Say this about the cuisines of Asia: each nation on the continent has its own way of toting about their lunches. There are metal tiffin boxes on the Indian subcontinent and Japan has its o-bento. Southeast Asians – particularly those in the Malayan Peninsula and the Philippines are known to wrap cooked rice and viands in layers of banana leaves so as to make meals conveniently portable long before the Americans introduced the concepts of Tupperware and lunch boxes.
In some parts of the Philippines, specifically the provinces of Laguna and Batangas in Southern Luzon, these bundles of goodness are called minaluto and are usually toted along by families for summer excursions. In these modern times, they are known simply as binalot – a rather obvious way of saying that the food has been wrapped (Tagalog: binalot).
Numerous food court stalls, stand-alone diners, and neighborhood carinderias have been serving binalot meals for quite some time now as they are popular, being both tasty and cheap. For as low as P 65.00 (about US$ 1.38), diners can enjoy a variety of foods served on top of freshly-steamed rice.
Pork and chicken adobo served with a salted duck egg and a fresh tomato is a popular choice, as is sisig, that decadent, highly savory mixture of finely chopped porkloin, pigs’ ears, and cheeks. Binagoongang baboy, chunks of pork stewed with the classic shrimp paste, is another popular meal. Beef fanciers, of course, are not ignored by binalot makers as both bistek (beef cutlets cooked with soy, onions, and kalamansi juice) and salpicao (beef tenderloin cooked with garlic) are also available.
Whichever bundle you choose, it’s definitely one that you’ll find satisfying.