I love raw Japanese sea food. No, let me correct that, I like raw seafood, period. It doesn’t have to be Japanese. I love kinilaw na isda(tangigue and salmon, no tuna), kinilaw na ba-at(sea slugs/cucumber), takubo (giant clams)and sea urchins (tihi-tihi). I also like seaweeds, lukot(some say they are some kind of seaweeds, some say they are seaworms(?), and even some say they are the waste product of sea snails(wtf)). I can take them any which way. Japanese style with soy and wasabi and some pickled ginger root, Mindanao style with vinegar and coconut milk or just plain homestyle mix of vinegar and spices.
Of all these, I especially love takubo (giant clams) and tihi-tihi (sea urchins). Now takubo is hard to come by nowadays as they are being salvaged as an endangered kind. Harvesting them now is illegal. Some groups have even started to breed them in controlled labs just to help them populate. So now, I turn to sea urchins. In Japanese restaurants, these are called “Uni Sashimi”. I love the gooey velvety sweet taste mixed with a little soy and wasabi. The thing is that they are very rare in the Japanese restos around the city. Sometimes they are available, sometimes they are not. Some restaurants don’t carry them at all.
Now, this sashimi has a local counterpart called the tihi-tihi. This is a very familiar delicacy to me as I spent summer weekends in Lilo-an as a kid. My parents would leave me and my big brother with our aunt if they have a busy weekend planned.
You would usually see this delicacy in bottles being peddled at the beachfronts or at the local wet market in Lilo-an. I do not see them in the grocery and the local markets in the city. So, I was very happy that I got a good reason to visit Lilo-an again. It’s All Soul’s/Saint’s Day/Halloween weekend and just like the rest of the Catholic community, we planned on visiting the tombs of our departed family. My lola passed away two years ago and she was laid to rest at the Manila Memorial in Lilo-an. So yesterday, the rents and I found ourselves on our way there at 730am as we wanted to avoid the hot sun and the crowds.
It was way too early and we were hungry by the time we got there. So instead of heading straight to the cemetery, we continued on to a little side street near the Church, just in front of the Municipal Hall. Now this side street have always been there as far as I can remember, but is just gaining popularity as the new housing developments have sprouted in the neighborhood. It is a usual stop for those travelling north, for “bikers” on their weekend exercise and for the locals after church on Sundays. I found Uni Heaven!
Here you can find grilled pork, fish and squid. You will also see your favorite lechon pork(roast pork) or lechon manok(roast chicken).
And ofcourse, here you will find all the raw stuff, sea slugs, fish and sea urchins! YOu have a choice of pairing these fare with boiled camote(yams) or hanging rice (rice cooked in palm leaves). While the japanese eat rice with the meat at the lower part(so it hits your tongue) I like a sliver of kinilaw on top of camote. The tangy, hot, salty taste of the raw seafood marinated in vinegar against the sweet soft camote. Yum!