Friday, November 25, 2016

Cabalen Eat-All-You-Can Buffet Food Review & Contest Giveaway

Cabalen welcomes guests with a smile.

Whenever one thinks of going on a food rampage, Pampanga food always tops the list. Capampangans are known for not scrimping on ingredients. Known for being skilled cooks who spend a great deal of their time preparing dishes and sharing sumptuous meals with relatives and friends, it’s no longer a surprise when their province was hailed as the culinary capital of the Philippines. So I was thrilled when I got an invite to try dining at Cabalen—an Eat-All-You-Can Buffet restaurant noted for serving authentic Capampangan dishes and other Filipino specialties, originating from Pampanga.

As I stepped inside Cabalen, it reminded me of a childhood memory set in my grandma’s  Bahay na Bato in Taal, Batangas. Dining at Cabalen feels like coming home to your grandma’s ancestral home in the province where you get to taste a plethora of food choices (some specialties can only be found and enjoyed here). The interior itself seemed to breathe a new life into old stuff with some modern twists especially the chairs being used as well as the chandelier gives off a vintage vibe. The result is an eat-all-you-can Capampangan restaurant that feels intimate and personal, a quality that’s not usually present in large buffet resto in the metro.

One of the vintage chairs at Cabalen!

The Cabalen team is doing much more than extending the familiar customs of Campangans. I loved the fact that they are working to capture the nostalgia of a typical grandma’s cooking, but elevated them with their extensive training and creative insight. Their synergy leads to an authentic Capampangan dining experience refined by their cosmopolitan experiences. 

Cabalen welcome guests with impeccable attention to service and genuine hospitality. They have combined the diverse talents and experiences of their staff to create a modern, sophisticated restaurant mixed with the vintage ambiance. The hospitality begins at the door as you are welcomed into their buffet restaurant by well-trained staff with personalized attention and with a genuine smile.

I have a fascination for antique looking structures and I couldn’t help but admire the intricately designed wooden carvings and cutwork along with the fancy Victorian style ventanillas I've found at Cabalen in their SM Megamall branch where my friends and I dined. 

Enough of the interiors (I must be boring you to death, this is my food blog and not my travel blog, let’s get down to business…which means food (after all, that’s what I came here for!). 

In the best Capampangan tradition, Cabalen offers the freshest and authentic foods—from the specialties such as Pindang Tapa, Bringhe, Callos, Kare-kare, down to sweet desserts like Sampelot, Guinomis, and Suman Bulagta. The Sisig on the other hand is prepared to the guest’s specifications and are made only upon order. They have different choices of Sisig, namely: Chicken Sisig, Bangus Sisig, Tofu Sisig and the usual Pork Sisig. Highlights of the composed mains, were carefully thought out. 

Their crispy kangkong (swamp cabbage) is a must try, they also make yummy tartar dip for that. 

Kilawing Tenga

You can give this Kilawing Tenga a try. It's boiled pig ears in vinegar or vinaigrette. This is another Capampangan classic. I was told they would usually pair this dish with a glass of cold iced beer.

Cabalen's Salad Station
Tapang kalabaw, Pindang Kalabaw or Pindang Damulag

It’s my first time to try eating Pindang Kalabaw, also known as Pindang Damulag made from what else but as the name implies, from carabao meat. I was a bit hesitant to try it because I thought it’s not going to be tender enough. But alas! I was surprised to find out it’s so tender, almost melt-in-your-mouth. Pindang Kalabaw is an all-time family favourite among Capampangans. Some like it sour not sweet. The carabao meat was cured longer so as to heighten the sourness rather than the sweetness of the pindang. It looks and depending on the way it’s cooked, it’s similar to pork tocino. 

Bringhe or Poor Man's Paella

Cabalen’s Bringhe (also called as Poor Man’s Paella) is one of the bests I’ve ever tasted. Unlike other recipes that use pure malagkit (glutinous) rice, others use half malagkit rice and half regular rice. This makes for a savory rice dish that pairs superbly with the usual fiesta fare such as chicken pastel or pastel de lengua.  The rice combination is cooked in coconut milk and luyang dilaw (turmeric) which is responsible for that yellow green color of the cooked dish. Bringhe is also laden with chicken, topped with boiled eggs and red and green bell peppers, making the dish not just tasty but likewise attractive.  

A steaming hot soup of Beef Bulalo makes my day!

Their Beef Bulalo is masterfully long-braised beef, slow-cooked, offering a refined version of the traditional stew. The Pocherong Pata is slow-cooked and blended with graceful tomato sauce, a sophisticated version of the traditional “Pochero.” Cabalen’s menu honors the popular Filipino recipes, while raising the bar with craftily contemporary versions of the traditional.

Pocherong Pata is one of Cabalen's Holiday offerings

Callos at Cabalen is a must-try!
Callos is a hearty stew made of beef tripe, ox feet, Chorizo de bilbao, garbanzo beans, green peas and bell peppers slow-cooked in a paprika-infused tomato sauce. The backbone of this dish is the full-flavored broth and nothing will ruin it more than the malodor of beef tripe. When I cook callos at home, I like to soak the tripe in a solution of vinegar and salt to rid it of its barnyard stench. I’m glad Cabalen’s callos are somehow cooked the same (because it’s got none of those barnyard stench). Cabalen’s version of callos is a melt-in-your-mouth beef tripe and ox feet meat in thick and slightly spicy sauce with flavourful sausages, with crisp green and red bell peppers. OMG! I wish I could actually eat rice again as I indulge in this dish. 

Cabalen's pride:  Kare-kare

Kare Kare (Ox tripe stew) is another traditional Filipino stew complimented with a thick savory peanut sauce. The commonly used meats for this dish are ox tail, tripe, and pork leg; on some occasions goat and chicken meat are also used. Besides the peanuts, this dish depends on the shrimp paste (on the side) in order to be fully enjoyed. And just like their callos, I was able to enjoy this dish at Cabalen’s because it’s got none of the barnyard stench typically found in ox tripe when not properly cleaned. I was told that Cabalen's kare-kare recipe is from the city of San Fernando, Pampanga. In fact, Cabalen is certainly proud of their kare-kare because it bested other kare-kare versions in a cook-off on the TV show, "Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho." The secret lies in the way they cook their kare-kare from the scratch. Cabalen cooks it using the old-fashioned way, they would prepare their galapong and peanuts and would patiently use the freshest ingredients. 
Cabalen's Capampangan Dinuguan

Dinuguan is a dish that is mainly comprised of pork meat (and most often pork innards such as small and large intestines) and pork blood. This is also known as “Blood Stew” or Pork Blood Stew. I used to eat Dinuguan that tastes gamy because the blood was not cooked well. There are some that is too sour because of the excessive use of vinegar and sometime there is a little vinegar at all. These are some of the reasons why people would not dare to eat another Dinuguan dish again (because they do not know exactly how it is prepared). Fortunately, Cabalen's authentic Capampangan dinuguan knows the exact recipe that delivers the right taste and texture intended for the dish. 

Sinfully delicious and Crunchy crispy pata

Crispy Pata is a famous Filipino pork dish that uses a whole pig’s leg. The leg (or pata) is made tender by simmering in water along with other spices. It is then rubbed with seasonings and deep-fried until the texture becomes very crunchy. Cabalen’s version was deep fried until the skin becomes really crisp resembling pork crackling in texture. A word of caution though, if you have heart problems, do not attempt to try this dish. But if you'd want to try it, you may do so in small and controlled portions. 

Of course, by now, almost everyone knows how sisig dish came about. But in case you’re not yet aware, the sisig story began near the old railroad tracks in the city of Angeles in Pampanga. Luciana Cunanan better known as Aling Lucing catapulted the sisig into national sensation status and managed to be included into a list of top 50 delicious Filipino foods. Aling Lucing’s sisig is boiled, grilled and fried before it’s served on a hot sizzling plate. Similar to that of the original made by Aling Lucing's, Cabalen’s version of sisig was crunchy just the way I like it. Add to that the creamy taste of the combination of chicken liver and pig brains that give you that trancelike sensation after a satisfying meal. 

Cabalen's version of the famous Aling Lucing's Sisig

My favorite steamed ampalaya with buro

And because I’m diabetic, I enjoyed the steamed vegetables (especially the ampalaya or bittergourd) dipped in Balo-Balo, or what we Filipinos commonly called as buro or burong hito (catfish with fermented rice). The balo balo is fermented rice with fresh live shrimp suahe, sautéed in garlic and loads of tomatoes. It is best served with fresh mustard leaves (mustasa), grilled talong (eggplant), and grilled or fried hito (catfish).  But at Cabalen’s it is served with steamed ampalaya, string beans and eggplant.
Enjoying balo-balo is an acquired taste but once the palate gets enamoured with the sour funny smelling delicacy there’s no turning back. I think I've had around three rounds of steamed veggies with buro dipping. I think it's an acquired taste. People who are not used to the smell and taste of this sauce, find it very offensive and because it smells like rotten, putrefied garbage. But to those that know how this sauce tastes like and is served, find it heavenly. 
Steamed veggies: eggplant, string beans and bittergourd

freshwater snails (escargot) in coconut milk

But among all the viands, Cabalen’s Ginataang Kuhol (escargot) was the one I liked the most. Ginataaang kuhol or golden apple snails in coconut milk is a Filipino freshwater mollusk delicacy. These river snails are cooked in coconut milk with spices like garlic, ginger, turmeric, bagoong alamang (fermented anchovy) and red chili pepper. I loved the fact that their snails do not have the usual stench found in kuhol. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have touched it. 

Thai Crispy Fish with Green Mango Salad – Yam Pla-Duk Fu or Catfish salad
Take note that Cabalen buffet serves authentic Filipino dishes but some branches also have Asian selection (Chinese, Thai and Japanese foods) so prices varies. It’s Php 398 for Filipino-Asian Buffet and Php 298 for All Filipino Buffet. Add a few pesos for your drinks. 
For their Asian buffet spread, they have the Thai Crispy Fish with Green Mango Salad – Yam Pla-Duk Fu (ยำปลาดุกฟู). This unique salad is a combination of a crispy, airy nest of fish meat and a tart, sweet salad of fresh green mango just cannot be beat. There are so many textures and flavors going on; yet they all work together so beautifully you can’t help but thinking that whoever first thought this up sure was bright. 

Cabalen's Biko
Biko is a popular Filipino rice cake made from sticky rice (locally known as malagkit), coconut milk, and brown sugar. Like other rice cakes, this is referred to as kakanin (derived from the word “kanin” which means rice). At Cabalen's you can find these goodies at the dessert station. 
Chocolate Foundation with rice crispies, marshmallows and chocolate sprinkles.
Those with sweet tooth will be happy to note that Cabalen has one chocolate fountain where you can satisfy your sweet cravings. There's also a D-I-Y halo-halo and guinumis station where you can put as many ingredient as you desire or as many milk or syrup and crushed ice as you want. 

Pineapple and Watermelon Shake 

A DIY Halo-halo and Guinumis station

Cabalen's Suman Bulagta
Suman bulagta is Capampangan's version of suman sa latik or suman sa lihiya made from sticky rice, coconut milk and sugar. They're sweet but not too sweet, they actually taste just right for my tastebuds. 

Sweetened Banana with syrup
Sampelot also known as ginataang bilo-bilo

Another Capampangan favorite which can be found and enjoyed at Cabalen's would be Sampelot. They say you're not a true-blooded Capampangan if you have not tried this. Ginataang Bilo-Bilo in Tagalog, Sampelot is made of glutinous or sticky rice balls, kamote (sweet potatoes) or ube, saba (plantain bananas), small and big sago (tapioca pearls) cooked in gata (coconut milk). They would also add langka (jackfuit) if it is in season and available to add more flavor. This is the perfect snack during rainy days. 

You can also bring home bottles of these goodies from Cabalen
For this holiday season, Cabalen will be treating their guests to three new dishes such as Callos, Paella Vegetarian and Potcherong Pata. Cabalen also gives their guests and loyal patrons the chance to bring home appliances and gift certificates with their “Maagang Pamasko ng Cabalen Promo” where you will receive exciting items as you book events starting Nov 15 until December 31, 2016. 

Cabalen is now on their 30th year with 26 branches to date and counting— (which includes one international branch in San Bruno, California) the buffet has also expanded to include Japanese, Thai and Chinese food at Cabalen’s SM Mall of Asia, SM Megamall and Robinson's Place Ermita branches to be able to cater to young customers.
Was I able to excite your taste buds and made you salivate? Here's a little piece of good news for my blog readers and followers. Because Cabalen is extra generous, I'll be giving one lucky reader a chance to experience Cabalen's Eat-All-You-Can Buffet with one companion! Yes, that means, I'm giving one lucky reader/follower a buffet passes for two at Cabalen. Isn't that a wonderful gift for your guys this Christmas? Here's how to join:

Mechanics of Purple Plum Fairy's Christmas Cabalen Giveaway: 
Please follow all the mechanics. Failure to do so will be subjected to disqualification. The lucky winner will be notified via email. 
  1. Like and tag Cabalen's Facebook Page.
  2. Follow and tag Cabalen's Instagram account.
  3. Follow and tag Purple Plum Fairy's Facebook Page
  4. Follow and tag Purple Plum Fairy's Instagram Account.
  5. Share / Regram the blog giveaway.
  6. Use the hashtags #Cabalen3Dekada, #HolidaysatCabalen, #purpleplumfairyxmasgiveaway
  7. Comment on this post and answer what makes Christmas meaningful for you? (Don't forget to put in your name, email and FB and IG handle)

Contest will run from November 26 up to December 15, 2016, 12 Midnight

Merry Christmas to everyone! Good luck guys! 😋

For more information and to get the latest promos and updates from Cabalen, follow them on their Facebook page and Instagram or visit their website

Purple Plum Fairy along with other bloggers who dined at Cabalen

Disclaimer: I am not compensated for this post. Opinions expressed are 100% my own.


Unknown said...

Christmas is just weeks away, and many of us have already started preparing for it by decorating our homes, buying presents, and maybe even planning for an out-of-town trip.

For some people though, Christmas preparations can be quite stressful, and may even take away from the joy and wonder of the season. But for us the meaningful christmas for me is spending time with my family, friends and loved ones on this special Yuletide season!

Riyalyn Gatdula
FB: Rain Gatdula
IG: @yurilovesteddy

berlin said...

Christmas is always meaningful with my boys around who make my life complete and sane.

Berlin A. Domingo
@momiberlin for both FB and IG

MykMacanaya said...

Family, friends and lots of food. Christmas becomes magical and meaningful because of them. It is a season of love and faith for all.

Myra Macanaya (fb)
MykMacanaya (ig)

Agnes Dela Cruz said...

Christmas is always been meaningful when I get to spend it with family over good food. I always believe that good food can be shared and makes good memories out of it.

Agnes Dela Cruz
FB: agnes dela cruz
IG: @magzdc

Thank you.

Istin said...

For me, complete attendance in our family reunion makes my Christmas more meaningful. Simply because it is a time for us to share our blessings we have received for the year. A time for us to bond, enjoy good food and get updated with each families' lives. It is actually one of our most awaited reunion every year.

Maria Christina Gumatay
FB: Istin Dizon Paigna
IG: istin_21

Anita Marita said...

Christmas becomes meaningful when we spend time with our loved ones.
Anne Adona

Merry Jane Ocol said...

merry jane ocol
Merry Jane Carbungco Ocol

A meaningful Christmas is being with my family..

sixteen_424 said...

What makes Christmas special for me is my family being together again and celebrating the season as one!
Fb: Fe Cjas IG: @fe_cjas email:

Paulene Arellano said...

Christmas season is always meaningful to me because it's that time of the year where I get to celebrate my faith with the whole family.

This year will be different though, it will be the first time without my Lolo who laughs and plays with me and my cousins. Nothing will compensate for a Christmas celebration with the whole family. <3

Hoping to win this so I can bring my family to buffet this year. :)

Unknown said...

Christmas makes meaningful if we learn how to share and love others uncondionally.

dimplesgon said...

Christmas is more meaningful to me when it is shared with family and friends!

Rachelle Therese F. Gonzales
FB: Rachelle Therese Feliciano Gonzales
IG: @dimplesgon

Mama Regina said...

Christmas is meaningful to me because it a day of gathering, giving gifts and also having a lots of foods. Hahaha (foods talaga)
Name: Regina Libao
FB: Regina Bula Libao
IG: @reginalibao

Ericka S. said...

Christmas becomes meaningful to me because it is the most wonderful time of the year where the whole family bonds together and celebrate the birth of our Lord thru catch ups, sumptuous meals and exchanges of gifts.

Full NAme: Ericka Sallador
IG: @erickasallador

Aldrin Montierro said...

This year, we have enrolled our daughter to pre-school and I am most thankful for her development because I can see that she is really a happy child, she is doing well in school, and can relate well to new people around her. She is the reason why I am most thankful for this year, that is an early Christmas gift for us that made us very special. She is the reason why I am striving and doing my very best in everything. She is my motivation. Her smile simply drives me to be a better person and her embraces assures me that she is putting her trust in me. I am so thankful to her because she completes me as a dad and as a person.
Name: Aldrin Montierro
FB: Aldrin Montierro (
IG: @abmontierro

Roxane Cabile-Montierro said...

God is Good all the time and what I am most thankful for this year and made this Christmas celebration special is that GOD sustained us physically, emotionally, and financially. We have been through ups and down in our relationship and there are lot of hits and misses in our careers and if we relied on ourselves then we are definitely lost and incomplete. Our family is still here for each other and we will end this year with a new job and a better benefits and compensation. I can really say that we are blessed and highly favored. God is always there to help us and in times that we are nowhere to go, His grace finds ways to sustain us and that is what I most thankful for this Holidays.
Name: Roxane Cabile-Montierro
FB: Roxane Cabile-Montierro (
IG: @rcmontierro

clarisse vaylon manuel said...

A home with complete family is a perfect place to celebrate christmas day and God is the center of our joy. Reconciliation, Affection, sharing of all blessings that we've received for the whole year and having fun with them. These things make our christmas meaningful. I always think how lucky I am to have my complete family in my life.

Name: Clariza baylon Manuel
Email Address:
Fb: precious kisa baylon manuel
Ig: @preciouskisa
fb link of my share:

Unknown said...

Christmas this year will be a memorable one since my husband is here to celebrate it with us. I believe that Christmas means celebrating it with people you love.

Name: Jodea Lissa S. Derafera
FB: Jody Salinas Derafera
IG: jodyderafera_17

Unknown said...

I have always believed that the true meaning of Christmas is celebrating it with the people you love. That's why this year is extra special because I'm gonna spend it with my husband who missed two Christmases here because of his work in the Middle East.

Unknown said...

(I forgot to include in my answer post)

Name: Jodea Lissa S. Derafera
Fb: Jody Salinas Derafera
IG: @jodyderafera_17

Mariellen Cruz said...

mariellen cruz
Fb mariellen cruz
Ig ellecruz2010

spending time with family makesChristmas meaningful to me. we had our ups and downs throughout the year but we were able to surpass the storms in our lives. It is more meaningful now that our son is with us after waiting for him for almost a decade He is now able to understand the things happening around him. No amount of money can equal the words uttered by our son saying i love you

Unknown said...

My most Memorable Christmas is when I decided to spent in in orphanage in Bacolod. Ive always wanted to do something meaningful and different in celebrating my Christmas, I stayed there the whole month of December just bonding with them hearing their stories, it was a life changing experience.

Norma Galera
Facebook Norma Galera
IG Norma Galera

Unknown said...

Liza Parafina
FB: Liza A. Parafina
IG: @leezah828

My family makes my christmas meaningful specially my son. Because I got a good news that Im having a baby is month of december so that's why christmas is so meaningful to me. Not only that, december is a birthmonth of my husband and our wedding anniversary. So, christmas is my family.

marianette said...

Marian Torres
EB: @mariansharedthoughts/ Mariane Torres
IG: @mariane_100

Christmas is when my family, friends, lover and relatives have a bonding with me. There will be no busy days and all of us are having noche buena.

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