Food & Travel

The Travelling Table: Tasting Taal (Part 2 of 2)

By franco on 10 February, 2009

Freshly Made Panutsa
Panutsa on the Table

Last November, Erik Lacson and I accepted an assignment from Cebu Pacific’s in-flight magazine, Smile. Our job was to document a Kulinarya Tour of the historical town of Taal for their January issue. Enjoy.

Continued from here

Call it the Filipino version of peanut brittle.

Panutsa is a simple Filipino snack, made with only three ingredients: dark brown sugar, peanuts and a roaring fire. Dindo brings us to a cooperative where it is made.

Boiling up Some Sweetness
Cooking up some Nutty Sweetness

The cook first melts down a small hill of brown sugar. As the sugar liquefies into molten caramel, the air thickens so that you can almost taste its sweetness. The cook tests the bubbling caramel with bare fingers. Once he judges it to be the correct consistency, he adds cup after cup of raw peanuts into the dark liquid.

Several minutes of constant stirring and the blistering pot is moved to a long wooden table. Chattering women get to work: laying down thin rings of bamboo and then gingerly pouring the searing hot mixture into these circular molds. The rounds of peanuts and caramel are left to quickly cool. The molds are delicately shaken and the panutsas immediately fall out. Then these discs of sugariness are skillfully tagged, packaged and boxed–all done by hand.

Taking Shape
Panutsa Shaping Up

One of the ladies hands me an unwrapped sample. To taste, she says. The flavor is surprisingly sublime–more a dark-amber bitter than a sugary sweet. Still warm to the touch, the brittle is anything but. It is smooth and soft, with a distinct roasted nuttiness.

It’s time for lunch and we are going home, specifically our guide, Dindo’s mother’s home, a colonial house that overlooks the local basilica. As I enter, I find myself drawn towards the kitchen, lured by the aroma of sautéing onions, pungent garlic and grilling seafood.

Adobong Manok sa Dilaw
Adobong Manok sa Dilaw

In the kitchen, I am introduced to Dalisay and Marieta, Dindo’s longtime family cooks. Trained in the ways of Taal cooking by Dindo’s mother, Ka Ely, these jovial women cook in a sparse, traditional kitchen over wood-burning flames. Dindo explains that he wants us to experience a typical Batangueno meal. The smells are so intoxicating that I hear my stomach rumbling. I’m hungry and this meal promises to be absolutely delectable.

Estofadong Batangas
Estofadang Batangas

At the dining table, I am immediately drawn towards the local favorite, the Adobong Manok sa Dilaw. I have tasted many versions of this traditional dish but have never seen an adodo colored almost like a curry. The distinct yellow color is created by an ingredient called luyang dilaw, better known as turmeric. Then, I dish myself up a health serving of the Estofadong Batangas. Thick slices of pork belly are quickly sautéed and then braised in a mixture of soy sauce and brown sugar. Once caramelized to rich dark brown, the sugary, soft pork is topped with slices of fried banana. The combination of sweet caramel, the salty soy and the flavorful pork makes me practically swoon with delight.

To cap our meal, we are served barako. We are also offered Matamis na Saging na Saba, topped with the crunch of pinipig sprinkles.

This lunch was easily the highlight of this culinary tour.

The tour is over but how can we leave without taking something home with us?

Mang Jamin and Aling Marieta Vertucio
The Vertucios

It’s called Vertucio’s, a bakery named after the owners, Mang Jamin and Aling Marieta Vertucio. A master baker with 35 years of experience, Mang Jamin is the proud owner of one of the few remaining wood-burning ovens in Batangas.

Afternoon Snacks from Taal
Afternoon Delights: Snacks from Taal

At the store’s front is a glass case filled with all sorts of traditional Batangueno delights. Aling Marieta offers us a taste. We first try the Pan de Agua, an unusually- shaped bread, fresh out of the oven. Warm, soft and airy, the bread would be perfect with steaming cup of barako coffee. Next, we savor the Lambingan. This sweet, two-toned cookie colored in red and yellow is said to represent to lovers in a deep embrace. Last, we try the Tiping–a crisp thin cookie made with coconut milk, that practically dissolves in your mouth, releasing a coconut essence.

A sweet ending to a lovely day.

Much thanks to Maya Calica, Erik Lacson, Dindo Montenegro and the staff of the Southeast Travel Corporation. For more fun-filled articles and travel suggestions from Smile, please click here.

Southeast Travel Corp.
451 Pedro Gil St., Ermita
Manila, Philippines
Tel: (632) 524-5676 to 83
Fax: (632) 521-2712
E-mail: ,

Rates for the Taal Culinary tour:

Minimum of 6 Php 4,350.00/person
Minimum of 10 Php 2,830.00/person
One-week notice required.
Culinary tours to other destinations are also available.

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  • JUNE 24, 2009 4:58 PM said...

    I really appreciate your effort to feature our town, Taal, in your blogs. Hope you can come back again someday and make another beautiful stories about this historical town.