Makaon Kita! 18 Must-Try Food in Catanduanes
Touted as the Happy Island, Catanduanes is the 12th biggest island in the Philippines. There’s no denying that Catanduanes has charmed a lot of locals and tourists, not only with its admirable beaches and genuinely hospitable Catandunganons but its delectable dishes too. Let me take you to a virtual culinary tour featuring our 18 must-try food in Catanduanes. Enjoy!
I recently visited Catanduanes for the Abaca Festival and I must admit, I fell in love with the island. In fact, it’s now included in my Top Island destinations in the Philippines. Apart from the beautiful landscape, friendly locals, and the Island’s Happy vibe, one experience that one should not miss is to “Eat”.
Unlike Bicol who devours and takes pride with their Spicy dishes – dishes in Catanduanes begs to differ. They are best known to offer kakanin and array of seafood cooked in coconut milk to satisfy the hungry pangs.
Without further ado, here’s a rundown of top Catanduanes food you should really try soon!
If you still haven’t got a taste of Latik, then this is the place to go. This famous kakanin is a sticky rice treat made with glutinous rice, coconut milk, and additional malunggay juice to enhance the flavor and color. It is usually bought in a box, perfect for pasalubong. Oftentimes, it is served for breakfast, afternoon snack, and as dessert.
Steamed Mud Crabs
No one could ever resist the hefty steamed mud crabs served in most seafood hubs in Catanduanes. It is often cooked in gata and ginger and best eaten with a Pako salad with tomatoes and onions on the side. Depending on your preference, you can even have your mud crabs cooked in curry sauce, onion, and chili with your heat of choice.
Ensaladang Fresh Pako
As mentioned above, you can never go wrong pairing your seafood mains with this healthy side! Also called as Fern Salad, this dish is composed of tomatoes, onions, white vinegar, sugar, egg, and fiddlehead fern. If you’re feeling creative, you can add milk cheese or drizzle it with orange zest.
Another Catanduanes favorite is the steamed lobster. This is a pricey crustacean and is probably one of the most expensive seafood dishes we could ever order in a seafood restaurant. It is pricey all year-round, but in Catanduanes, it is considered to be their staple food and it is more affordable. The tender lobster meat is sweeter than the crab meat and is best when dipped with a mix of soy sauce and calamansi.
Another traditional delicacy this province takes pride of is the Binamban. Wrapped in blanched banana leaves, this kakanin is very much noticeable because of its deep shade of purple. It has the right amount of sweetness making it a favorite merienda in the province. It has several folds and is best eaten with a hot chocolate or a coffee.
Camoteng Kahoy in caramelized brown sugar
Often called as Balanghoy, this Camoteng Kahoy delicacy is no stranger in Catanduanes. As a matter of fact, you can make this at the comfort of your home! It’s a simple local dessert usually made with cassava, brown sugar and vanilla extract plus water. Sometimes, locals opt to add coconut milk for additional thickness.
Just like Balanghoy, Garyang is also made of a special kamoteng kahoy, but instead of using sugar, this interesting delicacy is cooked in gata. This native delicacy is best eaten as an afternoon snack and dessert.
Longing for an authentic Bicol Express for quite a while now?? Fret not! In Catanduanes, they also serve oh-so-good Bicol Express wherever you go! It’s usually a combination of the following ingredients: minced garlic and onion, coconut milk, pork belly, oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Bicolano says that to make your Bicol Express the real deal, don’t use corn starch to thicken the sauce.
Garlic Steamed Prawns
This sumptuous seafood dish is yet another staple in Catanduanes. Well, most probably not only here but even in the Metro! With its enticing aroma, the way garlic plays its part it creating a mouthwatering dish, it is without a doubt a favorite amongst the locals of Catanduanes. It’s tasty, tender, and easy to cook!
One of the best-kept gems in Bicol is Tilmok; a dish made with shrimp, young coconut and cooked in coconut milk with garlic, onion, ginger, and chili. It is then wrapped in Hagikhik before it is boiled. It has a special herby yet creamy taste, making it a favorite amongst locals and even foreigners!
Carabeef or Tapang Kalabaw is also one of the must-try dishes in Catanduanes. Unlike any other tapa we’re used to eating, this dish has a very distinct taste. It is marinated and mixed with salt, sugar, anisado wine and prague powder to achieve that savory flavor. Of course, it is best eaten for breakfast, with fried rice and egg! Yummm!
If there’s any exotic dish best eaten with bare hands, that would be Catanduanes’ very own Ginataang Suso. Although most of us are familiar with this dish, the locals surely know how to make this one a stand-out. To make this rich and creamy viand, all you need are the following ingredients; ginger, onion, garlic, green chili, coconut milk, and of course, snails.
If you’re into the usual suman, you may certainly like this Balisungsong too! A Bicolano’s pride, this delicacy is made up of ground rice; can be from ordinary or sticky rice, coconut milk, sugar and lastly, coconut. However, while other suman is covered in white and purple color, the Balisungsong is known for its green properties, where it got its color from the conical wrappings of the banana leaves. It pairs well with other dishes, and also best served in breakfast and dessert.
Surprisingly delicious, Laing will always be a crowd favorite and was first introduced in Bicol. With the abundance of coconut milk in the province, the locals has plenty of dishes where they make use of it, and one perfect example is Bicol’s spicy laing. It’s usually made of dried taro leaves, pork belly, coconut milk, and chili peppers. To add more extra flavor, you can add a bagoong or balaw. This dish is best served with steamed rice. Perfect for lunch!
Before mashed potatoes even became popular in the country, there was nilupak. This delightful treat is made up of cassava, coconut and condensed milk, and nut for additional texture. This one’s a favorite dessert in the province. Gotta love it!
If you’re thinking of pasalubong, then add bukayo to your list! Mostly sold on provincial buses and souvenir shops, this sweet and chewy delicacy is made with coconut strips, coconut water, and sugar mixture, and then formed flat circles and left to harden. But take note of its high sugar content!
Another unique rice dish you should taste is the Binutong; made with glutinous rice with coconut cream, wrapped in banana leaves in a pouch-like manner. Just like any other suman and kakanin, this is best served with hot coffee and hot chocolate.
Apart from the staple kinilaw or ceviche, there’s one place in Virac that serves a tasty Kilawing Tanigue. This visually appealing appetizer is made of coconut milk, vinegar, ginger, red onions, and garlic. Its flavors are perfectly balanced, making this a worthy dish to try soon.
One of my favorites, Its made from Taro root stuffed with grated taro and young coconut meat then cooked in coconut milk with pandan for a refreshing flavor. It’s best to try this at Delicias Farm in Pandan, Catanduanes.
It’s another kakanin made from Dawa – a local grain grown in Bato Catanduanes. When cooked, it looks very similar to Nilupak but the consistency is very similar to a corn-based cake.
Catanduanes is indeed a Happy Island, overflowing with endless adventure, natural wonders, and culinary abundance. Now all you have to do is plan that much-awaited vacation leave and invite your friends for an extraordinary food trip in the Land of the Howling Winds!