|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 is a must try, they also make yummy tartar dip for that.
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.
|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 buffet serves authentic Filipino dishes but some branches also have Asian selection (Chinese, Thai and Japanese foods) so prices varies. It’s and . 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.
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.
- Like and tag Cabalen's Facebook Page.
- Follow and tag Cabalen's Instagram account.
- Follow and tag Purple Plum Fairy's Facebook Page
- Follow and tag Purple Plum Fairy's Instagram Account.
- Share / Regram the blog giveaway.
- Use the hashtags #Cabalen3Dekada, #
- 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.