“Manokan Country is so overrated. Aren’t there any other, more adventurous alternatives?”
Again the question was repeated. We nervously swallowed as we sized up our merciless interrogator. A six foot, white haired expat looked back at us expectantly with his piercing blue eyes, camera in hand. We were caught off guard, really thrown for a loop. After all – this is Bacolod, the land where the appetite for barbecued chicken is so immense – locals happily prefer it over Mcdonalds.
Where are FOOD places that can be considered “adventurous” in Bacolod? What places can satiate our foreign friend’s appetite for adventure?
After some thought, We gave him the biggest grin and answered:
“We’ll take you to Man Plaza.”
Man Plaza is a series of stalls located behind the Colegio De San Agustin Bacolod. It sits on a lot sandwiched between San Agustin Drive and the 19th and 20th streets.
A good way to describe Man Plaza – actually, almost everything in the Philippines is the phrase: “Organized Chaos.” At first glance it looks like pandemonium but actually unspoken rules and norms are being observed.
Man Plaza looks like a street market. Bright fluorescent lights are obscured by thick coils of smoke rising from barbecued food. The same smoke obscures the diners who seem oblivious to it all. Motorbikes pull up, their drivers shouting their orders.
Our expat friend was enthralled. We walked right in.
Chicken everywhere you look.– Expat Friend
Several years ago Man Plaza used to be a place that was serving only student food. The stall owners have realized that students are a poor source of income and gradually shifted to serving barbecued chicken and full meals. They kept the low prices.
You are spoilt for choice in Man Plaza. There is plenty of chicken inasal, pork barbecue and even seafood!
A stall owner invited us to try their barbecued scallops. These looked very plump and tasty. We had to decline though as we were still exploring the rest of Man Plaza.
The same seller also offered us a pair of boneless bangus fish – Marinated with peppers and kalamansi (a common citrus fruit).
It’s tastier than it looks.– Us, explaining to expat friend.
There is an abundance of Street food favorites in Man Plaza. You have the little longanizas on the sticks, cured meat tocino on skewers, pig cheek, pig ears… the works.
Betamax is a snack of blood, solidified, cut into chunks, brushed with a sauce and grilled. It might look gross but the taste is not that bad. We described it to our expat friend as tasting a bit remotely like liver.
We have a fondness for Isaw. Barbecued chicken intestines. It’s tasty. Good isaw is cleaned properly and washed to remove the chicken sh*t inside. We haven’t seen isaw made from pigs intestines here in Bacolod yet. We were only able to try that in Manila. Pigs intestines are sliced into round pieces and then barbecued. Paired with vinegar and rice, the snack can become a cheap, affordable dinner.
Each stall has their own sauce and their own secret marinade for each barbecue. It’s amazing to look at the different ways to prepare chicken barbecue. This stall in particular caught our eye. It had chicken with plenty of spicy paprika powder and bird’s eye chilies.
It looked very interesting! Birds eye chili is a hot pepper that is classified as very hot on the Scoville scale ( 50,000-100,000 SHU ). It’s called “Birds eye” because it’s shaped somewhat like a bird’s eye. It grows naturally here in the Philippines.
It was settled. We were having spicy barbecue chicken. The waitress saw that our table had ran out of “chicken oil” so she gladly refilled our bottle.
“Chicken oil” is an oil that is placed on rice to enhance the flavor, somewhat like the Japanese furikake rice seasoning. It is made by extracting oil from chicken, usually the skin and then colored by adding achuete or annatto seeds. Some restaurants simply add annatto to their oil as a cost saving measure. The result just doesn’t taste the same.
Our pulutan arrived. The squares of blood and intestines were cooked to perfection. Even our expat friend managed a careful nibble of an isaw.
Our chicken arrived after a few moments. It was beautiful. Very fragrant with hints of spice floating on the air. The price was at a surprising low 80 pesos and it already came with two cups of rice. We waited for a bit for our utensils to arrive…
…and the waitress came back with a box that we initially thought contained tissues. Then we noticed all the other diners were not using utensils to eat! They were using their hands! The box contained plastic gloves!
We began eating. The chicken was just at the perfect level of spiciness. The gloves however were a bit on the small side but we managed to use them just fine.
As we dined, Man Plaza began filling up until it was full. It was not just students dining but entire families.
Overall, Man Plaza is a nice alternative to Manokan Country. The main problem with this place is the smokiness that may be an issue for people with asthma. Otherwise, it is an adventurous place that is not as polished as other commercial chicken places in Bacolod City. This is a place for the working class and the low prices reflect that.