Upon mentioning the word “carabao meat”, my eyes tried hard to look at my new-found friend straight in the eye instead of giving her a blank stare.
It was almost lunch time on my first day in Davao City so I told Joanne, a local whom I met at the arrival lobby of the airport, I wanted to taste an authentic Davao dish. She suggested Bulca Chong and told me that their specialty is carabao (water buffalo) meat. I winced at the thought of a poor carabao being slaughtered for food. I had to ask her if it’s not illegal before I agreed. She said that at some point it was, but the restaurant is still there so she was half-guessing that it was alright.
When I asked Joanne how it tasted, she mentioned that it’s like balbacua and bulalo, food that I’m not really fond of eating so getting an idea of how it tasted wasn’t of any help at all. Half unsure of what to do, I finally conceded and soon found my feet walking on the right side of the Sampaguita Tourist Inn at Quirino Ave. After a couple of blocks, we arrived at our destination.
I forgot if the store is open 24-hrs but I learned that the Bulca Chong restaurant is quite popular among Davaoeños who are looking for a late night after-drinking-session-food to relieve them from their drunken state. I suddenly remembered Cebu’s Abuhan Restaurants which serves pochero.
There’s nothing grand about the interiors of this restaurant other than the fact that you can enjoy eating your meals in this air-conditioned place.
The waiter then approached us and handed us the menu. I asked my friend to take care of ordering the food for us. She simply ordered 1 serving of Bulca Chong which was priced at 90 pesos, 2 cups of rice and tap water. I also learned on that day that you can drink Davao’s water straight from the faucet as Davao has one of the cleanest faucet waters in the country.
After some time, the waiter emerged bringing our food. I saw our 2 cups of rice, a medium sized bowl with meat inside, 2 smaller bowls with soup in it and some calamansi. I could see the carabao meat swimming in an orangey-looking soup. I thought I was going to eat an afritada-flavored dish with that rich orange soup! I could clearly see the oil/fat swimming in it.
I asked what the 2 extra small bowls were for and I was informed that it was our extra bowl of soup. Then Joanne grabbed a lemon and started squeezing its juice on her bowl. She said that adding the calamondin adds more flavor to the soup so I followed what she did.
I cut a small meat out of that other bowl and started filling my rice with the soup. After a spoonful of rice and carabao meat landed in my mouth, I then tasted ginger. The soup was rich in ginger – something which I don’t like in any soup dishes except for tinolang manok and sinabawang bangus with repolyo. But I had to eat it and consume it 😆 Don’t get me wrong here. I love ginger sauce for siomais and this dish is ok but it’s not my type because of the ginger-based flavor of the soup. I guess the ginger is what makes it offset any unusual taste/smell coming from a carabao’s meat just like how you add a siling espada to your inun-unan dish (fish stew or paksiw na isda). I dunno…
I was also intimidated by that rich orange color. I thought I’d taste a richly flavored dish but it wasn’t. I was surprised with its taste. Other than that gingery flavor, everything else was subtle (but not too subtle for you to find me emptying that extra bowl of soup. hehehe). Am not sure if I’m making sense with my description now. I guess this is where Joanne’s description of the bulalo and balbacua comes in.
Enough about the soup. The carabao’s meat is so tender! I can only imagine how long it took them to boil the meat to make it that tender. The carabao’s meat is just like any regular beef’s meat and I never had any problems chowing it down. I just had to forget I was eating a different kind of meat in order for me to finish eating my rice. We even failed to consume all the meat we ordered.
There’s an eatery outside of the main restaurant which also serves Bulca Chong and other dishes. If you want to go cheap, you can eat there since the price of their food is cheaper. For free flowing air, you can try Bulca Chong for 70 pesos (i think).
I am not that crazy about going back to try this dish again. Trying out this dish is already quite an experience for me. If you are heading to Davao, try and check it out too and let me know what you think, ok? 😉
Bulca Chong Restaurant is located at General Luna near Gaisano Illustre just a block or two after Apo View Hotel.