Thankfully, the Azalea Baguio team took us to Café Yagam. By the time we disembarked the vans, the rain was pouring hard so I wasn't able to capture some needed images, but entering the café, I instantly fell in love. I don't have the pictures to back it up, but it felt homey inside, and I just love the overall aesthetics and of course, the books! Oh man, the books!
For this dinner, we were served traditional Cordilleran dishes:
If I am correct, this is called pirurutong rice; I remember a family friend once gave us this kind of rice and we would mix a handful of this to our usual rice upon cooking. Anyway, this rice is soft and a pleasure to eat; cooked just right.
A mix of different vegetables such as string beans, eggplants, legumes, mushrooms, shellfish, and banana blossoms, this dish is delicious but very... and I mean very spicy! Unlike other vegetable dishes that are usually half-cooked, the veggies in this dish are very soft and tender, and it felt like eating "Laing." I actually liked this dish, but I just couldn't take its heat. I'd either eat more rice or drink more water if I eat this.
Of all the Cordilleran dishes, this should be the most popular dish, and yes, this is a soup dish - kinda like the tinola, but for this dinner, they served the broth separately - we just had to get a bowl and fill it with broth, chicken, and vegetables.
Pinikpikan is chicken prepared by beating a live chicken with stick before properly dressing it for cooking. This process bruises the chicken meat, hence the blackish tones on its skin, and such process makes the meat more flavorful.
It tasted like Tinola, but this one is richer, and more flavorful. The broth calms the body, but I suggest you add tapuy (rice wine) on the broth for additional flavor.
The Pinikpikan in Café Yagam is served with "Etag," which is how they called their cured meat. Although Kini-ing is also a form of cured meat, this is definitely different from Etag. Preparing this dish is quite complicated, and the process gave the meat its very distinct flavor and smell.
This has been the richest (flavor-wise) dish I ate that night. It paired well with tomatoes and onions, but even if I am a big fatty pork lover (I love pork fat, I won't deny it), each meat piece was so flavorful and so strong that I could only take a few pieces.
Pinuneg is the Cordilleran Blood Sausage, but this is not made entirely of blood - it also has minced meat. Dinuguan is my top most favorite Filipino dish, so of all the dishes for this dinner, this was my favorite. I loved it with the spicy vinegar dip, but as is, it is still delicious!
Our dessert. "Kiniwar" in Ilocano dialect means "stir," which was the main process in making the sticky rice dessert. Not too sweet, but it provided a much needed change of feel in the mouth after eating the very spicy Binungor.
Café Yagam takes pride of their coffee. In partnership with the CGN or the Cordillera Green Network, a non-profit organization, they source their coffee from the highlands of the Cordillera region. To ensure freshness of coffee, they only grind beans upon order and is available in different variations:
Brew - Paper drip or French press
Roast - Light, Medium, or Dark
Strength - Light, Medium, or Strong
Coffee in French Press
I wasn't able to ask the components of this coffee, but I kinda liked it as is - black. One thing we noticed, coffee served in this French press tend to retain its heat longer.
Tapuy (Rice Wine)
Made from fermented rice, this alcoholic drink is often served at many Cordilleran celebrations. I first learned about this wine through my late father, who used to stock this wine when I was younger, but it was my first time to taste Tapuy here in Café Yagam (I am not really wine drinker actually). At first I was a little hesitant, but... I am in Baguio, I am served authentic Cordilleran drink, would I still decline?
The taste? It was a little sour, but it was smooth. It instantly warmed my throat and tummy, but despite the sour flavor, there is something in this wine that would make you want to take another shot.
The traditional Cordilleran dishes are good, but I admit it was an acquired taste. Still, I highly recommend this place if you are in Baguio City. Like they say, "When in Rome, do or eat as they eat," in the same principle, when in Baguio, might as well try their traditional dishes. It's not only a about having a food trip, each dish and drink has history and culture to offer.
25 J. Felipe Street, corner Gibraltar Road, Baguio City
+63 948 958 5157, +63 921 256 5677, +63 946 455 0364
Business hours: 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. (Monday – Sunday)
*** Jenn ***