I remembered our Philo professor back in college once said, “In taste, there’s no debate”. I couldn’t agree more but hey, these 13 Cebuano delicacies are just sinfully irresistible for me to be silent about. So here, I’ll be bragging about a range of delectable food that Cebu is known for. I’ve divided them into three main groups so you’d be able to savour each at the right time and place.
Roasted pig, locally called “lechon”, can also be found in other parts of the country but what sets Lechon de Cebu apart from others is its distinct flavour attributed to the stuffed spices like lemon grass (tanglad), garlic, onions, black pepper and many others.
One of the best brands of lechon is CNT Lechon. There are 3 accessible locations in Cebu City. You can go to the top most floor of Ayala Center Cebu, where the movie theatres are found, and you can easily spot that CNT store. Another one is right across the terminal of SM City Cebu. You can also go directly to its main branch at 1377 V Rama Avenue. There are other brands selling the famous lechon but I prefer CNT the most.
“Tastier than Lechon”, as they claim it, Balamban Liempo is a chunk of pork stuffed with some secret ingredients (like green grass of some sort), making it so flavourful. It has a crispy outer layer which makes it even tastier. Their tag line must have been true after all.
There are 2 accessible locations where you can find Balamaban Liempo in Cebu. One is at Gorordo Avenue right across the Mormon Temple before JY Square. The other one is at F. Cabahug Street Mabolo, just in front of Rainforest Park Cebu and Center for International Education (CIE).
Danggit is just dried fish that can be fried or grilled. It has a very strong smell and salty taste so dipping it in vinegar before eating is highly recommended. Cheap danggit and other dried seafood can be found in Tabo-an Market, Tress De Abril, Cebu City.
Hanging rice is known in Cebu as “puso”. I’m not sure about the etymology of the word but I’m guessing it’s due to its resemblance to a human heart (puso means heart in Filipino / Tagalog) but with a different pronunciation: pusô. It’s just plain rice cooked inside coconut fronds. You can buy it almost everywhere, especially when you buy lechon, liempo or barbecue on streets.
Steamed fried rice may not be an authentic Cebuano dish but I like how it’s being prepared to cater to Cebuano taste buds – a savoury broth with shrimp, pork, beef and green peas is poured on top of the steamed rice. I don’t know what other spices and ingredients are being mixed to arrive at such appetizing dish.
You can find this in almost all dimsum restaurants but my favourite restaurant is Harbour City. Two branches are found at the lower ground floor of SM City Cebu and second floor of Ayala Center Cebu. Another dimsum restaurant selling steamed fried rice is Ding Qua Qua at JY Mall, Lahug, Cebu City.
Dried mangoes are mangoes that go through a long process of drying, sweetening and preservation. Dried mangoes are being mass produced in Cebu to prolong the shelf life of mangoes. The best known brand is 7D Mangoes you can find in most supermarkets.
Who would have thought simple ground peanuts mixed with sugar can make for a delightful snack? You should try masareal, one of the famous products of Mandaue City, Cebu. It should not be hard for you to find masareal in supermarkets. Just look for that rectangle or square snack wrapped in white paper.
Bibingka is a traditional rice cake made from milled glutinous rice, coconut milk, margarine, and sugar. It’s hard to find bibingka anywhere because it’s best to eat one right after it’s cooked. Mandaue City is still well-known for producing special bibingka. You can find it at Plaridel St. Umapad, Mandaue City. If you are near Salinas Drive Lahug, Cebu City, you may ask the Chikaan restaurant to cook bibingka for you.
Torta is just like cupcake. It’s a soft, fluffy and sweet cake with distinct flavour because of the local ingredients like lard and tuba (coconut liquor). The best tortas can be found in Argao and Dalaguete, two towns approximately two hours south of Cebu City. If you find it hard to travel there, commercially produced tortas are available in supermarkets but they are no match to the ones locally produced in these towns.
Chicharon is usually made of fried pork rinds. The pork undergoes a series of deep frying to achieve its super crunchy texture. It’s a common finger food that is best eaten with vinegar. The best producer of chicharon in Cebu is the municipality of Carcar, approximately 1 1/2 hours south of Cebu City. You don’t really need to travel straight to Carcar just to buy chicharon because it’s sold in supermarkets, bus terminals and streets.
Otap is light, flaky, crunchy and sweet. Its ingredients include flour, shortening, coconut, and sugar. You can immediately see sprinkles of sugar on top of it so be careful when opening its pack. Shamrock is the best producer of otap. Their stores are found in some parts of the city but you can go to the most accessible branch in Honoria Paras Bldg., Fuente Osmena Park. You can also buy otap in supermarkets.
Rosquillos are round, crunchy biscuits with holes at the center. It’s hard to describe the taste. All I can say is that they’re not so sweet and they’re best paired with coffee or hot drinks. One of the oldest and most famous brands of rosquillos is Titay’s. The main store can be found in Liloan, approximately an hour away from Cebu City. However, if you do not have the time to travel to Liloan, rosquillos are readily sold in supermarkets.
Ampao or ampaw is a white, rectangular (sometimes square-shaped) snack normally sold in streets and bus terminals. It’s made up of sweet, crunchy, dried rice with some peanuts. The best ampaos are sold in Carcar. If you take a bus down south of Cebu, you will usually encounter vendors who randomly hop into the bus to sell a bunch of snacks including ampao.
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So that’s about it. These are just some of my favourite Cebuano delicacies. Of course, I’m not pushing you to try everything on the list, but if you want to taste authentic Cebuano food, I’m encouraging you to try a few of these local products.
And if you think we missed your favourite Cebuano food, feel free to share them below.