When it comes to culinary wonders, the Bicol-Rinconada area is a treasure trove (not to mention its rich, distinct language).
Bicol’s Rinconada area (a part of Camarines Sur) is a corner that sits between the province’s central region and northern Albay: a geographical fact that is justified with the word’s etymology in Spanish.
The Spanish word arrinconada which means cornered (root word is rincon which means corner or small district) influenced the name for the district today.
“The older generations,” Chef Jet Sumayao says, “were hardcore locavores.”
Chef Jet is an Irigueño whose work under world-renowned Chele Gonzalez for Gallery Vask (#36 of 50 Best Restaurants in Asia by San Pellegrino, now Gallery by Chele) has earned him the experience to delve on local cuisine for brands such as ¿Que Pasa? Naga.
“The elders didn’t like going out to eat so they perfected recipes using local ingredients,” Chef Jet explains, “they had plenty of time to teach the young ones the secrets to their cooking.”
This is why some of the age-old techniques are still widely used to this day.
One example is the Rinconada version of the classic laing, called katnga (taro leaves cooked in coconut milk, salted baby shrimps, meat, ginger, onion, and lemongrass).
The Rinconada version is described as naglalana-lana where oil is gradually secreted by the coconut milk as it is slowly cooked.
This age-old technique produces not only a delicious, savory result but ensures that it keeps well for storage.
The same technique could be noted for a dish called ginataang libas na may bangi (shredded leaves of common hog plum cooked in coconut milk with sauteed carabao’s skin).
Local brands such as Natuk champion these age-old techniques in their products, such as libas sa gata and laing a la pobre.
Palus-ag na gulay na langka o libi-libi ag tilapia (Young jackfruit or the leaves of the palm leaf fig cooked in coconut milk with fried, stewed, or grilled tilapia) is another case in point on the use of coconut milk in Rinconada cuisine.
Libi-libi is also called lubi-lubi in some parts of the country.
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Found in the lakes of Bato and Buhi (two towns in the Rinconada district) and also in Danao in Albay, it makes sense that the tabios (or sinarapan, goby fish) is an essential part of the local cuisine.
A popular choice for its use is ukoy (or deep-fried fritters) but ginisang tabios (sauteed goby fish) is one of the more memorable takes on the fish.
It is quickly sauteed with onion, garlic, some ginger and tomatoes and is perfect as a side or enjoyed on its own.
The tinuktok has several iterations in the Bicol region.
In some parts of the region, it is called tinumok or pinangat (minced pork, shrimp, and crab meat is sometimes wrapped in gabi leaves and cooked in coconut milk).
Baao’s tinuktok, however, presents pinangat as balls in fish broth cooked with lemongrass and other aromatics such as leaves of the libas (common hog plum) or local chili leaves.
The Tandem To Beat
We all know the drill: Filipino pancit works very well with a lot of pairings.
The town of Bato in the Rinconada area is known for a type of noodle called Pancit Bato.
When sauteed with fish sauce, soy sauce, pepper and some aromatics garnished with meat and vegetables such as carrots, celery or cabbage, it is delicious on its own.
In Rinconada, it is paired with dinuguan (or rinuguan locally; pork blood and meat stew) and is known as pancit inulas.