Sunday, March 23, 2014

Batanes Diary 7. Eating Our Way Around Batanes

Do not expect gourmet-anything in Batanes. No fancy frappes and smoothies either. If you're a coffee connoisseur, bring your own beans because chances are, "cappuccino" in 3-in-1 sachets are the best you can find in Basco. Curb your burger and chip sign of the golden arches there, not even Jollibee or Minute Burger. 

What Batanes has is plenty of seafood -dried and fresh, vegetables-dried and fresh, organic, home-grown or wild.

Like these wild mountain ferns that we asked the staff of a small canteen to cook for us the way they'd cook it in their homes - they boiled some meaty pork bones and added these ferns just before serving.  Yum.

There is not much choice of foodstuff around Batanes. The locals make do with what is in the market everyday, or what they have in store, so the rule is, what you see is what you get. Most of the basics like pork, chicken and vegetables come from the mainland (Manila or Tuguegarao). 

A lot of fish is dried and stored for the rainy season. We saw this man in his front yard preparing the day's catch of dibang (flying fish) for drying.

We saw fish drying from clothes hangers..

..from wires strung between houses

..and even from street signs!

Other types of seafood are plentiful, although these days, the prime ones are reserved for tourists, like this huge rock lobster accompanied by smaller slipper and rock lobsters.

The Ivatans like turmeric, and they slice and dry them on the streets...

..then pound them into powder which they add to rice to make the elegantly-hued Ivatan rice

The freshest ingredients are cooked very simply. Here are some of the dishes we had:

Mountain snails cooked in light coconut milk and wild ferns - this was really yummy!

Uvud balls. Our guide told us these are made with  ground pork mixed with the root portion of banana plants. They are cooked in a slightly salty broth. 

A whole parrot fish steamed with soysauce and ginger

Coconut crab, a Batanes delicacy which we later found out is already on the endangered list! Sad. And no one seems to be in charge of controlling the catching of these. 

Beautiful large onion shoots and flowers which were stir-fried - this was one of our favorites!

 Here's what a  typical food store in Basco looks like

No hypermarts here

But they offer to cook the goat meat for you!


Three beautiful words sum up typical Batanes food - fresh, organic and healthy!

"Make voyages. Attempt them. There's nothing else." - Tennessee Williams