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After we say Zamboanga Metropolis is colourful, we’re not simply referring to the color-blocked sail of the vinta or the rosy glow of Santa Cruz Grande Island’s Pink Seaside. The vividness of Asia’s Latin Metropolis goes past what the eyes can see. Its intricate historical past as a settlement and kaleidoscopic mixture of cultures are finest skilled by means of one other basic sense — the sense of style.

Zamboanga Metropolis is certainly one of our most-loved meals locations for the sheer vary and variety of what it could carry to the (eating) desk. From the saucy red-orange sticks of satti to the motley flavors of knickerbocker, listed below are a few of Zamboanga’s most sought-after culinary delights and the place to search out them.

WHAT’S COVERED IN THIS GUIDE?

Ever heard of curacha?

If it sounds acquainted, it’s most likely as a result of it reminds you of La Cucaracha, a Mexican people track a couple of cockroach that additionally grew to become fairly fashionable within the Philippines. Curacha (in Chavacano) and cucaracha (in Spanish) imply the identical — cockroach. And it’s no shock provided that Chavacano, Zamboanga’s dominant language, is a Spanish-based Creole.

However earlier than you lose your urge for food, know that we’re not going to ask you to go full Worry Think about Zamboanga. As an alternative, we’re inviting you to have a style of essentially the most mouth-watering crustaceans that the area has to supply — spanner crabs!

Curacha Aderes Flea Market Guiwan Zamboanga

Curacha acquired its title due to its spiky, bushy look that kinda resembles you-know-what. However if you happen to look carefully, it kinda seems just like the love baby of a large crab and an extended lobster. And since it packs extra meat and extra taste than the crabs we’re used to, they’re wanted. Fortunately, they thrive within the waters surrounding the area.

For a lot of, the most effective place to have a style of curacha is Alavar Seafood Restaurant, which serves curacha cooked in and doused with its well-known specialty sauce, which is created from coconut milk, aligue (crab roe paste) and numerous spices. This tremendous wealthy sauce mixed with the seafood umami bombs which can be curacha, you’ll by no means style different crab dishes the identical approach once more.

Curacha with Alavar Sauce

Alavar Seafood Restaurant Zamboanga

However be warned: It’s not low cost. You’ll be able to order curacha by the kilo (minimal 1 kg). The final time we dined right here, a kilo of it in alavar sauce prices P1500 to P1700, relying on the dimensions of the crabs.

The sauce alone is unforgettable. It’s so fashionable that vacationers drop by Alavar on the way in which to the airport to take house frozen packs of it.

Alavar Seafood Restaurant
Handle: 173 Don Alfaro St, Zamboanga Metropolis
Working Hours: Monday-Tuesday 10:00 am – 8:00 pm;
Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, 10:00 am – 9:00 pm;
Friday, Sunday 10:00 am – 10:00 pm
Specialty: Curacha in Alavar Sauce

However if you happen to’d fairly take house freshly caught curacha, head over to Aderes Flea Market in Guiwan. You should purchase raw curacha at a lower cost right here, together with lobsters and different seafood.

Aderes Flea Market Guiwan Zamboanga City


How acquainted are you with Moro dishes? A bit of bit? Not fairly? In no way?

In the event you reside in Metro Manila or close by areas, you most likely haven’t tried it. (Or in my case earlier than my Zamboanga journey, not even heard of it.) We’re used to dishes from Luzon and Visayas. Many people are much more acquainted with overseas fare. So when in Zamboanga, have a style of Moro delicacies!

Greater than a 3rd of Zamboanga Metropolis’s inhabitants observe Islam. The Moros, Filipino Muslims, have developed a meals tradition that’s fascinatingly totally different from different areas. Whereas garlic, onions and ginger stay frequent substances, the Moros wish to additionally use spices like galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime and turmeric, that are extra normal in our maritime Southeast Asian neighbors.

Bay Tal Mal's Latal Moro Cuisine
Tiyulah itum on the heart, surrounded by (clockwise from the highest) cucumber sambal, piyassak, hen kiyaliya, utak-utak, beef adobo, fried fish, beef kulma, hen piyanggang, fried shrimps.

You’ll additionally discover that the Tausugs love utilizing coconut milk and — get this — burnt or charred coconut, which provides lots of its dishes its black look. It does look slightly bit intimidating at first look, however belief me, it’s tremendous scrumptious. It doesn’t style burnt in any respect, nevertheless it gives depth and complexity to its style that’s fairly exhausting to explain. You’ve gotta style it your self.

In Zamboanga Metropolis, essentially the most handy place for vacationers to pattern Moro dishes is Bay Tal Mal. It’s as a result of they serve latal (P749), which is a platter of assorted Tausug dishes together with the next:

  • Tiyulah itum (tiyula itum or tiulah itum, actually “black soup”), beef in black broth made with burnt coconut and spices.
  • Beef kulma, beef cubes stewed in a curry sauce.
  • Piyassak, beef liver cubes cooked with pounded spices, charred coconut and coconut milk
  • Hen piyanggang, hen marinated in burnt coconut and numerous spices after which grilled.
  • Hen kiyaliya, hen stewed in coconut milk with lemongrass, turmeric, ginger and different spices.
  • Beef adobo
  • Fried fish
  • Fried shrimp or squid
  • Kiyaliya kapaya, papaya; or cucumber sambal (the sambal is so fab delish!)

Though not on the menu, I feel one of many dishes on our platter was utak-utak (fried fish cake).

You’ll be able to get pleasure from this platter of delicacies with rice. However we normally add a plate of mee goreng (P189), which is served with exhausting boiled egg. We simply love mie goreng so we order it at any time when we spot it on the menu. (LOL.) However they’ve much more gadgets on its menu.

Mie goreng at Bay Tal Mal

Once I tried it for the primary time, Bay Tal Mal was nonetheless positioned alongside Mayor Jaldon Road. But it surely has since moved to the 4th stage of SM Mindpro.

Bay Tal Mal Restaurant
Handle: 4th flooring, SM Mindpro, La Purisima St, Zamboanga Metropolis
Working Hours: Monday-Thursday, 10am-8pm; Friday-Sunday, 10am-9pm
Specialty: Latal (platter of Tausug dishes)

One other restaurant that serves this Tausug tray of goodness is Dennis Espresso Backyard, located close to the airport. Right here, they name it dulang (P950), nevertheless it’s mainly the identical. However whereas Bay Tal Mal’s platter has 10 totally different dishes, Dennis’s has six.

Talking of Dennis Espresso Backyard…


Dennis Espresso Backyard‘s roots could be traced again all the way in which to 1962 Jolo, Sulu, the place a small cafe known as Omar’s Place was established. Sixty years later, the title has modified and a number of branches have sprouted together with this one in Zamboanga Metropolis.

Dennis Coffee Garden

We already talked about the dulang or latal that they serve right here. However it’s extra well-known for one thing else — you guessed it — COFFEE! Dennis Espresso Backyard takes satisfaction of their genuine espresso known as the kahawa sug, which could be served scorching or iced. It’s extra on the sturdy finish of the spectrum, so if you happen to favor daring espresso, this might be for you! The iced model, nonetheless, is served with milk.

Dennis Coffee Garden Sulu Coffee
From left to proper: kahawa sug, iced espresso, and iced chocolate

Except for Sulu espresso, it’s also fashionable for his or her bangbang sug or native Tausug pastries. We labored up an urge for food earlier that day so we determined to order all the gadgets on their snack menu! Moreover, we actually wished to attempt all of them! Every merchandise prices P65.

  • Jualan saing, deep-fried bananas with sweetened coconut dip (consider it as a deconstructed banana que)
  • Jualan panggih, deep-fried candy potatoes with sweetened coconut dip (type of a deconstructed camote que)
  • Daral, crepe with candy filling made from coconut (filling tastes like bukayo)
  • Panggih-panggih, deep-fried flour rings
  • Wadjit, glutinous rice cooked in coconut milk (unavailable throughout our go to)
  • Pitis, glutinous rice flour muffins with coconut filling, wrapped in banana leaves
  • Patulakan, punded rice with milk and grated coconut, wrapped in banana leaves
  • Biyaki, grated candy corn muffins, wrapped in corn husks then steamed
Biyaki at Dennis Coffee Garden
Biyaki
Panggih Panggih at Dennis Coffee Garden
Panggih Panggih

We additionally ordered pastil, which has similarities to empanada with togue filling and served with a candy and spicy sauce. (We additionally tried pastil in Tawi-tawi nevertheless it had bihon noodles as filling.)

Out of all of this, we loved jualan saing, daral, biyaki and panggih-panggih essentially the most!

Dennis Espresso Backyard
Handle: San Jose Highway, Baliwasan, Zamboanga Metropolis
Working hours: Every day 10:00 am – 10:00 pm
Specialty: kahawa sug (Sulu espresso) and Tausug pastries


As we explored Zamboanga Metropolis, we couldn’t assist however discover that a variety of institutions serve so-called satti. We even noticed quite a few regular-looking homes with indicators that learn, “We serve satti”. It acquired us extremely curious! Satti seems like satay (hen satay, beef satay), so I had my concepts on what it might be. However many satti signages had illustrations of bowls, not sticks of meat, which confused us at first.

Nicely, properly, it turned out that satti is certainly much like satay (grilled skewered meat). However on this a part of the world, it’s normally served half-dipped in a bowl of red-orange spicy sauce with cubes of molded rice. And to my shock, that is really a breakfast favourite! Nothing beats a spicy kick to begin the day!

Satti in Zamboanga City

After we requested the locals (largely tricycle drivers) for the most effective satti place within the metropolis, all fingers pointed at Jimmy’s Satti Haus. Sadly, as a result of time constraints, we didn’t pay a go to. Too dangerous!

(That mentioned, we had been in a position to attempt satti at Dennis Espresso Backyard! I’m a sucker for something grilled and spicy, so it was love at first chew for me. I nonetheless want I acquired to attempt Jimmy’s although. However I suppose this offers me a motive to return to Zamboanga!)

Jimmy’s Satti Haus
Handle: Pilat Road, Zamboanga Metropolis
Working hours: 2:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Specialty: Satti


In the event you’re craving pork, you is likely to be stunned to know that one space in Zamboanga has mastered the artwork of constructing lechon! Sure, entire pig roasted to perfection! Right here in Tetuan, lechon is bought at kiosks stationed alongside the street. And there are many them right here!

Prince Tetuan Lechon Zamboanga

I used to be fairly shocked to study it at first as a result of the town has a major Muslim inhabitants. Earlier than setting foot right here for the primary time, I initially (mistakenly) assumed that pork — a staple protein in Pinoy kitchens elsewhere — can be notably absent in most elements of the town as a result of it’s forbidden in Islam. However there it was, a road lined with pork lechon stalls promoting kilo after kilo of suckling pig. This proves simply how numerous the town is and the way

After we requested locals for suggestions, one institution that was persistently talked about was Prince Tasty Lechon. They’ve a number of stalls all through the town, however we selected the one in Tetuan, only a brief stroll from Alavar.

Like others beside it, Prince is a small stall with a suckling pig on show as a workers member chops away. You’ll be able to ask for a bit of the crispy pores and skin to have a style. A kilo prices P550. You may also order half a kilo, which is at P350. You’ll be able to have it as a complete slab or have it chopped.

Tetuan lechon is usually in comparison with Cebu’s extra well-known model. When you style it, it’s not obscure why. It’s simply so flavorful! The pores and skin is tremendous crispy however not exhausting; it breaks with the gentlest of bites. The meat is moist, juicy and tender. The mixture of calamansi, garlic, onions, pepper, bay leaf and different herbs seeps so deep into the meat. We weren’t given any sauce. Unsure if it truly is eaten with out it or the workers simply forgot. However regardless, there’s no want for it.

Prince Tasty Lechon
Handle: Don Alfaro St., Tetuan, Zamboanga Metropolis
Open: 9:00 AM – 9:00 PM


To date, we’ve already coated largely foremost programs and heavy proteins. How about we transfer on to dessert?

Right here in Zamboanga Metropolis, no different dessert has reached the legendary standing of the knickerbocker. The what?

Knickerbocker at Palmeras Zamboanga

Knickerbocker! Consider it because the fruitier, more healthy stepsister of the halo-halo. This loopy colourful concoction is a mixture of jellies and recent fruits like watermelon, apple, pineapply and mango, drizzled with condensed milk and topped with shaved ice and strawberry ice cream. It’s shiny, candy, and creamy, good for laundry down no matter lunch or dinner you had.

Today, you possibly can get pleasure from a cup from distributors at Paseo del Mar, however if you happen to’re after the unique, head over to Hacienda de Palmeras Lodge and Restaurant, extensively thought to be the institution that invented this tropical dessert. The restaurant is about in a backyard in a quiet nook of the town, however nonetheless simply accessible by jeepney or tricycle.

Hacienda de Palmeras Lodge and Restaurant
Handle: Pasonanca Highway, Sta. Maria, Zamboanga Metropolis
Working Hours: Tuesday-Friday 10am-10pm; Monday,Saturday 10am-8pm
Closed: Sundays
Specialty: Seafood and knickerbocker


In fact! Any TPT journey isn’t full with out pillaging the parks and again alleys for some good old school road meals! These on a regular basis accessible munchies inform so much in regards to the place, its individuals, and its tradition. You will discover road meals anyplace, particularly in busy areas like the general public market and across the metropolis corridor.

Common Pinoy faves like kikiam, fish balls and banana que can be found, however you’ll additionally discover one thing distinctive to the area. My favourite is chikalang. No, not chika lang. Chikalang! It’s a glutinous rice cake rolled in brown sugar. It’s similar to pilipit or karioka, solely greater, denser, heavier and really very purple.

It’s normally among the many many gadgets on peddlers’ bilao. We had it at Paseo del Mar!

Chikalang Zamboanga Street Food
Chikalang is within the decrease proper nook
Chikalang before frying
Chikalang earlier than frying

R.T. Lim Boulevard additionally hosts quite a few road meals distributors. A number of the road meals selections are satay or “ihaw-ihaw”, pastil, and lokot-lokot. You’ll additionally discover balut and penoy as quickly because the solar begins to set.

On our final go to, we observed locals promoting one thing in styrofoam containers. Curious, we approached one and requested what was inside. To our (pleasant) shock, it was mie goreng (P35)! It’s served with fried egg on prime and a calamansi on the aspect, and drizzled with scorching sauce.

Coincidentally, we had been simply speaking about craving noodles simply moments earlier than so we didn’t even give it some thought! We additionally had a pleasant dialog with Kuya Jul, the vendor, as we stuffed our face with noodles.

Mie Goreng at Lim Boulevard Zamboanga
Mie Goreng
Mie Goreng vendor Zamboanga
Kuya Jul, mie goreng vendor
Balut Vendor RT Lim Boulevard Zamboanga
Balut vendor

It’s completely attainable to attempt all of the eating places and meals spots talked about above by yourself. In your itinerary, you possibly can insert a lunch or dinner cease, whichever is closest to the realm you’re exploring that day. (We’ll publish a pattern itinerary, so you’ll want to test again quickly.)

But when you want a extra insightful expertise, you might be a part of a Meals and Tradition Tour, supplied by iTravel Vacationer Lane, led by Errold Bayona.

It was really Errold who launched to us these wonderful foodie locations years in the past. So after I lately returned to Zamboanga, I already knew the place to go to eat.

It’s possible you’ll contact them by means of any of the next:

iTravel Tourist Lane Zamboanga

We paid for all the meals featured on this publish.


AirAsia flies day by day to Zamboanga Metropolis from Manila and presents a number of the most budget-friendly fares. Every reserving comes with a complimentary 7kg carry-on baggage allowance.

AirAsia Aircraft

For a worry-free and extra comfy journey, you may as well add a Worth Pack, which incorporates 20kg check-in baggage allowance, commonplace choice, a meal, and Tune Defend insurance coverage (for bags delay & 1 hour on-time assure safety). In the meantime, their Premium Flex choice lets you change the date and time of your flight as much as two instances.

AirAsia Value Pack

AirAsia Premium Flex

In the event you’re coming from Manila, AirAsia’s Zamboanga flights function from NAIA Terminal 4.

Disc: AirAsia coated our flights on our most up-to-date journey, so it wouldn’t have been attainable with out them. So guide na kayo with them if you happen to resolve to go to Zamboanga!


Ever O Business Hotel Zamboanga
Twin Room at Ever O Enterprise Lodge, Zamboanga Metropolis

We’ve got tried three totally different motels in Zamboanga and all of them had been first rate and nice:

In case you have a much bigger funds, you may additionally try these different properties within the space:


Phrases by: Yosh Dimen
Pictures by: Yosh Dimen & Vins Carlos



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