Stranded in Batanes with nothing else to do, Mr. Z and I found solace in food. This wasn’t really easy to do. Food in the Batanes is dependent on the weather, and supplies of staples in the island can also be affected if the flights don’t come in (!!)
Meat like pork and beef come from Batanes itself – reason for the beautiful scenery of those cows grazing in the undulating valleys and hills. Most of the vegetables and other supplies have to come from Manila or neighboring areas like Tuguegarao. There wasn’t really an abundant supply of seafood, as people like us expected. Everything, it seems, was seasonal.
A picnic on the beach is a must when you’re doing the requisite Batanes tour. A local caterer comes with the package, and they often prepare must-try Batanes food to give you an idea of what the locals eat. Among these are their delectable yellow rice, their adobo or lunis, steamed coconut crabs, and oved (strips of banana heart mixed with ground meat then formed into balls).
From my talk with a local chef, Batanes adobo doesn’t use any soy sauce or water. They only use salt and moisture comes from the pork itself. The color of the rice comes from a yellow ginger spice, close to turmeric. They also have a dried gabi dish similar to Bicol’s laing called vonis. Other than that, I didn’t really find an aspect of Batanes food that stood out in the constellation of cuisines.
What stood out, however, was our numerous visits to the coffeshop of Pension Ivatan, undoubtedly offering the best food in Basco. We absolutely loved dining here and we must have tried almost all of the dishes on their menu during those days when we had no choice but extend our stay. Their chef is an Ilocano from Cagayan Valley and worked in Max’s chicken before. The Pension Ivatan chicken and their crispy pata actually tastes like Max’s!
What My Sweet and I loved from this place: their Ivatan Express, a melange of sauteed vegetables placed in a clay pot; very much similar to pinakbet, only that it’s cooked in coconut milk with a hint of shrimp paste. The Sizzling Pancit Ivatan is your noodle dish with a twist, since it has egg on top with crispy pork bits. It was also very cheap, at something like P60.
It was also great rediscovering food we Filipinos take for granted. Pension Ivatan had good interpretations of the camote tops salad and camote cue. I should know: the WhizHeart from the West liked it 😛
The only thing weird about eating in Basco was Casa Napoli, the Italian place that never opened. Really bad when you’re hankering for pasta or pizza but couldn’t find any!