Filipino food culture is a combination of Southeast Asian influences, influenced with a bit of Indian cuisine, and some Japanese here and there. In Iloilo City, we take pride in the diversity and quality of our food. Iloilo is popularly known in the Philippines for its great seafood but we also have a few other dishes that take the cake. From native chicken stewed in banana leaves or casserole eaten right out of a coconut, fanfare for food is spectacular and exotic (even for the native Illonggos).
One such recipe that has achieved a pedestaled status is Batchoy (otherwise known and pronounced as Bat-soy). The delicacy is a broth of very simple ingredients namely noodles, beef, pork, onions, and some garlic. While the ingredients have remained the same over the decades, different cooks would experiment with different techniques and each eventually came up with their own unique taste.
Batchoy is known as Iloilo’s most recognizable dish. On its face, it closely resembles Japanese ramen. It is eaten as a soup with a spoon and fork. The broth is usually consumed first and it is common to request for another helping of the soup during the meal. Some variations of batchoy include a raw egg, pork rinds, and sides of bread or rice cakes. Although eaten piping hot, batchoy is consumed year-round.
It is often referred to as La Paz Batchoy in reference to the district of La Paz in Iloilo where Federico Guilergan, Sr. concocted the first documented recipe in 1938. His recipe is rivaled only by that of Teodorico Lepura who delivered his own take on batchoy in 1945. Today, over eighty years later, stores featuring Deco’s (named after Federico) and Ted’s (after Teodorico) batchoy recipes are arguably Iloilo’s most iconic duopoly of batchoy. Made to choose between the two, Illonggos are almost always divided.
There are multiple secret batchoy shops all across Region VI in the Philippines that serve as treasure hunts for foodies. Some of these are intentionally kept secret by their owners, located in remote areas and having prepared only certain quantity of batchoy each day. More intent on making their mark as chefs than businessmen, these restaurants deliver special twists to batchoy that only to a select few have enjoyed.
Writing should be one part informative and one part entertaining. It's what differentiates a generic piece of text from a well-written article. Rey Palmares dedicates much of his time to fine-tune that craft, juggling the joys and frustrations of writing with those of his law school life outside of the office. He's making it work so far.