Side Dish: Penance based on the seafood chronicles

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Friday, March 27, 2015

(Fotos by Amper Campaña)

IT'S that time of the year again when pork retreats to the dark corners of the fridge. While Lent is an opportunity for spiritual reflection through self-denial, the annual tradition also implies gastronomic penance, a reminder to nail to the cross high cholesterol and blood pressure as well.

In observation of the season, all-you-can-eat restaurant Cabalen Cebu introduces “Lenten Specials Bangus (Milkfish) and Seafood Festival,” a timely menu not only gracing the restaurant’s existing authentic Filipino and Kapampangan fare but also serving a fresh sort of seafood picks to the local audience.

Most will probably miss Cebu’s stellar lechon as the Holy Week progresses, but at least there’s an alternative, the boneless Bangus Inasal. This fish dish’s spicy scent alone hints of a really tasty treat. The milkfish, crisp golden brown, is brushed with lemongrass before and during roasting. The dish is best dipped in soy sauce with some chili, onion and a dab of calamansi drops.


A healthier substitute for the beloved Filipino chicken stew in tomato sauce is Afritadang Bangus. The right amount of ingredients such as carrots, potatoes, green peas and bell peppers brings out the best of the milkfish.

Drenched in coconut milk extract is the raw offering, Kinilaw na Bangus. The milkfish meat, boneless and diced, is soaked in vinegar during preparation. Beer is already tempting at this point.

Sisig Bangus, though, is the bomb! It is a sizzling plateful of fish in the medley of vinegar, pepper, chili and calamansi. A plate of this rendition may be topped with sunny side up egg upon request. The “fishy” take of the original Kapampangan appetizer has never been so experimental and equally good that again, a bottle of beer, preferably ice cold, is very inviting.

Nestled in a bed of dark-as-sin-black sotanghon noodles are squid. Topped with camias and chicharon (fried pork rind) crumbs, the dish is dubbed Pancit Pusit.

A good round of pusit continues with Pusit Adobo which sports a tender texture of the squid and that soy sauce tang. Cooked in true local fashion, this dark offering is sure to activate a new found appetite for seafood even after the holy season.

Brighten up the mood with Sweet and Sour Fish Fillet featuring the bland and buttery appeal of cream dory. This is well complemented with pineapple, carrots and bell pepper among other add-ons.

Cabalen SM City Cebu managing partner and co-owner Jocelyn Puyat and branch manager Alexander Poserio underlined the restaurant’s aims to provide alternatives for Lent by retaining its signature lineup of traditional home-cooked chows. Cabalen Cebu turns six years this August and is soon to branch out late this year at SM Seaside City Cebu.

“Bangus and Seafood Festival” is available at Cabalen in SM City Cebu starting Holy Week until the end of April.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 28, 2015.


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