Many of my friends and family will be waking in a few hours to a very *hot* and dry 4th of July celebrating America’s 239th “Birthday” and separation from Britain. For the better part of my life this date means a neighborhood party with live music, a parade around the block with decorated bikes, wagons, and neighbors sitting in lawn chairs on the curb to cheer as it goes by, and the biggest beef beef I have ever experienced. Year after year. The kitchen would have a 2 or 3 big coolers filled with marinating brisket. To this day my dad holds the record for brisket and my mom can cook a better chicken than anyone. There. I said it. No take backs. The party focused around food and a decent amount of smack talk and ended with blowing stuff up (fireworks). Fun and merriment for the whole family.
This year, however, I am abroad in the Philippines. The 3rd was not a work holiday, I did not get a three-day weekend from Work/ School, and there will be no fireworks. But I did uphold the tradition of barbecue and let me tell you, what I had tonight smoked all y’all right out of the water.
Today’s outing was led by some of the people from work, who like me, had not seen some of the local sights in Cebu. My department supervisor, my HR director and her daughter, and another employee and I went out for an adventure to see Fort San Pedro. The fort turned out to be closed by the time we got there for a State of the City type address in the Independence Square so we ended up at a 150 year old prison and toured around. Our tour guide’s name was Danny Boy. It was a crash course in Cebuano history and the founding of the Philippines. Oh, and the main theme of the outing turned out to be cats. Which I will make a separate post to photos of Filipino cats here.
But the focal point of today. The food. A question I get asked a lot is, “Do you have a ___________ like this where you are from?” and a lot of the time the answer is no. Where we had dinner tonight was one of these instances: an open air restaurant with a butcher case full of meat on sticks and an amazing charcoal grill at the center. Plastic chairs and tables were scattered through out and we ended up seeing a couple small lizards on the all and a stray cat in the restaurant. You picked a tray, filled it with the raw meet on sticks; they cooked it for you and brought it to your table. Squid, the best chicken I have ever had (and the skin was heavenly), pork belly, and a few other things. Everything had an excellent smoky flavor and a succulent crunch from nice charcoal grill marks. Try as you might, I refuse to believe I will ever have grilled meat this tasty again and I know thems fightin’ words. I stand by them.
The more adventurous take on meat on sticks is a street vendor with a small charcoal grill cooking food on the side of the road for a few pesos a stick. I’m sure on my way to or from work I’ll have to try the “street food” version as a comparison this week. But. Damn. Still on the fence about how good this barbecue was? To all my American readers: It was better than bacon. Or anything you can wrap in bacon. If there’s one place for food I’ve been that I want to go back to, it’s this place. And yes I looked it up. It’s called AA’s. I would like to raise my grilled squid on a stick to the importance of food. Everyone’s got to eat. So you might as well eat it off a stick.