Fresh catch

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Friday, May 16, 2014

WHEN the air starts to smell of summer, where else would you want to be but at the beach. Sand in your skin, breeze through your hair and sun-kissed cheeks.

The story here is not just about sunny episodes but also food tripping. From strange, lurking creatures to those edible dancing weeds, how can you miss a coastal picnic with with what the big, blue “happy pill” has to offer (read: the sea).

Take Camotes Island. It is not just the place to be in this summer because of its long strips of white sand beaches, but also because of its food. This destination in east of Cebu is a group of three major islands (Poro, Pacijan, and Ponso) and a minor islet (Tulang).


Fishing has been the main source of livelihood in the isles. Have you noticed those lowly fishermen in one of those twilight soaks? Your curiosity might draw you to the “fishy” commotion down the shore.

In the municipality of San Francisco in Pacijan Island, Camotes, where Santiago Bay meets the sky, lukot is so abundant you might not know you’ve already stepped on it.

According to the natives, these slippery, green strings are said to be the waste of donsol (sea hare, which eats nothign but sea weeds). But don’t get this wrong. Washed, served raw and paire with spices and vinegar, it’s actually nutritious. It’s also best served with tinuwa nga isda (fish soup).

Just like lukot, there’s also sunlotan in Camotes. The slimy, milky pieces may be served raw or cooked. It tastes bland without salt or vinegar, so a dipping sauce or marinade is needed. It is said that sunlotan is sea cucumber turned inside out.

Camotes is generous with its good, old shellfish. They have imbao (clam), which houses a gooey, grayish meat inside. It can be stewed, baked with cheese or cooked with coconut milk.

If the tide is low, local folks frequent the shore in search for kinhason or sikad-sikad or aninikad (sea snail), which is sold in small piles or per kaltik (generic for can or container of recycled Caltex motor oil can) at the market. It is often stewed or sometimes cooked as tinunuan (with coconut milk). Always have a trusty safety pin or two during the meal if you don’t want to be hammering the shells and ending up with shards instead of meat.

In Lake Danao, also in Pacijan Island, saang, the larger counterpart of kinhason or aninikad is also a regular catch. Unlike kinhason or sikad-sikad, the meat of saang protrudes, which makes it easier to pull out. Safety pins are not really necessary. Saang is usually served in a soup.

Another seafood delicacy offered in Lake Danao is danggit (rabbit fish). Not like the usual danggit in town, Camotes fries the salted dried fish and it is so crunchy, a diner can even finish off the head! Consumed with sukang pinakurat (or if you want the old Cebuano term, hinalo), it’s perfect.

In Poro Island where the famous Buho Rock is located, you may not notice that tiny crabs are already walking with you along the sand. You need not hunt for them then. Usually stewed, these decapod crustaceans are easy to break so you won’t be pounding your way to lunch.

One of the most interesting sea foods in Camotes, which also abounds in Poro Island, is the takla. By the looks and taste of it, it’s a shrimp but its tail resembles a lobster’s claw. What’s with the name anyway? Well, fisher people said these creatures are heard chuckling under the sea, thus takla (the sound). Quite weird for an explanation, huh? Well, the next time you visit Camotes, you can actually go fishing and takla for yourself.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on May 17, 2014.


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