Urdaneta diner serves traditional Pangasinan cuisine



By Anna Valmero

URDANETA CITY, PANGASINAN – The quaint one-floor diner of Ciudad Fernandino Hotel is often recommended by locals for those who want to sample traditional Pangasinan and Ilocano cuisine.

The ground floor of Ciudad Fernandino Hotel doubles as a restaurant and cake and pastry shop, the latter named Pasteleria de Ciudad or “city cake shop”.

The family-owned food establishment has been serving locals and tourists with well-known Pangasinan dishes for over 20 years, according to the local staff Cynthia Esguerra.

Although the place seems unassuming because of its simple design, the dining area has a homey allure to it, reminding you of the look and feel of local diners long before there were air-conditioned malls and fastfood places.

The tables are covered with green checkered table tops and can seat 50 to 60 guests at a time. Relying on natural ventilation and lighting, the dining area actually follows the traditional Filipino homes – big capiz windows opened wide to let the air flow and let natural light in,

While waiting for our order, I took some photos of the bronze teapots on display near the entrance to the kitchen area. There are also four- to five-layers of designer cakes and kiddie-themed cakes that the Pasteleria produces and which natives prefer over more popular commercial brands.

Bestsellers at the restaurant include the Plato Ilocano, a budget meal consisting of a generous serving of pork sisig, a bowl of pinakbet, and a cup of rice served with iced tea. The meal, which costs P150, is good enough for a heavy lunch meal and had me full that I skipped merienda for the next four hours.

Ilocanos originally use shrimps or prawns to add flavor to the pinakbet vegetables consisting of talong (eggplant), ampalaya (bitter gourd), sitaw (string beans), kalabasa (squash) and okra (ladies fingers). The shrimp flavor also complements the salty taste of the bagoong alamang (shrimp paste).

Aside from the vegetables, what I liked about the pinakbet served here is the thick and generous serving of tasty pinkish soup (due to the color of alamang) that filled half the bowl. Often, I would get a dry pinakbet in Metro Manila so the soup of the pinakbet, which I sipped and poured over my steamed rice, was a delightful change. Simply, yummy.

The sisig, on the other hand, was a bit moist and is mostly composed of pork fat and had less lean meat so I gave most of my share to my food buddy, who ordered fried daing na bangus.

Another must-try is the restaurant’s Pasta Fernandino, a house specialty that has crunchy longganisa from Alaminos (a nearby town) and shrimp tossed in tomato-basil pesto. For P150, the serving is good for three persons already and have about 20 medium-sized shrimps and true enough, crunchy longganisa.

To offer more choices to diners, the restaurant also included another Pangasinan delicacy, the daing na boneless bangus, which was fried with crushed garlic for added taste. The restaurant gets its bangus supply from neighboring Dagupan City, famous for pioneering the industry of boneless bangus in Pangasinan.

The bangus measured over 12 inches from head to tail and is full of meat–a bargain, considering that it was only worth P150. Apart from being deboned, which made it easier to eat, the daing na bangus served to us tasted fresh and not of burak or muddy.

I remember my mother, who taught me to look for clear eyes, red gills and firm scales attached to the skin when buying bangus. More importantly, fresh bangus should not smell of burak or it will likely tastes like mud when cooked.

For drinks, we ordered a pot of healthy salabat (ginger tea), which was a perfect way to end the meal. For P25, the pot of salabat was able to fill three cups and tastes good even without sugar. For added flavor, I just sprinkled calamansi.

To entice diners to explore more of Pangasinan, the walls and columns of the dining area offer a glimpse of the different towns with large framed photos featuring their cottage industries and tourist destinations. Most of the photos were taken from the trips of the restaurant owners and are in sepia prints.

Strategically located for those traveling to the North (especially Baguio City), Urdaneta is an ideal stopover for lunch. Sure, there’s a Jollibee or Chow King but if you’re not in a rush, you can go local with Ciudad Fernandino.

Get more information about Ciudad Fernandino

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