Market raider Joel Binamira teaches us things like the unique way Cebuanos have their lechon and the best destination eats in the Philippines
I always enjoy good food but I only learned how to cook in my college days in the US. My love for markets came later when I was already traveling to various cities for work and pleasure.
At home, we like to prepare Filipino food like the classic sinigang na baboy (pork in sour soup) which we do from scratch, adobo cooked in wood-fired palayok, grilled meat and fish. I also cook Western dishes like pastas, paellas, roasts, and salads.
Of the local ingredients, my favorites to use include the dayap (key limes), coconut, muscovado, siling labuyo (bird’s eye chili), coconut vinegar, bagoong (fish paste) and tinapa (smoked fish). I’m also looking at getting my hands on the kurakding, a wood mushroom from the Bicol region, since it has always eluded me.
Cebuanos or Visayans typically don’t use a liver sauce in eating their lechon, rather they use a simple vinegar and/or soy dip. A tip: the next time you eat lechon, try to have it with a dip of patis (fish sauce) and dayap (lime) or kalamansi.
I love lechon paksiw or the day-after lechon stew made with good coconut vinegar, lots of garlic and a touch of muscovado.
Lechon pairing tips:
I am a Diet Coke addict so that’s what I normally have with my lechon. I have also tried pairing it with wine, and the best I’ve had was a Verdicchio. Lechon skin and meat also go well with Italian varietal that has citrusy notes.
Cebu first-timers must-try food:
Seaweed salad dressed with local vinegar
Kinilaw (local ceviche)
Budbud kabog or millet cake for dessert
Get to know a local destination’s food culture. Three tips:
Visit a market in each town you visit.
Ask the vendors which restaurant buys the freshest seafood and dine there.
When in doubt, buy something fresh and spectacular in the market and ask the chef/cook in your hotel to cook it for you. Pay the corkage. It’ll usually be worth it.
The 8 most notable eats that I’ve had in the Philippines:
A couple of steamed lobsters cooked and enjoyed at the verandah of a private home over water in Coron. Book a SkyJet flight to Coron
The arayu or dried dorado (dolphin fish) in Batanes. Book a SkyJet flight to Batanes
A gorgeous kinilaw na Malasugui at the carinderia by the pier in Tagbilaran, Bohol
Lechon from the sidewalks of Carcar, Cebu
Seafood on the beach in Bantayan Island, Cebu
Laing (dried taro leaves cooked in coconut milk) in Legazpi, Albay
Lumpiang ubod (fresh palm spring rolls) in Bacolod City
Batchoy (local noodle soup), also in Bacolod
Ten or 15 year’s ago, Manila’s dining scene wasn’t as active, creative and interesting than it is now. Filipinos love to try new places, but it’s the restaurants that get repeat customers that have a better chance of survival in a very competitive marketplace. [Sadly] so many places open only to close by the time their first lease is up, or sooner.
My favorite holiday escape is Palawan but my recent trip to Batanes was eye-opening to say the least. Batanes was so stunningly beautiful.
Next on my culinary bucket list are Siargao and Iloilo. I also have yet to explore much of Mindanao in terms of food.
My guilty pleasure are donuts, preferably old-fashioned or cinnamon sugar. Home-cooked sinigang na sugpo (prawn in sour soup) and bistek Tagalog (local beef steak) are my comfort food.
Chefs I admire are Thomas Keller and Eric Ripert who are way up there on the chart. I have always loved Margarita Fores and have recently been working with Chef JP Anglo who cooks with such spunk. A recent meal at Bad Saint in Washington makes me a serious fan of Chef Tom Cunanan.
More on Joel
Currently reading: A stack of 10+ cookbooks and food-related books on my bedside table
Currently watching: The Crown, Howard’s End
Food I’d eat before I die: Too many to pick just one but I would like a hit of Beluga caviar, a generous portion of the finest quality tuna sashimi, a few slices of a good steak, a perfectly ripe Cebu mango, several sections of pink pomelo with bagoong, a nice salad and a Diet Coke.
My go-to casual footwear brand: Cole Haan, Tod’s
My go-to casual clothing brand: Rag & Bone
Accessory I splurge on: Crocodile leather wallets
Who is Joel Binamira?
Joel Binamira, who owns the famous lechon restaurant from Cebu, Zubuchon,is the man behind food blog Market Manila and Instagram account @therealmarketman. His pursuit for good food has taken him across the globe, hopping from one restaurant to the next. His staple? A stop at the local market.
Photos courtesy of Joel Binamira