Trips are never complete without trying your destination’s best food offers. The same is true when exploring the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon (CALABARZON).
The region, known for its many natural and historical attractions, is also not lacking in long-standing restaurants, unique dining concepts, and eateries locals love to frequent that offer one-of-a-kind dishes, treats, and specialties.
Lucky for you, these are already open and available to tourists. Here are all the food and drinks you should try when in CALABARZON.
Cavite’s Filipino Food With A Twist
Some of Cavite’s best restaurants—regardless if long-standing or relatively new—are not afraid to experiment with Filipino food.
Asiong Caviteño Restaurant, for instance—a restaurant built in the 1960s by the father of the current owner, Sonny Lua—serves dishes like their bestselling Original Pancit Pusit (Php380) The noodles are cooked in squid ink, giving it a black tinge. It’s then topped with vegetables and chicharon or fried pork crackling.
For dessert, you shouldn’t pass up on their Caviteño Cheesecake (Php120/slice) .
Their take on the classic American treat features all-Filipino ingredients: Mendez’ Jacobina or cubical biscuits; Amadeo’s Kapeng Pahimis, an exclusive blend of finest Robusta, Arabica, Excelsa, and Liberica; Alfonso’s Tablea or pure ground roasted cacao beans; General Trias’ carabao’s milk; and topped off with Chocnut, a milk chocolate candy bar with peanuts, from Imus.
At Siglo Modern Filipino Restaurant, meanwhile—known for preserving heirloom recipes, supporting local farmers, and championing sustainable food production—well-loved Filipino dishes are fused with new flavors and cooked in unconventional ways.
Their Baked Bulalo Kaldereta (Php550) features baked—not stewed—beef cubes in tomato sauce and liver paste, with diced potatoes, bell peppers, and carrots.
Bagoong or shrimp paste, honey, and labuyo or wild chili tabasco become the main ingredients of the sauce that coats/is paired with Himagsikan Chicken (Php300), their version of the Buffalo Wings.
For South Korean food fans, the restaurant has also come up with Bagnet Samgyupsal (Php320). The serving includes crispy pork belly slices, homemade kimchi, garlic, thinly-sliced carrots and cucumber, and atcharang labanos or pickled radish.
Like you would with traditional samgyupsal, you can make a ssam or wrap through this dish. Just take a leaf of green lettuce, put a slice of crispy pork belly before topping it off with atcharang labanos and kimchi.
Laguna’s Local Favorites
Buko pie isn’t the only local treat worth trying or taking home for anyone visiting Laguna.
At the Philippine Carabao Center’s Dairy Training and Research Institute inside the University of the Philippines Los Banos, there’s Milka Krem’s Carabao Milk (Php175). It comes in a variety of flavors: plain, chocolate, and even coffee.
A product of the Philippine Carabao Center-Dairy Training and Research Institute, and the Department of Agriculture-attached agency, Gene Pool, the fresh milk in each bottle of Milka Krem is sourced from local dairy farmers.
Kesong Puti (Php150) or White Cheese is another carabao-based product worth trying. The soft and unaged cheese is mildly salty with a creamy aftertaste and is often paired with bread.
For the best kesong puti in the province, your best bet is the municipality of Sta. Cruz, which is considered the “Home of Kesong Puti.” The town, after all, has been producing the said cheese for four centuries.
Makers of the cheese pour the unskimmed milk into a rolled banana leaf container then set it aside to thicken over time. You can buy it cold and wrapped in even more banana leaf, like those from Leony’s Kesong Puti.
With a shelf life of one week, you can take home morekesong puti for cheesy breakfast sandwiches.
While you’re at it, remember to snack on some Espasol (Php220). The rice cake, which originated in Laguna, is made from rice flour cooked in coconut milk and sweetened coconut strips. It’s dusted with toasted rice flour before serving.
It’s traditionally sold during the Christmas season, but has become a popular afternoon snack or pasalubong. For any of the two, you can never go wrong with Belen’s Espasol in Nagcarlan.
The shop has been making espasol since 1954 and has remained a favorite among locals and tourists alike. They are the first to make flavored versions of the rice cake, too, offering options like ube and langka.
Batangas’ Signature Dishes
The place where a dish originated likely serves the best version of it. In Batangas, there’s more than one food that Batanguenos do better than anywhere else in the country.
At Kainan sa Dalampasigan in Nasugbu—a restaurant that’s been around since the mid-1970s offering home cooked food—they serve a dish called Balot sa Dahon (Php300).
It’s a mix of chicken and pork adobo, halabos na hipon or garlic-flavored shrimp, and steamed white rice wrapped in banana leaves. It’s often paired with fried tomatoes and bagoong or shrimp paste. A single serving can easily feed two people.
Balot sa Dahon is an original recipe of Teodora “Doray” Limjoco, who received the restaurant as a gift from his husband Apolonio “Poniong” Limjoco. She is one of, if not the first, to sell the dish in Nasugbu.
Lomi is another dish that originated in Batangas. It was first served in 1968 when Lipa-based Chinese restaurateur To Kim Eng cooked it for his mahjong friends.
He and his wife, Natalia, then opened Lipa City Panciteria (noodle eatery), the first-ever lomi house in the city. He even shared the recipe with others, who later opened their own lomi houses.
Typically, the egg noodle dish is served in a thick but mildly-flavored broth that you can season to your liking with soy sauce, calamansi, and crushed chili peppers. It’s then generously topped with pork liver, kikiam, and quail eggs.
The Lomi Special (Php80) at Liam’s Lomi House, however, is already flavorful without additional seasonings.
One of the many popular lomi restaurants in Lipa today, their take on the classic Lipa dish is so good that its owners Corrine and Francis Yuson are two-time champions of the city’s annual Lomi Festival.
If you feel like trying out other variations of this comfort food, the spot also offers Chicken Lomi (Php90), Lechon Lomi (Php105), Beef Lomi (Php90) and Asado Lomi (Php95).
Rizal’s Unique And Exotic Delicacies
The province of Rizal is not only where you can explore its many natural attractions, it’s also where you can try unique and exotic food.
At Balaw-Balaw Restaurant, they serve Adobong Palaka (Php370). It’s your usual meat stew in vinegar, garlic, soy sauce, bay leaves, and peppercorns. The only difference is that instead of chicken or pork, the restaurant serves it with frog meat.
The Angono food spot also cooks up Kamaro (Php250) or crickets from the rice field cooked in garlic and seasoning before being fried to a crisp. The result is a chicharon-like crunch.
For even more unique food, Crescent Moon Cafe in Antipolo has a few must-try dishes on their menu.Alagao (Php300), for instance, features basil, coconut, chili, green mango, and other spices on an Alagao leaf. It’s a fusion of sour, spicy, and menthol flavors.
It’s good for your health, too, as Alagao leaf is known for its herbal and medicinal properties.
You can also try Suman Itim (Php120), their take on the sweet sticky rice dessert. They use the black mountain variety, which explains the dark color. It’s then topped with coconut cream and cashews.
Quezon’s Famous Specialties
Quezon’s brand of hospitality does not end with welcoming people to their well-known Pahiyas Festival in Lucban or letting visitors into their homes. In fact, the true highlight is the food, which likely explains why the province’s specialties are just as famous as its festivities and attractions.
Pancit Habhab (Php225) is a staple in gatherings. This dish has miki or dried flour noodles, sautéed with tender pork, vegetables, and kikiam or Chinese sausage. It goes well with vinegar.
It’s best enjoyed using a banana leaf as your plate and consuming it without utensils, just as the word habhab implies—eating with your hands.
Hardinera (Php285), another must-try, is just as popular as Pancit Habhab in local holidays. The meatloaf has diced or ground pork topped with sliced hard-boiled eggs, pineapples, carrots, bell peppers, peas, tomatoes, raisins, among others. It’s then cooked in a small metal pan typically used for leche flan.
In case you’re in the province when it’s not fiesta season, both dishes are easily available at the town’s own Buddy’s Restaurant.
Still in Lucban is their well-loved take on pork sausage, aptly called Lucban Longganisa (Php250). It is known for its salt and garlic flavor, as opposed to sweeter versions from other provinces. Instead of using bay leaves, this sausage uses oregano with a mix of vinegar and other secret ingredients.
Abcede’s Lucban Longganisa, one of the first factories to produce these sausages, makes large batches of these to be sold in their own stalls and pasalubong centers all over the province.
For dessert, no treat in the province is as famous as Rodilla’s Yema Cake (Php280).
It began as a business idea of finding new ways to enjoy yema, a small custard candy made with egg yolks, milk, and sugar. For Juliet Rodilla from Tayabas, that meant turning the candy into a chiffon cake with yema icing and various toppings.
With her husband Vincent, they began selling it in their small bakeshop and it was met with an overwhelmingly positive response.
Yema cake has become such a hit that Rodilla now has a factory to produce it in massive quantities and make it available in many parts of the country.
Home to the largest Lambanog (Php185) manufacturer in the country, you should at least try Quezon’s concoction of this local liquor, too. The distilled alcohol drink is made from coconut or nipa palm sap and derived from tuba–another local liquor–that has been aged for at least 48 hours.
It has a whopping 70% alcohol content per volume so be mindful of your lambanog consumption.
In Infanta, a group of lambanog producers called Binonoan Producers Cooperative (BIPCO) makes bottles of this while working to preserve a rehabilitated mangrove eco-park that serves as a catch basin during the rainy season.
All tourist destinations in CALABARZON have health and safety protocols in place to protect locals and visitors alike. Everyone is expected to comply by wearing face masks and face shields, regularly washing their hands, and practicing physical distancing.
To check out up-to-date information regarding local destinations that are open and the safety protocols and requirements needed for each location, you may visit www.philippines.travel/safetrip or download the Travel Philippines app at app.philippines.travel or the Google Playstore.