Cebu in 20 Hours: Make Your Meals Count!

My last visit to Cebu was interesting. I was really just there for less than a day, en route to Malapascua. It was a series of unfortunate events: it was our cab driver not really knowing where to take us, despite the Bisaya native we had in our party; it was the bimbo at the car rental, who didn’t take down our rental reservation; it was finding parking at Larsian; it was that burn victim at the hospital where we did find parking, to eat at Larsian; it was the LBC office, whose prices apparently do not change regardless of whether your delivery address is 20 minutes away by car, or one hour away by plane, as long as your package is of a certain size and weight.

So many things.

But I did make it good on myself, by, what else? Finding good food. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: you don’t go to Cebu and not have lechon. And I’d like to add to that addend: You don’t go to Cebu and not have lechon and sutukil, a name coined using Cebuano terms for different cooking/food preparation techniques:

Sugba – to grill;
Tula – to stew in broth stewing in broth; and
Kilaw – raw food (normally fish), marinated in some sort of acid, usually vinegar.

I am personally a big fan of grilled food. Especially in the middle of the day. There’s just something about the heat of the sun and the smokiness of the food that complement each other. Have anything cooked over a grill: pork, chicken, fish, squid… you name it. I am down.

I was there for less than 24 hours because I had to leave for Malapascua early the next morning. Which meant that I had only two real meals in town. Breakfast the next day would be on the way, so it didn’t really matter what that was (it turned out to be a croissant and a pain au chocolat from La Vie Parisiénne, but I’ll just mention that in passing). On this day, I only had lunch and dinner, and they both needed to count!

It was unanimously voted that lunch would be at Larsian, for some sinugba. For sure had what I needed. And I got exactly what I wanted. As far as food halls go, none of them come as fresh as Larsian does. You have food kiosks along the perimeter of the square, which all their raw produce on display. Adjacent to them is a layer of dining areas. At the center is the grilling station.

The thing with me is, I have very simple taste. Or, they are at the very least very well-adjusted to circumstance. I’m not going to the province and look for anything fancy, or ludicrous, like Starbucks, or Yellow Cab pizza (true story: I once met a guy in Boracay who ate four-cheese pizzas from Yellow Cab, and those ONLY, his entire trip in the Philippines). I’m also not going to Europe, and look for KFC. Or Chinese food, for that matter (also a true story). In other words, I’m all for enjoying local cuisine, whatever that may be.

In this case, I was in Cebu! And it was going to be grilled pork belly (liempo), chicken,  Cebuano chorizo, and seafood. All of which, were of course, grilled to perfection. Larsian grilling is like eskimo snow cones — the results are authentic, beautiful, and super fresh. These are eaten with a side of Cebuano pusó — small, diamond rice pockets designed for eating on the go, and/or with hands. The latter, by the way — if you aren’t familiar with Filipino tradition — is customary for some meals, and is the best way to eat food. Some establishments will offer you gloves right off the bat, if you feel the need for them. But I personally never use them; it’s a weird feeling to be holding something and not feeling it against my skin. I don’t know. I prefer to use my naked hands.

My last meal there needed to be lechon. And it was recommended to me a while back, so this wasn’t a first-time experience, but I had to come back for Tatang’s LechonRead: extra crispy, boneless, spicy (optional), roasted pork belly. A mouthful? Yes. A stomachful? Oh, yes!

They are now available in Manila, but it doesn’t feel right when it isn’t in Cebu. And when it is hot, and fresh, dipped in a tangy mix of soy sauce and vinegar, and eaten with steaming hot rice.

Or, have it as a wrap, on a sizzling hot plate, as sisig, or flaked, or shared with friends, or by itself, or by yourself… so many ways! Just the thought of it is making me drool already.

And at P95 for a value meal — which is more than enough, by the way? As my dad would say, “How can you go wrong?”

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