Savores Culinary Tour, Flavors of Zamboanga, Familiarization Tour
Zamboanga is gradually growing its name to be the next gastronomic hub in the Philippines. It holds many enriching flavors varying from authentic Zamboanga cuisine to fusion of foreign influences. Thus, it has an emerging vibrant culinary of the different enthnic groups, innovative recipes of the local chefs, usual Muslim snacks, and twisted new desserts.
Geographically placed at the southernmost tip of Mindanao, Zamboanga comprises the southernmost portion of Zamboanga Peninsula, extending to northwestern part of Mindanao. Bordered on the south of Basilan Strait, on the west of Sulu Sea, and Zamboanga del Norte, on the North of Zamboanga del Sur, and on the east of Zamboanga Sibugay. Zamboanga, the chartered city in the region, is noted for its vibrant beauty, iconic vinta, diverse culture, and a melting pot of delicious culinary delicacies.
The past 3 days, I was mostly at different restaurants, trying out different homegrown authentic cuisine that was shared with 9 bloggers and a food writer, along with the organizer and tour operator in Asia’s Latin City. The familiarization tour is a series of restaurant hopping featuring the various, colorful, and rich food of the region. The event created to promote the flavors of Zamboanga organized by the Department of Tourism Regional Office IX in partnership with City Government of Zamboanga-Tourism Unit and Hotel and Restaurant Association of Zamboanga City.
Let the Restaurant Hopping Begin!
Day 1, First Stop: Johnny’s Morning Sun Satti
Taking an early morning Cebu Pacific Flight, we arrived in Zamboanga at 7:00 AM. Mr. Charles Anthony C. Rotoni, the Tourism Officer, warmly welcomed us at Zamboanga International Aiport. After giving us a brief orientation, we headed to the first stop straight from the airport for our breakfast, the Johnny’s Morning Sun Satti. A small roadside resto located at Pilar Street, Zamboanga City. The mini restaurant served us 3 types of Satti. We had Beef Barbecue, Chicken Barbecue, and Chicken Liver with Lokot-lokot and Baulu on the side. Sati Ayam or Satti usually serves in a bowl with tamo or compacted rice and a thick hot and spicy curry sauce.
After the satisfying meal, we went to the Garden Orchid Hotel to freshen up. As we reached the hotel, our tour guide, Mr. Errold Bayona reminded us he would pick us up at 11:00 AM so that we could proceed to the next restaurant.
Second Stop: Alavar’s Seafood Restaurant
After resting for a short while, we headed to Alavar’s Seafood Restaurant. An excellent dining homegrown restaurant owned by Alavar Family located at Don Alfaro Street Tetuan, Zamboanga City. While waiting for the food to serve, we received a cheery greeting of welcome from the Department of Tourism Regional Director, Mr. Antonio Fernando M. Blanco. Right after the warm hospitality, the food attendant served the delightful dishes.
For the appetizer, we had a Vegetable Salad. A mixture of fresh tidbit cucumber, sliced bitter gourd, sliced tomatoes, and onions. It has the usual salad ingredients, but it is a sweet-and-bitter taste that I like, a perfect balance for the salad. Mango with Bagoong con Gata is a typical Filipino snack or appetizer deep in a bagoong, but with a twist, there is a coconut milk. The combined sweetness of creamy gata and saltiness of bagoong made it tastier.
For the main dishes, the food attendant served us Alavar’s famous Curacha. A deep-fried spanner crab, swimming in Alavar sauce made of coconut milk and spices. The best way to eat Curacha is bare hands to get the too attached meat inside the shell of the big deep-fried orange crab. Arroz Valenciana is an orange rice topped with shrimp, sliced hard-boiled egg, chicken, green peas, and lemon. More likely the carbohydrate dish. Same goes to Paella Negra; A black rice garnished with steamed clam, sliced hard-boiled egg, sliced tomatoes, and green peas. Baked Imbao is a sea clam baked in garlic and butter. And Grilled Tuna Belly, garnished with onion rings, sliced lemon and cucumber on the side.
For the refreshment, we had Zamboanga White Shake. A combination of cream and lychees. I was surprised that cream and lychees could be combined and would taste surprisingly good.
Among all the courses served, my favorite is the timeless Curacha because of the sweet and vigorous creaminess of coconut milk in Alavar’s sauce poured in the deep-fried crab.
And with all these delectable sweet-smelling dishes, our appetites were full. As all of us were recharged and satisfied, we moved to the next stop.
Third Stop: Philippine Coconut Authority-Research and Development Branch
After the sumptuous lunch, we headed to the Philippine Coconut Authority located in San Ramon, Zamboanga City. It is a sole government agency tasked to develop the full potential of the industry to becoming globally competitive and efficient coconut industry in the country.
The PCA-Research and Development Branch promotes to generate technologies on varietal improvement, establish palm products and by-products, implement farm waste utilization and farming systems, and contribute a comprehensive development program for food security and stable income for the coconut farmers.
Technically, the PCA-Research and Development is not a restaurant. However, since there is a little touch of the food industry in it, it was part of our itinerary.
When we were there, they explained to us the process of creating San Ramon Brown Sugar out of the juices from the coconut trees. They also showed us the equipment and machinery used to make coconut oil, macapuno, brown sugar, and any other by-products of the research center.
After touring around, we had our snacks. Biko, a warm, sweetened compacted rice made from sticky rice, brown sugar, and coconut milk with latik (coconut caramel) on top. Macapuno is a sweet, very soft endosperm of a coconut that does not develop normally like a healthy coconut endosperm. For the quenching refreshment, we had their very own hybrid Aromatic Buko.
Last Stop: Palmeras Restaurant
After the productive day, we took our dinner with the whole Savores team, along with the Department of Tourism Regional Director, Mr. Antonio Fernando M. Blanco at Palmeras Restaurant. It is a quiet retreat for consistently good food and clean, comfortable accommodations in a garden setting located at Pasonanca Road, Barangay Sta. Maria Zamboanga City.
For main dishes, the resto served Crispy Pata. It is a deep-fried pig knuckle served with a soy-vinegar dip (the viand to die for!). Sizzling Gambas is a shrimp with a hot and spicy thick sauce cooked on a sizzling plate. Bopes is a piquant dish made from pork or beef lung and heart which sauteed in tomatoes, chilies, onions and other herbs and spices. Kare-kare de Zamboanga is a stew complimented with thick, savory peanut sauce with Chinese cabbage, eggplant, and string beans usually paired with bagoong. I don’t know what makes this Kare-kare theirs, but what I am sure of, it is one of the best Kare-kares I have ever tasted.
For the dessert, we had Knicker Bocker or also known as Zamboanga’s Halo-halo. It is the favorite dessert of the locals. It has fresh fruits and gulaman topped with strawberry ice cream.
Overall, the first day of Savores Culinary Tour was fun (and made my appetite delighted). Never had I thought that this food crawl could be as much fun as this!
Disclaimer: This is courtesy of Tourism 9 (Zamboanga Peninsula).
You can read more about Zamboanga’s Local Delicacies at Wandering Juan’s Food Trip: Must-try Food in Zamboanga City.
For more information on Zamboanga City, visit www.zamboanga.gov.ph.