PAMPANGA CULINARY ARTS (Source: www.pampangacapitol.com)
There is certainly more to the cliché that Kapampangans are such great cooks. For many generations, these ever innovative and resourceful chieftains of the cauldron have been whipping up one gastronomic feast after the other, from the earthly exotic to the heartachingly heavenly.
Consider, if you will, sisig, which is crunchy charcoal-grilled pork cheek chopped into minute morsels and mixed with minced chicken liver, onions, and the juices of freshly-squeezed calamansi (Philippine lemon).
Betute, harvested from the rich ricefields this side of the region, may well be the world’s tastiest frogs. Stuffed with meat and marinated in cane vinegar and soy, betute has become an essential gustatory delight for both foreign tourists and visiting non-Kapampangans alike.
Truly an extraordinary pleasure for delicate palates, Kamaru are actually mole crickets scandalously sautéed in golden brown garlic and onion or cooked ala adobo.
Taba ng Talangka
Burung asan or balo-balo is basically a pastelike mixture of rice and salted mudfish or small shrimps fermented for like eternity before it is slowly cooked in garlic, ginger, onions, and tomatoes.
Tabang talangka, which is fondly referred to as the kampampangan caviar and for good reason, is actually the finger-licking fat of a hundred mini crabs meticulously pried off, collected, bottled, and sinfully sold in many makeshift roadside stalls all over the province.
The sprawling palengkes (public markets) of Pampanga will always have pindang babi or damulag (tocino), which is delicious pork meat or carabeef, cured to honey-sweet tender perfection. Longanissas, which are native sausages that come in different lenghts and subtle varieties. And tapas, which is either salted meat or fish, smoked or sun dried.
Visit any Kapampangan home, preferably lunchtime, and chances are, you will find, as standard fare: bulanglang (pork or beef ribs slowly boiled in guava), sinigang (a course of meat or fish and vegetables with a savory stew of tamarind), kare-kare (oxtail, knuckles, and tripe stewed with varied vegetables in rich peanut sauce), or begukan (pork cheek slices crispy-fried in anchovy-like shrimp paste and garlic), served with a sidedish salad of sliced tomatoes and onions.
A shortlist of mainstays in many Pampanga fiestas, especially those in areas farflung, is sure to include: lechon (roast suckling pig) or lechon kawali (pan-fried roast pork slices) dipped in flavorful sarsa or liver sauce flavored mildly with saffron, murcon (native meatloaf), rellenong bangus (stuffed milkfish), and the undyingly omnipresent bringhe (sticky paella-like green-colored glutinous rice with coconut milk, topped with slices of chicken, shrimps, and egg, and carefully wrapped in banana leaves).
Kapampangan desserts, meanwhile, comprise an altogether different constellation in vast Kapampangan culinary cosmos:
Sans rival and turrones de casoy are the shining stars of Sta. Rita town. Sasmuan has its polvoron and pinipig, its macapuno, kasoy, langka, and peanut butter. Bacolor is invariably known for its pansit luglug and pansit palabuk, not to forget its tamales, suman bulagta, puto seco and sopas(special mamon).
Other famous local treats include: tibok-tibok (a decadent dessert of thick pure carabao’s milk), pastillas, calame bico, ube haleya and panara (which sells like hotcakes during Christmas), along with tsokolate de batirol, suman tali, putong lason, duman, and puto maya.
Small wonder why in almost all towns and cities all over Pampanga, one is sure to stumble upon the finest restaurants, diners, eateries, food sheds, and last but not the least, your friendly neighborhood turo-turos, serving the taste of Pampanga fresh daily.