I AM fan of the Cebuano dish Balbacua but I have never tasted anything like the Balbacua of GPL Balbacua and BBQ food stall along the South Reclamation Project (SRP) in Talisay City, Cebu.
A friend, balikbayan from the US, Joselito Doblius (Joyax) brought us to this place at the tip of the SRP road in Talisay, (left side going to Talisay and right going to Cebu City).
GPL is actually one of the food stalls inside the Food Strip alley. The place looks like a high end carenderia. They also serve Filipino food like Bicol Express, Menudo, Chicken and Pork BBQ, Pinakbet and the best Filipino desert, Halohalo.
Joyax brought us there with my best friend Weirner Gacasan (Gacs) to taste the Balbacua which according to him is the best ox dish he has ever tasted. Gacs was visiting his ailing mom in Malaybalay, Bukidnon and I tagged along with him to Cebu to eat this yellow colored dish.
We did not waste our time and thanked Joyax for bringing us to the Food Strip and leading us to the best Balbacua in the world.
In Cagayan de Oro (CDO) City where I am based now, Balbacua is cooked only with the ox skin. No ox legs, no ox tail, no ox face. In CDO, they have another recipe for ox tail, ox face and ox legs. They call it siki and it is cooked differently.
That was why when we visited my old friend Joyax I could not say no to him when he dragged us to the GPL Balbacua and BBQ. I missed Cebu’s Balbacua and GPL Balbacua is heavenly.
The taste in the mouth is unforgettable. I am drooling as a write this piece. I want to eat there again once I visit Cebu late this month.
The beef leg meat and skin were so smooth and tender it flows down to your mouth and sails into your stomach. Even a toothless 90 year old grand dad can enjoy the meat. The CDO Balbacua is much inferior because it has only ox skin and they are even sliced so small.
What is their secret GPL recipe? Of course it is secret and even their chef does not know the ingredients. According to owner Loid Tantano, their Balbacua recipe was invented by his mother Leonora Tantano and he provided the twist to the recipe.
“The only secret I could reveal is the way we soften the leg meat, the ox tail, ox face and skin,” he said.
They use a special oven and they burn only charcoal for fuel. They start tenderizing the meat slowly at night so that it would be ready as early as 8 a.m. for breakfast for the early birds.
The chef then just mixed the prepared ingredients and viola, the best Balbacua in the world is ready for serving.
GPL is an abbreviation of the names of Loid’s mom, and two aunts Gloria and Pasing which started the carenderia when he was still a young boy. Loid started as a dishwasher in the carenderia and moved up as casher and ultimately as the manager.
In 2003, he started to expand and developed his GPL Balbacua and BBQ brand. Now they have six branches all over Cebu province, Nivel Hills (BBQ only), Pooc Talisay, SRP (Foodstrip), Carcar, Pardo, and at the E1 Arcade in San Roque.
As his business expands Tantano is getting help from his sister Madonna and his wife Glennalyn. Two of his branches are franchises and he plans to expand further in the future.
Expanding to Cagayan de Oro will be one of his future projects. If that pushes through it is about time the Cagayanons will taste the real Balbacua, not the “only beef skin” Balbacua that people in the City of Friendship usually to eat.
The dish Balbacua come from the Spanish word barbacua which means cooking meat very slowly on an open fire for several hours.
This Cebuano dish taste so good and heavenly but remember not eat this everyday or else the cholesterol will clog your veins which could bring you to heaven prematurely.
I have cooked Balbacua many times when I was living in London but I have never perfected the recipe. Here is one recipe that I have tried. Try this.
Serves: 10 servings
1/2 kilo ox tail, cut in serving size, half kilo of ox skin and one kilo ox feet or legs.
150 peanut butter
1 small can black salted beans (tawsi) (drain and rinse in running water then drain again)
1 red onion bulbs, peeled and quartered
1 pc fresh tumeric (or luyang dilaw), about 3 inches
2 stalks baby leeks, sliced (optional)
3 cloves star anise
2 pcs chili peppers
1 Tbsp. annato oil
Patis or fish sauce to taste
How to cook Balbacua:
Boil ox tail, ox feet-legs in salt and water for 15 minutes, drain.
Boil ox tail, ox feet-legs again in water with tumeric, anise and onion then simmer for about 2-3 hours, or until semi-tender.
Add beef briskets and peanuts then continue boiling over low fire for another 2-3 hours.
When tail and briskets are almost tender, add chili peppers, salted black beans, leeks and annato oil.
Cook for another 30 minute to 1 hour and season with patis to taste.
Published in the SunStar Cagayan de Oro newspaper on February 16, 2018.