Caviteño cuisine may not be as popular as Kampampangan’s or Ilocano’s but its influences are as varied. A cuisine is said to be primarily influenced by ingredients that are available locally or through trade. In Cavite, there is plenty of both. Manila Bay is the main source of seafood and the once agricultural land of upland Cavite supply fresh fruits and vegetables. The markets of Zapote, Imus, Silang and Cavite City are the main trading centers.
Cavite cuisine can be divided into 4 categories: Merienda, Weekdays, Weekends and Fiesta. Some of them may be similar to other regional dishes, but in Cavite, we do them with a little twist — and a lot of love.
Merienda is a light meal that most Caviteño always have. Go to any barrio in the province and you will find small stalls – actually more of a long table and a bench arrangement – selling merienda dishes. Merienda can also be cooked at home, but taking merienda outside allows one to hear the latest gossips from the tinderas.
One of my favorite merienda is the Tamales (1). This Caviteño version of the Mexican favorite uses roasted peanuts, galapong, morsels of pork adobo and slices of salted eggs. It is eaten with pan-de-monay or pandesal.
When the rain comes, we have Champorado with Tuyo (2) or Pospas na Manok (3). Pospas is actually similar to Arrozcaldo, but we use native chicken and allow the rice to boil slowly in the juice of the chicken.
We also use local ingredients in our Pansits, like patola and kamias. Our Pansit Luglog (4) and Pansit Kawali (5) are not complete without these 2 ingredients. Our Pansit Canton (6) must also have fresh patola and must be served wrapped in banana leaf. Our Lumpiang Sariwa (7) has plenty of camote and singkamas, and with paalat made from gawgaw, soy sauce and sugar.
On Sundays we have special meriendas after finished cleaning the house. Lola Sinta would always prepare her special Bopis (8) with plenty of radish and achuete. Occasionally, we would have Dinuguan (9) using pork liempo instead of lamang-loob.
During Christmas season, we would have Puto Bumbong (10) and Bibingka (11) from an old lady which I fondly call Lola Maria. I used to watch her prepare these 2 delicacies from malagkit rice until they become galapong.
To cool down during the hot summer, we would have Ensaladang Santol (12). This is santol juice with sugar and ice. We also had Saging con Yelo (13) where we used panutsa instead of brown sugar. As dessert, we always have servings of Malingga (14), candied winter-melons.
Weekday dishes are those that can be prepared immediately, with minimal ingredients and can last for days even without refrigeration.
In coastal Cavite, the popular dishes are Paksiw na Malibanse (15), local fish boiled in vinegar and ginger, Pinangat na Silinyasi (16), small fishes boiled in water and little salt, and Adobong Galunggong (17), marinated sardines in vinegar, soy sauce and garlic. They are all collectively called “Pangat” or short for “Pangatlong araw nang inuulam”.
On special days we would have Alupihang Dagat (18), mantis shrimped which are steamed. On ordinary days, we would have sautéed vegetables like Patola (19) or Ginataang Kalabasa (20).
Late afternoons, we would have peddlers from Rosario, Cavite shouting “Tinapa! Daing!” They bring with them Salinas Tinapa (20) and Daing na Galunggong (21) which we enjoy eating with salted eggs and tomatoes.
Weekends are the only time that we have meat and poultry. It is the time that the whole family would crowd the kitchen and help Lola Sinta prepare Sunday’s lunch. It’s the time when we get to taste Lola’s unique Caviteño dishes.
After 5 to 6 days of “pangats”, we also look forward to tasting Lola’s soup dishes. Pork Tinola (23) is made from pork ribs, ginger, upo, talbos ng sili and plenty of achuete. Nilagang Baka (24) is beef broth with vegetables, saging na saba and camote. Sinigang is always cooked with natural paasims like tamarind, kamias or green mango. Our Pork Sinigang (25) and Beef Sinigang (26) would always have the meat sautéed first in onion and tomatoes until tender before the broth is added. And then we add Native Vegetables (27) like siguedillas and batao to the traditional kangkong, sitao, labanos and gabi. Sinigang na Manok (28) is cooked with chopped tamarind flowers.
We also have our versions of Laing and Sinigang sa Miso. Our Laing (29) is cooked in pork, shrimps and plenty of paasim instead and coconut milk, while the Sinigang sa Miso (30) is prepared with burong mustasa. Burong mustasa is also used to prepare Baboy sa Buro (31).
The sabungeros in Cavite always bring home the losing cock as a prize. Its meat is then sautéed in garlic, ginger and onion and then cooked in 7-Up for hours until tender. This is called Lutong Talunan (32).
Meat is never marinated in our place. We only sprinkle them with salt and pepper before we grill them. And so we have our Pork Inihaw (33) which is always served with Mangga’t Bagoong (34). Another local favorite is our Beef Steak Tagalog (35), which is always served medium-well with soy-calamansi sauce.
It is always during fiesta that the Caviteños bring out their heirloom family recipes.
Morcon (36), meat roll stuffed with liver, pork fat, chorizo de bilbao, boiled eggs and vegetables; Hamonado (37), sweet pork roll cooked in pineapple juice and sugar; Menudo (38), pork and liver in tomato sauce, potatoes and carrots, sausages and garbanzos, and Mechado (39), beef dish in tomato sauce and pork fat, are all prepared one or 2 days before the fiesta. All are cooked in achuete to make them look tasty and festive.
Another fiesta favorite is the Pansit Pusit (40) or black rice noodles in squid ink. No fiesta in Cavite will be complete without the Steamed Tahong (41) and Steamed Talaba (42) both served with grated green mangoes.
The fiesta in Cavite is not only the time to welcome friends and celebrate bounty. It is also the time to discover Cavite’s rich culinary treasures and heritage.