If you think that the city of Cabanatuan is just famous for its longganisa, think again. There’s more good food to try and taste in this place than those irresistibly delicious and garlic-rich batutay (local name for Cabanatuan’s beef sausage).
Situated at the heart of Nueva Ecija, Cabanatuan is a three-hour drive or bus ride from Manila, via the NLEX-SCTEX route. The city is known as the “tricycle capital of the Philippines,” and how it was dubbed as such is I guess, self-explanatory.
There are a few scenic spots here but none is actually on the level that will make tourists go crazy to see. However, what the city lacks in famous tourist spots and destinations, it surely makes up for its abundant tasty delicacies.
Lucky for me, I was fortunate enough to try and discover some of these hidden culinary treasures that Cabanatuan City is still waiting to be known for.
First up is the city’s own version of sisig. The city of Angeles in Pampanga holds the title, “Sisig Capital of the Philippines,” but Cabanatuan’s version is surely up for a sizzling competition.
Here, the sisig is made out of pork belly or liempo, instead of the traditional pig cheeks and ears. The juicy pork pieces come straight off the grill and will be chopped in front of you upon order. The vendors add a hefty amount of those finely chopped onions, a little of those hot red chilies, a few drops of calamansi, and voila, you got one of the best tasting sisig in the country. Mayonnaise is an option here as well, so you can choose to add it to your sisig if you prefer yours a bit creamier and richer.
But no matter how you prefer it, spicy or not, with mayo or no mayo, Cabanatuan’s sisig is still delicious in every way imaginable—smoky and deliciously sinful. An order of the sisig is sold at P130 and that could already be shared by three to four persons.
The good thing is that this porky goodness isn’t hard to find in Cabanatuan. There’s actually a place here where about a dozen of these stores thrive. Just look for the street called Burgos and you will find yourself in a roasting paradise. The place is literally covered with smoke from all the roasting and grilling activities happening so there’s no way you can miss it.
Another must-try in this area is their lechon manok (charcoal-roasted chicken). Andok’s, Baliwag, Chooks To Go, and other popular lechon manok brands in the metro stand no chance against Cabanatuan’s street chicken roasting shops. And why not, it’s actually cheaper and honestly, more flavorful and more delicious. A whole roasted chicken is sold here for only P170. We have tried “Mayet’s” as it is one of the more popular stalls here, but I bet the other stalls in the area would not disappoint as well.
Cabanatuan City is not among the top tourist destinations in the country, but the simple-yet-good native dishes and the warm and friendly people here, sure makes the place a must-visit. It’s not about what you would see in this place, but it’s how it will make you feel. The town is clean, quiet, and comforting−a kind that is reminiscent of home.