American chef and travel documentarian Anthony Bourdain once said, “I think food, culture, people, and landscape are all absolutely inseparable.” The explorer of international cuisine couldn’t have said it any better. When visiting any destination, it’s essential to sample the local fare. We’re not just talking about a country’s all-star dishes, but even the cuisine unique to a region or town.
Bohol is known mainly for its natural wonders and centuries-old churches. Yet, with the Visayan province’s laidback charm comes a culinary tradition inspired by the scenery and lifestyle. While in Bohol, step out of your comfort zone and taste something new. Go beyond the international favorites or Filipino classics you can find elsewhere. Here are the best delicacies to try—and bring home—when you visit Bohol.
Broas (ladyfingers) are a popular sweet biscuit among Filipinos. However, not many know that some of the tastiest broas can be found in Baclayon. In a 2016 feature, the Philippine Daily Inquirer mentions that behind the famed Baclayon church is a row of pastry shops selling broas. Unlike the versions found in malls or gift shops, Baclayon broas are “light, sweet, crisp, and melt in the mouth.” Our illustrative photo of neatly fashioned ladyfingers does not do justice to the rougher Baclayon version. Can’t decide on which brand to buy? Osang’s pioneered the selling of broas in the 1800s and is the shop favored by foodies. It’s sold for about 100 PHP for a massive pack of 100 pieces.
Calamay is a sticky and sweet delicacy. It is made of glutinous rice, coconut milk, and palm or brown sugar. Local guides say that the best calamay in Bohol can be found in the town of Jagna. Calamay is traditionally sold inside smooth coconut shells tied together with strips of red crepe paper. But you can also buy them in small plastic tubs for convenience. Book a Jagna calamay tour from the Bohol Tourism Office to discover how the Boholano pasalubong (gift from your travel destination) is lovingly made. Calamay sells for at least 100 PHP a piece.
Many of the delicacies on our list are sweet treats, but Bohol also has several delicious and savory meat dishes. A meal you wouldn’t shy away from is halang-halang, or chicken simmered in rich and creamy coconut milk. Hot chilies are a vital ingredient to this beloved Boholano fare. The dish gets its name from the Visayan word for “spicy.” We first tasted halang-halang at the Bellevue Resort in Panglao. But if you’re heading on a half-day tour of Panglao Island, then try Bohol Bee Farm’s halang-halang over lunch. The bee farm and resort serves the sumptuous dish for 340 PHP a serving.
Reminiscent of the parched Chocolate Hills in summer, peanut kisses have been a Boholano pasalubong favorite for more than 40 years. Locals say that the snack was inspired by an American chocolate brand’s signature product.
While the product’s back story remains a mystery, what we do know is that peanut kisses are light, nutty, and crisp. They are made from high-quality peanuts and egg white. Peanut kisses can be bought in stores and stalls throughout Bohol and even in Manila. However, it’s still worth buying and enjoying the little mounds of nuts in the countryside. Peanut kisses are sold in packs or boxes from 11 PHP to 65 PHP.
Tableya or tablea is a Spanish term for chocolate tablets in disk form. In the Philippines, it’s the key ingredient for making traditional hot tsokolate or, as Boholanos call it, sikwate. Many small businesses around the country create and sell tableya for travelers to recreate the bittersweet drink at home. But Dalareich Chocolate House and its inspiring story stand out. Through the hard work and perseverance of the Polot family, the bean-to-bar chocolate factory produces award-winning unsweetened chocolate.
On your custom private tour of Bohol, stop at Dalareich Chocolate House in Tagbilaran, the capital. Sadly, Dalareich’s factory showroom is not open because of the pandemic. However, you can buy their tableya online at prices ranging from 75 PHP to 185 PHP.
Longganisa or sausages are a breakfast staple. Every town in the Philippines has its own take on the chorizo, and Tagbilaran is no exception. According to esteemed food writers Claude Tayag and Mary Ann Quioc, Tagbilaran longganisa is marble-sized and very similar in shape and taste to the sweet sausage of Cebu. They recommend grilling the sausage, charring the chunky bits of fat in the process.
After taking an OceanJet high-speed ferry from Cebu, you’ll arrive at Tagbilaran Pier. From there, head to Barangay Manga Public Market, where you’ll find Tagbilaran longganisa for about 25 PHP a dozen.
*Featured image via KKday Supplier