Cebu is an Island. Duh, everything is an island in this country, all 7107 (or is it 7106) of them. Fresh seafood is easy to find. After 3.5 years living in the American desert I think I’ve caught up with my cravings for fresh seafood.
So I’ve turned my attention to pork. Not that I’ve been neglecting The Other Fat Meat, it’s that I’ve found some dishes I like and keep coming back to them.
Humba (braised pork belly) opened my eyes. I had no idea what it was when I ordered it. Questioning the waitress produced the usual semi-useless info. All I was able to get out of her was that it’s pork with sauce and that there was vinegar in the sauce. The waitress warned me that it was strong flavored. I asked if most westerners did not like it and she said yes. Everything I’d tried at this restaurant was somewhere between OK and good so I took a shot. It was excellent.
(A photo of Humba would be appropriate here.)
[Edit: I went back to the same restaurant and had Humba again.]
Three days later I attended a birthday party for the six year old cousin of a woman I’m dating. I got there when the Lechon Baboy was still wrapped. I’d seen people carrying these pork scented and rendered lard stained bundles through the streets and knew enough about the culture to know that a party isn’t a party without some Baboy.
Every street features a stand where one can buy Baboy. I’d had it several times and enjoyed it. It was good but not great. Then Anthony Bourdain came to town. He was once a top notch chef, an excellent writer about food and the host of the Travel Channel show No Reservations where he visits counties, hangs with his professional counterparts, affluent foodies and just plain folks and immerses himself in the food culture. I don’t think there is anything he likes better than fatty pork. He proclaimed that Cebu style Lechon Baboy was the best roast pig he had ever tasted.
Mr. Bourdain’s accolades passed briefly though my mind as Chris was cutting the first piece off the whole pig. The skin is rigid enough to make Frisbees out of (or Kung Fu throwing stars). It cracks and crackles as it is cut, then trails fat glistened thin strands of meat when it is transferred to the plate. The meat glistened XXX with fat, I was wondering if there was enough surface fat that one could actually suck it up with a straw when the full scent of inner Baboy hit me. Is it possible that when the brain turns on full salivation it also turns off all conscious and rational thought? Seemed like it to me.
My writing skills are insufficient to describe how much better this Baboy was than what I had tasted at even the pig place that is widely considered the best in Cebu. I had never been to a restaurant when the pig was fresh and certainly had never gotten the first prime cut. But it was sufficiently better to believe the Mr Bourdain was telling the truth when he rated Cebu roast pig #1 in his experience.
I’ve had a glimpse of pork nirvana. I’m now on a mission that will serve several purposes:
1) Taste all the Filipino pork dishes I can find,
2) Give me some practice in close-up food photography,
3) Motivate me to return to some restaurants just to see what pork they offer,
4) Eliminate or reduce the need for a belt with the shorts I brought from home that I never had to use a belt with until I was in country a few months.
Photos, descriptions and the occasional blood cholesterol results to follow.