Cornick, Balut, and Butong Pakwan

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We Filipinos have some odd foods. The “adidas” or chicken feet, the bagoong or fermented fish, and the infamous balut or duck’s embryo, to name a few. Outside the Philippines, these foods can be met with much disdain with the mere mention of them. If you don’t believe me, just let a foreigner sniff the bagoong and watch their expression as their face crumpled like a paper.

During the recent International Food Festival held at downtown Des Moines, where one can sample foods from different booths from different cultures and nationalities, the Filipino association had its own stall. One of the served food is billed as “chocolate soup” among other Pinoy foods. People were interested to try the “chocolate” dish until they learned that it was dinuguan or pork blood stew, and that made some of them blush.

However we have other peculiar Pinoy foods that are less detestable to the non-Filipino people. In fact, these certain foods can even be palatable and downright appealing even to the uninitiated. The puto (rice cake), the pastillas (milk candies), and the lumpia (egg rolls), are examples of these.

When we invite our non-Filipino friends for a gathering, they were always hoping that my wife will serve her home-made lumpia, which is the best in town. (Of course I am biased!) They really crave for the lumpia, that I think they’re more excited to see the lumpia than seeing us.

During our last visit to the Philippines, we brought back here some more unique Filipino foods – cornick (fried corn) and butong pakwan (watermelon seeds).

We were in Vigan to visit family for the holidays and we bought several bags of the original Ilocos cornick to take home. It is quite ironic that we brought more corn products here to Iowa from somewhere else, when Iowa is already overflowing with corn. If you don’t know it yet, Iowa is the number one producer of corn in the US, and perhaps the whole world. Maybe I should start my own cornick business here.

When we pass through Pampanga, we were invited by my wife’s family friend. We were served a very delicious homecook Kapamapangan meal of “pindang damulag” (“tocino-like” carabao meat), Pampangueno’s version of daing na bangus (fried milkfish), and fresh carabao’s milk. Besides the sumptuous lunch, we were also given several packs of “Paning’s Butong Pakwan,” which is their family business.

my cornick from Ilocos and butong pakwan from Pampanga

When we came back here in Iowa, we had some non-Filipino friends came over in our house. We offered the cornick for them to sample. Even though we are in the midst of the sea of cornfields, they have not tasted this kind of corn snack. It was a hit, as they liked its garlicky taste.

Then we brought out the butong pakwan for them to taste as well. But before we can even show them how to eat it, somebody already took a handful and directly munch it. “Hmmmm chewy!” was her comment.

Fighting not to laugh so not to embarrass her, I politely demonstrated how we eat the butong pakwan, by cracking it open and getting out the pulp. She looked at me with a grin and discreetly spewed out the chewed seeds.

Perhaps next time I’ll serve the balut and show them how it is eaten. But I should dim all the lights in the house first. The less they see what they are nibbling the better. Isn’t that the reason why balut is sold at night and eaten in the dark?


  1. There is a new trend now in California where people would not eat say, pork meat, unless they know that the entire animal was used and not wasted. This made its death more justified and humane, or something like that. I told these people that the Philippines and most other third world countries have always treated animals this way. We did not throw out about 99% of the animal. We used up most of it. Out of necessity most times. Funny how what’s everyday to us is so novel to others.

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