There is more to Zamboanga City than flowers and the chance to snag some hand-woven beauties from Yakan Weaving Village. It is also home to some of the most delicious food in the country. Check out these 10 must-eats in Zamboanga City and where to find them. (Read: 6 Must Try Restaurants in Zamboanga City)
Satti, also called satay, sati or sate, is popular street food in Indonesia and Malaysia. These are succulent pieces of grilled beef or chicken on a bamboo skewer, much like the typical barbecue, but doused in a peanut sauce. Zamboanga satti, however, has a distinctive sweet-spicy sauce. The best place to get it is at Jimmy’s Satti Haus at Pilar St., Zamboanga, Zamboanga Sibugay. Jimmy’s looks like any carinderia you might find anywhere in the Philippines, so don’t expect anything fancy. Jimmy’s satti has that unique Filipino twist with its secret sauce found nowhere else. Enjoy it with tamuh and you will know why it is so popular.
This sweet dessert is a cross between halo-halo and sago’t gulaman. It is made of fresh fruits instead of kaong and nata de coco, gelatin, condensed milk, and strawberry ice cream, and a favorite among Zamboangueños. The best place to get one of these sweet indulgences is at Pinoy Patio (Palmeras) at Paseo del Mar.
You have not completed your trip to Zamboanga if you don’t try the curacha at least once. It looks like a cross between a crab and a lobster, and is the Chavacano term for spanner crab or red frog crab. It is commonly found in the waters of Sulu and Zamboanga. The best place to get fresh and well-prepared curacha is at the Alavar Seafood Restaurant on Don Alfaro Street, Tetuan, Zamboanga City.
Spanish influence is everywhere in the Philippines, but perhaps more so in Zamboanga. The paella is a traditional rice dish cooked in different types of sauces, meat, seafood, and vegetables cooked in a wide, shallow pot known as a paellera. The best seafood paella in Zamboanga, however, is found at Country Chicken, one of the oldest restaurants in the city. The restaurant is located in Pasonanca Park, with a smaller branch in Paseo del Mar.
Sicalang / Chikalang
This is a type of donut made of purple colored malagkit (glutinous rice), twisted into a braid, fried, and then coated with flour and caramel. You can find chikalang almost anywhere on the streets of Zamboanga City, and outside some homes. If you are in the area, you can try the Ateneo De Zamboanga University Café or Vista del Mar Beach Resort in Labuan – Limpapa National Road.
Balbacua or balbakwa is a beef knuckle dish similar in appearance to paksiw na pata but tastes completely different. It is served with calamansi, and has a thick sauce that is mostly salty but not too much so. It is the ultimate comfort food enjoyed by many locals in Visayas and Mindanao, but the best one in Zamboanga is served in King’s Balbacua in Sta. Maria Road near Edwin Andrews Airbase. A no-frills open dining eatery, balbacua is the house specialty.
If that sounds foreign, because it is. This is a Malaysian dish of bread (roti) stuffed with curried chicken and vegetables. It is a delicious savory snack or meal, with just the right amount of curry for deliciousness. You can try I at Keyo’s Little Kitchen in La Purisima St., Zone III.
Latal is not one dish, but a platter of many native Tausug dishes distinctive to Zamboanga. It is usually served in quantities good for 4 to 6 people, and its spiciness makes it a perfect accompaniment to beer. You can try it from Bay Tal Mal Halal Restaurant located in Vangeorge Building, Don Toribio Street, Tetuan.
This is another Tausug dish, and you can get it from Babuh Hana’s Restaurant located in Putik, Zamboanga City. It is a chicken curry dish using burnt coconut paste, so it has a black color. It doesn’t look very appetizing, but it is is uber delicious.
And since it is the Filipino custom to bring back something unique during your travels, you can’t go wrong with the Tausug crunchy snack lokot-lokot, made of pounded rice and formed into rolls. You can find it in most pasalubong centers in Zambo.