In an epic sense of irony, let us start the Nutrition Month with another gastronomic weirdness that is purely Cebuano — the pungko-pungko. Come on, it isn’t that bad. Yes, I know that some incidents of food-contracted hepatitis involve the well-loved Cebuano food peculiarity, but, man, just live a little. The trick is to choose the cleanest among the array of hawker stalls — and hope your stomach is as tough as you think it is.
Pungko-pungko stalls are actually supposed to be regulated. Laws are passed to safeguard health and sanitation, but the implementation of these laws are of a different story altogether — for which I don’t have the necessary credentials, so I’ll leave the telling of such tall a tale to someone else. Nevertheless, pungko-pungko is a true blue Cebuano food experience.
Let your curiosity suffice as a reason, at least for now, for you to jump into the food wagon and head to the pungko-pungko just a few blocks away from Mango Avenue. This is where the most popular of pungko-pungko stalls in the city peddle their gastronomic treats disguised as some pig viscera salted, dried, battered and fried, among other dishes your doctor probably warns you about. We, Cebuanos, really know our pig, and, oh, don’t forget the delicious things we do with it. Yes, we all love these platefuls of obesity and death.
Top 3 Pungko-Pungko Bestsellers
As a Cebuano, I find “sell like ginabot“ a more fitting phrase than “sell like hotcake” when I mean being sold quickly and in large quantities. Any Cebuano in his right mind cannot conceive the notion of pungko-pungko without the maliciously deep-fried piece of death — ginabot. Ginabot is actually pig mysentery — contrary to the common belief that it is made of pig intestines — left until crispy fried in a cauldron of boiling oil.
I am tempted to say ngohiong is lumpia‘s Cebuano cousin twice removed. However, seeing how ngohiong is spelled, I gladly retract my regional bias and concede that we also owe this grub from our Chinese brothers — just like everything else. After all, everything is made in China — or, at least, ngohiong and my phone are. Perhaps, the primary difference between lumpia and ngohiong is that the former is made of ground pork wrapped in a special lumpia wrapper while ngohiong is generally made of julienned bamboo shoots, or ubod (coconut “heart”) or singkamas wrapped in batter.
Ever heard of the Cebuano adage: “gi-gisa sa kaugalingong mantika”? Well, kinupusan (or, kinup’san) is basically it. Kinupusan is made of pork belly sliced into chunks, boiled dry until they produce their own oil, which will then fry them to a crisp. It is a quite sad story really — and, kinupusan is rich in cholesterol, so take it easy, ‘bai.
Here are some table etiquette you probably need to know to wet your feet with:
1. Eat with your hands.
Well, you can’t be more ridiculous than anybody asking for some spoon and fork in a pungko-pungko. Yes, baby, you are supposed to eat with your hands. So, wash your hands — or, put those dirty hands in some plastic gloves.
2. Share the table.
If it’s comfort that you want, then, perhaps, you are in the wrong place. The benches are low. The tables are small. And, you have to share them with people you don’t know. You know, go out there and “rub elbows” with some people — literally.
3. Eat first, pay later.
The trick is to remember what you ate. You are free to pick anything from the basket, but remember: once you touch it, consider it sold. What is interesting is how vendors seem to do math in a split second. I mean, man, these guys are badasses.