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The fusion revolution: the evolution of Ilocos cuisine in La Union

locos region is known for its wide array of gastronomic offerings, in fact it has a lot of remarkable culinary heritage.

Pangasinan is known for their puto Calasiao or the Alaminos longganisa; Ilocos Sur for their bagnet; and Ilocos Norte for their empanada.

But, for La Union, being the youngest province in the area, is most likely to be the fusion of all the gastronomic offerings of the whole region.

La Union, both a coastal and mountainous province, is famous for its surfing spots and majestic natural attractions. 

But what people do not know is that it is also brimming with heritage attractions, cultural activities, and innovative food productions.

Fusion cuisine, as what they call, is becoming a mainstream in today’s generation. 

It is a process of combining unexpected food concepts from different food cultures that will result to a new creation.

One of the examples of these fusion cuisines is the fried halo-halo of Halo-Halo de Iloko Restaurant in the City of San Fernando, La Union. 

An unusual halo-halo with 12 native ingredients like pulitipot (caramelized sugarcane), yema, honey, corn, ugoy crackers, native banana, gulaman, sago, ube-kamote halaya, homemade ice cream, carabao’s milk, and sticky rice.

It is wrapped in lumpia wrapper and pan fried with palm oil. 

It is an innovation of Chef Xavier which he calls “the taste of La Union in one glass” because all the ingredients came from the different municipalities of La Union.

The fried halo-halo, topped with homemade avocado ice cream, cheese and fresh cherry fruit from Halo-Halo de Iloko Restaurant in the City of San Fernando, La Union

Another is the seven ways of eating bagnet in the town of Sudipen, specifically in Villa El Lita Resort.

The main dish bagnet is prepared in seven different ways like sinigang, kare-kare, dinakdakan, sisig, bagnet with kamatis (tomato), bagoong (fish paste), and lasona (onion), and bagnet in fried rice.

These are perfect examples of food innovations because they give people options out of one simple dish.

The bagnet in seven ways preparation -- bagnet in fried rice, sisig, dinakdakan, kare-kare, sinigang, pinakbet, and bagnet with fish paste, onion and tomato

Like any other provinces of Ilocos region, La Union also offer different delicacies.

One of the most loved delicacies is the Orang’s special bibingka that can be found in Luna.

It is made with sticky and glutinous rice, coconut milk, butter, and cheese for the toppings.

Unlike the traditional way of cooking the delicacy, this bibingka is being cooked in an oven.

Leonida Linggam, owner of Orang's Special Bibingka, showing her products -- the special bibingka, tupig, and bibingka cassava

Meanwhile, if you are looking for a modern food and want to taste the different international cuisines, San Juan is the place for you.

There you can experience eating different variety of fusion cuisines of other nations.

Going to the second district of La Union, one can experience a unique activity and that is the grape picking in Bauang. 

Due to high production of grapes in the town, the Uva’s Café innovated a grape flavored pizza, also topped with fresh grapes.

They also offer different varieties of wines made from grapes, mango, dragon fruit, and watermelon.

Another activity is the lemon picking in L and D Citrus Farm in Naguilian, where one can pick fresh lemons to buy.

To maximize the consumption of their production, the owner innovated a juice product called “Per-res,” which is sold by bottle.

However, as the province continuously evolving in food industry, some municipalities still has a preserved culinary culture.

In Pugo, they celebrate an annual Tinungbo Festival, which they believed to be the identity of the town.

“Tinungbo” is an indigenous way of cooking rice and fresh water and other local delicacies in a light young bamboo internodo, or the ‘tubong’, grilled over charcoal or low fire.

While in Bagulin, they have the ‘Kini-ing’ or the process of preserving the meat through salt and being smoked with a guava branch for about four to eight hours.

The grapes flavored pizza and the different flavored wines of the Uva's Cafe in Bauang, La Union
Ms. Clang Garcia, curator of gastronomic experience and book author, showing how to pick a fresh lemon from the tree
Kakanin and Corn Soup are some of the tinungbo products from Pugo, La Union
The kini-ing, or the process of preserving the meat for future use

La Union has what it takes to go on with the trend, but still making an imprint to every tourist’s tastes. 

As culture began to overlap, it was only natural that new dishes were created, when people shared and combined cooking styles and ingredients to create new concepts and flavor profiles.  (JCR/AMB/KDM/PIA Region 1)

About the Author

Kemberly Maala


Region 1

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