There’s More Than Just Tuna: Carmina del Rosario Tells Us What Davao Tastes LikeNovember 4, 2015
When it comes to Davao’s cuisine, seafood is the common top-of-mind answer. Benefitted heavily by its coastal surroundings, this city is also spoiled silly by its produce. Year-round, expect a generous harvest of some of the best-tasting fruits and vegetables the country has to offer. Today, on Pepper.ph, we sit down with The Crazy Cook (famous for her Balbacua, among other things), Carmina del Rosario, as she translates her city of heritage onto a plate.
Based on your opinion and experiences, what’s so special about Davao, food-wise?
The Davaoeños really know sugba (a method of grilling and broiling)—especially when it comes to the tuna. It’s never overcooked, always juicy and moist; spicy, and a little sweet. Apart from that, Davao’s the agricultural basin of the country, so you can imagine the produce we enjoy all year round!
That sounds lovely! Which produce do you enjoy the most?
Durian—it’s revered by many as the king of the fruits! Also, mangosteen, rambuntan, and pomelos, too,
Seems like Davao is all about the tuna! What else is there to enjoy aside from that?
Well, there’s balbacua (a stew made with oxtail and beef), shrimp and pomelo salad, imbao (clams), hinalang (a soup similar to nilagang baka), lechon, kinilaw, and bisukol (snails).
But if you were to choose a dish to represent the city, what would it be?
There are a few! Tuna, definitely—tuna panga (jaw), tuna belly, bihod (tuna roe), bagaybay (tuna sperm), and ubol-ubol (tuna innards).
Your bihod ragù was such a hit at this year’s Madrid Fusion Manila! How else do you enjoy cooking it, and how does its flavor differ from bagaybay’s?
Bihod or tuna roe can be cooked in so many ways—adobo, grilled, sizzling. It sports a granier texture; so aside from the pasta I made at Madrid Fusion, I’ve also done a tarama version, and I’m currently experimenting on curing it like bottarga.
Bagaybay or tuna sperm, on the other hand, reminds me of sweetbreads. They can be fried to a crisp and served with calamansi. You can also wrap it in bacon and pan-roast it for a few minutes, and you can grill them, too. They sometimes call it the “foie gras of the sea” because it’s rich and delicious.
Interesting. So what are your personal restaurant recommendations in Davao?
Doods Inihaw, Ellen’s Tuna Queen, and Yellow Fin Tuna for kinilaw. The bisukol from Marapangi Farms are excellent! For lechon, go to Kakimkris. For balbacua, you can order from me anytime (laughs).
In that case, you’ll be expecting a call from us soon. But how about here in Manila?
There are many places that serve sugba, but it doesn’t really come close to the real thing.
I see. How about condiments? Does Davao have a universal condiment like Ilocos’s KBL?
Oh, Davaoeños love sawsawan! There’s always sili, toyo, suka, and calamansi in every table.
You seem to love Balbacua so much. What made you fall in love with it?
The first time I had Balbacua was in a corner stall turo-turo in Buhangin, Davao City. Everyone can relate to a chowdown after a long night out, I’m sure, and I was somewhat hungry and I wanted something warm in my belly.
The lady suggested a bowl of balbacua, which looked like a soupy mess of beef parts and laman loob, and I loved how something so basic could be so heartily comforting! So I woke up the next morning and recreated the dish using oxtails and beef shanks.
Have you been to Davao? What dish did you enjoy the most there? Tell us with a comment below!
For orders of Carmina’s delicious balbacua, you can get in touch with her at: