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Eating my way through Boracay
The ube pancakes from Sunny Side are stunners.

Eating my way through Boracay

THE BACONMAN COMETH - Sharwin Tee (The Philippine Star) - September 26, 2019 - 12:00am

I’m not the biggest beach guy. I understand the appeal of white sand and pristine waters, but give me a mountain, a log cabin and pine trees anytime. In fact, my trips to Boracay, easily the most popular beach island in the country, have always been of the working variety. (My most recent trip was again a working one, as I helped create a couple of new dishes for PoPo Teahouse in Hue Hotel.) The island, though, holds a special place in my heart, not only for the aforementioned sand and water combo, but also because of the food. Usually, food by the beach can be boring and generic, but there in Boracay, the food is anything but. Here are just some of my favorites.

Shine pancakes shine

Whenever people travel, breakfast always seems like an afterthought. Sometimes, people punt away the meal by just having what the hotel offers, but when in Boracay, give yourself some love by eating at Sunny Side Cafe. From omelets to silogs to pancakes, they’ve got it all and they’ve got it in spades. Their adobo is an exercise in comfort, with fatty pieces of pork braised to exceptional tenderness that will make your soul scream for more rice. I’m also partial to their shakshouka: braised eggs in stewed tomatoes with some tofu to add even more healthful protein to your day. The highlight, though, is definitely the pancakes. While each of their varieties is delicious, you will want to order the ube pancakes. Giant purple yam pancakes are dressed with a lovely purple ube sauce and a scoop of cereal milk ice cream. Despite their size, the pancakes are tender and fluffy, not too sweet, so they become a canvas for the lovely sauce. The combination of the warm pancakes with the cold, melting ice cream provides a temperature contrast that I most welcome. It’s the dining equivalent of frolicking in a meadow with unicorns while watching a rainbow as musicians in togas play the harp.

Seasons of love

The Sunny Side Cafe’s shakshouka is both healthful and delicious.

The first time I was in Boracay, I was busy cooking a buffet, so naturally, I didn’t want to walk too far for dinner. That’s when I was introduced to the restaurant in Two Seasons and it has become my tradition to eat there. A cursory look at their pizza menu is expected, but their four-cheese pizza is pretty much what you have to order. Generous with the cheese, the pizza is what I like to call “Filipino-style”: a not-too-thin but crisp crust and lots of cheese. What’s not to like? What gives me splendid dreams, though, is the oyster sisig. Admittedly, it isn’t the old school Pampanga sisig, but I don’t really care. Fresh oysters are fried crisp and tossed with onions, garlic and mayonnaise. Creamy, rich and absolutely delicious, I would order two plates every time if I didn’t care what people would think about me. As you can imagine, there were times when more than one plate was ordered.

Off the grid

The lomi at Tod’s feeds an army at such an affordable price.

With so many wonderful dining choices by the beach, it’s easy to forget that there are some gems away from the powdery sand. After a session of R&D and menu tasting during my last trip, my friends Nowie and Odette Potenciano, owners of PoPo Teahouse, asked what we wanted for dinner. Every time I cook for work, I avoid fancy food and crave something simple and comforting. They had just the answer. One 10-minute tricycle ride away was Tod’s eatery and their lomi, famous around those parts. A giant bowl of chicken or pork lomi, which could seriously feed three people is barely over P100 and it is truly what the heart wants. A thick, flavorful and rich broth envelops perfectly al dente egg noodles with slices of pork, hard-boiled eggs and spring onions floating around. We paired that off with some skewers of sweet and salty pork barbecue, and my night was truly made.

Delicious delicious

Eating the piri piri chicken at Spice Bird is becoming a habit.

I first tried Spice Bird when they held a popup here in Manila, and my love affair with her has been constant. I usually start off with some octopus salad — nicely-cooked octopus flanked by refreshing vegetables and a bright dressing. Another regular would be the fried chicken skin, remaining perfectly crisp while highlighted by a spicy piri piri sauce. Speaking of piri piri, if you have any love for yourself at all, you will order their piri piri chicken. The grilled marinated chicken is an exercise in balance, with salty, sour, spicy and sweet flavors, all joining hands to push deliciousness onto your palate. I always ask for the breast part and they are one of the few restaurants that cook their chicken breasts well, leaving it moist and tender. My favorite part about eating there is they give you four different sauces to go with the chicken. While everyone is entitled to their own sauce preferences, I combine all four sauces, thereby creating a wondrous sauce that has no name, but whose flavors I will remember constantly. You would do yourself some good by trying to create your own sauce combination, too.

Oftentimes, people worry about their stomach size when they plan for a beach trip. While I am an advocate for body positivity, I worry about my stomach size, too. No, I don’t worry about how much or how little of my tummy will show; I worry about how much delicious food it can contain. After all, in a place like Boracay where the food is so delicious, it would truly be a wasted opportunity to not eat as much as humanly possible.

Oh yeah, a walk along the beach at sunset would be nice, too.

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Sharwin’s book, So, You Want To Be A Chef? is available in all National Bookstores and Powerbooks nationwide. Follow Sharwin’s food adventures on Instagram @chefsharwin and for questions, reactions, recipe and column suggestions, you can contact him on www.sharwintee.com.

BORACAY SUNNY SIDE CAFE. TOD’S
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