Searching for Humba at Fely J’s Kitchen
There was a feature in a local inflight magazine about a certain dish called Humba de Iponan late last year. I was curious about it because it supposedly comes from Cagayan de Oro City, my hometown of many years and it is from a barangay very near to our place. However, most of my friends in CdeO have not tried or heard of it. I could only imagine how it tastes compared to my uncle’s version, which none of us in the family could replicate to this very day.
One of my highschool friends, who also saw the feature, suggested that I try Fely J’s Kitchen in Greenbelt to satisfy my humba fix. He said that it was by far, the version that tasted closest to our beloved pork dish.
Let me get this straight first: humba is not the same with adobo. It is a completely different creature. It is usually characterized by a slow-cooking process, which yields a soy-based sauce that is darker and slightly sweeter. The sweetness though is cut with a slight tinge of saltiness. Furthermore, a proper humba should be very tender and one sign that it is cooked well is that the fat should gloriously wiggle in your plate and helplessly disintegrate when sliced even by just a fork.
So I dragged two friends to try out Fely J’s last Sunday. I learned that this restaurant is one of the many successful endeavors of the LJC group founded by the late restaurateur Larry J. Cruz. Two things that I immediately noticed in their menu: that they used one of my favorite fonts and that they serve the usual Kapampangan staples. But there are also Asian-inspired items on the list which I gather were inspired by the many travels of Felicidad de Jesus-Cruz. She is the mother of Larry and the restaurant was said to be named in her honor.
It was good that we arrived early for lunch because otherwise, we probably would have waited for a little while to be seated. Diners are mostly families but I imagine that on a weekday, this homey restaurant would be filled with yuppies based in Makati.
Our order of Clay Pot Paksiyo Baboy Bisaya was served shortly, but it did not came in a traditional earthenware that I expected. Nonetheless, the fancy-named dish hit my imaginary humba standards spot on. The pork knuckles were delightfully tender such that I did not have to use my knife the entire time.
It did not leave a greasy feeling in the mouth too, which in hindsight, is something that I should probably look for in any humba from this time on. But I wrestle with the thought that this was never a healthy dish to begin with. If you take out the fat in the picture, it would not be the cholesterol-laden comfort food that I grew up with.
We usually eat a lot of rice with humba especially during fiestas and family celebrations. I thought that the Fely J’s Dilis-cious Rice complemented well with its sweetness. We also ordered the KKK or the Kare-Kare Klab. It is one of Fely J’s best-sellers and was recommended by a waitstaff. But I wished that we also got a salad or the sinigang on the side because our table that Sunday badly needed something that would balance out the rich flavor profiles of our two entrees.
I have to agree with my classmate on Fely J’s humba. It may not be as good as my uncle’s version, but it is quite close to the typical humba that I have been missing all this time.
Fely J’s Kitchen
2nd Level, Greenbelt 5, Ayala Center, Makati
+632 728 8878 or +63 2 728 8858
Opens daily from 11:00 AM to 11:00 PM