When I was researching about the pancit dishes of Ilocos, what caught my attention is hibol. It is said that it is the true Ilocano comfort food might only be enjoyed by Ilocanos themselves as it contains bile or the bitter juices inside a cow’s digestive tract to go along with its meats composed primarily of innards. In my mind, this is a legit exotic dish that will bring out the adventurous foodie side of me. Hailing another manong tricycle driver, I asked him to bring me to where I can have hibol. Manong tricycle driver brought me to three different locations unfortunately all three seemed closed. I was beginning to lose hope of tasting this dish when he passed by and stopped at a tiny carenderia called L.Ansagay’s.
At first I thought it was a meat shop but inside it turns out to be both – a meatshop by morning and a mamihan towards the later part of the day. At the counter are small bowls of thin egg noodles with little bits of meat and as soon as I ordered, the manang poured in a hot ladle of soup and asked me if I would also like an egg. For only Php.10 and additional Php.5 for the egg, I was given what was apparently “hibol“. As I tasted the soup – nothing seemed so extraordinary about it. The soup wasn’t bitter at all and the meats looked like a teaspoon of fat and skin. It was just like an ordinary mami that made me double check with manang if it really was hibol. Apparently, Hibol is only served in the morning. A meal to somewhat kick-off the day of the working locals. Also, it is being served during the earlier part of the day since the innards they used also come from the meats butchered on that same day. Disappointed, I left the place ready for my last food destination – La Preciosa restaurant supposedly for another variety of pancit.
As soon as I arrived at La Preciosa restaurant, I requested for their menu ready to order my last pancit. To my surprise, Hibol is included in their menu! I immediately pointed it out to the waiter assuring me of its availability. At Php.200 per serving, it is good for sharing of 3-4 people as they do not have solo order of it. After 10 minutes or so, a whopping bowl is served at my table. Instantly its aroma and appearance guaranteed me that it is something I’ve never tried before. La Preciosa’s Hibol contains equal amounts of thin egg noodles and dark brown colored stock topped with generous amounts of assorted innards – tripe, stomachand heart among others. Upon tasting the soup, I immediately savored the beefy flavor of the innards with a hint of spice from ground pepper and ginger and some sourness from kamias to counter the strong innards taste. For my taste, it blends perfectly. Remembering my prior research, I seemed to miss the bitterness of the bile in the 2 Hibol bowls I’ve sampled and so I asked manong waiter. According to him, hibol is actually a combination of 2 Ilocano dishes; paksiw which is the innards sour soup and mami, thus the inclusion of the thin egg noodles. Putting bile on the serving is also not being practiced in their restaurant and in most places in Laoag as it is more of Vigan’s version.