By SARA GRACE C. FOJAS
A visit to Central Luzon would require you to get a bite of their famous longganisa, taste different kinds of chicharron, and eat everybody’s favorite bagnet. The region is not only the major source of rice in the country but is also home to delectable dishes and sumptuous desserts that tell the story of its rich gastronomic culture. And it’s because of this culture that the restaurant Arroz Ecija was established in November 2018, arroz meaning rice and Ecija from the owner’s home province, Nueva Ecija.
Owner Sandee Siytangco together with executive chef Tanya Dizon put together a menu of dishes inspired by the places Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Bulacan, Tarlac, Aurora, and even Ilocos and Baguio. Located at the Uptown Mall in Bonifacio Global City, the restaurant serves a variety of dishes from rice to bagnet to kakanins, with ingredients all sourced locally.
“My husband’s family is from up north and they used to have a plantation where they produce rice and tobacco. Their generation didn’t get to see this plantation so its all just stories now. So we decided to put this up as a tribute to them. Our food is mostly from the north with a Spanish twist to it,” says Sandee.
Its best seller is none other than the bagnet that went through 72 hours of marinating, drying, boiling, frying to reach a sinful perfection that will exceed your expectations.
If you want a play of flavors with that, pair it with their bringhe, a seafood rice with coconut milk topped with mussels, shrimp, longganisa, green peas, and eggs.
“People always say that bringhe is like the paella of the Philippines, but it’s not. This is completely ours, rice with all our favorite ingredients mixed into it. And our customers love our bagnet. Pair anything with bagnet and everybody loves it,” shares Sandee.
Another favorite is their classic Iberian chicken, a perfectly tender whole chicken that went through long hours of baking to achieve its juiciness and then mixed with olive oil, tomatoes, potatoes, garlic, and other herbs. It may be mistaken for adobo but this dish is very savory that you’ll feel it melting in your mouth.
The restaurant also serves a longganisa platter which contains various kinds of the dish from different parts of the country. Some of these are the chorizo de Nueva Ecija, Baguio longganisa, Vigan longganisa, and batotay of Tuguegarao, among others.
“Aside from the longganisa platter, we also serve chicharron platter. There’s chicharron Cebu, chicken skin, the normal chicharron, and Spanish chicharron called torreznos. It’s a breaded pork belly fried into a chicharron,” says Sandee.
For dessert, you must not miss its kakanin or native delicacies— ube brownie, sapin sapin, puto, and the new salted caramel cassava cake.
“There’s so much unexplored territory in the country when it comes to food,” she adds. “Filipinos love to eat but we all have our preferences. So we hope that this restaurant will encourage everyone to go out of their comfort zones and learn to taste other Filipino dishes.”
Arroz Ecija is located at Ground Floor Uptown Mall, Bonifacio Global City | (02) 541 7025 | Facebook: @ArrozEcija; Instagram: @arroz_ecija