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Heroes’ grub

To taste what our heroes like Jose Rizal ate in their time, make a stop at Bistro Malolena

FRESH FROM BULACAN Clockwise from top left: chicharon; hamon Bulakenya; and inihaw na manok sa saha

FRESH FROM BULACAN Clockwise from top left: chicharon; hamon Bulakenya; and inihaw na manok sa saha

I remember Tita Mila Enriquez, a wonderful Bulakeña, a keeper of traditional cooking and a great icon of Bulacan cooking. A lot of the recipes she had documented all had a direct line with national heroes and their connection with the rich history of Bulacan. Her book Kasaysayang Kalutong Bayan is a legacy and a “must have” for Filipino chefs.

The very few times I would visit Hagonoy, Bulacan, Bistro Maloleña always stood attractively at the corner of Ople Diversion Road with its rather traditional décor trims.

The times I would drop by and eat, I get to meet the young Ferdie Talbenito Jr. who was inspired by Mila to set up a restaurant serving Bulacan heritage cuisine. Their menu is simple, highlighting about 15 dishes aside from their student and mainstay Filipino offerings.

If I were to choose one particular dish that stands out of this menu it would be the hamon Bulakenya. The thin cured slices of well cured pork are made even tastier by its sauce that conveys the Filipino, Chinese, and Spanish characters of this hamonado which is served only on fiestas and auspicious occasions. One can have it here anytime. This restaurant also serves a tinola version that Jose Rizal seems to like. The traditional papaya is replaced by squash which seems to point at Jose’s belief in its health benefits for the eyes. Another dish is nilitsong manok sa saha or spit-roasted chicken wrapped in banana trunk and stuffed with lemon grass. The drippings are saved and served with a paksiw of chopped chicken livers. I like the sweetish, lightly tart combination on the char-roasted chicken stuffed with lemongrass and tamarind leaves. I would have wanted this sauce though finer and not rough chopped similar to our related cooking (which is just two towns away) that we use for lechon.

For dessert there is pinaso (to burn or sear). This is a rich bread pudding made from milk and eggs. This is finished by getting a red hot metal turner and getting the top to singe much like glazed ham (the traditional term for this is plantsa). A curious probably seasonal beverage can be had with their meals which are quite unique called Santolada juice that is bottled. I have never seen this product before and it’s quite innovative. You also have to take home some excellent chicharon and turrones de mani. One of the more traditional snacks called gurgurya or fried glazed bread is sold in bottles and goes very well with Bistro Maloleña coffee.

chefgenegonzalez@yahoo.com; Instagram/@chefgenegonzalez