Cover Chef Myke “Tatung” Sarthou, a proud Cebuano, guides you through the eats of Cebu

Get acquainted with the must-try dishes and heritage ingredients of Cebu province, as told by celebrity chef Tatung Sarthou

Whether on the small screen or through the pages of his many best-selling cookbooks, chef Myke “Tatung” Sarthou gets Filipinos excited about cooking Filipino cuisine. Through his personal brand, Simpol, the affable personality proves that any novice can whip up a delicious feast and that home-cooked meals never have to be boring.

A proud proponent of Filipino fare, Sarthou has also championed his advocacy on the international stage. In 2017, he spotlighted not only Philippine food but the largely underrepresented cuisines of Mindanao at Spain’s Asia Madrid Fusion. The Cebuano culinarian also played an important role in the Cebu episode of Netflix's Street Food: Asia, introducing global audiences to an eclectic snippet of our food culture.

See also: Filipino Cuisine: Do We Really Need International Recognition to Push the Industry Forward?

More recently, Sarthou has had his hands full with his regular Youtube series, the launch of his latest cookbook Baking Simpol, and gearing up to open a limited-time-only private dining experience in his very own Antipolo abode. However, it seems the chef left his heart (and stomach) in Cebu, as he continues to pine for the flavours of his youth—spoiler alert: lechon and dried mangoes didn’t make the cut. Discover a wealth of delicious Cebuano treasures, hand-picked by the Cebu native himself, below.

See also: The Culinary Capitals of the Philippines: Chef JP Anglo’s Guide to Negros Occidental

Where in Cebu are you and your family from?

My family hails from Cebu City but I also spent a portion of my early childhood in Talisay City, about ten kilometres south of the provincial capital.

What do you consider to be the must-try dish from your region?

Tourists visiting Cebu City should try balbacua before flying back home. It is a collagen-rich stew made from ox trotter, tail, and tendon. Our family recipe includes black beans, pineapple chunks, peanut butter, and annatto oil, among other ingredients. But don’t be afraid of the unlikely combination. This warm, hearty dish will taste familiar to all. Pair the dish with corn grits instead of rice for an authentic Cebuano experience.

See also: A Taste of Home: What Are Melbourne-Based Chef Ross Magnaye's Favourite Filipino Eats?

What do you consider to be the most underrated dish from your region?

Cebu is better known for its savoury dishes but our sweets are also something to write home about. Take torta Bisaya, for example—it is far from the omelettes of the Tagalogs up north. It is a sponge cake brushed with margarine and topped with granulated sugar and roasted anise seeds, best enjoyed with a cup of hot tsokolate for afternoon merienda. I enjoyed it so much that my grandmother had to hide them away in biscuit tins so they can age a little. Torta Bisaya is even better weeks after making them.

What is the one pasalubong you always bring back with you when you visit?

It’s hard to choose just one pasalubong. I always make sure to bring back dried pusit, otap, and rosquillos from my Cebu trips. These are available in Manila markets and groceries, but those from back home hit differently.

See also: Biscuit Quiz! Do You Know These 11 Famed Filipino Biscuits?

What is one ingredient you long for from your region that you cannot (or cannot easily) find here in Manila, if any?

I really wish landang was available in markets here in Manila. This is comparable to sago or tapioca pearls but made with nipa or native palm instead of cassava. We use it when cooking binignit, a sweet dish of fruits and root crops cooked in coconut milk—a Visayan version of ginataang bilo-bilo if you will.

What are your favourite eateries in that region? Why?

I have fond memories of eating pancit canton with my lolo at Snowsheen along Osmeña Boulevard. The restaurant is a longstanding icon in my hometown and the dishes taste just as I remember it from back then. These days, a trip to Cebu is also not complete without grabbing a bite at Larsian.

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