Chef Jam Melchor takes us on a gastronomic journey around the province he’s from, Pampanga, hailed food capital about an hour’s drive north from Manila.

As a full-blooded Kapampangan and chef, there aren’t that many people who can better guide us through Pampanga than Jam Melchor. Pampanga is a big place, but it can be made smaller with the help of Chef Jam. Here are some of his picks.

Where he’d go to eat

“You won’t find the best chefs in Pampanga hanging out in restaurants; they’re found at homes.”

Kabigting’s is that much of a staple that, yes, it has made its way into the city.
  • Kabigting’s Halo-Halo and Cool Spot in Angeles City for halo-halo. Kabigting’s, in particular, uses carabao’s milk and pastillas to make their creamy and milky halo-halo, which he likes.
  • Aling Lucing’s and Mila’s Tokwa’t Baboy for sisig. “If you want a sisig that’s moist and has more of a char-grilled texture, go to Aling Lucing’s. For the modern version, go to Mila’s.”

Places to go in Pampanga

If you’re on tour in Pampanga and Chef Jam is leading the pack, these are the places you’ll visit:

A beautiful shot of the Holy Rosary Parish Church, or Pisambang Maragul (Big Church) to locals. Photo by Carmelo Bayarcal
  • Churches. Pampanga has a lot of beautiful and historic churches, so make sure not to miss them.
  • Abe’s Farm for lunch or dinner. Their flavors have been consistent for years.
  • Sisig places like Aling Lucing’s and Mila’s.
  • Gill’s Buko Sherbet & Ice Cream in Angeles City.
  • Atching Lilian Borromeo in Mexico, Pampanga for San Nicholas cookies.
  • Susie’s Cuisine for their tibok-tibok (carabao milk pudding with glutinous rice).

Pasalubong (treats to take back home) from Pampanga

It’s not really a trip to Pampanga without bringing back some grub. Open up some space in your bag and make sure you take at least one of each of these home with you:

It’ll be hard to leave Pampanga without buying a box of this. Or longganisa. Or tocino.
  • Tocino del cielo. It’s a rare and labor-intensive dessert that looks very similar to leche flan. It’s made a whole lot sweeter by taking out the milk and only sticking to butter and simple syrup.
  • Marzipan. A chewy ball of sweetness that’s made from cashew nuts, milk, and eggs.
  • Tocino. There are a lot of recipes using all kinds of meat like pork or even carabao.
  • Longganisa. A trip to Pampanga won’t be complete without taking home a bunch of these local sausages.
  • Buro. A local way of pickling things like mangoes. It’s an acquired taste to love the buro. It goes really well with anything grilled or fried.