A Cebu Local's List: 6 Food Items You Can Bring Home For Pasalubong
Nothing says "wish you were with me" like a local delicacy brought home from vacation, and when you hit up a province like Cebu, which is known for many of its foodie treats, pasalubong is an absolute must! But what are the best things to bring back to the people you left behind to dance to the beat of Pit Senyor on the streets of the country's oldest city? Check out this list of must-bring-home pasalubong from the Queen City of the South:
1 Silvanas from Montenegro's
Where to get it: Montenegro's, 20 Dr. Tojong Street, Lahug, Cebu City
Back in the day, most of those who loved this brand of silvanas didn't even know the name for them, or that they're the delicious creations of Nena Montenegro. They're not available in a shop; you have to go to a seemingly random house along a side street near Ayala Center Cebu which had a simple hand-written sign that read "silvanas for sale," and ask for a roll of 15 or 20 silvanas (current price is P388 for 15 pieces, P488 for 20 pieces).
Now the sign is bigger and easier to spot, but the process is still the same for these golden discs of buttery goodness. We highly recommend the original flavor, but for the more adventurous, you can also try the mocha and ube flavors. Also available here are cinnamon rolls and cracked wheat bread.
Pasalubong Pointers: Hand carry these precious rolls, and freeze upon arriving home (thaw in microwave just before serving, but be careful not to melt the silvanas!). If serving soon, refrigeration is okay as well.
2 Masareal from Mandaue
Where to get it: Didang's Delicious Masareal, Labongon Road, Doña Rosario Village, Labongon, Mandaue City (also, various brands are readily available in the local delicacies sections of supermarkets and department stores in Cebu)
These delicacies are made from boiled peanuts finely ground into a powdery consistency, latik (a local coconut syrup), and water. The mixture is formed into blocks and cut into bars; although modern packaging often uses plastic or boxes, traditionally these are wrapped in paper and tied with string.
Didang's is the go-to brand for these sweet peanut bars; the brand proudly proclaims its recipe is "original since 1912"-that's over a century of nut bar making!
Pasalubong Pointers: Masareal crumbles easily, as you'll find when you try it, so if you plan to check it in, pack it well, perhaps surrounded by clothes and other soft things.
3 Titay's Rosquillos
Where to get them: Any supermarket, pasalubong stand, or Titay's outlet in Cebu
These distinctive flower-shaped cookies are made with flour, eggs, shortening, sugar, and baking powder; according to their packaging, they do not contain preservatives or artificial coloring. They are crisp biscuits baked in a roughly circular shape with a central hole and "petal-like" edges.
The best-known brand for these Titay's. Margarita "Titay Frasco is credited with creating rosquillos in her home in Liloan, Cebu, in 1907. According to the company's website, she owned a store where she would give customers a couple of biscuits for every bottle of soda they ordered. It's said that the late President Sergio Osmeña Sr. can be credited for naming them, as "rosquillos" is derived from the Spanish rosca, or ringlet. Over 100 years later, Titay's Liloan Rosquillos and Delicacies Inc. is still going strong and has expanded to include other local delicacies.
Pasalubong Pointers: If you're packing these for check-in, go for the boxes rather than the plastic-packaged versions. Other brands also offer rosquillos, but Titay's is the OG and still the best selling by far. Best taken with something sweet, like soda or juice, or dipped in your afternoon coffee or hot chocolate.
4 Lola Pureza's Peanut Browas
Where to get them: Most major supermarkets or pasalubong center
Here's yet another storied delicacy from the Queen City! According to the product's website, Peanut Browas were conceptualized by Danny Gonzales for Lola Pureza's during a flour shortage in the mid-1980s. These bite-sized peanut-flavored and peanut-shaped treats are made with finely ground peanuts, eggs, sugar, and yeast. Suggested retail prices range from P50 to P140, depending on the size of the pack of Peanut Browas.
Lola Pureza's is a family-run business that originated in the town of Argao in southwestern Cebu. Apart from their Peanut Browas, they're also known for their butterscotch, toasted mini mamon, and peanut paciencia.
Pasalubong Pointers: These treats are fairly sturdy and generally don't need any special handling, although if you're packing into a soft bag meant for check in, try and pack them in the center, so they don't get crushed in transport. They're great on their own or as a snack to go with your afternoon coffee or chocolate.
5 Chicharon from Carcar
Where to get it: Carcar City Pasalubong Center, J. Rizal Street (Cebu South Road), Carcar City, Cebu
If you're headed down to one of the southern towns for an eco- or historical adventure, make sure you make a stop at Carcar, which not only features old houses and great food, but which is famous for their lechon, but also for foodie pasalubong like ampao, bocarillos, and chicharon.
Of these three, chicharon is by far the most famous (and evil!). Proper chicharon contains both the fat and the rind (may laman), and this is true of what you'll find in Carcar. The crispy pork treats are so flavorful, you won't even need vinegar to enjoy them-but if you prefer it, we'd recommend dipping it in pinakurat vinegar for extra bite.
Carcar chicharon is often offered in two flavors: original or spicy. There is now a row of pasalubong sellers just past the main rotunda of the city, where every day fresh chicharon is packed and sold to hungry tourists and locals alike. The good stalls will let you sample their chicharon and pack it in front of you.
Pasalubong Pointers: We'd recommend the chicharon from Flor & Tazar, and on frequent trips to the town, we've noticed that this is the stall tourists crowd to. Current rates are P150 for a ¼ kilo bag. Chicharon travels well, so no need for special care when packing. You may also want to pick up some banana chips while you're at it-you get 3 small packs for P50, and they are very addicting!
6 CNT or Carcar lechon
Where to get it: Carcar City market (there's a whole row of lechon sellers!) or any branch of CnT Lechon.
Probably the best-loved pasalubong from Cebu, lechon has been dubbed "the best pig ever" by none other than the late Anthony Bourdain. This whole-roasted pig can be sold by the pig or chopped up by the kilo, and it's absolutely succulent, with flavorful meat and crispy skin.
If you're headed down south, make sure to stop by the Carcar City market for some of the best lechon in the province at just P400/kilo. One disadvantage of buying here, though, is that they don't pack for pasalubong-as it's meant to be eaten fresh! But that doesn't mean a determined tourist can't bring some prime pig home to loved ones. Bring a sturdy food container large enough for however many kilos of lechon you want to order, and pack it yourself!
If you're not going south (Carcar is about 1-2 hours' drive from the city, depending on traffic), you can also hit up any CnT Lechon branch. Here, the ladies who chop lechon know how to bag and box it up for you for easy check-in or hand carry at the airport.
Pasalubong Pointers: Ask for the ribs and belly (tiyan)-these are the most flavorful cuts from the body of the lechon! And make sure you get some of that crispy skin. If you're not headed directly for the airport and the meat is hot, it pays to keep the container it's in open to let the meat cool naturally rather than steaming in enclosed containers. When you get home, if you're not going to eat it immediately, freeze the meat. You can then reheat it using a turbo broiler or oven (even an oven toaster will do), as this will help crisp up the skin again. Don't use the microwave to reheat lechon! Also, traditional dipping sauce for Cebuano lechon is just a mix of soy sauce and vinegar; you shouldn't need liver sauce!