product is a smooth, almost butter-like liquid.

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Guilang Tableya is the world’s only finger-drop molded chocolate. Watching the workers expertly measure the tableya and form their signature shape was mesmerizing to watch.

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Two medallions of the medium-sized tablea, mixed with a cup of water and some brown sugar makes for the perfect sikwate (hot chocolate).


JUAN’S SPECIAL CHICHARON

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Each chicharon house has their own special way of making their product. At Juan’s Special Chicharon in Carcar, they employ the twice-fried method. They pride themselves for being the first in Carcar, Cebu to introduce the Hot & Spicy variant.

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The pork rinds are imported from Netherlands to ensure the highest quality and sanitation.

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The rinds are cut into short strips, and boiled in one big batch.

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The first fry is crucial as the timing will greatly affect the product of the second fry. The first fry should result in a gummy and rubbery texture.

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The second fry is where the magic happens. It takes less than 15 seconds in hot oil for the pork rinds to turn into big pieces of chicharon.

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Their spicy chicharon packs just the right amount of heat that will make you finish an entire bag.


ZUBUCHON

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Most lechon houses roast the pigs right after midnight, which is not the most ideal time for a tour. Or even the most ideal time to get hungry.

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Zubuchon, on the other hand, has two cooking times. The second one luckily falls at around lunch time.

The pigs are roasted over indirect heat, and Zubuchon already uses automatic gears to reduce manual labor. There is an allotment of 2 pigs per day per branch. 1 in the morning for lunch service, and another one for dinner.

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Cebu has a lot of lechon houses, but Zubuchon is the most familiar one for most tourists. They have multiple branches in Cebu, and even offer it at the airport, which makes for great recall and ease of access.


PUNGKO-PUNGKO

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A food tour would not be complete without trying some sort of street food. This is where Cebu’s pungko-pungko comes in.

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Pungko translates to “sit” in Bisaya and Hiligaynon. Traditionally, you would find these at the side of the street. But in an effort to ensure hygiene and regulate the businesses, they’ve found home at a pungko-pungko center.

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All the stalls fight to get your attention, much like vendors in a public market.

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In the middle of each stall is a large tupperware filled with fried food of all sorts.

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The stalls rotate each day to give fair chance to all the vendors.

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They also have a strict set of rules on display which helps set aside some worries on whether the hygiene or quality is up to the standard.

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Locals recommend that you try the ginabot, or more commonly known as chicharon bulaklak, but in a much larger portion.

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Dip it in a sauce of vinegar and white onions for added texture.

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There are little balls of rice known as puso that go well with the ginabot.

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Pungko-pungko is typically a merienda tradition, or a quick snack. But it can easily turn into a full meal if you wish to eat handfuls of puso and multiple servings of ginabot, and the other fried options available.

FINAL THOUGHTS

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Cebu has an exciting food scene that’s just waiting to be explored. It can be noted though that some of the folks running these establishments are already old and evidently, the younger generations are not into such laborious traditions.

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The secret recipes and techniques will continue to be handed down as family heirlooms, and hopefully with growing interest from the foodie crowd, a revival of interest in keeping these traditions alive will emerge among the younger crowd.

Live an Awesome Life,

Monique of Team Our Awesome Planet

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Disclosure: Our trip was courtesy of our friends from Happy Juanderer Travel Inc.

You can book this Cebu Food Tour through their website www.happyjuanderer.com or call +63 917 799 9566 and look for Kevin.

P.S. One tip you must remember for this food tour is to be careful not to eat too much at every spot! It’s easy to be excited and eat everything in sight. We recommend to just buy the products to bring with you home.