Discover the gastronomic wonders of Samar province

Beyond the breathtaking waterfalls and awe-inspiring caves, the province of Samar is a treasure trove of culinary delights. These gastronomic wonders, long-kept secrets in family kitchens, are now being unveiled. Welcome to the Secret Kitchens of Samar, where hidden culinary treasures await your discovery.

This initiative, part of the “Spark Samar” tourism campaign, promotes culinary exploration while preserving the local culture. By exploring the province’s rich history and flavors, guests and tourists can immerse themselves in a new and exciting cultural experience.

The name “Secret Kitchen” evokes thoughts of ancestral cooking traditions that were kept confidential for generations. In the past, families would safeguard their culinary techniques, treating recipes as valuable heirlooms to be shared only with trusted relatives.

Presently, the provincial government of Samar is making these gastronomic legacies more accessible to guests and tourists, allowing them to relish the flavors of tradition and heritage.

“The Secret Kitchen of Samar is more than just a gastronomical tour. It’s a celebration of community, connection, and the shared joy of good food. This also ensures that Samar’s culinary heritage is passed on. Recipes long kept and treasured by families will also be preserved, in honor of not just the legacy of the food but also the family that has protected its secret recipes,” Rosario Francisca C. Miel, the program manager of the Secret Kitchen of Samar, said.

During the launch of three new tourism circuits on April 19 at Barangay Binongtu-an, Basey, Samar, the Secret Kitchen of Samar coffee table book was shared with the public by Gov. Sharee Ann Tan, Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco, and other local officials. (Photo: PIA Leyte)
Guinayawan nga Manok

Marife D. Padua, a talented cook in her late 50s and a native of Samar, is well-known for her culinary expertise in crafting the delicious Guinayawan nga Manok dish in La Cocina de Marabut.

The chicken is cleaned and seasoned with rock salt to give it a hint of savory goodness. After that, the clay pot is filled with a symphony of flavors, such as lemongrass, ginger, turmeric, and ginger leaves. Each ingredient contributes its own unique character to the dish.

Grated coconut is then added, creating a creamy richness that envelops the ingredients in a fragrant embrace. A splash of water is added to create a broth that sings with flavor, and the chicken is gently nestled into the pot to simmer to perfection.

As the dish reaches its crescendo, fresh papaya is added to give it a sweetness and texture. The kitchen fills with the irresistible aroma of the dish as it simmers in the clay pot, inviting diners to indulge in its savory delights.

Marife D. Padua, a kitchen hero, demonstrated how to prepare her father's recipe of Guinayawan nga Manok. (Photo: PIA Leyte)
Freshly cooked Guinayawan nga Manok dish. (Photo: PIA Leyte)
Linubihan nga Alimango

This dish is exceptional due to its exclusive preparation process, which utilizes local techniques to enhance the flavor of each ingredient. It is expertly cooked by Larry R. Gucasuan, a skilled gourmet in Magallanes who has mastered the art of cooking this dish to create a delectable and fulfilling meal.

Creating this dish begins with carefully selecting “bagakay,” the local bamboo. The sturdy exterior of the bamboo serves as a vessel for the culinary masterpiece that is about to unfold. The bamboo is then filled with a delicate balance of crab, lemongrass, onion, ginger, coconut meat, garlic, and a sprinkle of small rock salt, with each layer carefully curated to achieve gastronomic perfection.

After all the ingredients are put together, the bamboo container is tightly sealed and slowly cooked over an open flame. This process allows the flavors to blend, creating an exotic and unique taste. After a few minutes of anticipation, the bamboo container is finally opened, revealing the treasure inside: the Linubi nga Alimango, bathed in a fragrant broth that entices diners to take their first bite.

Larry R. Gucasuan, a skilled gourmet in Magallanes, demonstrated how to prepare the Guinayawan nga Manok. (Photo: PIA Leyte)
The Linubi nga Alimango dish. (Photo: PIA Leyte)
Kinilaw nga Puso han Saging

This dish celebrates the abundance of nature’s bounty and is deeply rooted in Filipino culture. Local cook Jose B. Boñola served it to tourists who visited the Sohoton cave. He carefully selects the finest island-infused ingredients to take the diners on a culinary journey.

The “puso ng saging,” or banana blossom, is the main ingredient of the dish, and it requires gentle handling. The sap is extracted by squeezing it gently, separating its acrid taste. Then, it is sliced into thin strips to serve as the base for our culinary masterpiece.

In a clay pot, a symphony of aromatics unfolds as onions, garlic, and ginger sizzle, releasing their aromatic melodies into the air. A splash of vinegar and a pinch of rock salt is added, giving the dish a tangy taste, tantalizing the taste buds, and preparing them for the journey ahead.

Coconut milk is an essential ingredient in the dish. When slowly poured into the clay pot, it envelops it in a velvety blanket of richness. It balances the acidity of the vinegar with its subtle sweetness. Finally, a sprinkle of finely chopped onion leaves is added to the dish, which adds a pop of color and a burst of freshness, elevating it to new heights.

Jose B. Boñola, a kitchen hero, demonstrated how to prepare the Kinilaw nga Puso han Saging. (Photo: PIA Leyte)
The Kinilaw nga Puso han Saging dish. (Photo: PIA Leyte)
Kitchen heroes

Marife, Larry, Jose, and other local gourmets are the kitchen heroes of tradition, often working in modest kitchens. These culinary artisans are vital to unlocking centuries-old recipes, techniques, and family-inspired stories. With their skilled hands and unwavering dedication, they bring to life dishes that have been passed down through generations. Their efforts help to preserve a culinary legacy that is both precious and delicious.

They are not just cooks but the protectors of a centuries-old culinary heritage. As visitors immerse themselves in the sights, sounds, and flavors of this captivating province, they realize that the real magic does not only lie in the food itself but also in the hands and hearts of those who bring it to life.

“I really believe that because of what I have discovered and how I was able to connect with the local culinary custodians, biased aside, Samar is the next gastronomy destination to watch out for,” Clang Garcia, the Philippine Ambassador of the World Food Travel Association, shared her thoughts that Samar’s local cuisine has the potential to become an international icon.

The Secret Kitchens of Samar offer guests and tourists a unique culinary journey. The dishes served in this wonderland carry cultural significance and tell stories of Samar’s rich history and heritage. Visitors can expect to immerse themselves in diverse flavors and cultural traditions. (AAC, PIA Leyte with reports from intern Alexis Quesada)

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