Laguna is not all about hot spring resorts. Tasting their food will give one a burst on his taste buds. And, of course, who can’t resist their Buko Pie?
Laguna Food Trip
Laguna food trip is a great opportunity in exploring the province and its towns. Sometimes, you may think, is there a particular food that Laguna is known for?
When the place Laguna comes up, one can always remember a hot spring swim. No one can deny that their hot spring resorts are a real come-on for tourists.
Who wouldn’t like to submerge his body on a running, natural and lukewarm water? Thus, making a one-day vacation as the best relaxation of the year.
Another special adventure like Laguna food trip is worth to try. The food seems secretively tuck in their kitchen. But when a visitor tries it, he will be surprised by its bursting flavors.
Come on, walk with me on this food trip to the hot springy Laguna. We will go to its town to take lunch, a munch of halo-halo or buy their rice cakes and indulge in their buko pie. Exploring the side streets for their bonete and espasol. And, slurping the exotic balut.
Foods to Try in Laguna:
- Buko Pie
- Pickled Ubod
- Suman sa Lihiya
- Kesong Puti
- Ginataang Hipon
- Puto Bumbong
- Aling Taleng’s Halo-Halo
- Micha’s cakes and pastries
- Paco Salad
When the topic goes to food, there is no prompt answer. Nevertheless, there will always be someone, like me, that would answer “buko pie”.
And, I was not wrong. For, as you travel along the main roads of Laguna, stores selling buko pie proliferate. So, I had just proved that buko pie is the expertise of Laguna in terms of their pastries.
The truth is, it is not only all about buko pie. So, come on, walk with me on this food trip to the hot springy Laguna. And, of course, there will be a little bit of shopping here and there.
The first town to be explored is Liliw, Laguna.
Our meeting place was in Los Banos, Laguna. It was at the entrance of UP Los Banos. It was about an hour’s drive to Liliw.
Liliw, Laguna is known for their slippers that are so durable yet low in price. Yes, those are slippers that cost 3 pieces for P100, about a little less of $2.
These slippers are still wearable even for one-year everyday use. And they are not just plain ones. Certainly, they come in designs that you can wear them for outside walks.
Here in Liliw, we would be waiting for the opening of Arambela Restaurant for our lunch. They open at 11:15 am.
So, since we’re too early for the opening, we went first to a bakery. A bakery that is almost a half-century old.
Juntayas Bakery bakes the best bonete in this place or any other place I knew. The owner welcomed us happily. She even permitted us to peek on her 45-year old ovens. There are two.
Old fashioned ovens made of bricks made this bakery authentic. The bricks came all the way from Vigan. Certainly, Vigan folks specialized in making these bricks.
Vigan lies in the northern part of Luzon, here in the Philippines, while Liliw is on the southern.
These authentic brick ovens are placed on a solid stand to level the oven on the height of the baker. Each stood in a different place inside the bakery.
Their bottoms, the cooking floors, are enclosed filled with salt. Yes, salt, because salt can maintain the desired heat that they need to achieve perfect baked products.
These traditional ovens cost her parents a half million pesos when they were constructed 45 years ago. Both ovens are still gorgeously working.
They used logs to create the flame needed. Moreover, this super long pala is very helpful in transferring the ready-to-bake dough to the big space inside the brick oven. This pala is like a shovel with a very long handle.
Aside from bonete, they also bake burger buns, binaraha, pandesal and tasty.
They also offer roasted pig, the lechon. It can be the whole pig or just a chosen part, like the pig’s head. Pig roasting took from 6 hours and more.
The oven’s inner space is too big because a whole pig together with assorted bread can be roasted and baked inside at the same time. So, that is how long this huge oven is.
And, we were lucky being here at her bakery. For when she reheated the bonete for us, it was indeed beside the lechon.
The flavor of the roasted pig somehow stuck on the bonete. As a result, the little bread’s crust had become savory in flavor. Savory as the roasted pig.
Each bonete costs P3, at about $0.06.
The place smells of the aromatic roasted pig with the distinct fragrance of baked bread. Oh, so heavenly.
As you step inside, bakers were busy shaping the huge table-size dough into smaller rounds.
The place had rows and shelves of dough, on its proofing stage. Then, after the allotted time, it would be put on the brick oven and be baked to its perfection.
It was such admiring to look at the hard-working bakers. They give their never-ending effort to their loved customers. It is a dedication deeply rooted within them that provided the best bread in town.
At the heart of Liliw, is the main road mostly occupied by footwear stores. There is also a street for Pasalubong Center (Food Souvenir Stores).
Assorted cookies like paborita, puto seko and uraro are lined-up in their spaces.
Many also sell fresh fruits like lanzones. Glad they still had this lanzones. It is near the end of its season.
They have big atis, lipote and rambutan. It was a very refreshing experience.
The cost of lanzones is P120 per kilo, about $2.36. But after a little haggling, the vendor gave it for P110 per kilo. It was so sweet. Ants were all around the fruits.
Farther more, down the street, were live crablets and other seashells. You can buy from them and ask them to cook it. An additional fee is charged in exchange for a very delectable crablet dish.
And almost everywhere, there is selling of Paco leaves. Firstly, these leaves are used to make fresh Paco Salad.
Watch out as we buy from neighboring towns of their own products. Those are the ingredients that would complete a perfect Paco Salad.
After buying fruits, we went back to Arabela. They opened at 11:15 am. We lined up outside.
Luckily, we were among the first ones in the line. The line became long enough. I was not sure if all the ones in the line could be accommodated.
Arabela is a big ancestral home converted to a dining place. There are ceilings that were a bit low that their food servers can stand with their top head touching the ceiling. But, that seems added a plus point on the restaurant.
Tables and chairs are placed side by side maximizing the space of the place. One should be careful enough to walk on small aisles provided in between.
We just witnessed a customer hit a tall glass of fruit shake when she turned from side to side with her big bag on her shoulder. If you are not thinking of people around you, some misadventures could come on your way.
Of course, a little turn with that bag can cause trouble. You could bump a glass of another person just like that. And the content of the bumped glass would then fell on another’s shirt. It would become a chain of mishaps.
Liliw Products: Bayong
Big bags or “bayong” are bags made of native materials here in Liliw. They are made either from buri or pandan leaves.
A bayong is like a basket, or an open big bag, that you bring when you go to market. It is spacious enough for those ones who would intend to buy like vegetables, fruits, meat and fish.
But, these bayongs are quite different. Some are made plain. While other bayongs are handmade designed giving it a leveling up. It is the reason why it is quite a big hit here in Liliw.
Bayongs are made elegantly with a smooth, painted finish. You can bring them not only to the market but for your everyday adventures or party places. Moreover, the look can be enhanced by tying your favorite scarf on its handle.
So many buyers purchased these big bags to place the slippers they bought on the stores of Liliw.
Now, if you are overwhelmed with all of your slippers shopping spree, please stop. And, just remember that these bags can cause trouble if you do not handle it carefully.
Lunch at Arabela
Back to our lunch, we ordered three kinds of pasta – a red sauce, a white one and a pesto. The plates of pasta were great.
Each one of us had a rice meal. We did choose from fish, beef or pork dishes. Best are grilled viands. The price starts at P200, at about $3.94.
The grilled fish on my pesto sauce had a little bitterness from the burnt part of the grilled portions. Luckily, there was an extra chicken from the pasta in front of me. Also, the saucy beef of one of the rice meals was too sweet.
The service was excellent.
They gladly rearranged the grilled beef of my friend. An intended sprinkle of salt was made. Then, the lock of the container loosely fell down on the steak. The broken lock was never been touched by her. As a result, it fell with all its salt content.
And as we told the food server, he promptly gets the plate and came back a little later with an appetizing one.
The place was so busy for it was full.
The restroom was quite unique and clean. Decorated with small plants bringing calmness. Elevated portions need to make little steps.
After filling our tummies, we headed outside and bought jars of Sinantolan and Pickled Ubod. Packed on small plastic jars, each cost P50, about $1.
Sinantolan made from santol fruits cooked in coconut milk and spices. Best ate with warm rice.
Pickled Ubod made of ubod and some additional ingredients like chili pepper and carrots. Ubod came from the center of a coconut trunk.
A pickling solution is then poured to the said ingredients. Best eaten with rice paired with your favorite fried fish or meat dish.
Along the street is a small booth cooking bibingka and suman. They are both rice cakes cooked in different ways.
Bibingka rice cake is cooked from a clay pot with live charcoal. The specially designed clay pot holds a smaller clay pot.
The smaller ones will be lined with wilted banana leaves. Then, the bibingka mixture will then be poured on it. Next, it will, then, be topped with salted egg or cheese.
This smaller pot will then be placed to the main clay pot with live charcoal. And after placing the smaller pot, a thin metal sheet with live charcoal will also be placed atop on it.
So, both on top and underneath the smaller clay pot has live charcoals. The bibingka is cooked in between.
A similar concept of cooking like this can be read in my article about Siquijor, wherein Lilibeth’s Pan Bisaya baked all her bread on a makeshift oven. The kinds of her bread are torta and pan de coco.
Each bibingka costs P60, about $1.18. Usually, it is served topped with freshly grated coconut.
But, this bibingka is different. You do not need the coconut topping because it has buko strips on it, the macapuno. The macapuno mixed with the bibingka mixture produces uniqueness when cooked.
Uniqueness for being creamy. You hardly taste the rice flavor or the dryness from the rice flour. This really fills you.
It had changed the way you taste a bibingka. It seems too sweet. But really good to try.
Suman sa Lihiya
Suman is another rice cake. It is cooked by boiling or steaming. Two pieces are bind together, making it as one order of suman sa lihiya. It costs P25 each, at about $0.49.
Along the street are some other delicacies that you can try like puto, bukayo and longganisa. There is also a bakeshop selling roll cakes and pianono.
Since Liliw is famous for their slippers and sandals, do not miss the chance to buy one for yourself or one dozen for the whole family. It is too cheap to resist. And they are too inviting to buy more.
The whole street almost consists of stores selling shoes and slippers exclusively made by the people of Liliw, Laguna.
As I was walking the main and side streets of Liliw Laguna, lots of old houses stand great and historical. Mostly newly painted. Still, fit for a dwelling because of the maintenance made.
Residents see to it that they give importance to their property not only for personal usage. These old houses greatly contribute to the heritage of Liliw.
The distinct characteristic of these houses is the window under the main, big window. They are smaller compared to the main one.
These smaller windows seem made for small kids. Children could peek outside using these windows. Since the main window is too tall for them to reach out, these windows are exactly for the size of small children.
The next town is Lumban.
Here, there are houses that make their own Kesong Puti (white cheese). Kesong Puti is sold in plastic containers.
You only need to ask people nearby the Church where to buy. They will proudly accompany you to a particular house. A small round plastic container costs P130, about $2.56.
This Kesong Puti would be the second ingredient for the Paco Salad I had mentioned earlier. This cheese is already crumbled. You will just sprinkle it on top of the salad.
And as you walked through the small side streets, walking a few meters more would bring you to the house selling Espasol, Guinataang Hipon and Spicy Vinegar.
We entered a garage where the Espasol is air-dried on a plastic-covered tray. Espasol is a rice cake cooked from flour, coconut milk and strips of coconut meat.
The garage had all the equipment used to produce Espasol. They had the types of small machines for grating coconut and extracting its coconut milk.
The Espasol is then molded, dust with flour and air-dried. Wrapping it in paper individually can make you grab each singled. Small sizes cost P5 each, about $0.10, bigger ones doubled on its size and price.
This Espasol had no regular strips of coconut meat on it. Bucayo, from cooked coconut, mixed with other ingredients make this a special espasol.
They even gave us a free taste. It was not too sweet. You can eat more from what you intended to.
The vinegar is worth carrying even if you had swollen and achy shoulders. It is so specially spiced to its enhanced level. Price is P70, about $1.38, for the size of a long-neck liquor bottle.
The Ginataang Hipon consists of very small flavorful shrimps that are a bit toasted and then, cooked with coconut cream. Having this dish on warm rice would make you wonder.
The first spoonful of rice and shrimps seemed a bit salty and so flavorful. Then the second one seemed a little sweet. Then you would have the third and fourth more. Each spoonful bursts with flavor. Very interesting.
Best paired with Paco salad. But, we still had not completed the list of ingredients for the Paco salad.
The next town is Pagsanjan, Laguna.
Aling Taleng’s Halo Halo
We went to Aling Taleng’s Halo-Halo. The place is established in the year 1933, very old and historical.
Eating started with an appetizer. We asked for their chicharon. This pork chicharon was quite rancid in taste. Probably, cooked in over-used cooking oil. That’s what the group had come up, after consuming a third part of the pack.
As a result, we told the food server about it. And after a long moment, he gladly replaced it with a real, tasty and crispy chicharon.
The chicharon was packed by 130 grams and, then, sealed. There can be other factors that cause the product to be of poor quality.
Nobody likes that, even restaurant management. And, they do not have any reason to serve food as rancid as this. But, sometimes, things like this happen.
The best thing is how you deal with the situation. Replacing the already lessened pack with a new sealed pack was a great decision.
Customers felt the respect given by management. Respect on customer’s taste. No argument. Indeed, it was great action.
Bibingka and Puto Bumbong
Their bibingka is authentic, same old, and a great recipe like you had since your childhood. Topped with fresh, grated coconut to make a filling snack.
The puto bungbong is still the same puto bumbong we knew. Munching while picturing out how the way of its cooking.
Puto bumbong mixture is steamed from a bamboo tube. This bamboo tube is called bumbong, the reason why we call it Puto bumbong. Though in this restaurant, they called it Puto Bungbong.
After steaming, an ample amount of margarine is spread. Then topped with muscovado sugar and grated coconut. With an additional of grated cheese.
Bibingka and puto bumbong are associated with Christmas. Both can be seen cooked and sold outside the Church, after the Simbang Gabi.
Simbang gabi is the nine-day consecutive, dawn Masses before Christmas. It is a tradition yearly followed by Filipinos.
Here, each serving of Puto Bungbong is P45, about $0.89. Bibingka is P90 per piece, about $1.77.
Their Halo-Halo is great. Its sweetness quite different which does not come from the regular, white sugar. It seems like, it came from the milk and sweetened fillings.
And, there is kundol that made it unique and interesting. Other Halo-Halo with distinctive qualities can also be found in my other article, Places to Eat in Dumaguete City.
Moreover, the ice, finely crushed, does not melt easily.
This is a good Halo-Halo from the first spoonful to the last drop. Yes, I had eaten all until some particles were left in the plastic Halo-Halo cup. Then, I consumed the last drop, bottoms up. Thumbs up!
The price of their signature Halo-Halo is P135 per serving, about $2.65.
The next stop for the additional ingredient of Paco Salad is in Victoria, Laguna.
In this town, there is Itlog ni Kuya Store that offers salted eggs. Hence, another ingredient for the Paco Salad.
Not only that, they still have other food souvenir products that you can buy and bring home. As one can see, they had shelves of assorted chocolates and snacks.
But, the best is their Balut. You can bring it home or eat in their place. Because they had provided tables and chairs for customers who are really excited to try one.
Balut is a developing bird embryo, usually from a duck. It is boiled and eaten from the shell. You need to crack the bottom portion of the balut. Peel the crack portion. Sip on the hot liquid that seems like its broth. Start eating with drops of vinegar and a pinch of salt.
Balut comes mostly large in size, compared to the large size of a typical normal egg. But, you will be amazed at how small its bird is. It is really small. Too small, you hardly taste it.
I, for one, like the way it is. It seems like, more on its yellowish part. And, the taste is great. You can eat out some, have a quick snack.
It is very exciting to break the shell of a balut, one after the other. But, just be careful not to eat too much.
Los Banos Laguna
University of the Philippines Los Banos
UP Los Banos is the premier institution of higher learning in agriculture and food science in the country. So, this university serves as a great landmark on this food trip escapade.
Its College of Agriculture and Food Science (CAFS) offers programs that promote science-based, relevant, and sustainable agriculture and food science.
Having focused on bringing primary food to the market and its consumers in response to the rising necessity for agribusiness. Researching every aspect of food to support the country’s need in providing quality food for each individual.
It is nearly late, about 6 pm when we drop by Micha’s Bakeshop. A well-know bakeshop just outside UP Los Banos.
Micha’s offers a next-level taste on baked products. They have cookies, pastries, cakes and bread.
The bakeshop is well-known for its weighted cookies. You can buy assorted cookies and they would weigh it for you.
100 grams for P40, about $0.80. You can munch special, freshly, baked cookies. Hence, prices just enough afforded by the students, Micha’s customers.
Eclairs and Brownies
Not only cookies. They have cream puffs with assorted fillings and éclairs spread with melted chocolate on top. Each bite oozed with a special filling that is exactly the way what a cream puff should be. Perfect.
They had cheesecake brownies. Do not think of diet until the last bite.
If you want a butter loaf, they have it for you.
This one is not the ordinary butter loaf wrap in a plastic wrapper and displayed on shelves. Actually, it is a special butter loaf wrap in a plastic wrapper and displayed on Micha’s shelf.
That is the main difference of this butter loaf to other butter loaves, it is special.
Once you tasted it, things you currently doing must be moved back for a while. Your attention would turn into taking a bite. Then, looking at the bite. Chewing it. And being lucky to taste one like this.
Then, you will repeat the entire process: a bite, a look, chew and simply be happy and contented.
Cakes and Cupcakes
Different kinds of cupcakes with inviting, colorful icings just readied to be pick up on the chiller.
Cakes especially done for choosy customers are always available.
The famous cake in tin cans are carefully baked, frosted and sealed. Also, each time a buyer opened a can, a smile would always shine.
And I can’t forget the Sansrival, bringing back the memories of my Baguio Food Trip.
Also, if you are craving for tangy flavors, lemon bars and calamansi slices are just inside the chiller.
The best on Micha’s is that you would not be obliged to buy a whole pan of pastries. That is, you can choose assorted from all the displayed pastries to take and lick each.
You can always come back if you already had your favorites. On coming back, you can have a chance to take a peek on customized cakes ordered for wedding or debut events. Yes, they do layered and tiered cakes for special occasions.
Just approach the friendly staff in anything you need. And, they would happily serve you and provide you information for things you wanted to know.
Micha’s products are showcased on chiller and shelves. Compared to their working space inside, the physical store is smaller.
The working space is where the preparation, baking, packaging, decorating and, almost, all the action happened. It maintains its cleanliness. That’s why you can be sure you can have a quality baked product on each purchase.
The store closed on Sundays. Even on closing time on this late afternoon, customers still rushed to pick for some pastries on their way back home.
Truly, Micha’s bakeshop is a part of the everyday lives of students and non-students of UPLB.
And, if you are an alumnus of the said university, it is not awkward to come back for memories. Let Micha’s remind you of happy student days and your sweet cravings.
The Original Buko Pie
The last stop, of course, was no other than Laguna’s famous Buko Pie. We hurriedly went to The Original Buko Pie Bakeshop. The store is still here in Los Banos Laguna.
Luckily, still opened at a little past 7 pm. I got my buko pie fresh and really hot. Price is P205 for the one whole buko pie.
The store also had other food items in it. Moreover, they have yema cake, tropical pie, cassava cake, pineapple pie, banana bread, espasol, uraro and the list goes longer.
It is a one-stop food souvenir store. All you need to do is pick-up and pay, and away you go.
If you want to experience another buko pie adventure, you can read my A Very Exciting Town Called El Nido wherein we devoured a Palawan buko pie.
Paco Salad of Laguna
Ingredients of this Paco Salad came from the different towns of Laguna. Each one contributes to make a very refreshing salad or side dish that everyone can enjoy.
Make It Special
This Laguna Food Trip was such a great adventure. Enjoying each taste, sharing it with friends.
Every spoonful became special. Licking and laughing louder with friends who happened to carry this heavy mark only to find out that it became reversed in the outcome of this picture.
How about you, would you like to try some food tripping?