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Sunday, January 1, 2012

The exotic foods I've eaten in the Philippines

Over the years and many travels I had the opportunity to partake in various exotic dishes in the Philippines some of which I did not even know what it was at the time of consumption. Here are a few of them.

Salagubang (Beetles)

I was still in the Military and on temporary duty in the Philippines back in 1985 when I paid a visit to some friends living in a nipa house in Tarlac province. They were rice farmers. Since it was night and the lights were off I was unable to see too well. They were in a joyful mood and were eating fresh peanuts and drinking. The grandmother came in the room and put a plate in front of my face and asked if I wanted to try. I had no idea what it was. It smelled like popcorn. But it was darker. So I thought maybe she was just serving me burnt popcorn. It was really dark as all they had was an oil lamp. We were all sitting on the bamboo floor. I picked up a piece and tried it. It was crunchy but tasted like popcorn. So I continued to eat more and more. Then someone came in with a flashlight and shined it on the plate. I was shocked to see I was eating fried grasshoppers! The farmers pick them off the rice when working the fields. Since that time I have never passed up an occasion to eat these little bugs. They really are good!


Bayawak ( Monitor Lizzard )

My brother in law used to cook sometimes for me and my wife. One time he showed up with a plate that had a meat that looked just like chicken. I thought it looked okay other than it had a very strange bone structure. Since it was deep fried I decided to dig in and enjoy this strange looking chicken. After a few bits and a comment from me on how delicious my laughing brother in law informed me it was a Bayawak! In fact everyone was laughing at me as they waited anxiously for my reaction. It really tasted just like chicken. It was delicious. Though at this time it is illegal to catch them like in the past.

Aso Askal ( Native Dog)

Currently it is illegal to eat dog in the Philippines but in the past it was legal to do so. My experience in eating dog was once again a surprise. It was offered to me together with a plate of rice and was heavily marinated with soy sauce. I was told it was beef but became suspicious when those accompanying me started to laugh before I started. The meat did look a bit stringy to me. Actually my taste of Aso was only a quick tiny bite. I had made them tell me what it was before I began. I probably would not ask for this dish again. I have heard that people still eat dogs in the Philippines but is getting more and more rare. Poor little Askals!

Kobra ( Cobra snake )

We had many cobra's on our property in Tarlac. It would not be uncommon to see many of them at one time Thankfully I was never bitten by one nor anyone I knew but they are definitely a favorite delicacy of the locals. Quite tasty too. I would say it tastes more like Chicken than anything else. The main part is just not thinking too much about what you are eating. Eating in a group helps as a good conversation will get your mind off of what you are consuming. I would have it again if offered to me.

Tuba ( Coconut elixir ) 

This is actually a drink and not a food. It is very common to see people in the provinces collecting this Tuba in the morning hours when it is still sweet. The coconut pilots claim the trees with a bamboo tube over their shoulders and then they change it with another tube that had been collecting the Tuba for the previous days. Tuba is collected inside the fronds of the coconut branches. At first I thought it came from the coconut itself and was really surprised to find out it was found inside the branches of the tree itself.  When consumed straight from the tree it is much like juice, sweet and easy to go down. As the hours pass it ferments and turns to alcohol and eventually it turns to vinegar. This is why it is common to see people in the provinces partying it up with Tuba in the afternoons and evenings.  I really like Tuba. I liked it so much I did some investigation on how to export it. The problem is it is not possible to preserve it without significantly changing the flavor. If someone could figure that one out they have a great business on their hands.

Fish eyeballs

For several Asian ethnic groups this is normal fanfare whenever a fish is consumed. But where I come from it is even hard to find a fish in the store that still has a head on it! Well, how do I describe a fish eyeball? Take a small marble and coat it with tasteless Jello and then maybe you have something like that in a fish eyeball. Most of my friends in the province in the Philippines would consume the eyes whenever they had fish. It was just part of the meal. So no big deal there but definitely exotic for my pallet.

The experience of eating new foods has really broadened my horizons during my time in the Philippines. Some of that which I consider exotic is just normal everyday cuisine for many people there. I saw lot's of other things consumed that I would need to get mentally prepared before I tried it like Green frog's legs, squirril, certain animal parts of goats ( the male part) and various bugs.

One thing for sure it's a good experience to try new and exciting cuisine! Bon Appetite!


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