Fresh. Simple. Filipino.
These three words truly characterise the food that they are serving at Emilion. It was my big brother’s recommendation that we try this restaurant and by happenstance my brother’s name is Emil. He’s been there before (with Bec, his lovely partner), and as a foodie and a restaurateur himself, it’s guaranteed to be a champion dinner. Namit! (Delicious!) Everything he ordered for us was mouth-watering and it was indeed the best choice for our first evening in Iloilo City–home of the Dinagyang Festival. It was chilly for the entire three days that we spent in Iloilo and the Dinagyang fever never faded at all.
We had several dishes at Emilion but let me highlight this blog post on two ingredients that are famous with the Ilonggos (natives of Iloilo) and Negrenses (natives of Negros Province), they are the: Kadios and Batuan. These two are largely found only in Iloilo and Negros Occidental. They are too rare that they may even be unknown to most of the people in Manila.
Kadios or Pigeon Peas often goes well with either chicken or pork. While it adds flavour to the dish, it also changes the colour of the soup as it makes it even more enticing to eat. It magically gives the dish a light pinkish tint and sometimes purplish.
Batuan is the not-so-secret recipe of many Ilonggo dishes. It is the most used souring agent at home and in restaurants in Iloilo and Bacolod; other alternatives are: Iba (Kamias in Tagalog), Galangan (Balimbing or Star Fruit), Sambag (Sampaloc or Tamarind).
The soup we ordered was Emilion’s KBL. It stands for Kadios (some call it black-eyed peas), Baboy (pork) and Langka (jackfruit). This trio of ingredients would make for a savoury soup that is mainly famous in the Province of Negros and the Panay Islands. It has a sourish taste but it depends on how sour you wanted it served. Yes, the souring agent is the batuan. Freshly picked, green batuans are the best; it brings out the unforgettable flavour of the KBL. I always enjoy mine medium sour and with lots of kadios.
The KBL at Emilion basically jived with all the other dishes we had that evening. To me, the KBL soup stimulated my palate and jumpstarted my appetite and was able to try everything that was served. We had about twelve super pleasurable modern Filipino dishes that evening. (Disclaimer: There were eight of us.)
The next time you visit Bacolod or Iloilo, don’t forget that Batuan and Kadios are readily available in the wet market and at the grocery stores. Hoard some and share them to friends in Manila or those living outside the Philippines so they may enjoy the authentic KBL.