Exotic street food alert: Pungko Pungko in Cebu City

Since I started working in Cebu, I have developed a hankering for street food – the fried, unhealthy ones. Barbecued meat, barbecued chorizo, barbecued hotdog, barbecued intestines. Right outside the place I rent in Cebu City are a couple of barbecue vendors and whenever I pass by them on my way home, the smokey aroma is enough to trigger hunger pangs. It’s always a battle of wills for me, that short walk home.

On the other side of the street and a stone’s throw away from where I work is a small, popular place that serves Tuslob Buwa – fried pig brains that you dip your rice into while it sizzles right in front of you. Tuslob Buwa – I call it the Zombie Food – is one so interesting that it deserves a blog post of its own (although if you do Google it up you’ll find a lot of blog posts have already been written about it.)

One street food I’ve tried recently – and one that I won’t be trying again in the near future not because I like it but because I want to live longer – is Ginabot, Cebu’s version of chicharon bulaklak. Ginabot differs from the regular chicharon bulaklak because after it is salted and dried, it is first dipped in flour before it’s deep-fried. I first thought it is pig intestines, but according to this blog, it’s the “mesentery”, or the membrane that holds the intestine to the abdominal wall.

In Cebu City, you can eat Ginabot at the pungko-pungko, or eateries alongside the streets that serve fried foods. Pungko means to squat, referring to how you have to sit slouched on a bench when you eat in these eateries. There’s a big plastic container on the table filled with a combination of all things fried: hotdog, chorizo, ginabot, pork, chicken, spring rolls (lumpia) and ngohiong (a local version of lumpia).

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It’s a fry-a-palooza pile. Forget the cholesterol for a moment. The pungko pungko along Llorente Street, Cebu City.

Before you dig into the pile, the server gives you two plastic bags – one to slip your hand into, and the other to serve as your plate. Or you can ask for another plastic bag if you want to use both your hands while eating. No plates and utensils in these places. You eat with your hands, which for me is a more fun experience.

I’ve been wanting to taste the Ginabot, so that was basically all that I ate. It tastes like soft chicharon, and well, a bit ewwy, a bit salty, just a tad sweet. If you’re not Filipino, and not gastronomically adventurous, then do stay away from Ginabot. But if you’re the open-minded type who wants to live right on the edge, then head on over to Llorente Street in Cebu City, where one of the best pungko-pungko stalls can be found.

Forgetting the cholesterol for a moment and enjoying Ginabot in a blue dress.
Forgetting the cholesterol for a moment and enjoying Ginabot in a blue dress.

Ginabot is best paired with vinegar mixed with a lot of chopped onion, which is what the servers give you right away after handing over the plastic bags.

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Before we left, the server was nice enough to ask me if I needed to use a hand sanitiser, which I didn’t refuse of course.

I know that’s a lot of plastic there and there are environmental issues to that. Hopefully these eateries will find a way to use more environmentally-friendly utensils. But in the meantime, this is how the locals do it, so I’m enjoying the moment.

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I write to live, or live to write. Whichever it is, writing is my life.

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