23 Apr2010

Balamban Liempo?!

by Marketman


At a meeting of foodies in Cebu two months ago, one of the guests mentioned that they had enjoyed the pork belly at Balamban Liempo, a Cebu City based purveyor who based their recipe on liempo prepared and sold in the town of Balamban, on the Western coast of Cebu. I didn’t get to taste the highly recommended Balamban Liempo at that point in time, and instead experimented with liempo on a bamboo pole, here. I toyed briefly with the idea of driving an hour each way to Balamban this morning to taste the “original” concoction, but decided to hit the Carbon market instead. Then just before lunch, we decided to send someone to buy two orders of Balamban Liempo from an outlet near Coco Mall, and the receipt reads Gitano Grill & Restaurant.


The liempo arrived at the office already chopped. It was a slightly bizarre shade of pink or pinkish red. At first I thought it was undercooked, but it was just an odd shade of pink. Then I wondered if it had any preservatives as part of the marinade, but I couldn’t tell for sure. The skin was a nice caramelized color, but it had understandably softened a bit from the enclosed wrapping and transport (the same thing happens to chopped lechon skin). A piece of pork belly is apparently slit in the middle, and stuffed with a mixture of green onions (lots of green onions), garlic, maybe lemongrass, etc. and roasted over coals… The pork was marinated or brined as it was incredibly juicy, despite the roasting. The pork was quite pungent, with a very strong aroma and flavor of green onions which didn’t seem completely cooked or heated through, so they had a semi-raw taste. The portions we got seemed to be quite fatty, as the photos here show, with several blobs of pure fat amongst the cuts of meat and skin. But then I suppose some folks like that fattiness and might consider those to be choice pieces. :) The liempo was served with pinakurat or a spicy vinegar. Two orders came out to just PHP350 total. The crew (who are by now pretty pork savvy) all gave this a taste and weren’t bowled over. It’s possible this was just an off day, and maybe the Balamban liempo deserves another try, preferably at the store itself so it as fresh as possible, but I didn’t see what all the fuss was about. I wonder if the version in the town of Balamban is significantly different from this version we tasted in Cebu City…



  1. Footloose says:

    Pink is not a color you want to see in pork. You get this effect with the use of salitre (saltpeter, Sodium Nitrate et al). Or heaven forbid, by subjecting a pig to a second death.

    Apr 23, 2010 | 5:22 am

  2. kitchen says:

    Maybe the crew cant help but compare the yummy taste of Zubuchon vs the Balamban liempo. to be so good it is not likely that anyone or anything else that comes after will be as good. :)

    Apr 23, 2010 | 5:33 am

  3. kim says:

    really looks undercooked, might be better if fried ala lechon kawali … then keep the lard for future use : )

    Apr 23, 2010 | 6:31 am

  4. Ging says:

    They do have off-days MM. Probably because of the volume of sales, they can’t keep up. We usually get superb pieces at the lahug branch because it’s not as packed as the Capitol branch. Special orders (to be picked up at the main outlet early inbthe morning) are also outstanding.

    I forgot the entire story of the “Gitano Grill” but I think the Capitol site used to be Gitano Grill but when they closed doors, they transferred rights to the place including permits, receipts etc to the owners of Balamban Liempo. (Correct me if I’m wrong please!)

    The light pink color in the meat can also be achieved through slow smoking- I get the same pink color when I smoke Ham during Christmas. I NEVER use salitre by the way so I know first hand that the pink color is still achievable. Salitre produces the bright pink hue common in the commercial hams.

    I know, I know, some people might say I own balamban liempo or something. But no. The only connections I have with them is that we order balamban liempo for lunch at the clinic at least twice a week for almost 6 months already. So I can say I’m quite familiar with it.

    Apr 23, 2010 | 6:45 am

  5. Bernard says:

    Try the liempo at Kusina ni Nasing at V. Rama St.. It’s way better than the Balamban Liempo.

    Apr 23, 2010 | 7:15 am

  6. millet says:

    my immediate reaction as soon as i saw the the first picture was -“undercooked!” i’d give it a quick turn in the skillet or oven just to make sure it’s fully cooked.

    Apr 23, 2010 | 7:23 am

  7. junb says:

    Waiting for your post on the original balamban liempo from the town of balamban and of course the MarketMan version. I did try your first post wrap on a bamboo pole (Laundry bamboo hehehee here in singapore) and all my guest said is the best pork liempo that they have with a very smoky flavor due to almost 3 hrs of grilling on charcoal.

    Apr 23, 2010 | 9:35 am

  8. macpower says:

    Sarap ng liempo with suka, the best! Balamban…. Is that where Tsuneishi Shipyard is located?

    Apr 23, 2010 | 9:37 am

  9. Marketman says:

    junb, 3 hours? That’s WAY too long. An hour or 1.5 hours max for a large piece of liempo. Also, if I remember correctly, you kept basting with coconut water which would prevent the skin from getting crispy, next time just wipe the skin with a bit of olive oil and put it on the flames… macpower, Balamban is near Toledo, I am not familiar with the shipyard you mention.

    Apr 23, 2010 | 9:40 am

  10. junb says:

    Yup MM 3 Hrs :) ….for a 3kg liempo. Although my brother and I put it high above the coal about 1.5ft to achieve a slow cooking. The meat melts in your mouth :). I will not put coconut juice anymore but instead will try to prick the skin and olive oil.

    Apr 23, 2010 | 9:54 am

  11. junb says:

    Although I’m sure your zubuchon will definitely way above all of this :) ….My trip to Cebu was postpone to next year. Wife expecting to deliver for our 3rd one this year ;)…More kids to feed hehehehe

    Apr 23, 2010 | 9:54 am

  12. Eliza says:

    I’ve eaten Balamban liempo in Balamban. It was very good. I have no basis for comparison as I’ve never tasted it outside of the municipality before. Whenever we are there visiting my in-laws, we inevitably have it on the table at least once. I think, though, that Balamban lechon manok is better. I don’t even like lechon manok that much, but the Balamban version had me wolfing it down like a madwoman!

    Apr 23, 2010 | 10:11 am

  13. Jaja says:

    We were able to try the liempo in Balamban. It’s a small stall by the market and it was really good. not undercooked like what you have in the picture. They sell if for P170 for one serving and it also had the soy sauce-vinegar dip. We bought an 2 servings, one we had for lunch and the other we brought home to Cebu. It still tasted good even after a day in the ref. We reheated it in the oven toaster to crisp up the skin. We still have to try the one found here in the city so we can compare the taste =) The one hour trip over the trasncentral highway was worth it for us =)

    Apr 23, 2010 | 11:36 am

  14. Rianne says:

    Yes, brining the meat gives it its pink hue, even if it’s already cooked…

    Apr 23, 2010 | 12:01 pm

  15. Mimi says:

    Roast pork here is almost always ‘pink’ but it is cooked. They say that the skin is rubbed with a maltose-vinegar glaze to make is crisp. Have not made it myself though.

    Apr 23, 2010 | 2:16 pm

  16. k. ramos says:

    Sorry for this off topic question MM. millet, do you know where to buy organic pork in Davao? I just got inspired by MM’s pork lard posts hehe :D I’d probably render my own pork fat hehe :D

    Apr 23, 2010 | 3:01 pm

  17. barokie says:

    the famous liempo from Balamban would most probably come from Christian’s Liempo, a small stall beside the public market. (although they have a branch in Toledo City.) this one’s definitely worth the 1-2 hour trip from Cebu City and really cheap considering the size and taste. pair it with puso and suka with sili and garlic and Coke with plenty of ice – YUM! YUM! YUM!

    the Balamban Liempo, on the other hand, is “nothing but a second-rate, trying-hard copycat” you should stay away from…

    Apr 23, 2010 | 3:08 pm

  18. Jake Speed says:

    Marketman, I hope that you get to sample Balamban Liempo in Balamban itself to see if it lives up to its hype :) . I presume that in the town itself, there would be competing stalls that advertise themselves as the ‘best Balamban Liempo’, so I guess you have to try from at least several different sources. Would be looking forward to your article on it in the future. :)

    Apr 23, 2010 | 3:13 pm

  19. Paquito says:

    As Emeril Lagasse would say ….. Pork fat rules! … :)

    Apr 23, 2010 | 5:39 pm

  20. Dr Nick says:

    Am amazed by the popularity of pork in the Philippines. I’d say in Europe, pork is eaten much less – but I have to say this may also be linked to the poor treatment of pigs in a lot of European countries, especially given that pigs are very intelligent animals. I figure most of the Filipino pigs will be ‘free-range’ or not?

    Apr 23, 2010 | 7:14 pm

  21. Lee says:

    Will deep frying liempo in pork lard make it healthier?

    Apr 23, 2010 | 7:16 pm

  22. millet says:

    k. ramos, NCCC supermart sells organic pork…it’s at the rightmost chillers, and they’re NCCC’s house brand. the store is actively promoting organic hog-raising.

    Apr 23, 2010 | 10:02 pm

  23. TD says:

    Marketman, are you fat? I haven’t seen a photo of you yet. You feature such delicious-looking, fatty, calorific food so it makes me wonder whether your passion for food is directly proportional to your weight.

    Apr 24, 2010 | 1:57 am

  24. Marketman says:

    TD, by BMI (Body Mass Index) is 25.8, just slightly into the overweight category. So yes, I consider myself above the “ideal” weight… and could happily stand to lose 15 pounds or so… :)

    Apr 24, 2010 | 5:41 am

  25. Bel says:

    I think Balamban liempo was copied very soon after it became a hit. I can’t wait to see what your investigation would turn up, if any. I’ve been meaning to go to Cebu just to try your zubuchon (and not anything from the grill place that tried to use your logo) and the real Balamban liempo (and nothing from the copycats that may just get away with their act because I doubt if the Balamban recipe or manner of cooking is patented).

    Apr 24, 2010 | 6:17 am

  26. Jaja says:

    @Jake Speed: Actually we only saw one stall selling liempo and that was Christian’s Liempo near the public market. The one mentioned by barokie.

    Apr 24, 2010 | 2:41 pm

  27. Life says:

    Was so thrilled to read ‘Balamban Liempo’ in the blog’s title. I am from Balamban and i feel honored that the liempo here tickled your interest.

    I haven’t tried the ‘Balamban Liempo’ in the city yet so i could not really tell the difference. There’s only one stall that sells the best liempo here in Balamban and that is ‘Bebot’s’. A lot of people actually line up to get a piece of liempo or lechon manok (tastes good too).

    @Macpower: yes,Tsuneishi shipyard is in Balamban.

    Apr 24, 2010 | 7:15 pm

  28. Gerry says:

    The waton pork made in Davao probably is the best local pork around. Just wish someone would make a ham out of it that would be comparable to the expensive Spanish hams.

    Apr 24, 2010 | 7:17 pm

  29. deirdregurl says:

    @gerry: haven’t heard of a waton pork made in davao. where can one purchase it?

    Apr 25, 2010 | 6:38 am

  30. Marketman says:

    deidregurl, here is a previous post on Waton pork, and they have a neat website too.

    Apr 25, 2010 | 10:51 am

  31. cathy says:

    wow…i wana try …can ask for the recipe? i love to cook…

    Apr 25, 2010 | 12:24 pm

  32. Al says:

    Oh, I thought it was lechon kawali at first but apparently not as I read the article. The skin looks crunchy in this picture as the fat compliments it. Dang, I have yet to try this!

    Apr 26, 2010 | 2:18 am

  33. tuhashaligi says:

    The liempo in Balamban rules! I think the store is Christian Liempo but I’m not too sure though. The guy we send to buy buys it from the same place everytime but we never mention which stall. Best thing to do is try out all the liempo stores in Balamban and die like a (happy) man.

    Apr 26, 2010 | 12:44 pm

  34. leyah says:

    hi marketman,
    tried the balamban liempo in balamban and it was very good! it was worth the trip.
    the pork was moist but not pink. Crunchy outside and very flavorful, got a hint of oregano in its taste. the name of the store is Kristian’s just near the municipal hall.
    Just had a cebu food trip before holy week and I can still smell and taste that best liempo I had.

    Apr 26, 2010 | 2:29 pm

  35. John - US and Philippines says:

    With all due respect, I would imagine that a “food critic” would not actually go ask someone to pick up “Liempo” and have them brought back. Driving from 2 locations as described takes far too much time for the hardened skin to get moist and lose its texture. I suggest if you want to be critical of food, especially one of something like Liempo, you should know not to have someone go and deliver it if you want the best flavor.

    Off Days Happen for Every Location! But its hard to judge food you do not get fresh. I think most people would agree. Being a food critic myself, I have to say that this article might just be an “off article”.

    As for fatty? I am a bit curious, the pictures you show above are certainly not that fatty. I am starting to wonder exactly how much Liempo you have tried. Most Liempo stands, similar to the one in Balamban, are loaded with far more fat than Balamban Liempo.

    Yes, I am a fan of Balamban Liempo as I think they do have the best Liempo I have tried to date. Yes, I am a published critic as well on a major radio station in the US. No, I do not think anyone who goes out and has food delivered has the right to call themselves a food critic. That a joke to the profession.

    Apr 26, 2010 | 6:31 pm

  36. Daniel says:

    Starting to think that Market Manila has an alternate agenda. Why would he allow people to call Balamban Liempo a “second rate” restaurant. Your an idiot Market Man.

    Apr 26, 2010 | 6:34 pm

  37. hoopster says:

    Hi Everyone The pink color can be due to a reaction between the heat of the grill and myoglobin, which causes a red or pink color. It can also occur when vegetables containing nitrites are cooked along with the meat. it is totally safe and natural

    Here’s an excerpt from “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myoglobin

    “Myoglobin forms pigments responsible for making meat red. The color that meat takes is partly determined by the charge of the iron atom in myoglobin and the oxygen attached to it. When meat is in its raw state, the iron atom is in the +2 oxidation state, and is bound to a dioxygen molecule (O2). Meat cooked well done is brown because the iron atom is now in the +3 oxidation state, having lost an electron, and is now coordinated by a water molecule. Under some conditions, meat can also remain pink all through cooking, despite being heated to high temperatures. If meat has been exposed to nitrites, it will remain pink because the iron atom is bound to NO, nitric oxide (true of, e.g., corned beef or cured hams). Grilled meats can also take on a pink”smoke ring” that comes from the iron binding a molecule of carbon monoxide to give metmyoglobin.[9] Raw meat packed in a carbon monoxide atmosphere also shows this same pink “smoke ring” due to the same coordination chemistry. Notably, the surface of the raw meat also displays the pink color, which is usually associated in consumers’ minds with fresh meat. This artificially-induced pink color can persist in the meat for a very long time, reportedly up to one year. [10] Hormel and Cargill are both reported to use this meat-packing process, and meat treated this way has been in the consumer market since 2003.[11] Myoglobin is found in Type I muscle, Type II A and Type II B, but most texts consider myoglobin not to be found in smooth muscle.”

    Apr 26, 2010 | 11:19 pm

  38. junb says:

    @hoopster sounds complicated and dangerous :)….I’ll just stick to my normal grilled liempo. Fully cooked yet juicy minus the pink colour except when I’m eating jamon serrano or parma ham which is more on the red side :)

    Apr 27, 2010 | 9:30 am

  39. balamban liempo says:

    mr marketman be neutral…i can sense that ur not being fair with balamban liempo publish those post that are in favor of balamban liempo…u just lost my respect! tnx!

    Apr 27, 2010 | 3:42 pm

  40. balamban liempo says:

    your zubu chon sucks bigtime! if mr bourdain tasted CNT’s Lechon first then he would have said this same line too “The Best PIG Ever!”

    What’s the fuss all about? it’s called MARKETING dude!

    Apr 27, 2010 | 3:58 pm

  41. tuhashaligi says:

    Oh s#@t. What just happened?

    Apr 27, 2010 | 10:39 pm

  42. Artisan Chocolatier says:

    @balamban liempo…..What the ….?!!! You just lost a potential customer. Haven’t tried Balamban Liempo and most likely never will because of your above comments.

    Apr 27, 2010 | 11:43 pm

  43. Jake says:

    I am a fan myself of the Balamban-type liempos. We used to run all the way to Kristian’s Liempo in Balamban which is supposedly the “original” but were very happy to see Balamban Liempo opening up in the city. My whole family and barkada have been regular buyers ever since… or at least as regular as a still-sensible cholesterol count will allow. I still patronize Kristian’s but believe Balamban Liempo has the better quality meat.

    The non-Cebuano friends I’ve taken to eat Balamban Liempo have all been bowled over. The ones who are frequent visitors have either asked to go back to the Mabolo restaurant or drop by one of the outlets for takeout.

    Like most, I also thought the pinkish hue was a sign of undercooking but having sampled it several times it clearly isn’t. And yes I’ve seen and tasted undercooked pork before. Besides, ham is pinkish but no one seems to be complaining. I’ll take the Hoopster-referred wikipedia entry at face value.

    I’ll keep patronizing Balamban Liempo. Perhaps MM would do well to pay a visit to the Mabolo outlet where one can get liempo in the best fashion–fresh off the grill.

    Apr 28, 2010 | 12:30 am

  44. Jake says:

    To add to my comment above, Balamban Liempo would also do well to invite MM to his place to iron out their differences over a plate of liempo and a beer tower. :-D

    Peace, gentlemen.

    Apr 28, 2010 | 12:47 am

  45. jojo says:

    thank you jake, i totally agree.

    MM, the good news, all your readers are passionate about their food.

    i do wish we can talk plainly, and personally.

    there is much to talk about.

    good day

    Apr 28, 2010 | 6:56 am

  46. jake says:

    Jojo, I hope you weren’t the originator of the controversial posts in the thread. If you weren’t, and it was just some overzealous BL “fan” (for lack of a better term) signing in under your business name (which is easy to do after all), then I’m relieved. As a self-confessed MM fan, I’m sure you know how this blog works.

    As for Zubuchon versus BL, it’s apples and oranges. I like them for different reasons, and each has a place on my table.

    MM, I also heard about a place somewhere close to Tanjay, Negros Oriental that serves liempo to die for (not only to die from). I don’t know how it compares directly to the Balamban-type liempos but my Negrense friends swear by it. More lipitor?

    Apr 28, 2010 | 9:19 am

  47. jojo says:

    yes jake,

    it’s not me, i would never badmouth anyone. i disagreed with marketman, but i simply love the idea that he took notice of our product,his stature and reputation is flattering enough . BL is after all very new in the market.

    besides i welcome all comments on my product, good or bad, as long as people talk about it, they are all potential BL customers.

    so MM, please consider a meet and greet, jake, you are most welcome to join us.

    by the way, i am not a lipitor fan though, i prefer ZOCOR


    Apr 28, 2010 | 4:49 pm

  48. Marketman says:







    Apr 28, 2010 | 5:09 pm

  49. jojo says:

    Thank you for your decision MM.

    May i propose one thing though?

    Do try the balamban liempo fresh off the grill as jake mentioned.

    I can serve you myself.

    Good day!!


    Apr 28, 2010 | 6:22 pm

  50. afterkat says:

    Hey MM,

    We tried the liempo in Balamban (yes we actually drove all the way there) just because my Dad kept saying it was the best liempo he tasted =) It didn’t disappoint. we ate some there and bought one to take home. We also tried the Balamban liempo in Lahug, but the original was still the best. I would love to try your liempo cooked on bamboo if you ever decide to market it =)

    May 9, 2010 | 5:03 pm

  51. peterb says:

    Hi MM, a new restaurant with the name Chic-Boy (Chicken at Baboy) opened along Jupiter street (beside Strumm’s) and they serve Balamban style liempo. Ate there last night. The liempo was good but really wouldn’t know compared to other Balamban style liempos. The liempo was for 90% delicious with the 10% attributed to meat that was too tough and skin that wasn’t crunchy. Considering that it just got off the flames (i’m assuming) the skin should have been all cruncy. It’s from the owners of Pier One.

    Jun 10, 2010 | 4:14 pm

  52. Jerico says:

    Just got back from Cebu and brought home some Zu uchon and Balamban Liempo. Anybody who will compare the two dishes is an idiot.. Oops.. can i say that?


    Marketman, thank you for what you do. Zubuchon rocks as well as your blog. Keep on tasting, eating and writing man….

    Jojo also rocks for coming out with balamban liempo… I might franchise soon here in manila!

    Dec 14, 2010 | 10:55 pm

  53. Marathon Foodie says:

    Balamban Liempo is too fatty and I think a bit overrated. Liempo at Kusina ni Nasing is a must try. It’s an unpretentious carenderia located at Englis-V.Rama Cebu City (unahan gamay sa SEC office, left side). Dili mohunit ang skin and dili sum-ol ang baboy. Dili pud pink ang unod, sakto lang and not overseasoned.

    Oct 20, 2011 | 2:05 pm

  54. cebuana101 says:

    mm, the old balamban liempo pig looked like the angry birds pig and their new pig looks a lot like the zubuchon pig only its green…i just noticed last saturday when i went to the ayala center kiosk…

    Jan 24, 2012 | 2:35 pm


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