Pochero, Bantayan crabs and two cups of rice
It started to drizzle by the time our order of pochero, a Cebuano-style beef stew, was served. We were at Pochero Kinaraan, a 24-hour hole-in-the-wall eatery that serves the dish along with other local favorites such as the bakasi and buwad kinamatisan.
“Guba ang diet,” I told my friend as I sipped from my cup. Completing our flatlay that evening were a platter of Bantayan crabs cooked in gata (coconut milk) and another one with shrimps in spicy, garlic butter sauce.
“Kuya, duha pa ka rice,” I said to one of the restaurant’s crew. We were just a few minutes into our meal but we already called for reinforcements. We just laughed at ourselves as we abandoned our imaginary dietary restrictions earlier than we thought.
How I knew about this place
I came across Pochero Kinaraan from a fellow foodie’s Instagram feed. It was a picture of an alimasag (deep-sea crabs) dish which I’ve had only twice in my life – first at an eatery a few hours drive south and during our parting lunch at Carnaza island. I developed a liking to the sweetness of this variety even if it’s not as fleshy as their mud-raised counterparts.
I was glad to know that there’s finally a place within the city that serves alimasag. But even so, I’ve been putting off a visit to Pochero Kinaraan for a variety of reasons – the unpredictable weather and the availability of the crabs as well. Heck, I’m not even sure if the eatery is still in operation.
The final push came from a test speech that I heard in a Toastmasters event over the weekend. The speaker shared to us about crabs, albeit the metaphorical ones, and how he went about overcoming them in his life. The speech subliminally seared the delicious image of the alimasag in my head – an image that was particularly hard to shake off.
I then invited a friend if she wanted to try Pochero Kinaraan with me. I’m thankful that she was available even on such short notice.
The pochero was still the star
While I was here for the crabs, my friend had her eyes on the spicy shrimps. However, at the end of our meal, we both agreed that the pochero was still the star. The beef was fork-tender and its flavors were very pronounced in the soup. It also had the right amount of fat and brine.
You may season your portion with the ginamos na dulong (fermented silver fish) that’s provided on every table. This serves as a surprising counterpoint to the richness of the pochero broth.
If only there were bamboo shoot slices, then this version would be a home-run. The shoots would have added another layer of flavor to the stock.
You can see why I easily consumed two cups of rice. Aside from the pochero and the ginamos, the gata and the garlic butter sauce really begged for an extra heaping. For the health-conscious, the restaurant does serve mais (corn grits). Unfortunately it wasn’t available that night.
Hole-in-the-wall yet homey vibe
Pochero Kinaraan is not an Instagram-worthy restaurant by most standards. It has an open kitchen, monobloc chairs and tables.
But even with its straightforward interiors, the eatery exudes a homey vibe. Aside from the fact that it is located right inside the owners’ garage, every single dish here is cooked to order and is served on old-style enamelware. It is a nostalgic throwback to the good old days where a simple meal is served in these generic white implements.
I remember one such simple meal. Many years back, our family visited a distant relative in Misamis Occidental. Our host deemed our intrusion a special occasion and for lunch, they served us a generous mound of mais, backyard vegetables simmered in coconut milk and a few pieces of dried fish.
All these came in the same humble-looking plates and were finished off with our bare hands. I can’t recall anymore if I rested one foot on my stool. If I did, I know I would have been easily forgiven at that time.
What we had at Pochero Kinaraan were not really simple in comparison. We did eat with our hands but both feet stayed stuck on the floor. No one seemed to care that rainy evening.
They say that good food is all about creating and invoking memories. Aside from the pochero, this is where the eatery greatly succeeded.
1453 F. Gochan St. Cebu City