Published on Manila Bulletin Lifestyle Section, August 7, 2011
Kapampangan Lovin’ at Bale Dutung
How I love slow days like this. My alarm goes off at nine o’clock, I snooze it twice and take my sweet time getting out of bed. I perform a mini concert in the shower, eat breakfast unhurriedly, sleep like a baby in the car for a full two hours and wake up to warm sunshine kissing my face, a lush garden surrounding me, and a four-hour lunch waiting for me.
I am in Bale Dutung, the lovely home of Claude and Mary Ann Tayag, where the mega-talented husband reigns in the kitchen (Claude is an artist, chef, sculptor, writer, photographer - whew!), and the wifey takes control of the dining hall. “This is my house and I am the boss, today you are my special guests,” the smiling hostess declares as we take our seats on the long dining table (built also, I assume, by the very man preparing our meal.) I’ve never met Mary Ann in my life, yet right away I feel at home with her. She hands us glasses of fresh dalandan with dirty ice (chill, dude, it’s just muscovado) and gathers us in a circle for an important announcement.
“Today we will be dining al fresco, and this is going to be your aircon,” she says, eyes twinkling as she places in front of us a wooden bowl filled with frozen towels.
I just know this is gonna be one exciting meal.
There are three spreads to mix and match – balo-balo, talangka and pesto. I have them altogether for that party feeling in my mouth. Then comes Ensaladang Pako, the freshest fiddlehead ferns tossed with tomato and quail egg in a calamansi mustard dressing that is tangy yet sweet, zesty yet comforting. I wipe out the healthy plate and hope for something sinful. And if the next dish isn’t wicked enough, then really, I don’t know what is.
Chicken ass. Woohoo! My favorite chicken part next to the thigh, marinated in lemongrass and grilled on a stick. I savor the fatty juiciness of the bum, which Mary Ann, for the benefit of the cowards and sissies, insists on calling chicken “tail.”
The Adobong Pugo is nicely browned and tasty although I find the quail meat a tad too dry. My favorite is the little bird’s liver, so rich and decadent, so perfect with the side of hot mini pandesal. Then plates of small bites are passed around - Talangka Sushi sporting a full head of aligue and a crown of kamias, and Fried Hito and Balo-Balo Sushi wrapped in fresh mustasa.
Then Mary Ann says the magic words. Lechon Tortilla, I shoot up excitedly and follow her like a puppy. This is the dish I’ve heard so much about. On a bed of soft tortilla lies a mound of crispy lechon floss. I have a grand time topping it with onions, tomatoes, coriander, and wait for it… kimchi!!! I wrap and roll and stuff my mouth, enjoying the textures and bursts of flavor. Yum.
I never knew goat tripe and goat liver swimming in goat bile could taste so good until I’ve tried the Papaitan Soup. Gamey, pungent and very delicious. I love this over our second soup course of Bulanglang Kapampangan which is sweetened with guava. The last three courses make the perfect ending. Claude indulges our palates with Sisig Babi, chopped pig ears and cheeks that is crunchy, soft, chewy, all at the same time. Then some seafood in the most delicious kare-kare I’ve had in a while. I swear I can swim in the peanut sauce forever.
There is a reason why our dessert is called Paradiso. Balls of ube, macapuno and yema rest on sweet carabao milk, then torched to achieve just the thinnest layer of crisp caramelized sugar. Just saying it and I gain 10 lbs already. I eat each element on its own, then I eat all elements mixed together. Happiness.
And every time my seatmate looks away, I eat a spoonful from his plate.
Bale Dutung is located in Villa Gloria Subdivision, Angeles, Pampanga. For reservations, please call 09175359198 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit their website at