Food is part of every traveler’s journey. As they say, “You have to taste a culture to understand it.” That is why I always look for the best restaurants when I visit a place for the first time. When I say ‘best’, I don’t mean fancy chairs, tables, and cutlery nor expensive prices and and an aesthetically pleasing setting. The best simply means experiencing what a certain cuisine authentically tastes like.
I went to Albay without a lot of plans. On my first day, I had no idea where to eat and decided not to rely on the Internet as I thought the locals would know for sure where the best eating place is. Would you believe that I had my first lunch at a popular Filipino fast food restaurant for fried chicken and my dinner at a 50s-inspired American diner where I had a massive burger? The next day, I told myself that I couldn’t eat like this at a place that I had never been to before. I should be trying the local cuisine…but where can I find the best local cuisine?
Luckily, the owner of the place I was staying at recommended Bicol’s Best. When I heard the name, it sounded very familiar. It turns out I saw a sign that said something like “Buy local products and support the local community” and saw that it was Bicol’s Best who put up that sign. That’s when I knew I had to try their products.
Bicol’s Best is certainly authentic. It turns out that before Bicol’s Best, the workers of the company used to make Abaca products and are just naturally amazing cooks. When the Abaca business started to decline, the owners of Bicol’s Best thought of shifting to the food industry where they still kept the Abaca makers on – except now, they make food because they’re naturally good at it. #JustBicolanoThings
A new-found friend invited us to one of the restaurants in Legazpi to try Bicol’s Best. We had a little bit of the most popular Bicolano dishes worth trying. Bicol Express, known as Sinilihan in Bicol, is a stew made of pork, chili, coconut milk, shrimp paste, onion, and garlic.
Laing is a flavor-packed dish made of taro leaves, coconut milk, and chili; and Sinantolan is a dish made of minced cotton fruit cooked in coconut cream and shrimp paste.
Although these dishes have so many ingredients in common, they have their own distinct taste and I was surprised by how authentic Bicolano dishes taste compared to their Manila versions. Now I can say that I have tasted authentic Bicolano dishes. Bicol’s Best is available in supermarkets in Bicol and even in Manila.