Basta Kapampangan, manyaman (masarap)! Says my new tote bag; a gift from Irene, my friend and partner-in-food-crime. Such is the pride of Kapampangans for their cuisine. Cooking is such a treasured legacy that well-guarded recipes are passed on from generation to generation.
Nothing could be truer than Everybody’s Café, a 66 year-old institution, now on its 3rdgeneration continues to serve great food in their original home along Del Pilar, MacArthur Highway. Atsing Miling gamely shares with us the story and food trivia of Everbody’s Caféwhere she had worked since the 1950’s at the young age of 16.
With eager anticipation, we helped ourselves to their popular morcon, which is not beef roulade but more like galantina; ground pork, chorizo bits and rich sauce from the meat juices and fats. Instead of cheesecloth for steaming, this heirloom-recipe uses “ampelia” or what Atsing refers to as “belo ng tiyan” ng baboy. That way, flavors are absorbed all the way through.
Then there is Batute Tugak which is palakang bukid stuffed with lightly seasoned ground meat and fried. A bit alarming for the picky because the dish does look like a fat frog. But once you get passed that, you will realize that it tastes clean, healthy and well…like native chicken!
For balance, we had fresh lumpia of shredded papaya and refreshing, crunchy pako (fiddle fern) with slices of onions, tomatoes and salted eggs.
Two things I didn’t expect I’d enjoy to the max: First, the must-order itik done 2-ways: deep-fried till crisp and in-adobo. I looove the crispy, garlicky, almost sinewy yet tender meat. It was tasty and not game-y at all. From what I gather it’s because they use younger ducks. The adobo was fragrant with gigantic garlic pieces and thin onion slices. The Kapampangan way Irene said, has a little more vinegar than soysauce which really begged for another order of rice.
Second is Tag-ilo. Unlike the typical buro, this is a lightly fermented mix of rice, salt and shrimp resulting in a unique, slightly tart and salty taste sans the funky odor. Sautéed with onions and tomatoes makes it more savory. I could taste the fiesta-in-my-mouth when it contrasted with the bitter-sweet-fresh- mustasa leaves. It was spot-on with the crispy-fried duck!
I bought another itik and my very own jar of Tag-ilo. My plan is to shred the duck meat, pan fry it…sauté my Tag-ilo in onions and tomatoes… get steaming rice, fragrant with pandan leaves… and eat kamayan-style! If I pledge allegiance to the Tag-ilo, you think Kapampangans would have me as their adoptive daughter?
Curiously, the restaurant’s name was such because the owners wanted to express during the Japanese occupation that this was a place for all. Earlier, at a nearby table, a couple of caucasians– a German and his South African lady friend (who we later befriended) were trying their morcon, batute and camaru. Seeing that, it is without a doubt that Everybody’s Cafetruly is for everybody.
© 2012, Kitchen Kitchie Koo. All rights reserved.