Balbacua: A Native Recipe to Turn Oxtail into a unique Comfort Food

IMG_1402This weeks guest post comes from Jan H, Jan is a Freelance Writer and a Home Cook who loves to write, and cook for his family (but not necessarily at the same time). He dedicates his first food article to his beautiful daughter Adriana.

In many cuisines, parts of the cow such as the skin, feet and even oxtail are often considered scraps or at the very least, exotic ingredients. Unknown by many, these parts actually contain a uniquely rich flavour. And with the right ingredients as well as a lot of patience, one can actually create a deliciously gelatinous comfort food that is both deeply satisfying and scrumptious. One of the best oxtail recipes I have tried is Balbacua, a native Filipino dish.

Comprised of more than 7,000 islands, the Philippine archipelago is a melting pot of ideas, ingredients, tastes and flavors. Very few know about Filipino cuisine, and it may actually be because of the fact that the cuisine is very regional. One thing however, is definitely clear, that Filipino cuisine is definitely making its mark all over the world. As a matter of fact, Andrew Zimmern, a world-renown food critic was able to accurately predict that “miraculous” Filipino dishes, made with Asian ingredients and Spanish cooking techniques is going to be “the next big thing” years before Filipino restaurants started opening in New York and Los Angeles. Anthony Bourdain, another well-travelled culinary expert also has high praises for Filipino dishes, naming Cebu’s Lechon, a whole roasted pork dish, as “the best pig ever” as a testament to what Filipino cuisine has to offer.

And when it comes to the Filipino cuisine’s list of comfort foods, Balbacua is definitely among those which are on top of my list. Although there are a few spots in the country who serve this dish, the most original and delicious Balbacua for me can be found only in Cebu City, located in the island of Cebu, in the southern part of the Philippines. Balbacua is a dish with a peppery, tangy and thick gelatinous broth. Made with properly cleaned cow “spare” parts such as the skin, the tail, the hoof and even the muzzle, this dish provides an unexpectedly delectable taste without being gamey or weird.

When in the Philippines, the best version of the dish can be found not in local or international restaurants, but in wayside eateries where you would have to fall in line with the locals just to have a try. Most of these eateries display huge cauldrons along the streets which have been boiling away since dawn so folks could have their succulent, tender, and piping hot Balbacua ready by lunch time. Balbacua is best eaten with a few bird’s eye chilies, steamed rice, especially corn rice, as well as an ice cold beer. As a comfort food, Balbacua is not to be eaten regularly; it is also typically eaten during lunchtime by the locals to help give themselves a well-deserved break from morning work and to help give them the fuel that they need for another round of work in the afternoon.

If you want to try making your own version of Balbacua, you can find the recipe which uses oxtail by clicking here. And if you are a huge fan of oxtail, I also suggest that you also look for a similar version of this dish made with a unique peanut butter sauce, the Kare Kare.


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