Perhaps most of the residents of Balamban do not know yet that the name ‘Balamban’ has sparked a craze in Cebu City, approximately 64 kilometers away from their beloved municipality. It is now closely associated with a brand and a method of grilling liempo or pork belly. The latter involves making a cut in between a slap of pork belly and then wedging in a mixture of local herbs such as tanglad (lemon grass), dahon sibuyas (spring onions) and garlic, just to name a few. The prepared meat is then roasted over coal.
There are at least three different business establishments in Cebu that are employing the said method. I have tasted the offerings in each. But the interesting comments in Market Manila’s post has led me to look for the original version served in Balamban.
So one Saturday morning, my good friend and I found ourselves in Balamban looking for Kristian’s Liempo and Lechon Manok (KLLM). After asking around, we finally found the store. It is located near the local parish church and also a few meters away from the bus terminal. When we got there, there were already a handful of people queuing to place their take-out orders (priced at Php 170.00). I wanted to talk with owners regarding the history of the ‘Balamban method’ but they were not around that time. The only information available from a google search is that KLLM is owned by a certain Bebot Mapa, and is not in any way affiliated with any liempo store in Cebu City.
Since they do not have a dine-in option, we headed for the nearest karenderya (eatery) where we could buy our rice and softdrinks. The attendants at Senyang Pasalubong and Snack Counter amazingly allowed us to eat the liempo without charging any corkage fee. They do not serve rice meals by the way, but perhaps they were sympathetic after recognizing that we came all the way from somewhere else just for this treat. We also bought from them their bestseller special halo-halo (at Php 25.00) for our dessert.
The liempo tastes quite similar to what is being offered in Cebu City. The distinct aroma from the local herbs is also present. There is also that feeling that you just ate a portion from a lechon (roasted pig). But what sets apart the KLLM version from the rest is that their meat does not have, in Market Man’s words, ‘a slightly bizarre shade of pink or pinkish red.’ Its juices were also intact, despite the fact that it was already 20-25 minutes since the slab was taken off the grill.
If my limited gastronomic memory still serves me right, the liempo from Kusina ni Nasing tasted closest to the Kristian version. But others only know and would probably prefer the more advertised brand. Well, different strokes for different folks. The last thing that this country needs is a ‘pork belly war’ on top of the imaginary divisions (political campaign colors, local TV channel, and college affiliations) we placed on our heads or stomachs for that matter.
The quickest way to Balamban is via a V-Hire van at the Ayala Cebu terminal. The 45-minute ride will cost Php 100.00 as of this writing. Aside from the liempo, you will also be treated with spectacular mountain views along the Trans-Central Highway.