Bahala nang mabaho basta masarap (Never mind the smell as long as its delicious).
No. I wasn’t talking about things in the nether regions. You. Dirty minded you.
The first time I saw buro, fermented rice either with fish or shrimp (more specifically called balo balo), was more than a decade ago when a college classmate from Tarlac brought one. It looked like puke and didn’t had the stomach for it.
Last Black Saturday, during lunch at Luring’s Restaurant (Lazatin Blvd) in San Fernando, I got curious tasted it for the first time and I was just blown away with its taste. Never mind the stinky smell.
Lunch was spread out for two: grilled catfish, kare kare (ox tail and tripe with shrimp paste dip), balo balo, adobong pugo (quails cooked with vinegar) and ginisang tahong (mussels in soup). But it was the balo balo and the pugo that piqued my interest. Two dishes that I haven’t tasted yet.
Balo balo, known better as burong hipon is a popular Kapampangan fare that is best paired with blanched bitter veggies and leaves like mustasa (mustard) and ampalaya (bitter gourd). With grilled fish, its a good alternative to soy sauce and in this case, the inihaw na hito was perfect.
Typically, it is rice and shrimp cooked with other ingredients for flavor and later placed in a jar to ferment for three days. When used, it is cooked together with tomatoes, garlic and onions and served.
Solo, the balo balo is just that, a simple condiment smooth to the tongue with a hint of sourness. But pair it with the flesh of the grilled catfish and it just shines. The explosion of flavors: the almost bland taste of the fish providing texture while the balo balo‘s tartiness and slight cheesiness just blends well with it, making it one of the most memorable flavors I have had. I just closed my eyes in ecstasy.
There was another dish that was quite memorable: the ginisang tahong. Its the well tempered and well flavored soup that made the difference. When it does goes down the throat, and wow, the kick of the lara dagul, in Cebuano, sili espada, a kind of pepper, and the ginger is unforgettable.
The rest of the dishes were just so so.
This is my first good introduction on Kapampangan food, one of the country’s best in culinary traditions and am really looking forward to come back and have more.
My gratitude to Mayor Ed Pamintuan and First Lady Herminia de Guzman-Pamintuan of Angeles City, Archie Reyes, Angeles City Information Officer as well as foodies and food bloggers Christine Nunag and Wyatt Belmonte for inviting, accommodating and touring me around their city and the province of Pampanga.