The Filipino palate is a testament to the rich marine life that we enjoy. While it is true that our cuisine is dominated by meat dishes, we do not miss out on what the sea can offer. This marine diversity gives us a grand seafood fiesta from North to South, East to West.
The northernmost province of Batanes is one of the smallest in land area and population. On a clear day, you can see the coastline of Taiwan. In the rainy season, you run the risk of being stranded there for days. It is remote alright but Batanes offers the best seascapes you will ever see in your life! And some of the best crustaceans I ever tasted!
Here in the city, it will cost you an arm and a leg just to eat lobster. But in Batanes, lobsters are sooo cheap and sooo tasty. That day was my lucky day. These beauties were steamed to perfection, with a splash of garlic lemon butter sauce.
Steamed Lobsters at the Batanes Seaside Lounge; Photo by Michelle Africa
Now, the coconut crab..
That's a species you don't hear about everyday. The Ivatans of Batanes call it tatus. This amazing shelled creature feeds on coconut. Its claws are strong enough to crack coconut husks. There is no doubt about its rarity, its meat has a distinct coconut taste.
My friends, you can only find the coconut crab in Batanes. It is sad though that it has been declared a threatened species. As a result, you cannot bring coconut crabs out of Batanes. It is actually prohibited by law. But they allow you to enjoy it within Batanes territory. I learned about the restrictions here:
After that first taste, I want to help protect coconut crabs for future generations. I made sure to take a photo of my last coconut crab meal.
Coconut Crabs (Tatus) at the Pension Ivatan; Photo by Michelle Africa
Living in Manila means all the seafood we eat travel far. Very far. They are not only expensive. They are not as fresh as you get them in the coastal areas.
But we found a place in Marikina City. Here, you can get the cheapest and most succulent grilled squid in the Metro. It is cooked to order, stuffed with tomatoes and onions. Be ready to wait a while for this. For PhP 50 a piece? Never mind the wait!
Grilled Stuff Squid at Felizaro Grill; Photo by Michelle Africa
Impressed already? I'm not even halfway through it. That is just Luzon.
Now, we jet down to the island of Bohol in the Visayas. On our island tour in Panglao, we stopped by a vanishing sandbar called Virgin Island. We timed our stop perfectly, as it was low tide. The sandbar beams its white sand against the glare of the sun. Now, what do you do in a sandbar? Enjoy the sun, walk barefoot in the sand, take a dip in the crystal blue waters.
Peace and quiet was quickly interrupted by the vendors who appeared out of nowhere. We were curious to peek into the basket of goodies. What do you know? Freshly harvest uni or sea urchin. It's shucked right before your eyes, served with a spurt of local vinegar. You can't get any fresher than that.
And what is the best part? It costs PhP 20 each.
Yep, 50 cents.
Our sushi chef of the moment; Photo by Michelle Africa
Did I convince you yet, that seafood is truly more fun in the Philippines? If not, then read Part 2 of this series: Seafood: It's More Fun in the Philippines Part 2. Here, I will feature the coastal treasures of Mindanao, which to me, is hands down, the food basket of this archipelago.
P.S. This article also appears on my personal blog, Chowpowwows, where chow is always on the lowdown.
Batanes Seaside Lodge and Restaurant National Road, Kaynacharianan, Basco, Batanes http://www.batanesseasidelodge.com/new/
Pension Ivatan Hometel and Restaurant Basco, Basco, Batanes https://www.facebook.com/pensionivatanbatanes/
Felizaro Grill 8 Ephesians Street, Friendly Village, Concepcion Uno, Marikina City https://www.facebook.com/Felizaro-Grill-1496547500564160/
Published by Michelle Africa