Curacha for me, is a dance.
Being born in Northern Samar, raised by waray parents, the song and dance Curacha (or Kuratsa) has been part of my childhood until now. It is a traditional courtship dance by the warays of Samar and Leyte, which is very popular during fiestas, weddings and family gatherings.
Little did I know that there is another Curacha that literally captured my heart, and my appetite! And I’ve found it in Zamboanga when I was invited by the DOT Region 9 Office to be part of the Savores 2017, an annual celebration of food and flavors in Zamboanga. Yes, in Mindanao. 🙂
It was my first time in Zamboanga and I had a great time. We were warmly welcomed by DOT Region 9 staff and we stayed at the cozy, Garden Orchid Hotel (hotel details) . After resting a while in our hotel, they picked us up for our sumptuous lunch at the popular restaurant in Zamboanga, Alavar Seafood Restaurant!
We settled in a long table inside and talked with my fellow bloggers and DOT Region 9 staff while waiting for our food. Of course, the lunch was sponsored by DOT so we didn’t have an idea on what are they going to serve us, but we knew it was going to be awesome. It will be the best dishes in Zamboanga.
And it didn’t disappoint us, especially when food came out and served, one delectable dish at a time. Oh my, food!
The Arroz Valenciana was one of the best I’ve had so far. They also served us a lot of fresh seafood, but the main course, the star of the lunchtime was the huge and delicious Curacha!
By the time Curacha was served, I could help but take a picture of it. I even asked them to take a picture with me. Hahaha!
Curacha is a Chavano name for spanner crab found in the deep sea of Mindanao and Sulu. This is best when served with Alavar Sauce. Oh my, good thing I was able to control myself, If not I could have eaten 3 or more pieces of these big crabs. I only had one because you know blood pressure hahaha! But I was really satisfied. The effort to peel off the hard shell and eating those juicy soft meat inside with that sauce, a piece of heaven for a PG like me (patay-gutom) Hahaha!
Curacha really made an impression. One of the most memorable and delightful experience in my travel to Zamboanga. We ate Curacha like everyday during our trip. I loved it so much I wanted to go back soon, or maybe look for the Alavar Restaurant here in Manila.
But honestly, though Zamboanga is famous for Curacha, it has more deletable traditional dishes that reflect the region’s culture, a fusion of different flavors. Here are some of the dishes we tried and you should too when you visit Zamboanga City.
It was early morning when we arrived in Zamboanga City. After the warm welcome by DOT Region 9, we headed to our first stop for breakfast, it’s Johnny’s Morning Sun Satti located at Pilar St., Zamboanga City.
As the restaurant’s tag line, it really spiced up our day as they served their most famous dish, Satti!
Satti is an influence of nearby islands and country, Malaysia, it’s a sweet and spicy curry sauce with a choice of chicken, beef with puso or hanging rice wrapped in coconut leaves. It can be too spicy for some, but you have to try this! Satti is a popular breakfast dish in Zamboanga, so when you try this food, you also get a glimpse of how locals way of life.
It was also the first time I was introduced to the food named Lokot-lokot, it looks intriguing yet it’s really good. I’ll explain to you more about the food later on this blog post as we had a chance to witness how this is being cooked on our second day.
We definitely spiced up our morning with Satti! After breakfast we headed straight to our hotel to freshen up then had our lunch at Alavar.
Our next stop is PCA or Philippine Coconut Authority-Research Center in San Ramon, Zamboanga City. It is tasked to develop and research ways to generate technologies to prosper the coconut industry in the country. They gave us a presentation on how to produce the Cocosugar and virgin coconut oil. But the exciting part was when they gave us a chance to witness how these products are made.
Shall I say the best part of the tour was eating time. Hahaha!
We tasted some of their food products and they were delicious, especially the bico and macapuno. Just the right amount of sweetness, not too much because my sweetness is enough hahaha!
The Aromatic buko was also something to point here. It’s very refreshing and has a different aromatic scent. You should try this!
We had a blast on our first day touring and tasting the flavors of Zamboanga, but our day was not yet over. We had our dinner at the popular Palmeras Restaurant at Pasonanca Road, Barangay Sta. Maria Zamboanga City.
Oh my I remember I was so full eating those Filipino dishes. They served us Crispy Pata, Bopis, Sizzling Gambas, Kare-kare and lot more seafood and vegetables. Those were actually typical Filipino food, but the main event hasn’t arrived yet.
Yes, your dine to Palmeras isn’t complete without tasting their ultimate dessert and refreshment! It’s the fruity, freshly served topped with strawberry ice cream, it’s the famous Knickerbocker!
You couldn’t imagined the look in our eyes when we first saw this tray with 20 Knickerbockers! Wow! And when I finally had mine and tasted it, I was just speechless for a while. Hahaha! Busy eating those fresh fruits and the strawberry ice cream that blended really well.
A lot are saying that this is the Halo-halo version of Zamboanga. Oh yeah, some might agree, but this is different because the fruits are crisp and fresh.
The next day we had our lunch at the Vista Del Mar beach resort (resort details) located at Labuan-Lampara National Road. And shall I say we had another Curacha! Wooohooo!
How to eat Curacha?
But hey, they actually showed another way of eating Curacha. According to the staff of the resort the best way to eat Curacha is by cracking its shell using two plates. Put the curacha on the plate, then get another plate, put it on top curacha and dance (just kidding) hahaha! And with all your might, put pressure on the plate, push until you hear the cracking delight.
Take away the shell then put the sauce. Then eat!
During our lunch at the resort, we also discovered some quite interesting dishes. Here’s one of them, it’s called Enseladang chamba!
It was so delicious especially paired with your rice and Curacha, that we asked them what it is. They said it’s ensaladang chamba.
Ensaladang what?! Hahaha
It’s your usual ensalada put with additional ingredients . They said they also put the right amount of bagoong isda to have it’s salty taste. It’s called Chamba, because it’s just an accident how they were able to come up with that distinct taste.
It was merienda time, and we were in for a treat of the local dishes and pastries of Zamboanga. These are local food by Sama Banguingui tribe, and one of the most famous is Lokot-lokot or Jaa.
Lokot-lokot is a local delicacy made of rice flour, which is also known as Zamboanga rolls. This is usually served during special locations by our Muslim brothers.
It has an intriguing look that you might get interested how is this being cooked and prepared. Well, they showed us how, and I realized cooking this food is done by professionals hahaha! I mean by those people who’ve been cooking this for some time. You need the right skills and timing to do it.
A thick mixture of fine rice flour with water is poured in a strainer with holes called uluyan. Put evenly on a hot pan with cooking oil and formed into rolls using what they call gagawa, or two wooden spoons.
There are other delicacies that we also tried and they were surprisingly good especially paired with coffee. It rained that afternoon, so the mood was just right for a coffee chit-chat break.
Aside from Lokot-lokot we also tried, Panyalam, deep friend pancake made of rice flour with sugar and coconut milk. Those little pound cakes also delighted us named as Baulu Mamon, made from white sugar and flour and Baulu Tapung made from brown rice flour and sugar.
My favorite is Pitis Patani, it’s rice cake with sweet coconut that tastes like bukayo. There are also pretzel-like pastries called Kalling, deep-fried pretzel made of flour, egg and coconut milk, and Panganan, made of brown corn flour and muscovado.
(Clockwise from the top – Baulu Tapung, Pitis Patani, Kalling, Panganan, Baulu Mamon. At the center is Panyalam.)
Our dinner for that day? No problem, we attended the biggest culinary event in Zamboanga City, it’s Savores 2017!
Savores is a Chavano word which means Flavors. That night, 14 local restaurants in the city participated and showcased the diverse cuisine of Zamboanga. It was a celebration of flavors and culture.
We were able to try as much food as we can. All are my favorites but the real stand out for me is the Pastel de Chicken Pianggang by Chinito’s. The event was a success. It was jampacked and visitors were treated with the unique dishes that can only be found in Zamboanga.
More Food from Sta. Cruz Island
Our last day in Zamboanga was probably the most exciting as we traveled to it’s famous Sta. Cruz island and it’s pink sand beach.
We witnessed a traditional muslim dance, walked on the pinkish sand and enjoyed its clear waters. But the food and flavors didn’t stop! We were served with Curacha. I told you we ate Curacha every day. Hahaha! And some Muslim delicacies.
Oko-oko or rice cooked inside the sea urchin captured my attention. The first time I saw it, I literally asked them, rice? Inside the sea urchin? Hahaha! This dish is served by Sama Banguingui, a Moro ethnic group.
They served us again with the Muslim pastries that we had the day before plus some other dishes like Chupa Kulo and a lot more seafood!
PASTIL AND OTHER DISHES OF SULU
Before heading back to the hotel, we checked out Dennis Coffee Shop along Labuan-Limpapa National Road. The coffee shop offers Sulu coffee culture and other Tausug delicacies, a perfect way for us to experience the authentic food of our brothers in Sulu.
They first served us these viands made of beef and chicken with spices.
Center: Tiula Itum (beef) Clockwise from top: chicken pianggang, beef kulma, chicken satay, cucumber and utak-utak (fish cake)
Then followed by these pastries and dishes for merienda like Jualan or deep fried banana with a tasty dip. Putlihmandi, purple rice balls rolled on coconut flakes. Daral, moisture- rich crepe with sweet coconut filling. Panggih-panggih, soft and chewy flour rings. Apam, Sulu native pancake. Palimbang, banana fritters.
But the true winner, or shall I say my favorite is Pastil! A Tausug dish similar to empanada but it’s actually filled with togue. What’s more delicious about this dish is its sweet and spicy vinegar sauce. Oh my, I was already full at that time that I just ate a few. But when I was already at the airport that night, I was thinking of Pastil. Hahaha! This is a popular dish in Zamboanga, especially among students, and a street food too. Yummy!
At the end of my stay in Zamboanga, I’ve come to realize why the local government and tourism are serious in promoting their food. Zamboanga’s delectable dishes, a fusion of diverse culture is one major reason why people need to visit Zamboanga.
It’s food is enough plus you’ve got some awesome islands and tourist spots and its warm people as bonus!
Note: This trip was possible through the invitation of DOT Region 9 for the Savores 2017. Muchas Gracias Zamboanga! I enjoyed it a lot, and I’m missing Curacha now.
CONTACT: Tourism 9 (Zamboanga Peninsula)
Ground Floor, Samboangan Bayanihan Cooperative Building, Gen. Vicente Alvarez St. cor. Claveria St., Zamboanga City
Call (063) 993 0030 / Email: email@example.com