Food Tripping

Last Saturday, December 20, 2008, my mother, her friend, and I all went to SanFernando, Pampanga to experience the Giant Lantern Festival. To avoid the traffic, and to make sure that we had all the information about the festival that we needed (not to mention parking space), we left Quezon City at approximately 9:30am. We arrived in San Fernando at approximately 11:30am, and after parking at Robinson’s Starmills Pampanga (the venue of the Giant Lantern Festival), we headed into the city to have lunch.

Based on pre-trip research that I did (AKA Google), I suggested that we check out Everybody’s Cafe, “The Home of Authentic Kapampangan Cuisine.” My mom told me that the place had been around for quite some time, and it was also mentioned to her before. I read that the place served really good food, not to mention some uniquely Kapampangan cuisine. After a 70peso tricycle ride, we were at Everybody’s Cafe.

Everybody's Cafe

I suppose it was still a little early for lunch, as we were the first ones there. The restaurant was setup much like a carinderia, where all you had to do was point what you wanted to have, then the food would be heated and served to you (packaged, if required – check the process on this page).

Everybody's Cafe

We had pako salad, which was fern salad topped with tomatoes and salted egg. Dressing was a rather sweet vinaigrette which I poured on liberally on my salad.

Pako Salad

For our main dishes, we had murcon, a beef roll that, according to the write-up that we read, takes six hours to cook. We were told by the owner and her husband (who were nice enough to chat with us) that they sold their murcon at the Salcedo Market in Makati every Saturday morning; I highly recommend trying it, if you have the chance. We also had pindang damulag, or tapang kalabaw, which was definitely tender and not tough at all. We read that it is marinated for several days so that it’d be tender.

Pindang Damulag

Because I wanted to try what made Kapampangan cuisine unique, I decided to try some of the more… exotic foods. I had the betuteng tugak, which is fried stuffed frog. The frog is stuffed with pork then fried. You know the old cliche that frog “tastes like chicken”? Well, I can confirm that yes, frog does taste like chicken. It’s nowhere near as large or as gross as the frogs that we dissected back in school, and the way it’s cooked made it extra delicious.

Betuteng Tugak

Still, that wasn’t the most “exotic” thing we had. We also got a plateful of camaru, or fried mole crickets. It was a little weird seeing a plate filled with little crickets, and I had to take a deep breath before putting one in my mouth. The crickets were actually quite crispy on the outside, and just a little squishy on the inside. It didn’t even taste as gross as I thought it would; it didn’t taste gross at all! Needless to say, I had a pretty good helping of camaru.

Camaru

I definitely recommend Everybody’s Cafe for your fix of Kapampangan food when you’re at SanFernando. As I mentioned, if you want to have a taste of their murcon, you can check them out at the Salcedo Market in Makati every Saturday morning.

From there, we explored the heritage architecture of San Fernando (which you’ll see in my next post). After a few hours of walking, my mom needed her coffee fix, so we took a jeep and headed to Ala Creme, another restaurant I spotted in my “research.”

Ala Creme

We asked for their bestsellers, and they mentioned the Ube Cake, and something called the Sinful Chocolate Cake. As Ube Cakes are relatively common in Metro Manila anyway, I had the Sinful Chocolate Cake, while my mom had the bar version of the same. It’s easy to see why they called it Sinful: It was a rich chocolate cake (with nuts in it), with chocolate icing, with liberal amounts of chocolate syrup on the side. It was topped by, of all things, a chocolate bar. Yup, definitely a rich, sinful dessert. I was stuffed!

Sinful Chocolate Cake

From there, we went on the hunt for pasalubong. Just a couple of blocks away from Ala Creme was Susie’s Cuisine, “The Best in Pampango Kakanin.” We purchased muchi, puto-pao, and tamales, among others. They had a wide selection of kakanin, or food made with sticky rice. I’ve tried their puto-pao and tamales already, and it’s good.

Susie's Cuisine

Then, we went on a hunt for Aurely’s, another restaurant that I saw mentioned often in my research. They had something called the Aurely’s Special, which is similar to the brazo de mercedes, but unique in that the cake isn’t rolled, and is served in such a way that the filling is the topping. After a quick jeepney ride, we found the elusive Aurely’s (which wasn’t on the map that we had), and got a box of Aurely’s Special.

Aurely's Special

I’ve had some of the Aurely’s Special already, and I can see why it’s getting all that hype. It’s sweet, delicious, and light enough that you can definitely have more than one square. If you ever find yourself in San Fernando, Pampanga, be sure to grab a box of Aurely’s Special, and try not to finish a whole box by yourself.

Aurely's

In my next update, I’ll talk about my walkabout of San Fernando and its heritage buildings. And of course, the grand finale: The Giant Lantern Festival!