Cuisine reflects culture. Culture reflects the characteristics of the people.
People from Cagayan de Oro are known for being friendly and hospitable. If cuisine is an indication of customs and character, then the nature of Kagay-anons can be tested through their delicacies; warm and comforting dishes with a variety of flavors you’ll be happy to discover.
The South is a source of various recipes with unique tastes uncommon in the North. You can find zesty, spicy, and sweet in CDO. Find out which unique dishes you should try at home once you see the Cagayan de Oro house and lot for sale that fits your family.
Northern Mindanao is proud to present its unique spin on kinilaw. Sinuglaw is a mix of sinugba and kinilaw - two dishes common in Filipino palate.
Sinugba is grilled pork belly while kinilaw (ceviche-style) is raw fish, usually tuna, soaked in a cocktail of vinegar and citrus juices. The kinilaw in Mindanao is unique because of the suwa and tabon-tabon included in the mix. Tabon-tabon is a tropical fruit that grows in the wilderness of Mindanao, that looks like the more familiar chico.
The citric acid from the fruit and vinegar slowly cooks the raw fish and produces a milky liquid. Green onions, red peppers, ginger, shallots and a variety of chili deliver a refreshing taste to the fresh seafood. Other ingredients also include thin slices of cucumber to complement the sour nectar.
You can find the sinuglaw in almost all the restaurants in the city. The dish is a favorite appetizer because of the vegetable medley and the choice pulutan (best paired with alcoholic drinks) for its sharp acid taste.
2. Binaki (Sweet Tamales)
Binaki is a kakanin from Bukidnon. It comes from the word “baki” which means frog. The delicacy may have caught its name due to its appearance. When the binaki is ready to eat, it is wrapped in corn husk and folded in the shape of a frog.
The delicacy is made from ground corn and mixed with the usual ingredients for baking—milk, sugar, baking powder, eggs, and salt. The corn husks are soaked beforehand and steamed for an hour, so it’s ready-to-use once the mixture cools.
The flavorful binaki uses native corn. Sadly, fewer farms in Bukidnon have this kind of crop. Most farms have hybrid maize that yields high returns to farmers. The type of corn in the area are the same one used for hog-raising. Thus, the quality of binaki largely depends on the corn used.
You can buy binaki from the street vendors of CDO. Pasalubong stores both in the city and Bukidnon also sell the freshly-cooked snacks.
3. Pigok Fish
There are two seasonal fishes available in CDO - Ludong and Pigok. These species are catadromous, so they are usually caught during the breeding season, within October and December. Catadromous fishes transfer from the rivers to the sea to produce offspring. Hence, Pigok and Ludong are highly-valued and appreciated due to their scarcity.
Pigok fish has a distinct quality. Its meat is sweet and tender. It also has a smooth texture and savory aroma when cooked. A kilo of Pigok costs more than Php 4,000. Its rarity matches its price so it is mostly enjoyed by people who can afford it. It is often called as the “President’s Fish”. Affluent people including the President are those who can afford a meal of the rare fish.
Unfortunately, Ludong and Pigok are endangered species. According to Administrative Circular 27, anyone who plans to catch the endangered fish faces a fine of P80 000.
4. Ostrich Meat
Kagay-anons enjoy the low-fat protein alternative to red meat, thanks to Philippine Ostrich and Crocodile Farms, Inc. The farm is owned and operated by the Limketkai Family. It was established in 1996 and continues to breed ostrich for commercial supply.
The farm is the main supplier of meat and eggs to the establishments in CDO and selected outlets in Manila. Robinsons Place Limketkai and Bagong Lipunan Restaurant sell the ostrich cuts per kilogram. You can find it in the market’s frozen meat section. A premium cut costs Php 500 per kilogram. You can order meat in bulk at the Farm.
If you want to enjoy the cuisine, restaurants like Cucina de Oro and Kagay-anon Restaurant serve recipes using the ostrich meat. You can taste various dishes of the meat. Low-calorie meals include Ostrich Ala Pobre, Tapa, Barbeque, and stews.
5. Puto Maya
Puto Maya is another favorite afternoon kakanin of Filipinos. The South’s version uses sticky rice from their neighboring province, Bukidnon. The snack includes white and purple rice and fresh coconut milk. Combined with ginger and sugar, it cooks in a constant simmer. Once it’s cooled, it is wrapped in banana leaves or served in plates.
It is perfect with hot chocolate. Sometimes, Kagay-anons would have a feast with Kinutil - chocolate drink with raw egg and tuba (coconut wine). Others prefer the puto maya with a side of ripe mango. The sweet fruit enhances the texture and experience of eating the kakanin.
6. Remember Me
Known as Soup No. 5 or RM, Remember Me is a treat in the streets. Remember Me is a broth made of bovine innards, tendons, and a horse’s private parts. Tourists are excited to try it because it is a so-called aphrodisiac. Moreover, the exotic dish is the locals’ cure for headaches after a night of drinking.
You can get a taste of the soup at La Croelle at Capistrano and Pacaña street. The turo-turo also serves lugaw, batchoy, bulalo and other soup varieties from 3 p.m. until the early hours of the next day.
Proben is short for proventriculus, an organ that is part of the chicken’s digestive system. The pieces are breaded in flour or cornstarch then fried.
Proben is available in mobile carts and wheeled stalls. Like most street food, it is cooked on the spot and skewered in bamboo sticks. A stick costs five pesos and includes four pieces of proben. You can dip it in the special sauce made by the vendors. You can choose from the three dips they have in the cart.
The cheap bits of proben has high caloric content and fat. Consuming it also carries the risk of contamination if not properly cooked and stored at medium temperature. Deep-frying at high temperature reduces the risk and makes it available for immediate consumption.
The adventurous types will surely enjoy the exotic street finds. You can find comfort in Proben or RM available in the corners of the city. Those looking for a heavy meal can go for Ostrich Tapa or the fermented Sinuglaw. Those with extra money to spend can try Pigok dishes and finish the meal with Puto Maya or Binakil. Indeed, Cagayan de Oro offers a big welcome especially to those who have a big appetite.