Salt, Time, Smoke

Linamnam sa Pampanga, Bale Dutung-Angeles City

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Bale Dutung

Villa Gloria Subdivision,
Angeles City, Pampanga

Mobile: 09175359198
(02) 6684038, (02) 5024527

Often the question has been posed to me by Filipinos, why is it that Filipino food isn’t popular internationally? I do have opinions on the matter, but I won’t feign a response just yet. I’d like to hear the theories of those who visit Clearly you’re here because you like food and particularly food in the Philippines, so you probably have an opinion on the matter. You’re certainly not here because of my photography skills.

Claude and Mary Ann Tayag are working to change that. They are fighting the good fight and getting recognized for it. Famously they were visited by Anthony Bourdain to shoot No Reservations in the Philippines. I first learned about the Tayags when I was moving to the Philippines and started researching the local food scene. I’ve yet to encounter anyone else who embodies this philosophy like he does. Natural and local foods, slow cooking, he is a true champion for the cause of Filipino cuisine.

Claude is an artist, his work heavily influenced by his travels and Filipino folk art. I find the notion of a chef/artist interesting as food is often, I believe wrongly, called a form of art. Though that’s a discussion for another day…

The garden behind Bale Dutung is beautiful with the serene feel of a Japanese zen garden

Claude’s art work is beautifully integrated throughout the dining space and garden amongst rustic wood and abundant flora. Combining this with Mary Ann’s acute sense of detail, the pair have created an atmosphere that prepares the guest for what is to come, and there’s a lot to come.

Communal tables are set amidst rustic wood and traditional fabrics

Ten courses, with a few added demi-courses, and they’ll even threaten you with seconds. The food is really delicious but thing I will say about Filipino food: it is not light.

With each course Mary Ann diligently explains not just the dish, but the significance of the dish. Mary Ann is able to learn the names of all of her guests and is an incredible hostess. She is coyly enthusiastic with the underlying mannerism of a school teacher that you probably shouldn’t cross.  I really enjoyed her contributions and the information she provided really enriched the experience.

Claude’s nuanced style was characteristic throughout each course. His food is understated in a way that that never distorts the purity of its heritage. Each plate is simply presented and very satisfying.

Claude shares my passion of fermentation. Some of these sugar cane vinegars are more than a decade old.

Beginning with a Pako Salad, very light and fresh. Pako is a wonderful and abundant native green that I just discovered this year.

Chicken Inasal with Talangka Rice. Ironically in school we were taught to throw this part in the trash. The French are not fond of the chicken butt.

Adobong Pugo, this was one of my favorite dishes served. The quail was more subtly seasoned than most adobos and the liver and pan de sal were delicious together. I would be more than happy with just this.


Crispy shredded lechon with Claude’s homemade kimchi, absolutely brilliant! He’s ushering in a new generation of halo halo Filipino cuisine, incorporating Filipino, Mexican and Korean and it’s really damn good. Photo credit: Gen Enriquez-Gerodias (thanks!)

This pig made the ultimate sacrifice for the greater good. Claude’s knife glided through the crispy skin, which he served to enthusiastic diners.

Bulanglang Kapampangan, similar to sinigang but with very different flavor from the ripe guava. The soup is traditionally thick and it was garnished with prawns, bangus belly and pork spare ribs as well as sinigang vegetables.

Sisig, mmmmm… sisig. Claude and his family are champions of this traditional kapampangan dish. They pan fry it and offer an assortment of condiments and garnishes, pineapple juice, chilies, onions, sea salt and of course, pig brain.

The Bone Collector, beef marrow one with adobo XO sauce. Gratuitously carnivorous and my first experience sucking bone marrow through a straw. Why didn’t I think of that?

Seafood Kare Kare, very photogenic and delicious. Again this would have been a great meal on its own and we were all painfully full at this point.

We finished with a carabao milk Maja Blanca and a local barako coffee also with carabao milk and muscovado sugar. We had mostly sworn off food forever by this point.

By the end of the meal our host, my brother-in-law, Jardine began to succumb to abdominal bloating and dangerously high cholesterol levels, fading in and out of consciousness.

I expected great food at Bale Dutung and I was certainly not disappointed. Where they really won me over was in the experience they create. It’s not enough to have good food without ambiance and it’s not enough to have passion without execution. The Tayags have set the bar very high for the rest and good for them.

Claude spoke few words during our meal but his knowledge and his intensity and spirit showed through his art and his food. I look forward to returning and would love to bring visitors from outside of the Philippines to show them how great Filipino food can be.

Thanks Chef!


  1. We have been meaning to go to this place. Looks like the menu items is enough to fit for all the meals in a day. Great story and glad you got to know the Filipino food culture more than probably 80% of the Filipinos living in Metro Manila! – Ray

    • Jeremy says:

      I thoroughly enjoyed it. I think the more Filipino food gets back to its roots and away from the Jollibees and Mang Inasals of Manila the more we will see Filipino food flourish.

      It’s definitely worth the trip to Angeles and you should definitely not schedule anything else that day. :) You’ll love it.

  2. Nico says:

    I’m not as well traveled as I’d like to be but if I were to hazard a guess, Filipino food hasn’t gained much ground abroad because Filipino communities there are simply too adaptable. We eat what the locals eat too. Unlike other Asian counterparts like the Thais, Vietnamese and Chinese, that have formed communities/commerical districts outside their own countries, we Pinoys didn’t try to import local ingredients en masse or even make canteens that cooked and served food the way we knew how. Filipino food was cooked at home and served only to other Filipinos and maybe some guests, but was not available commercially, even at a stall or canteen scale. And while the Balut has become infamous, we haven’t done much to showcase other food items as well. But as always, there’s still hope. Better and cleaner food stalls that serve great street/local food should be promoted. Claude’s really passionate about bringing Filipino food to the forefront, and I’m dying to visit Bale Dutung soon!

    • Jeremy says:

      I do recommend you try Bale Dutung. With more examples like this the world would be fast to embrace Filipino cuisine.

      The only Filipino community outside of the Philippines that I am familiar with is that just south of San Francisco. There, nearly any ingredient available here could be found in the Asian markets and there are a number of Filipino restaurants. However those restaurants are patronized almost exclusively by Filipinos and this is the crux of the issue.

      Up in the city there are fewer Filipino restaurants but you could find any other Asian cuisine. There’s even an outrageously popular Burmese restaurant.

      • Nico says:

        Well, at least it’s good to know there are some Filipino restos (aside from the Jollibees) in California. Maybe we should start looking at how to make our food more sexy, yes? Haha, just like how Anthony Bourdain talks about food porn.

        I do hope Pinoys abroad will learn to cook our food in their homes and share it with more people. As for Bale Dutung, I’ll make sure to pack my medicine for hypertension first!

  3. Alex says:

    In my opinion, Bale Datung is more the exception rather than the norm. They have taken great measures to uplift Philippine Cuisine to a higher lever of presentation. Filipino food is basically very simple, boiled and grilled. Historically the country was always insular because of our geography. Food was basic and relied on the small fishing communities and never one big centralized country until colonized. As was written by a food historian before, nations that had a kingdom or a monarchy were the ones who developed high cuisines. They had a court who encouraged further culinary development. It took the Chinese traders, Spanish and American colonizers to contribute to the simple cuisine of the Philippines.

    Also our usual Filipino fare is not aesthetically appetizing. Adobo, caldereta, lechon, pancit, kare-kare, laing, and other dishes are all clouded in shades of brown and grey. Soy sauce has become a major ingredient in many dishes. When you go to a typical turo-turo restaurant, food looks quite sad as many dishes are overcooked and drowning in unappetizing sauces. Presentation is not a major concern. It is just that we Filipinos know what they taste like so they are still sought after. From a foreigner’s point of view, these dishes may not be very appealing.

    Another downfall of many Filipino dishes is that they have gone the way of sugar sweetened rather than the use of spices and herbs in other cuisines. Many foreigners will get turned off by this. Food also tends to be greasy and fatty. Unlike the Japanese, they rely on freshness of ingredients and not overly masking them.

    Many local chefs have tried to uplift the cuisine but there is still a long way to go. I appreciate the measures many have presently taken. Filipinos should also love their food more like the Tayags who have made our food so delicious and appetizing.

    • Jeremy says:

      Wow, thanks for your input. I can tell you’ve put some thought into the matter. I would wonder also what the effects of economics and rapid urbanization have had on the cuisine as these have been two of the most compelling forces in recent years.

  4. Katrina says:

    Oh, my…the issue of why Filipino food hasn’t yet made it abroad is one that my friends and I have been discussing and debating for years, so there’s no way I could fit my thoughts into a comment box! I’ll just say that I do think the time has finally come. Bourdain, Chin, et al. came here; Saveur featured our cuisine a few years ago; Filipino food trucks are very popular in the US now (I think food trucks are actually a good way for people who are intimidated by the food to try a dish or two without commitment); and young Filipino chefs are opening restaurants abroad, serving a more modern take on the food and attracting attention, even in food-snobbish NYC. So I’m very hopeful that our beloved cuisine will finally be recognized soon. :-)

    It is always wonderful to hear that a foreigner enjoys Filipino food, and especially when that person really knows food, as you do. :-) I’ve been to Bale Dutung twice and would be happy to return many more times. The Tayags are such gracious hosts, and the whole experience is just lovely. If you go again, you might want to call ahead to request that they serve the Paradiso dessert — Claude created that and is famous for it. I believe it was the legendary Doreen Fernandez who coined the name after tasting it.

    • Jeremy says:

      Food trucks are a great way of testing new ideas on a new market. They’re low risk and adaptable.

      Personally I think the Department of Tourism should do more to promote the local cuisine. After all this is a big reason why people travel. From their marketing campaigns it would seen that if you’re not into water sports then the Philippines has nothing to offer. Though water sports are great, I would theorize that more people are into food than water sports.

      • Katrina says:

        Yes, I like the food truck trend — it allows for innovation among cooks and entrepreneurs, as well as attracts people who might not normally enter a restaurant serving unfamiliar cuisine.

        And I also agree about the DOT campaign. Singapore has done a terrific job of selling itself as a food destination. I’m hoping DOT’s ads will be more wide-ranging later on. The viral campaign generated MANY food-themed ads, but I’m guessing a limited budget is forcing them to limit the officially released ones. In the meantime, I think that food shows, magazines, and the like could fill that gap, as long as the buzz continues to increase.

  5. Great post, Pampangan food and Bicol are my fave Filipino Cuisine. Glad for this post.

  6. Paolo says:

    Great entry! Just a comment though — is it just me or are the captions for the photos cut off for other people, too? I’m using Firefox and the narrowness of the main page means I can’t read the whole thing. Not sure if this is a browser issue, or my monitor, or a website thing. If it’s the latter, maybe you can look into it :)

    • Jeremy says:

      Thanks Paolo! I have been guilty of such sloppy webmastery in the past so I double checked my photos and captions. I was able to view the whole caption and I also use Firefox. I wonder if anyone else has had this problem?

  7. Katrina says:

    Have you read this? It’s just one of several articles from foreign sources that I’ve been reading over the last few years, which give me hope of Filipino cuisine finally stepping into the limelight.

    Chef Laudico’s theory on why our cuisine is still in the shadows is one I think is very true:
    “Mr Laudico believes the reason why Philippine food is not well-respected is because Filipinos themselves do not respect it. They might like to eat it, but they do not think others will.
    ‘We have a lack of pride in our own cuisine,’ he explained. ‘For hundreds of years, when we’ve had guests in our homes, we’ve apologised and said to them: ‘I’m very sorry, I can only serve you Philippine food’.'”

    Or, as Anthony Bourdain said, Filipinos are just “too f____ng nice!” 😉

  8. Vinnie says:

    Being a Kampampangan myself… I am glad you posted about Bale Dutung and it’s owners. Having a taste of the Tayag’s contribution to the culinary world is still part of my bucket list waiting to be crossed out. I’ve heard and read many articles about Bale Dutung and I am just hoping for a chance for that.

    As of Filipino food not getting its due (and very much delayed) renown to the world… Shame! Shame! Shame! It may seem a long-way off but Filipino Food Fame, it will get to there… standing on a pedestal of food renown.

  9. Akko says:

    Great article! I’d love to eat there one day!

    Word of caution, though. ‘Hostess’ is slang for …

  10. Tony says:

    Damn!! I wish i would have known about this blog 3 years ago. I just returned to the states from a 3 year stint working in the philippines and i must say that filipino cuisine sucks ass! now don’t get me wrong i love palabok , sisig and sinigang but the rest is just a hot oily mess. I ate at countless relatives houses and the main “spice” that everyone used was Magic Sarap!! filipinos are set in their food ways that’s for sure. i would cook mexican and korean food at my in-laws and they said it was “too spicy” and when i made tacos they had the nerve to eat 1 taco and just eat the rest of the filling with rice..what! they got me twisted, that’s for sure. now, when i would smoke some pork or chicken they would tear that up like a raccoon in an opened trash can! anyways, being that i am Mexican/pinoy just thought i would voice my opinion and lastly i love the philippines and can’t wait to get back there with my suitcase full of spices…lol.

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