The island province of Palawan in the Philippines is known for its exotic land formations and diversity of natural wonders, making it a paradise for nature lovers. From Coron islets to El Nido cliffs to Puerto Princesa shores, Palawan has so much to offer. But what people may not be aware of is that the province is home to fantastic food.
In this article, we’re going to introduce to you some of Palawan’s most exciting and delicious delicacies. Here are some of the local delights that you may not have heard of before but should check out.
A visit to Coron, the largest town in the Calamian islands of northern Palawan, often includes shopping for bags of roasted cashews. Coron, however, boasts a traditional sugary delicacy that is worth trying, called bandi. Unlike Batangas panutsa, which are large and rock-hard disks of crystalized sugar and peanuts, Coron bandi are palm-sized and chewier clumps of caramelized sugar and cashews. It’s challenging to find bandi outside of Palawan, so sample a few pieces while you can.
Dried fish is very much a part of Filipino cuisine. It is salted and prepared in a myriad of ways across the country. In addition to sweet bandi, Coron has danggit lamayo. It is a butterflied, salted, and briefly dried fish unique to the town. The townsfolk call it bararawan, the samara or rabbitfish used. But many hotels and restaurants in Coron now refer to the delicacy as lamayo or the marinade. As compared to other dried fish, danggit lamayo is meatier and milder. The fish is best enjoyed pan-fried with garlic rice at breakfast.
Lato or sea grapes is served in many coastal towns, but Palawan folk say they have the freshest seaweed. It tastes briny, slightly salty, and refreshing. According to a report from the Bureau of Agricultural Research, harvested lato is usually eaten fresh as a salad or dipped in vinegar. The sea grapes’ highly nutritious juice bursts in your mouth like an ocean spray.
El Nido in northern mainland Palawan derives its name from the Spanish words for “the nest.” The limestone cliffs around the town are home to balinsasayaw or swiftlets. From December to June, these swiftlets produce one of the world’s most sought-after and expensive animal products, their nests, with their saliva as the building block.
Swiftlet nests are the chief ingredient for bird’s nest or nido soup, which is harvested from the tall cliffs of El Nido. The delicate nests are sorted by quality, cleaned, and soaked in water for hours. The nests are then cooked in boiling water. Gathering the nests is life-threatening, and preparing the soup a long, meticulous process. Nido soup is said to bring many health benefits and is considered an aphrodisiac.
If you’re into unforgettable food experiences and adventurous foods, try tamilok or shipworms. It is a delicacy picked from mangrove driftwood. The late food critic Doreen Fernandez describes how they are gathered and prepared. “The wood is chopped up so that the worms, pink, six to eight inches long, may be extracted, washed a little, and deposited wriggling on one’s tongue,” she writes in an essay on Filipino exotica. Palaweños say it has a fresh, clean taste.
Bagoong, or fermented shrimp or fish paste, is a popular condiment on the Filipino table. With 7,107 islands across the country, it’s unsurprising then that bagoong comes in many names and forms. One of these variations is yaho or yahu, a Cuyonon fermented fish paste made from whole dilis (anchovies) and langkawas (galangal, a type of ginger). The saltiness of the fish is tempered by the galangal. Yaho is lovingly made in home kitchens and is hard to find nowadays.
Explore and discover Palawan
Try local specialties, from bizarre to everyday, from traditional to modern, on your expedition to the Philippines’ final frontier. Whether you’re heading to the islands of Coron, to the crags of El Nido, or to the capital of Puerto Princesa, start planning your Palawan trip today on KKday. Book a reservation for your choice of outdoor activities, such as island hopping in Coron, a premium private tour of El Nido, or a half-day excursion around Puerto Princesa.
Check out these other guides and articles on Palawan:
- 7 awe-inspiring places to visit in Palawan
- Everything you need to know about visiting Coron, Palawan in the new normal
- Exciting Palawan adventures you can take
*Featured image via ernaloudelrosario0 on Pixabay