Celebrate the 114th year of Philippine Independence by exploring the Southern Luzon province of Cavite where you can view the Aguinaldo Shrine in Kawit, the ancestral home of our first Philippine President Emilio Aguinaldo and the site of the historic Proclamation of Philippine Independence on June 12, 1898. Besides this landmark, which is now a museum, discover some of Cavite’s good and budget-friendly local treats, too.
1) Quesillo at the Mercado del Ciudad de Cavite
A trip to a new place is usually not complete without a visit to its local market and thanks to our food writer friend, Ige Ramos, the Mercado del Ciudad de Cavite (Cavite City Market) was our first stop. Ige is a native Caviteño and this year’s first prize winner of the coveted Doreen Gamboa Fernandez Food Writing Awards. He volunteered to be our Cavite food tour guide.
In this wet market or palengke, we were able to visit a famous local carinderia known for its pancit puso and kakanin. But our best find in the market was the native carabao’s milk cheese wrapped in banana leaves, that the locals call quesillo. The quesillo, which paired perfectly with toasted pandesal, turned out to be a creamier and saltier, thus tastier version of the ubiquitous kesong puti. The local cheese is only available in the market in the mornings.
Cavite cuisine dates back to the pre-Spanish era, when Cavite’s coastal areas witnessed negotiations of their natives with predominantly Amoy Chinese communities and traders involved in the Galleon trade during the Spanish period. This economic and cultural exchange resulted into the many culinary traditions that we now embrace. The Tamales, a dish that originally hailed from Mexico is an example of the international influence in our cuisine.
Cavite City’s Robinson Tamales, named after the current owner’s great grandfather Henry Benjamin Robinson, a former staff member of the USS Olympia under Admiral George Dewey, looks deceivingly simple to make, but apparently entails a long and tedious process to make that requires among other things the grounding of peanuts and the use of galapong or rice flour as its base. Then to this mixture, slices of chicken and pork are added, together with pieces of chick peas or garbanzos and hard-boiled eggs. It’s then seasoned with salt and pepper to taste, then wrapped in layers of clean banana leaves, before it’s steamed to perfection. This must-try tamales is considered by many seasoned foodies as an even better version than the best from Pampanga.
3) Bagoong na Itlog ng Isda, Pancit Pusit sa Bilao, and leche flan at Asiong’s Carinderia
Asiong’s Carinderia has been around for over 50 years. Sonny Lua the current owner, an interior designer by profession took over the operations of the carinderia when his mom passed away with the sole purpose of preserving the culinary legacy that his parents had built through the years.
The specialty of the house is its Pancit Choko en su Tinta or Pansit Pusit, a vermicelli noodle dish cooked in squid ink that can be ordered to-go in bilaos of different sizes by advance order. Aside from the pansit pusit, Asiong’s also serves a mean pancit topped with one of the best homemade bagoong na Itlog ng Isda or fish roe caviar we have tasted. This delicacy is also available in small take-out jars if you prefer to eat it by itself, over rice, or as a spread.
Other items on the menu that we recommend for take-out includes Asiong’s densely rich, all yolk, no egg whites version of leche flan and its bottles of organic sukang sasa, or vinegar extracted from the sap of the nipa tree.