One of the easiest ways to discover a new destination is through its food. And thanks to Culinarya Pampanga, we don’t need to travel to Pampanga (especially during MECQ when we technically can’t) to try some of the province’s best dishes from its top local chefs and restaurants. These dishes are now available for pick-up and delivery from Quezon City.
Culinarya Pampanga started in 2016 as an informal group of friends, chefs, and restaurateurs from Pampanga who came together with the goal of preserving the heritage of Kapampangan cuisine and promoting it as one of the country’s culinary treasures.
After a brief hiatus, some of the Culinarya Pampanga chefs ended up working together in Clark, Pampanga during the 2019 Southeast Asian Games hosted by the Philippines. According to the group’s main marketer Spanky Enriquez, it was the success of this recent endeavor that inspired the group to once more unite in promoting their province’s cuisine during the COVID-19 crisis.
Culinarya Pampanga’s goal was to find a way to offer their local heritage dishes to Metro Manila residents, including their fellow Kapampangans unable to go home due to travel restrictions imposed by the pandemic. Thanks to the new food delivery culture that is growing in leaps and bounds, the chefs were able to start operations sooner than expected, with the opening by the end of July of the Culinarya Pampanga shared commissary (or cloud kitchen) and delivery hub in New Manila, Quezon City.
Involved in Culinarya Pampanga are eight of the province’s top chefs, led by Sau del Rosario of Café Fleur, Den Lim of Den Lim’s Kitchen, Howard Dizon of Howard Dizon’s Catering Services, Cherry Pasion-Tan of Apag Marangle, Vince Garcia of Rainforest Kichene, Judy Uson of Café Noelle, Froi Cruz of Cioccolo, and the well-loved, legendary home cook Mila Gomez of Mila’s Tokwa’t Baboy in Angeles City.
The chefs prep all their dishes in Pampanga which are then brought to the Quezon City commissary to be cooked upon order and delivered ready to eat. The group also offers frozen dishes as long as you let them know ahead of time. With currently 24 dishes on offer (or three dishes from each participating chef), there really is something for everyone.
I have already ordered a total of three times since the group launched. The ordering process is simple and painless. Just call, text, or Viber them during their operating hours to ask for a copy of the current menu and pricelist. Then place your order directly and pay via your preferred online payment method, whether by bank transfer or GCash, and you’re good to go. You have the option to book your own pick-up or ask them for assistance in booking one.
I first tested the waters by initially ordering dishes that I have tried and liked before, like Chef Sau del Rosario’s Macadamia Kare-kare. It has now become Truffled Crispy Pork Belly on the menu, using crispy pork this time, but with the same kare-kare sauce made with macadamia nuts instead of peanuts, and with a subtle truffle scent.
Since Culinarya Pampanga launched, I’ve already ordered Mila’s famous Tocino BBQ three times, as it tastes exactly the same as if one has it in Pampanga. My tip is to grill it a bit more right before enjoying it.
I then ordered from chefs whose dishes I am not familiar with. One of the most interesting is a chopped liver and lungs dish called Kilayin by Chef Den Lim. It’s like a Kapampangan’s take on the Tagalog’s bopis and the Ilocano’s igado, but so much richer, a characteristic that a lot of heirloom dishes from Pampanga tend to share.
I liked Chef Howard Dizon’s Asadong Dila, which is slow-cooked, melt-in-your-mouth ox tongue braised in a flavorful rich sauce thickened with castañas or chestnuts. This is a dish that people who love Spanish lengua estofado will surely like.
I also enjoyed Chef Froi Cruz’s take on another Kapampangan heritage dish called Hornong Pistu, which is a baked pork meatloaf loaded with chorizo and ham that’s generously topped and finished with cheese.
Culinarya Pampanga is still constantly expanding its offerings. Newly added to the roster is Nico Bailon, the son of Chef Claude Tayag, who is now fully in-charge of the family’s Downtown Café in Angeles City.
Towards the end of August, Chef Sau del Rosario shared that the group will start selling specialty food products that Pampanga is known for. You’ll soon be able to order bottled goods, tamales, aligue, kakanin, puto seko, cheese breads, and sweets like sans rival, tocino del cielo, San Nicolas cookies, and ensaymada.
The Culinarya Pampanga delivery hub is looking to become a convenient, one-stop store for the best of the best goodies from all over Pampanga. Mangan ta na (Let’s eat)!
Culinarya Pampanga, 62 Victoria Avenue, New Manila, Quezon City, (0917) 324-2768,
MECQ pick-up and delivery Tuesday to Sunday, 10 am to 6 pm