04 May 2009

Paracale Eats

A Paracale carinderia.

Camarines Norte is the first province of Bicol you hit when you're a Tagalog coming at it full-speed.

Rice, chicken curry, my second sinantol in two days.

The language is not the typical sort in the region, as it is affected by the large presence of people from adjoining Quezon. However, early chronicles from our friendly Spanish colonizers included Paracale as part of the Tagalog region. Makes you wonder about who defines the regions, eh? Stuff like this aside, though, the liberal use of chili, gabi (taro) leaves, lots of vegetables, and all those tiny shrimp remind you that you are indeed in Bicol, as you somehow imagined it to be.

Shrimp and garlic being prepared by the women.

Ampalaya, carrots, red and white rice.

Boiled camote and suman.

And, of course, there is the coconut milk. It is true, what they say. Once, I asked my friend, who is a local what was for lunch, and he joked, "Guinataang gata (Coconut milk cooked in coconut milk)".

Bottles of fermented shrimp, lemongrass, and what I thought was kamansi. My Bicolano friends claim it isn't kamansi. What the hell is it? No one can tell me for sure.

We stayed in Paracale, a laid back, historical-yet-nondescript town along the northern coastline of Daet. This meant a lot of fresh seafood. I suppose the notoriously wet and stormy weather of the area makes root crops and fruitmeats particularly common, as they are not easily damaged by the weather.

Some fish being cleaned.


Little shrimp were also everywhere-- in the form of a pinkish fermented assemblage called balao, as well a dark purple cake of more pungent, ground ones called dinaelan. Sort of like a large stinky polvoron cut into triangular slices.

Dinaelan triangles.

Kekiam, fishballs, beside a deep-fried sweet snack.

Selling assorted fermented shrimp things, and different colored gelatin for halo-halo.

There were also those meriendas. Steaming cups of lugaw and guinataang mais to warm you when the coastal winds blew too cold and the rain came in through your tent. Make sure to get a jar of santan along the way to smear on slices of bread or suman.

Guinataang mais at camote. Mmm...

Santan. My Bicol friends claim it isn't coco jam, but that's what it seems like to me.

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