Maayong buntag – good day – from the heart of Iloilo City on the island of Panay in the Visayas!
I am currently here for the GLOBALPACK International Packaging Conference and Exhibition and am impressed by the beauty of the island, the relaxed mindset of its people, and the lilting dialect of the Ilonggo people which seems to caress the ear and puts newcomers at ease.
And, of course, there’s the food.
Batchoy, a rich, savory noodle soup, is one of the specialties of Iloilo City. It involves noodles cooked in pork broth and topped with scallions and strips of poached offal. In Manila, it is seriously embellished with chicharon (pork crackling) and a raw egg cracked into the broth where it gets poached – unless the diner prefers to whisk it into threads that weave into every bite of noodle.
The version at Sarabia Manor is a much simpler one but is amazingly soulful, hearty, and delicious. Fresh egg noodles are poached till just a little softer than al dente in a rich stock made with pork bones and fat, onions, garlic, and salt. Once ladled into bowls, it is simply topped with minced scallions, toasted garlic, slivers of poached beef, and strips of poached beef liver.
The flavors are amazing: the broth is wonderfully porky but without the off-putting gaminess that characterizes many pork-based soups; it goes smoothly down one’s throat. The eggy noodles are perfect with the soft beef and the liver has just the right bitterness and none of the ferrous tang. It is solid proof that really good, authentic batchoy doesn’t need embellishments to be a treat for the senses.
And one other thing…
…be sure to sop up the broth with some locally-baked pan de sal; it’s really tasty. 😀