Mansaf in Jordan
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What: In Cebu, sinugba (“see-noog-bah”) or sugba (“soog-bah”) refers to nearly any food that’s cooked on a grill over charcoal (its Tagalog name is inihaw). It also represents the “su” in the term sutukil (“soo-too-kill”), a favorite local pun (“shoot to kill”) and handy summary for how Cebuanos traditionally cook: sugba (grilling), tuwa (simmering in broth), and kilaw (eating raw). The most popular items to skewer and grill? Liempo (“lee-yem-poh,” pork belly), paa (“pah-ah,” a quarter of a chicken, the thigh and leg), slices of pork on barbecue sticks, chicken or pig entrails, and fresh seafood such as whole fish or squid, usually stuffed with chopped green tomatoes and white onions.
Pre-grill flavors are simple, relying on salt and not much else, although chicken and pork tend to be smothered in a sweet barbecue sauce after they’re grilled (you can request it on the side if you want). As is often the case around here, ingredients for your own soy sauce-and-vinegar sawsawan (“sahw-sah-wan,” dipping sauce) are usually made available. If it sounds like a carnivore’s dream, well, it is, but there are usually some fish or veg options on hand as well. It's a Cebu must-eat.
Where: Larsian Food Park (next to Chong Hua Hospital on Don Mariano Cui St., near Fuente Osmeña Circle, map) is a Cebu dining institution for street-style barbecue. It’s an open-air square of some 50 barbecue vendors stalls under a series of roofs, with a central grilling area where vendors compete for customers’ attention. (Tip: Stay upwind of that grilling area or prepare to smell like a barbecue for the rest of the night.) We chose the first stall on the left, but take your pick—the quality of the various hawkers here tends to be comparable.
When: Daily, 24-7, but the best stuff seems to be ready for the dinner crowd, which rocks up as early as 5pm—go around then.
Order: Anything that can be grilled! The uncooked items for grilling are presented in trays at each stall; we went for a few sticks of pork, chicken skin, chicken heart and liver, sweet-spicy Cebu-style chorizo, and a stuffed squid (prices range from Php5 for pork/chicken up to about Php100 for a whole squid). Choose a table from the rows covered in pink plastic sheeting and wait for your food to arrive: first, a basket of puso, then a basket of small green chiles and a bottle of vinegar, and finally, the meats. Our platter came out slathered in a mysterious sweet barbecue sauce, but fortunately, the textures of the chicken skin and heart-liver combo still came through and the chorizo held their own flavor. The pork sticks were nothing to write home about, but the grilled stuffed squid was perfection—just cooked through, tender and not at all chewy.
Alternatively: The Larsian experience is not for the faint-hearted. It’s loud, smoky, and set against the din of traffic from Fuente Osmeña, a major roundabout where two city arteries converge (B. Rodrigues and Jones Aves.). A saner alternative is AA BBQ (multiple locations including the original branch at Salinas Dr., Lahug, map), a local chain that lets you experience Larsian’s al fresco aspect and similarly tasty food without the noise and chaos (the smoke is unescapable!).
The wide selection of fresh raw meat, seafood, and vegetables is not strictly for grilling, but will be cooked however you like (e.g., fish in sweet-sour sauce, buttered vegetables and calamari), so there is something for everyone. Of course, the more orderly atmosphere comes at a higher price, so expect to pay about three times more than you would at Larsian.
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