Ibaan, Batangas may not be a well-known as tourist spot but it holds a special food gem that mostly people from Ibaan or those living the outskirts of town only knows, the Ibaan tamales. Not exactly the same replica of the tamales of Mexico but just as memorable, one that has passed on as part of the family tradition of the people of Ibaan.
The tamales had been part of my family’s merienda in my younger years. It was part of my summer vacations’ merienda in Ibaan along with suman (rice cake) and butchi. I don’t remember it not being there like a relative you always saw in family gatherings. We would often bring it home to Manila to be frozen and taken out to be steamed when a sudden craving ensues. We do this despite knowing that it will always be available when we go home to Ibaan. We still hoard it just to content ourselves because this type of tamales is not sold anywhere in the country. Yes, I have heard other kind of tamales in other parts of Batangas and other provinces but I haven’t tried those so this one in Ibaan is my favorite, of course J
Wrapped in banana leaf and often tied with a thin white string or straw, the tamales has a smooth, white surface that is the product of steaming pounded, gelatinous rice, its delicate covering a ruse to cover the depth of flavors hidden underneath. Tender enough to be sliced in half, it reveals a light orange paste embedded with small, seasoned chicken bits. The tamales fools you with its ordinary appearance because each bite, each forkful reveals a sumptuous flavor of peanut paste that has a light spicy finish. The chicken bits provide a filling element to this small packet of a dish.
My aunt from Canada brings home dozens of these. She freezes them in my ref for a week then puts it in her luggage the morning she will leave for the airport. She’d rather leave every pasalubong for my cousins in Vancouver than part with her precious tamales J
I don’t know where the original Ibaan tamales came from but one store claiming that they are the original one is Rhemar’s Eatery. At first, I was not sure because I don’t usually buy them myself. So one time when I came back to visit, I bought tamales from Rhemar’s and compared it with the one I bought from the market and after tasting both, I concluded that the one I bought in Rhemar’s indeed tasted like the one I grew up with, the one with a hint of spiciness.
Ibaan may be just one of the towns you pass by going to the scenic beaches of Laiya but for me, it is the town where one of my favorite treats originated from, the one treat my childhood memory wouldn't be complete without, the tamales, this hidden food gem of Ibaan. So if you happen to pass by Ibaan, try the tamales from Rhemar’s, you can ask around, it’s just a small town or you could go to the town market and discover Ibaan's other hidden treats like their square-shaped suman, my husband’s favorite but that’s another blog post. Till next time J