Sometimes souvenir items are more than just something that would remind you of a place. Sometimes it is a reminder of the way of life in that locale.
Issue “I” for the A Ba Ka of Philippine Souvenirs series is about a food item available in most parts of the Philippines — so these are somewhat a staple to the country.
I for Itlog.
In Tagalog, “itlog” means “egg” but we are talking about souvenirs here so most probably these are not your everyday eggs.
I remember when I was a kid and my dad would come home from Laguna, a city in the Calabarzon Region of Luzon. He would always travel at night so when I and my siblings would get up in the morning, we would wake up to a bunch of Laguna food, or as we call it “pasalubong”, on the table.
Yes, food. Among the pile of food on the huge table are four types of eggs. One tray of eggs would be bright pink, two of the trays are unpainted duck eggs.
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One tray of unpainted eggs would have the letter “P” written on each egg and the other tray would have eggs with the letter “B”. The fourth type of egg is in the form of a thick pie. It is wrapped in a banana leaf and then some old newspapers.
That’s right, eggs! However, these are no ordinary eggs. The bright pink colored eggs are salted eggs or, as locals call it “itlog na maalat” or “itlog na pula”. The eggs with the “P” are called “Penoy” and the eggs with the “B” are called Balut. (Some mark wet Penoy eggs with a line and not a “P“)
These three are available in many parts of the Philippines. The “itlog na maalat” or “itlog na pula” can be found in many supermarkets, while Penoy and Balut are both sold as street food.
The fourth one, however, is one of the specialties of Laguna. Locals call it “bibingkang itlog”, “bibingkang abnoy” or sometimes “bugok na itlog.”
Itlog na pula is salted duck eggs that are dyed red or bright pink to make it easy for people to identify. These salted duck eggs are commonly chopped into chunks and mixed with tomatoes and onions.
When farmers screen duck eggs and see no yolk formation, they keep those eggs warm in a rice husk for a few days. They will then boil and sell the eggs. Boiled Penoy could be wet or dry but both variants would look like a solidified swirl of egg white and egg yolk when opened.
If there is a developing embryo, the farmers separate these eggs and around two to three weeks later, the eggs are ready for boiling. Sold by street vendors as they yell “Balut,” calling for customers, most prefer to eat the whole thing out of the shell with a little bit of salt and spicy vinegar. (Yes, The whole thing with the yolk, the hard white thing that locals call “bato”, and the tiny duck.)
The bibingkang itlog, however, is made of unfertilized duck eggs —that are overdue. In other words, these are spoiled unfertilized duck eggs that are scrambled in with onions, pepper, salt, and some other spices. This pie is enjoyed with a little bit of spicy vinegar.
Which itlog will you take home?