When people ask me where to take friends and visitors out for food, I must admit I sometimes struggle to think of a place that’s affordable, clean, and showcases another kind of Filipino dish. This is especially hard when a lot of the restaurants in the city are mostly serving Western food now.
It’s also pretty easy finding grill or barbecue places around but some Filipino dishes that are underrated and are not getting the spotlight they deserve are our soups and stews. Adobo isn’t the only Filipino food and definitely not just lechon for Cebu. Filipino food goes beyond just that and some fried food. Among the available soups and stews, pochero is lucky enough to get highlighted and a close second is Sinigang. Allow me to share a great discovery!
Around the corner where I live used to be a restaurant called Choobi Choobi, run by the Tanchans, a prominent family in Cebu. After its success and opening of over 10 branches around the country, the family has ventured into yet another restaurant concept, Stan’s Tinolahan + Grill, which now sits at the same spot where Choobi Choobi began its journey.
Stan’s Tinolahan + Grill’s concept is simple. They have elevated the lutong bahay (home-cooked meals) concept to guarantee cleanliness and quality but not forgetting affordability. They also hold an advocacy to end fast food eating habits. This summarizes the goal of the restaurant, not only for the locals to enjoy but to showcase to both foreign and local tourists as well. They will help you explore more food options by offering tinola, larang, and kaldereta, among others. Their menu also expands to grilled and fried meat and seafood (like I said, they’re always there).
What I was really looking forward to trying was the larang. It is an underrated Filipino dish which tourists and even some locals hardly know about. Embarrassingly enough, I have not tried this before. I have heard of it countless times growing up but people would direct me to Pasil, the famous local fish market, which admittedly is dodgy to me. I’ve visited the place several times in the day for charity work but never to eat because I’m also afraid of the cleanliness, or the lack of it. I’ve already tried spending 10 days in the hospital after eating unclean street food and I don’t want that to happen again!
Stan’s Tinolahan swoops in to my rescue and gives me the experience I have long waited for! Larang has amazing flavor that sets it apart from the famous pochero, sinigang, or tinola soups. It’s best made with molmol (parrot fish) but you can also cook it with other types of fish. The soup is made first with sautéed herbs, spices, scallions, and ginger. Then, coconut milk and some tomatoes added later on. I saw some recipes include kamias (which I’m not sure what it is in English – maybe the fruit of a ginger lily?), tamarind, or green mangoes. It is, however, not as sour as sinigang can be.
I think I had the most fun trying out larang and it’s definitely in my list of favorite Filipino soups, alongside sinigang and kansi.
On a side note, I also tried balbacua for the first time but I wasn’t very happy with it haha! I don’t exactly enjoy eating gelatinous or fatty meat. Balbacua is usually made with ox tail.
I’d recommend for you to try out this humble lutong bahay restaurant! The restaurant is open on Mondays to Saturdays from 11:00 AM – 2:30 PM, and then opens again at 5:30 PM – 10:00 PM.
Enjoy exploring more Filipino dishes!