A trip to Iloilo is not complete without sampling their famous dishes and delicacies. Whether you’re into sweet or savory dishes, below are the top 5 foods you need to try at least once during your Iloilo trip:
1. La Paz Batchoy at Netong’s. When it comes to local dishes, nothing spells I-L-O-I-L-O better than a steaming bowl of La Paz Batchoy. Most restaurants in the city offer their own version of batchoy in their menu, but I recommend trying Netong’s original recipe. Netong’s batchoy is flavorful and the pork innards are soft and chewy. The establishment gives free refills of batchoy soup, and while chicharon refills are not part of the deal, the server gave us a second serving because we asked nicely. Wink wink. Don’t forget to order an add-on of egg for extra oomph.
While Netong’s has a “classier” branch at the Atria Complex near Smallville, its main branch at the La Paz Market serves the more authentic version of the recipe. The establishment is air-conditioned, so no need to worry about sweating it out while eating this tasty treat.
2. Siopao at Roberto’s. Manamit bisan wala sauce! True to its word, you don’t need to add any condiment to any of Roberto’s products because they are tasty enough on their own. Located at JM Basa Street, the non-imposing restaurant has become famous not only for its giant siopaos, but also for its scrumptious lumpiang Shanghai and friendly Buddha-lookalike cashier.
I ordered the King Siopao, which is a combination of ham-Chinese sausage, chicken-pork adobo, and egg, all wrapped in warm sipao bread. Because this meat bun is heavy with flavor, it may be too savory for some people, so consider having a cold can of softdrink on hand to wash it down with.
3. Chicken Dinuguan at Molo County Bakeshop. Molo County in Avanceña Street is famous not only for its chicken molo and pork molo, but also for its tasty take on dinuguan. Spiced with lemongrass and peppered with chicken shreds, this dish tastes great with a piece of dinner roll, or eaten on its own. If you’re feeling adventurous, try mixing it with the chicken or pork molo for a different take on this Filipino favorite.
4. Cream Horn at Margec’s. This famous cream horn can be found along E. Lopez Street in Jaro, Iloilo City. The flaky dough cones filled with creamy pastel filling remain Margec’s bestseller, but the bakeshop has recently added new flavors to their roster, including ube, strawberry, caramel, and chocolate. While you’re there, try their buco pandan napoleones and other tasty desserts. And don’t forget to order a box as pasalubong for your loved ones, and maybe one more, for yourself.
5. Tablea chocolate at Camiña Balay nga Bato. For P150, you get a free tour of the house museum, which concludes with a light snack consisting of hot tablea chocolate and toasted bread. Made with pure cacao tablea and Alpine evaporated milk, the chocolate drink is rich, smooth, and comforting. You are entitled to one refill of chocolate, which is not quite enough, really. But don’t fret! You can buy pure tablea from their in-house store, which you can then use to make your own tsokolate eh at home.
Grilled squid at Nato & Helen Native & Seafoods Restaurant. Residents love Nato & Helen in Mandurriao, but I did not enjoy my visit at all. The place was hot and noisy, the food was nothing special, and the servers were not friendly or helpful. Its only saving grace was the grilled squid. It was sliced evenly, seasoned just right, and grilled perfectly. Stuffed with fresh tomatoes and bits of green chilies, this dish tastes fresh and packs a small punch, and almost makes up for all the other annoying things in the restaurant. Well, almost.
Is this list helpful? What other Iloilo dishes would you recommend? Write them down in the comments’ section. I’d love to hear from you!