Although we had dinner in Vigan on the day that we arrived, the real food trip didn’t begin until the following day. Ilocano food is so good that I am prepared to say that I am officially in love with it. From the purely vegetable dishes to the very carnivorous ones, every morsel was worth the oohhs and aahhhs that we uttered.
We checked out of Mel-Sol’s Tourist Inn (a.k.a. Bates Hotel) because there was no water among other horrors. We knew hotels were full but we asked around anyway. Fortunately, we were able to get a room at Hotel Salcedo de Vigan. One room only which meant additional beds had to be brought in.
Still, we felt lucky because Hotel Salcedo de Vigan is a beautiful hotel and located smack at the center of Vigan. While waiting for the room to get fixed, we had snacks at the hotel’s Bistro Amarillo.
Sam wasn’t hungry, she said, and didn’t order anything.
Alex had maiz con hielo, a Filipino cold snack with corn, shaved ice, milk and sugar.
I had turon (banana-stuffed fried spring rolls) a la mode. Really delicious. Oh, so delicious!
Speedy ordered halo-halo, another cold snack with sweet beans and fruits, shaved ice, sugar and milk. Bistro Amarillo’s version was tipped with ice cream, ube (purple yam) and leche flan (steamed creme caramel).
By the time the lunch crowd started to trickle in, our room was ready. Some ten minutes after entering our room, Sam declared she was hungry and wanted room service (room service at Hotel Salcedo de Vigan is by Bistro Amarillo).
She ordered cheese balls. I figured that since we would be driving north to Laoag after showering, we might as well eat a light lunch since we really weren’t sure when our next full meal would be.
So, in addition to Sam’s cheese balls, I ordered rice. And to go with the rice was ladek(not the same as warek-warek), the Ilocano version of sisig…
… and the vegetable dish that had me intrigued since the previous night — poqui-poqui. The name might sound like a redundant articulation of the Tagalog word for vagina but in Ilocos, poqui-poqui means an egg and eggplant dish. Very, very delicious. I’ve made my version of this dish last weekend and I’ll be posting the recipe soon.
We left the cheese balls to Sam and Alex but let me tell you that the ladek and the poqui-poqui were simply divine.
Before 2.00 p.m. on Thursday, we were off to Laoag City, some 80 kilometers north and, from there, drove 35 kilometers north some more to the Cape Bojeador Lighthouse in Burgos. Happy with our sunset photos, we drove back to Laoag in search of Saramsam’s where we intended to have dinner before the drive back to Vigan.
It was in Laoag, at Saramsam’s Cafe, at I totally fell in love with Ilocano food.
I ordered poqui-poqui again and, although Bistro Amarillo’s version was better, the pork dishes that we had at Saramsam’s totally blew us away.
The bagnet was light and crisp but not dry at all.
The dinardaraan, a less soupy though more oily version of dinuguan, was the crown jewel of our dinner. Melt-in-the mouth tender, creamy, tasty meat.
The spring rolls with dragon fruit flowers were so-so as the filling did not have any real distinctive flavor.
The pasta, a house specialty, was magnificent. The noodles were tossed in garlic-flavored oil and topped with ripe and unripe mangoes, tomatoes, fresh herbs and shrimps. I didn’t touch the shrimps, naturally (allergy) but I dug into the pasta to relish the flavors. Amazing.
Let me end this post by saying that I am an atheist. I don’t tell Catholics that the no-meat during Lent practice is silly (I used to tell everyone it’s silly but I have learned to respect difference in opinion, so there) so don’t bother criticizing our carnivorous diet during Lent. In fact, I will say it right now — we have a tradition of eating dinuguan on Good Friday and this year was no exception.