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There's something about authentic, local delicacies--- that there's no need for an updated social media presence, catchy one-liners and any other trendy promotional effects to gain popularity and, consequently, a hefty consumer base.
Traditionally, authentic delicacies ascend to popularity through word of mouth while the generations-transcending longevity of businesses of such products depend solely on consistency of ingredients as well as its production processes.
Such is the case of Balete's Sumanan ni Ka Rita--- a suman (sticky rice snack) establishment in Barangay Palsara.
Sumanan Ni Ka Rita hasn't seen a slow day since its establishment 25 years ago.
Their products have reached nearby Barangays, Manila, and some folks in the United States. Sumanan Ni Ka Rita is now managed by her grandson, Ronald, and the business is now on its third generation of management.
The suman might just be another everyday snack for the Baletenos, but unbeknownst to many, this simple, rice snack is known and has already made an impression to people outside of Batangas and of the international dining scene.
All that without a recognizable business signage and regard for branding!
Sumang Dapa or “tamalis” to the locals has been included in the Balete cuisine since time immemorial.
While many would fancy the sumang haba, some might prefer the tamalis for its sticky and almost gooey consistency. It's sweet and syrupy sauce is also revered by many.
The sauce---- a sweet concoction made up of sangkaka (coconut sugar). It is a key ingredient of Sumang Dapa as it gives life to the otherwise bland merienda.
Latik (Toasted Coconut Milk Curd), on the other hand, gives the snack a contrast in texture, and adds a little more sweetness to the delightfully rich snack.
Tawilis (Sardinella Tawilis) is the only known fish that belongs in the Sardinella genus to exist in freshwater. Given its uniqueness, its flavor is distinct as it is mildly sweet and savory. The diminutive fish could only grow up to 15 cm and is usually served fried with a side of tomatoes and salted egg.
Baletenos are also known to serve Ginataang Tawilis (Tawilis in Coconut Milk) and it it is perfect with red chilis for that added oomph.
This dish is usually eaten as lunch for it is a perfect pair with rice and a cold beverage.
Sinaing na Tulingan
Sinaing na Tulingan (Braised Fish) is a slow-cooked dish fondly devoured by the Batanguenos. Its ingredients are simple and include tulingan (a smaller fish under the tuna family), pork fat, calamias, garlic, pepper, salt and vinegar.
The more interesting facet of sinaing na tulingan is its cooking process that lasts a minimum of three hours where all the ingredients are placed in a banana leaf-laden clay pot.
After the hours-long wait, the locals call it gato (withered) since the fishbones become soft and almost fibrous that the bone itself is edible.
It's amazing how a combination of simple ingredients produce a tasty dish that understands and embraces the tastebuds of Batangueno foodies young and old.
Lipa is also considered to be the honey capital of Batangas and the municipality of Balete is one of the major contributors why the city is called such.
Balete is home to a number of apiaries (bee yards) and its honey produce are exports to neighboring barangays and provinces.
A stand-out product that hails from Barangay Malabanan, Balete is its raw honey which has no added sugars and comes straight from the beehive.
Raw honey posts a lot of health benefits and as minimally processed honey is rich in antioxidants that benefits the heart and sugar levels.
Lomi is inarguably the most famous local dish of the Batanguenos. It has been served in classy restaurants, to fast food chains, to the countless Lomi Houses that pepper the streets within the province.
However, each municipality and city may have a different take on the good ol’ Lomi as some may be less viscous than others, some may have a lot more toppings, and some may have peculiar ingredients just to stand out or be “instagrammable”.
Balete and Lipa City are home to a rather “traditional” serving of Lomi.
The tradition being only having a few ingredients- kikiam and meatballs as toppings, and homemade miki (noodles) served with a side of calamansi, chillis and garlic as seasoning.
This kind of Lomi is tastefully viscous and is sought after by the locals since this simple variety is a good and filling option for everyday merienda.
Lomi Houses that serve this kind of Lomi are usually jam-packed in the mornings and the afternoons--- when friends and families may have the time to gather around a table and talk about life and everything else.