Resting a while in the resthouse of Fresh Start Organic Farm, I overheard that there will be an organic lunch at our destination in Balay Negrénse. I thought all along that we would be eating in Balaring but instead, we will actually be savoring the organic products harvested at the farm. Our guide even mentioned of the organic lechon made from the vegetarian pig. If you just read this article and do not have a nick of idea of what it is, it is best to refer to my previous blog entry. Seems like they prepared a hearty lunch for us after all. I haven’t been to Balay Negrénse and the prospect of eating there in style gets me all the more exciting.
Going down the city bus, we were eagerly went to the table to check on the food available for our lunch. We were greeted immediately with the organic lechon on the table. Among all food selections on the table, the organic lechon got me by the wayside since I was curious with how the lechon would taste like and, how about the fat content? Turns out that fat is negligible at all with a tender and tasty meat. I did not taste a single langsa in the meat and it was a pleasant experience eating it with no dizzying feeling after eating. All I can say is that this is the best lechon I have tasted so far but I wished they kept the lechon from being exposed in the air so that it had retained its crispiness. Taste wise? It was a heavenly treat.
Asking about the rice, there is no sign of white rice here whatsoever. What we have here is actually a mix of all healthy rice variants ranging from brown, red and black rice. Really? My family is a fan of brown and red rice but I have not tasted black rice before. Speaking of black rice, a myth once said that if you are walking on a secluded trail and someone invites you to eat food with black rice, never accept it for you will never return to the real world. Junking myths aside, I chose black rice with mixed vegetables and fried kalkag. Fortunately, I was able to return to the real world and tell my tasty tale. Black rice has a sweeter and stickier consistency but tastier than your usual rice. This goes as well with your brown and red rice too.
After a busy round of lechon, I decided to look on the vegetables served on the table. I found mixed vegetable adobo of takway, eggplant and okra with bagoong to add further taste and some chilis to spice or garnish on top. For those who are not familiar with takway, it is a marsh-grown vegetable that is taken from the shoots of taro plant. This is an award-winning recipe and has been continually served in the adobo festival every Cinco de Noviembre on that same spot where we are eating. Takway is supposedly a sacada dish since it grows mostly on swampy farmland but nowadays, enterprising chefs has lift the takway from its lowly status in the farms to the tables of some fining dining restaurants in Bacólod and Manila with laswa or as adobo in itself.
Being a kilawin lover, I was elated to have found kinilaw nga tangigue on the table with some steamed okra immersed in bagoong. For those going to Negros, kinilaw nga tangigue is a must since tangigue is very much abundant in Negros Island. If you are going to restaurants or even simply wet markets in Manila, you will find tangigue disturbingly expensive there. Kinilaw or kilawin is very much similar to the ceviche of Latinoamerica only that the Negros variant sometimes put coconut milk into the mix apart from cane vinegar. In some restaurants and household recipes, you will be even find salted eggs added with tomatoes, chilis, onions and calamansi to add or improve taste. Missing kinilaw na tangigue, I got a lot on my plate and it never goes sum-od or nakaka-umay.
If you something more fishy, there is also fish buried in tons of flavorful fruits to taste like pineapples and passionfruit with eggs as sidings. Though I have seen a passionfruit and has tried passionfruit juice, its my first time to have seen passionfruit served on a dish. Getting bit of fish on my plate, I took some passionfruit. Not knowing how a passionfruit taste but to my surprise, passionfruit is actually sour. No wonder why they turned it into a juice mixed with sugarcane but the sourness has class and flavor too.
Though late on the table, I was able to enjoy tinola too made from native free-range chicken. Native free-range chicken, or what is locally called bisaya nga manok, is a kind of chicken raised inside an enclosed wide space. Instead of being fed with corn or any kind of processed feeds, they are set loose to feed on whatever they can find on the ground or on the leaves of kamias trees. The usual regimen in cooking tinola is having papayas and ginger to remove the langsa or bloody smell but ginger is not as effective all the time. In Negros however, tanglad or lemongrass is used with ginger to not only remove the smell but to enhance flavor with aroma. Malunggay or horseradish tree leaves were mixed when the cooking is almost done as not to completely wilt the leaves.
Just as I thought tinola was the last dish to arrive, roasted duck immersed in pineapple sauce also added to our delight. Like the chicken used in tinola, this duck too is free range and set loose to feed on plants, insects and some small snails. Free range ducks are most flavorful since ducks set loose produces dark meat which is most flavorful and less with fats. In fact, this roasted duck is leaner than what is usually served in Chinese restaurants too but the meat is oozing in flavor especially enhanced by pineapple juice. With potatoes as sidings, its a filling treat which reminds me of dessert. While there were cookies on the table, what attracted the attention of guests was the homemade piaya.
I was able to document the whole process of making piaya and while I was able to wait a while, the Manila Bloggers were very much eager to see piaya making in action. The lightning speed of the cook in making piaya amazed the onlookers which was very excited to munch on the proud delicacy from Negros. While Bacólod is known for piaya, the first documented piaya was made in Silay but then on was sold in Bacólod bakeries. It was good that piaya-making was exhibited from the city of its roots with an extra-special treat too since the filling was also mixed with sweet mangoes. They served organic coffee too and prefered mine done in latte to compliment my plate of piaya. It was a filling afternoon indeed for me and other bloggers. While I was enjoying my cup of organic latte, a call from the tour guide was my signal that we will be touring Balay Negrénse in a while.
More photos on the Organic Lunch at Balay Negrénse in the Photo Blog.