Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Balbacua, A Cebu Specialty Dish

I have been hearing a lot of good things about the Balbacua of the southern Philippines. It is a favorite wayside eatery dish that originated in Cebu but widely accepted and also popular in other parts of Visayas and Mindanao. There are some restaurants in Manila that now serve the same dish to the amasement of first time eaters. Its rich, thick and peppery broth plus the tender and succulent meat have delighted many customers. By the Western standard, it might be considered as a bit unusual as it uses exotic beef parts such as oxtail, skin and feet (“paa ng baka”). Although some may be appaled, I’m sure many will love it.

Balbacua, like “Dinuguan”, is another proof of the cooking abilities of Filipinos to transform what others will consider as unusable parts of meat into wonderful dishes, comparable to those made from the prime cuts. Strange as it may seem from the stand point of international cuisine but its good taste and delicate texture are bound to propel it to further acceptance in the Luzon areas and who knows, in other parts of the world.

Now that I have colleagues from Cebu and Bohol, I decided to try cooking my own version of the dish. Since I usually cook “paa ng baka” stew in garlic, onion, pepper and leeks until the broth becomes thick back home, I know it would not be difficult for me to re-create the famous Balbacua Cebuano.

For the beef parts main ingredient, I used oxtail and feet (“paa ng baka”), cut to serving pieces and thouroughly cleaned and drained. They don't sell these parts here in Sri Lanka so I have to specially order them from the butcher and do the cleaning and dressing (hair removal) myself. It's cheap yes, but the labor is enormous. :-)

The three oxtails that they gave me still includes the big bony part of cow hip which I particularly like as it will assure me of a very tasty broth without resorting to seasoning cubes from Uncle “Knorr” or Auntie “Maggi”. Since we intend to serve this Balbacua (along with “Dinuguan" and “Goto”) to two big groups of Filipinos from two construction firms (about 30 people) after playing basketball, the around 5~6 kilos of meat, all in all, is not really much.

To complement the big quantity of meat & bones above, I used the following other ingredients: 4 pcs thumb size ginger, 2 heads of garlic, smashed and peeled, 3 large onions, peeled and quartered, 1 tbsp whole pepper, 1 tsp ground pepper, 1 big leek, sliced, 2 cans baked beans or pork and beans, 1 tbsp salt or to taste. Additionaly, I used about 10 pcs local banana “seni kesel” which I featured before in my “minatamis na saging” post, peeled and sliced (you can use 8 pcs saba bananas) and some green onion.

The procedure is quite simple. First, arrange the meat in a thick large casserole. Cover it with enough water and allow it to under high heat. This is very important, upon reaching the boiling point and lot of scums are appearing bubbly on the surface, carefully lift your casserole and empty all the water. Then, under a running water, washed the meat again to remove all scum that sticked to the meat and or remains at the bottom of the casserole. Arrange the meat again in the casserole, cover with enough water and simmer in high heat. When the water starts to boil, you will notice that you now have a clear broth with just very few scums which can be easily scooped out.

Lower the heat, as low as possible while maintaining the water still gurgling a bit. Add the ginger, garlic, onion, salt and whole pepper corn but set aside 3 gloves of the garlic and 2 quartered pcs of the onion. Continue simmering on low heat until the meat is tender. You can add hot water as required one cup at a time. Mine took more than 2 hours.

When the meat is already tender and broth is reduced, add the leek, ground pepper and some more salt (according to your taste). Others use seasoning cubes at this point. You can do so if your broth is not tasty enough. Our meat includes the bony hips so the broth is good enough on its own. Continue simmering until the broth gets a little bit sticky. Scoop out as much oil as possible from the surface. At this juncture, this is already my way of cooking it back in Luzon (Philippines), so we sampled some over a glass of frothy beverage drink. :-) Yummy!!

But since our object is Balbacua, we have to proceed. Add the bananas to the simmering meat. Now, in a small pan, heat about 2 tbsp of vegetable oil (you can also use the oil you collected from the surface). Mince the garlic and onion we set aside earlier and saute in the hot oil. Pour the baked beans and cooked for several minutes. Add this as well to the simmering meat with bananas. Continue simmering until everything is cooked. Taste the broth and adjust the taste accordingly. Serve with minced green onion on top.

In my case, since I only have 1 can of baked beans (the huge amount of meat needs about 2) so I had to adjust the taste using some sweet tomato sauce and sugar until I attained the sweet-tangy taste of a true Balbacua. The final taste is just perfect for me and surely to my cousin Allen who like this dish over a bottle of a favorite drink. c“,)

Come on try this amazing dish, all the Filipinos here love it, you will also enjoy it. Promised!


  1. Thnx for the info! Visit Yummy cebu and feature urself!!!!!

  2. kalami kaayo gigutom na hinoon ko da! wala ra ba gyoy makan-an diri nga ingon ani orasa. i miss my nightlife in bangkok....

  3. partisan ug ma-is nga pinabuyok!!!!



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