pampanga: mangan keni!

driving to pampanga, we used to pass this big billboard advertising a local restaurant, with the giant caption "mangan keni!", which is kapampangan for "eat here!" pretty apropos, considering all we ever seem to do when we go back to the province is eat, eat, eat.

farming and fishing are still economic mainstays of the pampangan economy. while the region is almost completely landlocked, there is an extensive river system providing the area. although kapampangans are known for their culinary knowledge and skills, everyday dishes are simply prepared, with humble ingredients that often quite literally nature's bounty: while the crops provide vegetables, fruits, and rice, they also provide a variety of insects, reptiles, and other creatures. depending on how you look at things, these could be pests or pulutan (small snack). back in the day, people ate what was available to them, in times of feast or famine; what you might consider deep-end dining (sorry, eddie!) passed for abundant, nutritious fare.


of course, we're not in the 'olden' times, but in the modern world of krispy kremes (or the local equivalent) and beard papas, so even in the province, everyone's on a diet. i never used to see steamed vegetables or (gasp) a green salad, although i suspect that had partially to do with a cultural belief that a table laden with meat was a sign of prosperity. no one was thinking of clogged arteries at the time.

rice in  banana leaves

the square, green packets pictured above are rice-filled banana leaves, which are steamed in a big pot. the banana leaf imparts a lovely aroma to the rice, which is a perfect accompaniment to fried, fat, yellow-fleshed river caught hito (catfish) and hipon (freshwater prawns), simply steamed with local bay leaves.


the beginning of rainy season is the best time for frog catching around the riverbanks and rice paddies. i'm told it's a fairly simple thing: tie a piece of black cloth to a fish rod and string, then wave it around like a mosquito buzzing overhead. the frog catches it, you catch the frog, and dinner is just around the corner.


in this case the tugac was cooked in a tinola-style soup, with chunks of green papaya, loads of chili pepper leaves, and ginger. tastes like chicken, really. a really amphibious sort of chicken.

snail soup

personally, i prefer snails (susû if you are interested; don't forget that circumflex or you'd really be askin' for it whilst asking for it), cooked simply with lots of ginger and onion. the snails are so tiny that you need a toothpick to pick them out, or possess impressive dyson-like suction abilities.

atis and mangoes

desserts are as simple and as satisfying as the rest of the meal, usually whatever fruit is at the peak of ripeness; in this case, a bumpercrop of atis, and sweet, golden, succulent mangoes.


mmmm circumflex

You do have a way with words missy.

sounds like an exercise machine.

You know I'm not the bravest of eaters... so it probably comes as no surprise that eating frogs would give me pause. Actually, I think if there were bites of meat in a soup and someone told me it was frog, I probably would be OK. But the critter in that photo of yours is a little too reminiscent of biology lab.

hey cathy--i hear ya. and it looks like he's wearing his fat pants, too.

Eating in the province is so different from eating in Manila. I think I build up more of an appetite there. The food tastes so much better... possibly because the ingredients are fresher? But hmmm... I still wouldn't take you up on that frog leg though.

Hee hee! The cute froggies. Wait till everyone sees how we cook batute or stuffed frogs. ;-)

Mengan na ka (have you eaten?) seems to have replaced hello and how are you too.

By the way Ate, a Kapampangan you know very, very well made her online debut a few days ago.

toni--what about frogs' toes :)

hey karen--cool beans! auntie f online!

OMG...your photos make me drool. i love your blog. thanks for sharing.

thank you, anon, you are very kind.