Batangas and the Batangueño by Way of Their Food

November 2017

Tintin and Jaime Lontoc teaching the crowd how to cook Pinais na Baboy.

One way of getting to know a people is through their food. It is a cultural artifact: food, and is imbibed with so much culture, stories of the people who made it and the locales from which it was sourced, not to mention the technique, skill, and emotion put into its making.

Last October 28, Matabungkay Beach Hotel sought to delve deeper into Batagueño culture through its cuisine by initiating and hosting the 2017 Batangas Food Festival. By inviting three skilled chefs and several prominent Batangueño families to share their recipes – of their own creation or heirloom ones – the Batangas Food Festival was a true celebration of the best dishes that the area had to offer.

Leading the kitchen were chefs Nancy Lumen, the self-proclaimed adobo queen; Jaja Andal, a professional chef and native of Balayan; and Jun Diño, Matabungkay Beach Hotel’s very own. The trio produced 30 dishes and 5 drinks for the fantastic spread. Some of these dishes included robust adobo flakes with a kapeng barako flourish, a clam paella that was an honest tribute to the salty-savoriness of the sea, and a baby squid salpicao that gave a refreshing twist to a well-known beef dish.

Representatives of prominent Batangueño families: the Dazas, the Lontocs, the Segismundos, the Diños, the Pobladors, the Limjocos, and the Levistes also contributed their own favorite or heirloom dishes to the table.

A notable dish was Jaime and Tintin Lontoc’s Pinais na Baboy. Pinais denotes that something is wrapped in banana leaves, small fish such as dilis or dulong are usual main ingredients. The Lontocs, however, chose to use thin slices of pork instead – kasim (pork shoulder) and liempo (pork belly). It was a dish made only with simple, everyday ingredients: pork marinated in fish sauce, banana leaves, hugas bigas, dried kamias, garlic, green chili, and pepper, and a flourish of coconut milk at the end, all simmered quietly in a humble clay pot. Yet what results is a revelation – a hearty and comforting dish of tender pork, sweetened and made rich by the coconut milk. Then there is a subtle undertone of the banana leaves, punctuated by the sharpness of the dried kamias and the pungency of the fish sauce. Much like the adobo, the pinais is but a few simple ingredients that together make something outstanding.

The renowned cooking family, the Dazas, also contributed their own version of lomi. You could say, perhaps that next to the bulalo, lomi is the next most popular Batangueño dish. Drive by any road in Batangas and you’re sure spot a number of signs that read “lomi haus.” Lomi can be a snack or a full meal: the thick egg noodles in a gelatinous soup with meat, spring onions, and pork cracklings. What makes the Dazas’ version special is the generosity of all the fixins: boiled egg, kikiam, meatballs, fried garlic, strips of pork liver, and a sprinkling of spring onions. It’s a bowl overloaded with goodies.

There is much to be learned about a people through its food – the simplicity yet deliciousness of pinais that only time and patience produces; the resourcefulness that a bowl of lomi displays, with the odds and ends of the kitchen put together to make a new and filling family meal. Simple, patient, resourceful, and family-oriented: these are words that are just as much about the dishes on the table as the ones who lovingly made them.

Get to know Batangas anew, not only through its beaches but through its food. Order from Matabungkay Beach Hotel’s special Batangas Food Festival menu. With 30 dishes and 5 drinks, there will be no shortage of new tastes to discover. Available until December 2017 and in celebration of Matabungkay Beach Hotel’s 35th anniversary.

The Grand Buffet and Media Launch was a well-attended event last October 28, with media friends and hotel guests joining the festivities. Event partners include Masflex Cookware and Kitchenware, The Manila Bullettin, and BusinessWorld.

The Lontoc’s Pinais na Baboy is served in a clay pot.
A true tribute to the sea, this clam paella.
A hearty bowl of lomi, bejewelled with all these toppings.
Dinuguan, rice, and cripsy pork all in one bite thanks to this dinuguan paella.
Chef Jaja Andal fuses kalamay with the chewiness of mochi and a the crunch of toasted coconut.
Chef Jun Diño makes a squid salpicao, a seafood twist to a well-known beef dish!