Tuguegarao, the Cagayan province’s capital city, is a place that is always teeming with vibrancy. With a population of over 150,000 inhabitants, Tuguegarao is the most populous city in Northeastern Luzon and the Cagayan Valley. Known as the gateway to the Cordillera and Ilocandia regions, the city lies at Cagayan’s southern border and is surrounded by the Sierra Madre, the Caraballo, and the Cordillera mountain ranges. Tuguegarao is primarily recognized for its hot, tropical weather—in fact, it was the city where the Philippines recorded its highest ever temperature at 42.2 °C on May 11, 1969.
Although Tuguegarao is famous for having the hottest weather in the country, that doesn’t mean it’s not a fascinating place to visit. Apart from its festivals and tourist attractions, Tuguegarao also has a wealth of local delicacies that make for a one-of-a-kind gastronomic experience. If you’re planning to take a trip to the northern Philippines, it’s a must for you to put Tuguegarao on your list. So pack your bags, start looking for hotels in Tuguegarao, and don’t forget to check out the culinary delights that give this city its colorful character. To help you out, we’ve put together a list of local delights you simply must not miss on your visit to the Cagayan capital.
Pancit Batil Patung
Pancit Batil Patung is one of the most highly recommended dishes in Tuguegarao. This iconic delicacy is comprised of miki noodles, poached egg, and a variety of sahogor toppings such as chicharon, lechon karahay, liver, vegetables, and bean sprouts. Sometimes, the locals also mix a special sauce, calamansi, vinegar, soy sauce, and chopped onions as part of the dish. The dish gets its name from “batil” or beaten egg and “patung” which means toppings.
The most unique ingredient of Pancit Batil Patung is carabao meat or carabeef. Local eateries and restaurants have their own ways of whipping up a Pancit Batil Patung, but carabeef is usually added to the mix as it simmers.
Some eateries in Tuguegarao also serve Pancit Cabagan, which is a local dish from Cabagan, Isabela. Although similar to Pancit Batil Patung, the Cabagan variant differs by using pork instead of carabeef.
Laoya is a soup dish made from carabao meat and innards mixed with spices. Similar to the standard bulalo, this broth is offered by most carinderias and is often served with kambingor goat meat. Some hotels also serve laoya, while other establishments offer an unlimited rice option to go with the dish.
Dishes with carabao meat are quite prevalent in Tuguegarao with locals considering it a staple in their protein diet. Meals with carabao meat often include carabeef longganisa or carabeef tapa (dried or cured meat). Some eateries and restaurants also incorporate carabeef into papaitan, which is an Ilocano broth made from goat or cow innards. Papaitan originates from the word “pait” or bitter, which is the prevailing taste of the soup dish due to bile from the innards.
Carabao Milk Candy
Beyond providing farming support and meat, carabaos are also valuable to the Tugegarao people because of their milk. One of the city’s most well-known products is carabao milk candy, which is, of course, made from carabao milk. These thin, rectangular candies have a sweet and powdery aftertaste, giving them a distinct flavor.
Aside from candies, carabao milk is also used in pastillas de leche, a common Filipino dessert and snack. You can find carabao milk pastillas and candies at most pasalubong shops, markets, and bus terminals in Tuguegarao.
Chicharabao or carabao chicharon is a popular local snack that comes in small packs. This crackling, unlike most chicharon products, is made from carabao skin. Chicharabao is more puffy, airy, and crisp, and it often comes with a small container of vinegar. Besides being a typical souvenir item, chicharabao is also used as pulutan or a beer pairing snack. Chicharabao usually comes in regular, spicy, and garlic flavors.
Cagayan Kakanin or Rice Delicacies
Suman, a traditional Filipino kakanin or snack made from sticky rice, is largely prevalent in the Ilocos region. Most provinces have their own take on the suman, and Cagayan is no different. While in Tuguegarao, check out the region’s kakanin offerings such as pawa, which is sweetened ground rice with peanut fillings housed in steamed buns. There’s also the tinubong and sinabalu, which are sweet, sticky rice cakes encased in bamboo.
A Wide Variety of Exotic Food
If you’re more on the adventurous side, you can explore the regional delights that might not be for the faint of heart. Abal-abal, also known as salagubang or beetle larva, is a traditional dish from the Ilocano, Itawes, and Ibanag people. When cooked adobo-style, abal-abal is said to taste like chicken meat with the right balance of sweet and sour. Other common exotic foods are eels, palakang-bukid or farm frogs, and bayawak or monitor lizards.
Tickle Your Tastebuds in Tuguegarao
With its wealth of gastronomic attractions, Tuguegarao makes sure that your tastebuds will never get bored with its varied cuisine. Whether you’re in the mood for comfort food or the more exotic delicacies, there’s always something for you to delight in this gem of the Cagayan—if you know where to look.