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The Theoretical Cook


Wednesday, March 22, 2006


Balbacua brings back childhood memories. My grandmother used to sell balbacua in the afternoons and the house was suffused with the smell of simmering balbacua. Her small stall was packed with her loyal customers. Perhaps because I had balbacua most afternoons, I never thought of the dish as something special. It was such an everyday thing, and I remember the peppery beef broth as though it were only yesterday, unlike her karekare which came only on Christmas. My grandmother soon closed her little carinderia and the balbacua episode was forgotten. This was over two decades ago. Imagine my surprise when I later learned that my husband-to-be thinks of the balbacua as a special treat.
Balbacua is said to be a Southern Philippines recipe. It originated from Cebu. There are also very good balbacuahans in Davao City. Recently, I tasted delicious balbacua at the Oarhouse in Mabini St, Malate Manila. The balbacua at the Oarhouse was not the balbacua I remembered from childhood. I hate to say this, but it was better than my lola's version (and I think the world of my lola's recipes). There were certain ingredients that werent present in my childhood balbacua - such as the beans (definitely canned in the Oarhouse version), the peanut butter , and the banana.
How do you cook balbacua? I haven't tried cooking balbacua yet but from what I observed from my lola, this is how it is cooked. Again, this is all theory, I will report again when Ive tried this. Haha.


1 kg Oxtail (sliced)
Beef Skin
1 Can Pork and Beans
4 pieces saba (cooking bananas)
spring onion (minced)
black pepper
ginger (chopped)
peanut butter

1) Assemble the oxtail, beef skin, chopped ginger in stockpot. Pour around 5 cups of water. Add blackpepper. Bring to boil.
2) When the oxtail and beef skin are tender, add the saba, peanut butter, and the pork and beans. Let simmer.
3) Season to taste.
4) Garnish with minced spring onion before serving.

NOTE: This is how Im going to cook it when Im going to cook it. If you guys know how this is actually cooked, I would be quite happy to hear from you.


Anonymous katimugambalon said...

great pictures! :)
hope to see and read more of your work.

8:31 AM  
Blogger Theoretical Cook said...

Hi Katimugambalon,
Thanks for the comment. Hope to read more of your posts at the Jesuit Gourmet too!

10:08 AM  
Blogger Kai said...

It's strange, the balbakua I ate in a karinderya in Dipolog City was of pig knuckles cooked in vinegar and soy sauce, like adobo but with a lot of broth, and dried banana blossoms.

1:09 PM  
Blogger Theoretical Cook said...

Hi Kai. My lola's balbacua is almost as straightforward as the balbacua in Dipolog. She said it's just 'paa ng baka' plus whole peppercorns plus ginger (pampatanggal ng lansa). She boils the paa ng baka for three hours tops. I asked her where she got the recipe and she said its how they always cooked it in her barrio (She grew up in Cotabato province although her parents are from the Ilocos region). The Oarhouse balbacua is perhaps the most complex balbacua that I have encountered....

3:16 PM  
Anonymous thess said...

Hello there! your ingredients are interesting, especially the ginger (pampatanggal ng lansa)..mga lola talaga, alam nila sekreto ano ^-^

6:29 PM  
Blogger Theoretical Cook said...

Yep. My lola was even surprised I asked. She said, "Kasimple!":)

8:07 PM  
Blogger Theoretical Cook said...

I got curious about the 'strange':) Oarhouse recipe.I checked the net and found different versions of the Balbacua. So we asked the Oarhouse waiter re the chef. The chef who cooks the balbacua is from Cebu. So this Oarhouse balbacua is really Cebuano in origin. No peanut butter in the Oarhouse version. The addition of "pork and beans" and of the saba is characteristic of the balbacua of the Lahug, Cebu area (where the chef hails from). Pampasarap lang daw yun. The Cebuano balbacua uses beef knuckles and oxtail, these beef parts account for the distinctive consistency of the broth - malapot.

So heres the recipe from J, a food lover (who frequents Oarhouse), and who has actually cooked this dish:
1) Boil the beef parts (skin, oxtail). Remove/Replace the water three (3)times to get rid of unwanted smell/unwanted taste.On the third attempt, add ginger and allow the meat to become tender. Let simmer until the broth becomes sticky.
2) In another pan, saute some onions and garlic and pour the contents of the Pork and Beans can.
3) Add this to the simmering broth. Add the bananas.
4) Season to taste.
5) Garnish with chopped onions.

So there, that's his method. J is a passionate fifty-something foodie who cooks by taste (unlike me who has to consult 2-3 cookbooks!).

8:51 PM  
Anonymous stef said...

just discovered your blog -- and loving your posts! more please:)

8:29 AM  
Blogger Theoretical Cook said...

Hi Stef! Thanks. Will try to post as much as I can:)

10:14 PM  
Anonymous nil said...

i think the recipe of J is the better one. I am from Mindanao and is fond of eating balbacua. low-end commercial balbacua usually employ the beef skin only no ox-tail no knuckles. some don't even have the beans. i think the essence of balbacua is the texture of the meat+skin and the consistency of the soup which is malapot.

11:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, I invite you all to try our BALBACUA at SALBAKUWA -House of Soup No. 5 and Tagum's Best Balbacua and Tagum City, Davao del Norte. to see the difference in taste. For years now, i am innovating,inventing new taste that would satisfy my customers. I have two versions, The ox feet (original balbacua) and ox skin with lamang loob and meat.

3:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Those balbacua eaters in the Philippines, try to Visit us in Tagum City and try my balbacua version. U can even try other house specialties such as Soup no. 5, Bulalo, at lahat ng recipe ng kambing and you find how different its taste and the way its cook.

3:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi Im from davao city now in makati.I just wonder where can I go to have this authentic balbacua in makati!i really missed it back when Im in davao.

6:23 PM  
Anonymous ndn said...

yap thats true ginger is good for balbacua, i ate balbacua when my uncle in lanao del norte cooked. that is his specialty and so very delicious, he had some secret ingredients he added so that he could call it his own, there's balbacua and then there is my uncle eddie's balbacua. Mmmmmmmmm!

10:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hehe won't it be called kare2x if it had peanut butter in it? :)

7:35 PM  
Blogger Turtuga said...

Theres a comment:
Kai said...

It's strange, the balbakua I ate in a karinderya in Dipolog City was of pig knuckles cooked in vinegar and soy sauce, like adobo but with a lot of broth, and dried banana blossoms.
The person might just have confused herself with another succulent dish from Cebu. It is called the HUMBA. Yum yum yum.

10:16 PM  
Anonymous MILFRED DAPITON II said...

hmmm i cook my balbacua dish with no ginger ,why ? becoz it gives it a foul smell + i dont use peanut butter, i only use pure ox skin , and my ingregients are only onions,garlic,tomatosauce,pork&beans,green peas , and corn kernels cook in a common way

9:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The first (and best) balbacua I had was in Iligan City sometime in 1983. It was simply ox-tail and the orange soup was quite clear yet it left that sticky feeling in your mouth.

5:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I tried Salbakwa restaurant in Tagum City, I enjoyed their dishes. Got to eat there twice during the NSPC last Monday and Tuesday.

10:49 AM  
Blogger cha said...

god !! i love balbacua. !! so delicious as hell.

4:33 AM  
Blogger lynn said...

Am cooking my balbacua right now. Yummmmmmy.

10:37 PM  
Blogger ankh said...

'sebo' is the secret ingredient to a tasteful balbacua, animal fat stores
lot of the meat flavor

6:00 PM  
Blogger quincy jones miyake said...

we seal beef skin or so called balbacua.. :)
09051900114 for orders :)

6:58 PM  
Anonymous Wang said...

If u visit Ozamiz City.. try Roking's Balbacua... so delicious especially the soup..

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Anonymous batang midsayap said...

balbacua is popular in our town in north cotabato. there are several versions of this dish. i came up with my version too. i use maskara ng baka for my balbacua. i usually serve this as pulutan. maskara consist of skin and meat. after the first boil. i discard the stock. this is to lessen the "sebo" wash the sliced meat and skin to remove the sebo further. in a large pot (or pressure cooker)combine the meat/skin, minced ginger, onion, little salt, beef cube and water. bring it to a boil. when the meat becomes tender, add atchuete powder and sinigang mix. it should not taste as sour as fish sinigang. this is just to have a little sour taste. season with magic sarap granules. add green pepper (slim ones) and minced spring onion.

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Anonymous Chris Odchigue said...

I grew up in Maco, Davao which is now Compostella Valley but so close to Tagum City. the Balbacua i used to eat at our local carinderia is made with Beef & Carabao Skin. The famous balbacua carinderia in our place is "Paping's Balbacua" and i really miss eating this.
We visited last July and never had the time to drop by.

1:26 PM  
Blogger darskie maglips said...

Use partially ground peanut instead of peanut butter then add some dried banana blossoms o asucinas to that oarhouse version.

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Blogger darskie maglips said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Balbacua ni Tia Pia in Davao City, i miss it a lot

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