When talking about Filipino food, it's best to not limit ourselves with dishes such as chicken adobo, garlic fried rice, and anything that uses coconut milk or fish sauce as a recipe because Filipino cooking is more than that.
For instance, we make dishes inspired from other cultures such as Filipino beef steak, a thin-sliced variation of the original beef steak made from huge beef cuts. Some popular Filipino dishes are just variations from other cuisines.
Learning about Tarlac’s cuisine is an excellent way to spend your time in the province because it is the most diversified province in Central Luzon in terms of Filipino cuisine. Tarlac’s cuisine got its good food from fusing the recipes from the nearby provinces surrounding the area.
There are restaurants in Tarlac province that stood the test of time and the story of their humble beginnings are now etched as urban legends of the province. These stories of hardship and perseverance only add flavor to the province’s already delectable delicacies. Here are the stories of some of the best restaurants in Tarlac and the recommended menu items you can get from them.
The Boss Rotisserie by Mang Ben’s Lechon
The Boss Rotisserie is a restaurant located at Unit 6 The Conrey Square Building, Bypass Road, San Vicente, Tarlac City. This restaurant in Tarlac is famous for its lechon and despite opening its doors only in 2020 this restaurant is a continuation of a legacy made in the melting pot of Central Luzon.
In the middle of a pandemic, Kennedy Soro saw an opportunity to open Boss Rotisserie after acquiring the necessary recipe and tools he needed from his grandfather, Benito “Mang Ben” Serrano, one of the pioneers of Tarlac’s lechon industry and the patriarch behind Mang Ben’s Lechon.
In the year 1964, Mang Ben made a living by buying and selling native pigs. One day, his friend wanted to buy a roasted native pig but the problem is, he did not know how to make lechon back then. Mang Ben decided to take the challenge despite the lack of skill and surprisingly, he accomplished the task of making his first lechon. Not only that, he also exceeded the customer’s expectations for good food.
Mang Ben and his lechon slowly built notoriety from the town, thanks to his secret lechon recipe and special sauce. From that moment on, the Lechon recipe and family legacy Mang Ben has built have been passed on from generation to generation for more than 50 years.
If you decide to eat at The Boss Rotisserie, it’s recommended that you get their Lechon Belly if you want the classic taste of Mang Ben’s Lechon without having to buy the whole pig. But if you want a fusion between Filipino and Middle Eastern cuisine, you can order their Lechon Shawarma.
Isdaan Restaurant and Theme Park
Isdaan Floating Restaurant and Theme Park located at MacArthur Highway, Barangay Salapungan, Gerona, Tarlac. The restaurant and theme park has been one of best restaurants in Tarlac. You probably know this restaurant for its “Tacsiyapo Wall”, where you may express your anger and frustrations by yelling “tacsiyapo (shame on you in Kapampangan)” then throwing ceramics on a concrete wall.
As the name suggests, the restaurant offers dining in nipa huts floating on a pond where you can feed the fishes swimming around; resembling sceneries from Bali, Indonesia. Isdaan also features a lot of statues scattered all around the restaurant. These statues include celebrities, politicians, superheroes, and more.
Isdaan was the idea of Rod Ongapauco, the son of Barrio Fiesta owner Sixta “Mama Chit” Evangelista-Ongpauco. Ongapauco was also the original creator of the iconic Philippine dish, crispy pata.
When Ongapauco was a teenager, Mama Chit scolded him because he kept on bringing friends at Barrio Fiesta to eat their good food for free. Mama Chit then said that Rod is only allowed to feed his friends discarded pork knuckles.
What Rod did was deep-fry the knuckles until he discovered the thin, golden brown skin covering a tender interior of fat and meat, also known as the crispy pata that we know and love today. Their delicious and original crispy pata is perfect for dinner.
Isdaan serves delectable Filipino cuisine, like their lechon manok with their homemade vinegar, in a warm and inviting setting ideal for gatherings with family and friends. After twelve years, Isdaan now has two additional branches in Calauan, Laguna and Talavera, Nueva Ecija.
Hamilton's Resto Bar
Ann Pearce is a businesswoman was managing a high-end Italian restaurant in Hong Kong until she started her restaurant in her 20s after years of experience. This restaurant was initiated through her fascination for food at a young age and was founded upon her extensive catering background. Her goal is to provide excellent business to the Philippine culinary world.
Her inspiration for Hamilton’s is a fusion of Filipino and international food. According to Pearce, Hamilton’s dishes do not use any powdered ingredients for flavoring. Instead, she only uses natural herbs and ingredients for authentic taste. She also believes that Tarlac has the best Filipino food in the country.
The finest recipe from Hamilton's Restaurant that you must try is the lemon garlic shrimp, a tasty packed shrimp with the best flavor combination drizzled with lemon juice. For anyone who loves both Italian and seafood cuisine, Linguine Frutti de Mare is a real treat. This pasta dish is served with mixed seafood and authentic Italian tomato sauce.
The Prawn’s Caesar Salad will surely make your tummy happy. Another option you can choose is their baby back ribs that come with a bowl of spicy noodles and finely mashed potatoes. And for dessert, you should try their crispy leche flan. It's a deep-fried and caramelized sliced leche flan wrapped in a spring roll wrapper. You can visit Hamilton’s Restaurant at Santa Rosa road Caramutan Lapaz, Tarlac.
More than Filipino cuisine
The cooking of the best restaurants in Tarlac reflects the diversity of culture in the province. Aside from good Filipino food, Tarlac is also known for its historical sites, sugarcane plantations, and rice fields. Tarlac is the perfect place to live in if you want to learn more about ethnic Filipino culture as Ilocanos, Pangasinenses, Kapampangans, and Tagalogs inhabit the area.
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