Balaw Balaw Specialty Restaurant & Art Gallery

Balaw Balaw Specialty Restaurant & Art Gallery is located at 16 Doña Justa Subdivision, Phase I, Manila East Highway, Angono, Rizal. Tel: 651-0110. Mobile: 0923-714-4209.

Ren and I LOVE new food experiences. We’re both adventurous in that regard. In fact, Ren frequently recalls with much fondness the advice her grandfather used to give them as children – “Try everything once.” Sage advice indeed and one that I can readily identify with.

During all our travels, Ren and I often shun frou-frou touristy food in favor of much more interesting street eats. Actively seeking out local delicacies, we’ve been fortunate to discover exotic fare such as tamilok in Palawan, bebek betutu in Indonesia, mountain ant larvae in Ilocos Sur, and bush tucker in Australia, just to recount a few. We’re going to Siem Reap in Cambodia this December, so you can be sure that we’ll be searching out bizarre foods there as well. I’ve read that they do a mean fruit bat soup. 😉

Having heard so much about the bizarre Filipino dishes at Balaw Balaw like soup no. 5, uok, and kamaro, we made the decision not to order anything that wasn’t in the exotic section of their menu. With 1,500 pesos worth of Groupon voucher to “try everything once,” you didn’t think that we’d drive all the way to Angono, Rizal just to order a plate of liempo did you? 😉

Masks are all the rage here at Balaw Balaw.

Just look at how people vandalized and defiled all those beautiful masks. Have they no respect?! Kidding. 😉

There’s manong handpainting his papier mache creations way up top on the third floor, away from all those snap-happy wannabes with DSLRs. Wait… 😆

Sizzling Butt and Balls – PHP 235 – Butt and balls of beef cooked as adobo.

The sizzling version of the infamous Soup No. 5, a delightful and decidedly exotic concoction made from a bull’s gluteus maximus and testes. Cooked in adobo sauce and served on a sizzling plate, it had that same lightly gummy, gelatinous texture as beef cheeks that I love. This was easily my favorite dish of the day and probably the only thing that I’d order again.

Crispy Alagaw Leaves – PHP 125 – herbal mint leaves dipped in butter and deep fried.

This was nice, very similar to crispy kangkong. Ren said that she got a hint of the mint flavor at the back of her palate. Probably way, way, way back because I couldn’t detect it myself. What I did find however was its oiliness, which proved a little much for me. Yecch.

Tapang Baboy Damo – PHP 250 – Cured dried wild boar.

Distinctly gamey and a little tough, as expected. Between this and the cured venison below, which is uniquely gamey in its own right, I preferred this one, though I probably wouldn’t order it again. Not because I didn’t like its gaminess, but because I found it too tough! In any case, if you don’t like gamey food, then I suggest you steer clear from both.

Tapang Usa – PHP 250 – Cured venison.

Nearly indistinguishable from the cured wild boar above, except drier and a little different in its gaminess. None of us really liked either one.

Kamaro – PHP 300 – Field crickets cooked in garlic and spices.

Unlike Abe which serves just the abdomens, these included the heads and legs, making them a little harder to eat, especially for Ren’s cousin Sep. Extremely hesitant with this being his first time trying crickets, I advised him to close his eyes and pretend they were just fried cockroaches. 😆

Crunchy in texture with an adobo-like flavor, these are quite good and make great pulutan (bar chow), provided you can get past the initial aversion to eating insects. Like all bugs, they’re high in protein and low in fat, so would make a great, healthy, sustainable food source. More on that later.

Ginisang Balaw Balaw sa Baboy at Talong – PHP 170 – Fermented shrimp sauteed with pork and eggplant.

Apart from the garlic fried rice below, this was the only thing we ordered today that wasn’t on their exotics menu. The place was named after this dish after all, so we thought we should try it. “Balaw Balaw” is just another name for “Buro”, which is fermented shrimp paste. With that distinctly pinkish, salmon-y color, Balaw Balaw’s version is good but very sharp-tasting, so it would probably be best tempered with some rice.

Garlic Fried Rice

The exceedingly popular “Minaluto”, which most people order. Similar to those “boodles”, it’s basically a banana-leaf lined bilao (panner) with mussels, shrimp, kangkong, fried adobo, fish, and salted eggs strewn about on a molehill of rice. I remember seeing several kinds on their menu, so you can probably choose different combinations and amounts to suit your group. These were the minaluto remains from the table next to ours.

A few take-home goodies like their famous Balaw Balaw and papier mache masks.

Crapnabbit. The one thing that we all really wanted to try wasn’t available today, which was uok or beetle larvae. Collected from felled coconut trees, they’re either cooked as adobo or steamed in tamarind fruit and tomatoes like snails. Oh well.

Speaking of insects as a food source, I’ve been really curious about the possibilities ever since I saw an episode of Bizarre Foods set in San Francisco. This artist couple would farm insects like crickets, superwoms, and mealworms in their backyard, then incorporate them into fritters, omelettes, tempura, you name it. I fucking adore San Francisco. So many open-minded, artistic, socially responsible people.

As mentioned above, insects are high in protein, low in fat, inexpensive, easy to cultivate, don’t need much space, and highly sustainable. With all those positives, it almost seems irresponsible not to give it a shot, which is why I ordered the Eat-a-bug Cookbook by David George Gordon from Amazon. I keep pet lizards that feed on these insects, so I already care for a variety of bugs like superworms, mealworms, crickets, and different types of flightless roaches. It only makes sense for me to go one step further and start farming them for ourselves, beginning with the superworms. Lucky for me, I have an amazing wife who’s not only open to the idea, but embraces it as well. ♥

In about two weeks’ time, I’ll be going to Cartimar to replenish my stock of superworms, except this time I’ll be buying a bunch not just for my pets, but for Ren and I as well. I’ll be sure to post my progress on this blog and share with you all the delectable dishes I come up with.

JB-licious recipes anyone? 😉

The World’s Longest Oyster

Two Caucasians were vacationing in Palawan when they spotted local Batak tribesmen digging out these slimy, worm-looking things from rotting mangrove wood and eating them.

Shocked, one of the men shouted to his companion:

“Look! Tommy, look!”

According to the urban legend, this was how this bivalve mollusk came to be known as tamilok in Palawan. Tommy, look…tamilok…get it? An amusing story though I can’t verify its accuracy.

Commonly known as “ship worms” or “wood worms”, they resemble worms but are actually saltwater clams with tiny shells. Sometimes referred to as “termites of the sea”, they’re notorious for boring into and feasting on rotting wood submerged in sea water, such as dead mangrove roots, piers, even wooden ships.

Not exactly the most appetizing-looking creatures, they resemble foot-long worms, are the color of ash mixed with snot, and engorge themselves on decaying wood. The brave soul that first thought of eating these squirmy things must have been Bear-Grylls-like famished, or totally insane.

I’ve been dying to try this exotic Filipino delicacy ever since I saw it on an episode of Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern. Unable to find any during our recent trip to Coron, Palawan, I was ecstatic to finally get my chance here in Puerto Princesa.

Growing to an adult length of over 12 inches, they’re eaten raw and flavored only by a calamansi, vinegar, onion, and chili dipping sauce. I like mine kicking and screaming so I add a few drops of hot sauce as well.

Tasting far better than it looks, the tamilok is milky and sweet, with a slightly gummy texture that’s very similar to oysters, hence the title “the world’s longest oyster.” When eaten fresh, it can sometimes have a subtle wood pulp flavor that’s surprisingly palatable.

Hands down one of the oddest things I’ve ever put in my mouth, tamilok, despite its grotesque apperance, is delicious.

L: “That’s what sheeee saaaid…” R: Eating the foot-long tamilok is difficult, so it’s common practice to slice them up into more manageable, bite-size portions.

And down the hatch you go my pretty…

There’s me chowing down on this most exotic delicacy like a boss.

CLICK HERE to see how they look freshly harvested from dead wood. I know, right? 😆

Tamilok is definitely something that you need to try if you ever find yourself in Puerto Princesa. Like it or not, it’s guaranteed to be an experience that you won’t soon forget. If you’re a little squeemish, just think of them as nature’s gummy worms. They’ll go down easier. 😉

More on Palawan

Underground River, Puerto Princesa, Palawan
Palawan Mangrove Forest
Sheridan Beach Resort and Spa
The Edge of the World
Kayangan Lake, Coron, Palawan
Ay kay Layo ng Lamayo!

Kainan sa Dalampasigan, Nasugbu, Batangas

Kainan sa Dalampasigan is located along R. Martinez St., Brgy. IX-Poblacion, Nasugbu, Batangas.

If I’m not mistaken, “Kainan sa Dalampasigan” translates to “Eatery by the Seashore.”

For over 15 years now since my folks got a place at Canyon Cove*, it’s become tradition to stop and enjoy a meal here every time we’d spend a week-end or holiday in Nasugbu. The food is great and inexpensive, and the restaurant is surrounded by beautiful gardens and perennially flourishing greenery.

I’ve long told Ren about this place, so was very excited to finally take her here en route to an impromptu overnight stay at Canyon Cove. Typhoon? What typhoon? With the howling Falcon upon us and Sep and Tiff along for the ride, we buckled up and carpe diem-ed our way through the tempest, cursing sanity at every step so as not to be dissuaded from this epicurean adventure.

* The residential resort formerly known as White Cove

As you’re driving towards Punta Fuego on J.P. Laurel St. in Nasugbu, watch out for this “Kainan sa Dalampasigan” homemade sign on your left side. As soon as you spot it, turn left onto this street (R. Martinez St.).

Drive a few hundred meters and you’ll see this Welcome to Barangay Bucana archway. The restaurant is just a little past this on your left side.

The entrance to the restaurant. There’s actually a sign there but as you can see from the picture, it’s been obscured by thick foliage.

Lush driveway

Soon as you enter the actual restaurant, you’re greeted by this beautiful cascading waterfall with hanging vines. The portion of the ceiling directly above it is made of glass so the waterfall bathes under natural light.

Rustic, cavernous interior with fresh flowers on every table. It feels like you’re eating in an old but well-maintained barn or farmhouse. I love all the heavy wooden tables, chairs and benches. They add to the restaurant’s character as do the large bay windows with stained glass accents.

Bulalo (beef, bone marrow, and vegetable soup) – PHP 390. You can’t really tell from the picture but this bowl of bulalo is huge! It was more than enough for all 4 of us.

Delicious and perfect. The meat was tender and the broth very flavorful, so much so that Ren felt no need to use patis (fish sauce) to flavor the meat. There could not have been a better dish to warm us on this stormy day.

It was great to eat with the rice as well, of which they gave you a copious amount. Each order, for PHP 30, amounted to almost 2 cups of rice.

Bilao sa Dalampasigan – PHP 530. A mouth-watering platter of baked tahong, inihaw na baboy, garlic fried shrimps, daing na bangus, and green mango salad.

This was fantastic and a must try. As Ren said, this is the best “boodle” she’s ever had. Everything on this bilao (round basket) was absolutely delicious. Fresh as can be, you didn’t even have to peel the shrimps. They already chopped off the spiny section of the head so you could just plop the whole thing in your mouth – shell, legs and all. I normally dislike the texture of shrimp shells but didn’t mind this one bit.

Eating any of the proteins on this bilao in combination with the green mango salad, bagoong and rice was simply fantastic. As Marketman says, the Batangas market is the best, so it comes as no surprise that the ingredients they serve here are about as fresh as you can find.

One satisfied table of storm chasers. You can tell how big the bowl of bulalo is from this picture.

Baby Mona’s sad cause she can’t reach that bone on Mommy’s plate

Throughout the restaurant grounds are these lavish sectioned-off gardens. Love the stone archways and rustic gates. This one has a gazebo inside hence the name – “Gazebo ni Lolo Poniong” (Lolo Poniong’s Gazebo)

“Hardin ni Lola Dora” (Lola Dora’s Garden) – Doesn’t it feel like you’re walking into a hidden, secret English garden? I was half expecting a hyper rabbit in coat tails to just pop up at any minute and ask me to follow him.

Wide shot of the restaurant interior just so you see how big it is. I’m standing at the far end.

The sky falling on our heads. I wasn’t kidding when I said we drove through a typhoon to get here. Most of the exterior shots above were taken the next day after the rains and wind had subsided.

Though the food here is excellent and the surroundings beautiful, I wouldn’t go so far as dubbing it a destination restaurant in the same vein as Antonio’s, C’ Italian Dining, or Ugu Bigyan’s Secret Garden Restaurant. Though they serve fresh and delicious Filipino food, it’s nothing unique, at least not enough to merit its own trip.

Nonetheless, the experience of dining here has always been an immensely enjoyable one. As previously mentioned, we’ve been coming here for over 15 years now and there hasn’t been any drop-off in quality. The staff is very friendly, even switching on the waterfalls so I could photograph it when I returned early the next day.

I asked the waiter how long they’ve been around, and despite being open at this location for an already impressive 15 years, I was surprised to find that they’ve actually been in business for an astonishing 30. Wow. That makes them an institution in my book. If they continue to maintain the quality of their food and service just as they’ve done for the past 3 decades, I wouldn’t be surprised if they flourished for yet another 30.

If you’re on your way to Calatagan or Nasugbu for a week-end getaway, I highly recommend you make a stop here at Kainan sa Dalampasigan. You won’t regret it.