Eating My Way Through Pagsanjan Laguna

Laguna food is more than Buko pie or Espasol. That was something I learned while eating my way through Pagsanjan. 

I now understand why our National Hero, Jose Rizal, turned out to be a gourmand. Hailing from the southern province of Laguna, he was surrounded by myriad varieties of Spanish, Chinese, and Filipino dishes. 

Rizal was known to cook whether he was living in Europe, Hong Kong, or Zamboanga. He would receive Filipino ingredients through mail sent by his family back home. 

Reading Noli Me Tangere is like reading a cookbook. It's full of food and cooking references. 

A month ago, I was able to taste first-hand the flavors of Laguna. I went on a short trip to Pagsanjan which is 92 kilometers away from Manila. Traveling to this town means both scenic and historical views along the way.

Pagsanjan is known for its celebration of the Bangkero Festival every March. It used to be the capital of Laguna from 1688 to 1858. 

In Cebu, I frequently eat at Cafe Laguna which reminds me of the Tagalog way of preparing and cooking food.  

Laguna has an abundance of freshwater seafood which is harvested from Laguna de Bay. Tilapia is one of my favorite fish and was on my list to eat that day. 

My food trip started with lunch, my dad brought me to Calle Arco which used to be the owners' ancestral house until they converted it into a restaurant.

The restaurant is divided into two parts: a cafe where you can have desserts and coffee while the other part is the main dining area. 

The place was named after the centuries-old stone arch that welcomes visitors to the main part of the town. I'll tell you more about that arch in another post. 

In Calle Arco, we ordered the following dishes:

Hurnoy Lechon
Pork belly baked until meat is tender with crispy skin. 

Sweet and Sour Pla-pla 
Deep-fried pla-pla topped with sweet and sour sauce.

Pla-pla is the bigger version of Tilapia. The fish that was served to us must have weighed more than a kilo. 

Tortang Talong
Seared eggplant con carne. Don't forget to dip it in ketchup. 

Shanghai Fried Rice
Stir-fried white rice with ham, peas, onions, egg, and other ingredients that you fancy. 

Calle Arco is located along Rizal Street which is part of the National Highway. Another restaurant found on the same highway is Tita Dels Fiesta Cuisine. 

We had our dinner at Tita Dels and the restaurant has some eye-catching interiors. It's a newly constructed building that has the old world feels. 

Here are the photos of what we had in Tita Del's:

The dish is made with tripe cooked until tender. It is sauteed in tomato sauce spiced with sausage, chorizo, and garbanzos. 

Crispy Kangkong

Fresh water spinach dipped in batter and then fried.

Baloy baloy
Tiny shrimps sauteed similar to bagoong with a little sweetness added to it. It is a standalone dish.

The rich heritage of Laguna extends to its numerous regional dishes. When you have the time, spend some of it exploring Southern Luzon. 

Calle Arco
National Highway, Pagsanjan, Laguna
(049) 501 4584

Tita Dels Fiesta Cuisine
National Highway, Pagsanjan, Laguna