I was overwhelmed with its taste. A distantly familiar flavor exploding inside my mouth that I just have to close my eyes and revel in gustatory ecstasy. Ibos-ibos, a fusion rice concoction of a Filipino native delicacy at Chef Doy’s was one of two unforgettable food experiences I had in Naga City, Camarines Sur.
The familiar ibus is suman, sticky rice wrapped in strips of young coconut leaves and cooked in coconut extract. It is often seen in markets and outside churches on a Sunday in Metro Manila and in the Southern Tagalog region bundled up together and dangling from a vendor’s hand. Ibos-ibos at Chef Doy’s Gourmet Restaurant (+63 920 9825055, +63 54 4782519, [email protected], Facebook page), a cozy place at Cereza, a complex of cafes, bars and food places along Magsaysay Ave., Naga City’s rising lifestyle and dining strip, borrows from this cooking process.
The menu description was unpretentious but enough to pique my interest as anything other than water used to cook rice is something that always excites me.
It was really no accident that I came to this Filipino fusion restaurant. Jojo, a friend of my painter friend, Jon Ching, treated us to some food places that are a must when visiting Naga City and he was raving about Chef Doy (Leandro “Doy” Sto. Domingo), a langyaw who found his niche in this city.
We were there for dinner to sample their menu and had batang batang pusit, baby squid cooked in olive oil; pininyahang manok, chicken cooked with pinapple and other dishes. While scanning what was on offer, the ibos-ibos entry caught my eye and we ordered one paired with beef tapa.
The food was really good. Hands down. But it was the ibos-ibos that just blew me away. It stood out from the rest because of its delicate and creamy flavor. The subtle hint of gata gives it character. It reminded me of home in Cebu, of early morning breakfasts of puto and sweet, ripe mangoes downed with sikwate, a thick cocoa drink. That rice dish was just unforgettable. So unforgettable that I had to visit the following day for late lunch. It is so rare for me to just close my eyes and experience the food but this was just one of those special moments.
In my second visit, I paired ibos-ibos with pork adobo. Diners can also chose chicken bbq and daing na bangus but adobo is another favorite and I was curious of how it will jive with the rice.
An ibos-ibos dish also includes laing, trademark bicolano fare of dried taro leaves cooked in gata with chili. Slices of tomatoes and hard boiled egg at the side. The latter got me curious as I was expecting it to be salted eggs, which is more familiar.
The ibos-ibos doesn’t compete with the stronger flavors of the laing and pork adobo. It complements, delighting my palate. It just made my day.