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food odyssey

BatchoyMarch 13, 2008


I'm a noodle soup guy. When in Baguio, I feast on beef mami. In Palawan where there is a Vietnamese community, I satisfy myself with phô (mint pork noodle soup) breakfast, lunch and dinner. Now in Iloilo, ground zero for the popular batchoy, I rolled up my sleeves for some major batchoy indulgence and find out for myself who's got the best batchoy in town.

What is Batchoy?
Batchoy is pork noodle soup with a heavy garlic flavor. Latest version of the soup comes with pork rind topping (chicharon) and accompanied by rice cake. In Iloilo, you can request extra soup at no extra charge. Cost? A very affordable P30-40/serving.


Batchoy Galore
In the week that I stayed in Iloilo, I would challenge any Ilongo who can claim to have eaten more batchoy than me. I practically survived on batchoy...breakfast, lunch and dinner from any place serving it - roadside stall, public market, mall, fast foods, hole in the wall carinderia, etc. I even went out of my way to try it from its place of origin - the town of La Paz, at the market place.

Deco's vs. Ted's
Of all the batchoy places in Iloilo, two chains loom big - Deco's and Ted's. I've tried Ted's a few times in different places. Each tasted different from the others. One of the most mediocre and one of the best I've had was Ted's. And I think that's where the dilemma lies - in a franchise, you can't have complete control of how it's done and you get inconsistency problems. Deco's, I tried twice - one in a mall and the other at the La Paz market. On both occassions, they were satisfyingly good.

Batchoy Genesis
I've heard different versions on who invented batchoy. From one site, I read that Ted's pioneered the first serving of batchoy in 1945. However, when I went to La Paz market at Deco's I was given a handout of how batchoy came to be - that it was Federico Guillergan Sr., a butcher from La Paz market who experimented with different ingredients until he perfected the recipe and put up the Deco's counter-type eatery at the same market. Another version I got from Inggo's Batchoy, an obscure batchoy nook in Iloilo market was that Inggo invented the batchoy and even had Ted's grandfather as the dishwasher. Oh well, I'm sure there are other versions floating out there.

Ending Thoughts
Given all the batchoy I've had, there was not one single batchoy I didn't like. Fact is, you cannot have bad batchoy in Iloilo. It's just a matter of preference. Some come with an almost overwhelming garlic flavor, some are on the greasy side and surprisingly, some are even sweet. Next time you're in Iloilo, don't miss out on it. Batchoy is always imitated outside Iloilo, but never done the way Ilongos make it.

--- TheLoneRider

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