Lanciao & Balbacua / Stewed Bull’s Gonads, Phallus & Epidermis…


Despite the thousands of food posts on this blog, I have to say I am not the most adventurous of eaters. I don’t try things simply because they are there. I veer to rather conservative choices when ordering in new places, but I have increasingly been willing to try and taste new things. I was never a huge fan of offal and other odd bits and ends from various animals, but I totally understand why others are so fascinated with them. Cebu is famous for several roadside eateries serving all kinds of interesting dishes, so in one of my “stepping out of the comfort zone” moments, I decided to taste two of the most frequently mentioned dishes… Lanciao and Balbacua. Lanciao is a stew made up of chopped bull’s testicles and phallus. You have to get over the fact that you are going to consume well, you know what. But if I didn’t know what it was, it would simply strike you as a slightly viscous soup with little bits of chopped meat. It seemed to have a hint of star anise and other spices and was an appetizing pale tan color. When I first inspected the stew closely, I was disappointed to see what seemed like chopped vienna sausages mixed in. When I mentioned this to the office crew, they all simultaneously burst out laughing and I knew then it wasn’t vienna sausage but rather a phallus cross section. Okay. Got that wrong. I took a nice healthy serving and stuck the spoon in my mouth. What strikes you first is the texture. In the same manner that folks love tripe or brain or intestines or prairie oysters (bull’s testicles in the States), one either loves the texture or doesn’t. I fall into the latter camp, the texture can be a real downer. But the taste was quite intriguing. I can see how this would be a well sought after dish. Perhaps it helps that it is considered an aphrodisiac. But I can say that I didn’t bother to get another spoonful. I did, however, try it. It seems the word lanciao is from Chinese, more specifically Hokkienese and it simply means phallus. Here is a fancy recipe for Lanciao, also known as Soup # 5, from Chef Gene Gonzalez. My final thought? There must be a whole lot of bull’s being slaughtered every single day to have cauldron after cauldron of lanciao stewing away at dozens of eateries across Cebu City…


The second stew that I tried at the same lunch was balbacua. Made from cow’s skin that is boiled for hours until tender, the soup also tends to have oxtail for flavor and the gelatinous material, sometimes the hooves of the cows, and in some cases beans added to the stew. It also often has ground peanuts or in a modern twist, peanut butter. I have to say, this stew likewise tasted quite good, rich and oily and again, a textural experience. The boiled skin is soft, almost jello like and I could feel the cholesterol count shooting up with just one bite. Again, it’s the first time i tried it, but I wasn’t an instant fan. Maybe if I have it a few more times it will grow on me… So that’s it for adventurous Marketman eating this week. I am curious how many of you have tried or would try these dishes and what you think of them…


48 Responses

  1. When I saw the picture up top, I thought they were vienna sausage slices too! Eeeeuuuuwwww! Haven’t tried lanciao (don’t plan to, either.) but I did try the balbacua when I was in Cebu. Tasted like bland kare-kare.

  2. this is the kind of food that andrew zimmerman of the bizarre food program would eat. like he always says at the end of his program, “if it looks good… eat it!” i am not really sure if i would eat this.

  3. Hahaha!!!=) I was victimized! I thought it was vienna sausage and a kind of soup that we could probably make.

    It was a soup alright! Made out of bull’s testicles. I am not a man so I wont try it hihihihi!=)

    But it made me laugh knowing I’d mistaken a bull’s testicle for vienna sausage=P

    Good picture Market Man!=)

  4. Even though I don’t generally enjoy offal, I think I’m somewhat adventurous. I’d at least try it. When we were in Davao, I was determined to try the local delicacies. At a local ihaw-ihaw joint, we ordered the ubol-ubol (throat?) and bagaybay (fish gonads). I was actually disappointed that the latter was all gone. The ubol-ubol was okay, though I wouldn’t order it again. I also tried kinilaw na kambing, which Marvin over at Burnt Lumpia said he actually preferred to regular fish kinilaw. I didn’t like it very much, but I’m willing to give it a second chance, as maybe that restaurant didn’t do it very well.

  5. if im not mistaken, this balbacua soup made from cow’s skin is also cooked in jamaica but with different ingredients…

  6. Marketmanila features Street Soup.

    We also have a balbacua type of soup called “kitin” made from beef tendons which my mother usually cook for sticky cholesterol laden comfort.
    A friend of my sister was shocked to hear that we’re having “kitten” soup for dinner. She was a good guest, she ate well and good. Meow.

  7. definitely not my fave foods these two. i used to accompany my husband eat these two at the corner of panganiban street and that street leading to taboan market. id rather eat dugo dugo than these two…

  8. I used to look for Balbacua when I was based in Cebu. In my opinion the best Balbacua could be found in the now defunct Kinamot sa Escario. This was a really good restaurant which was before its time with great slow cooked homestyle Cebuano food. The restaurant was expensive relative to other restaurants in Cebu and after some time was not really patronized by the locals. They tried opening a branch in Tomas Morato but it also didn’t work out.

  9. Love balbacua. There is (was?) a great hole in the wall in Davao City called Pia’s Balbacua where drivers would flock to at lunchtime. With good reason!

  10. I would love to try one of those..with lots of rice! I’ve only tried ox brain and found it good(the sauce did it for me) as well as ox’s eyes(!)in a porridge dish.

  11. I could eat this just as long as you won’t tell me what it’s made of. Because once you do, I’d probably just barf it all out! Yikes!

  12. There are not that many cows in Cebu. The biggest market for Canadian offal, feet, tails, testicles, etc. is the Asian market and it is exported in vast quantities frozen from either Canada or the US. What you ate may have roamed the praries over here and not at Fuente Osmena.

  13. Dear, oh dear. Lanciao is a dirty word in Hokkien/Fujian-speak and kids can be sure of a hard smack for using it on another person. Don’t know how you guys actually pronounce it, we say LAAN-JIAO. Gosh, I cannot imagine ordering the dish by this name. Has it got another name?

  14. I don’t think I’m brave enough to try Lanciao but I do appreciate a bowl of piping hot Balbacua once in a while. My first experience with the dish was in Gen San and I learned that to properly enjoy Balbacua, one needs to squeeze some “lemoncito” over the dish before eating.

    MM, your post really made me miss Balbacua days in Gen San…

  15. Going out on a limb here probably..but i am one of those adventuruous eaters. Lechon #2 for me….i actually cracked the skull open and ate the brain..and ate the eyeballs as well..I’ve been calling that restaurant featured on anthony bourdain /zimmerman on episode in ny about capozelle? roasted lamb’s head.I am one of those who sucks fishball eyes n eat the brain.. love the hooves with krispy pata…been dying to try rocky mountain oysters..aka bull’s testicles.. and in the near future I am going to that middle eastern restaurant featured in the same show located somewhere in astoria,queens to try offal offerings..i’ve eaten dishes that made my filipino friends cring at the thought. Although I must admit, not brave enough to try some of those stuff andrew zimmerman has eaten…Last time I was in the philippines I was trying to get some isaw unt the thought of potential hepatiis scared me at the last minute. I love balut… the more pronounced the chick the better.

  16. My cousin owns Tia Pia’s balbacua in Davao, it has a new location,near the post office (it used to be in Legazpi St). But my favorite balbacua of all time is my aunty Inday’s balbacua,and when I was still back home I ate it almost everyday. Her balbacuahan is in front of Mandaya Hotel (Inday Kainan). Balbacua is definitely not bland, it’s very spicy, and you can choose Ginagmay (meat and skin cubes)or Dinagko (hooves). This post makes me really homesick..because I used to eat balbacua everyday..pero ginagmay lang kay ang waistline =p

  17. Its funny how food sounds the same but are different. I am talking about Balbacua and Barbacoa. The mexican meat dish that usually ordered as a filling in taco. It is with brains and fat shoulder of the cows and in some regions with intestines and some other innards. My husband loves it, but only if its cooked in a certain way. I eat it sometimes, but I had to put alot of picante sauce to take away some of the “mushy” flavor and taste.

  18. There are lots of version of Balbacua, the simplest being, cooking it with tangad, ginger and black beans. Although I don’t eat balbacua whatever the recipe, I will cook it for the hubby. The beans in that balbacua is pork and beans, MM.

  19. pardon the horrendous spelling.. am doing this through my fone. Your website is keeping me entertained as I sit for hours and hours awaiting jury duty selection. day 2 of jury duty… good thing i have access to your website..note: am still waiting to be slected for jury duty and not actually serving as a jury…hehehe

  20. Interesting name, lanciao. Here in Iloilo, we call it BUTSBAK! (short cut for buto (not the bone but the organ) sang baka). For balbacua, our version is what we call as PATA. It can be either cow or carabao skin.

  21. Inday Hami, Butsbak is a mighty nice abbreviation (and euphemism) for that restorative soup. I’m inclined to say even better than the childish sounding Canadian, pea pea soup.

  22. RobBStarR, Where are you serving jury duty, in NYC you can’t even bring a cell phone that takes photos into a court building, such as Centre St.
    Anyway, for all those eating brains of sheep and other hoofed animals, think mad cow. Same goes for bone marrow.

  23. Inday Hami, the name is literally from the Chinese term for the thing. Robstar, I hope it’s an interesting murder case at least… Homebuddy, that is what I thought, canned pork and beans as a shortcut… hmmm, I have to find other versions to try… anna, this one had hooves and lots of big pieces of skin! Apicio, I didn’t feel anything… and frankly can think of lots of other things to eat heartily instead. :) sister, good one, I wouldn’t be surprised if these were imported body parts… Rico, the psychology of it does seem to matter a great deal. APM, I looked for that place the first time you mentioned it, but it has since closed… Katrina, I would try to cook these soups myself, to see if I could concoct a version I would really like, but the thought of handling all the raw ingredients/body parts in preparation for creating the recipe is a bit of a turn off, in the same manner that brains and eyeballs do give me the slight hibbie-jibbies. AleXena, now as to your comment, I was ROLLING on the floor. Silly, the vienna sausage IS the cow’s sausage, not his testicles…hahahaha. I know, I had the same reaction when I figured THAT out. :)

  24. Sister… queens county supreme court..I guess they’re more lenient? had no problems.. especially in todays technology.. every phone has a camera. am sure they probably refined the rules a little.Speaking of bone marrow, my friend and I once saw in a grocery half a dozen bone marrows all sealed up and ready to cook..with gluttony in our eyes, we bought 1 dz of bone marrow…simply cooked with salt n pepper and broiled in the oven…on my god.. talk about o.d…
    never touch bone marrow since that day…hahaha learned my lesson with a full night’s of stomach ache.
    MM, yes its interesting…criminal case.. the saga continues on monday. argh! still waiting for jury to be decided.

  25. my Manileno parents’ version of balbacua was something they would eat during Lent – it was something like pickled herring. the bottled tuyo that is popular these days was something close to it. so they were in for a shock when they found out that in Davao, balbacua meant this soup of boiled “maskara” (cow’s face) and skin. i agree with anna and vanessa, “balbacua ni tia pia” makes the best balbacua in davao, although i have yet to check out the version in the agdao market, which some say is da best!

    the cebuano “pochero” is also something that is very different from the pochero that I grew up with. cebu’s version is more like bulalo, no?

    as for soup no. 5, never touched the stuff myself, but my husband and kids look forward to ordering it whenever i’m out of town :-)

  26. husband and kids say they eat better when they can’t hear me screaming “yucckkks” and “eeewww”!

  27. To be a bit technical: “mad cow disease” (“BSE”) or other prion-caused diseases are primarily transferred by ingestion of prion-containing animal-sourced material (such as meat meal or bone meal) by another animal. While a prion mutation can be inherited, as far as I know there is no evidence that this has ever been shown to cause BSE. So in other words, meat from an animal that has always been fed only vegetarian food should be safe.
    Another good reason to insist on grass-fed or at least vegetarian-fed meat…especially true if you enjoy marrow or brains, as nervous tissue and bone marrow are high-risk meats for prion transfer.
    As for myself, I absolutely adore some offal (brains, sweetbreads), am neutral on others (tripe…depends on how it’s cooked, “prarie oysters”), and am less than fond of a couple (kidneys). Have never even heard of eating a bull’s phallus though…I’ve only seen them dried to a pretty hard state and sold as chew treats for dogs, which makes me wonder, what was the texture of the fresh meat like???

  28. Thanks for sharing. Looks really interesting but as for the taste – I’ll just take your word for it.

  29. MM did you have this from the Ramos market? My dad is a fan of the roadside eateries in that market and says the best Lanciao can be had there. I don’t have any plans of eating there though. I also thought they were vienna sausages because it seems a bit odd that they are, you know, kinda small. hehehe! i was expecting it was the size of a kielbasa or something to that effect. probably shrank with all that boiling :)

  30. I am quite adventurous and the stranger, the better. I am more texture-driven when it comes to these things. Chewy food is fine but slimy things (like tamilok and eyeballs) are out. So I’ll probably try out these soups/stews at least once. If the broth is good, probably try it again. Bravo, MM for the attempt!

  31. here in cdo its called Remember Me, RM or soup number 5, i love exotic food, i remember eating the stew with boiled mature saba bananas and lots of sili, it was a regular snack for me my barkada, primarily because its cheap(12 pesos a bowl).they say that RM is an aphrodisiac and would be at par with sildenafil citrate in effectiveness.bravo MM for the attempt.

  32. Erbie, what I have been trying to ascertain is, did it work as intended? Everybody seems to be giggly and uncertain in their replies.

  33. Apicio, I don’t think I ate enough for it to have any effect, if indeed it has any. As for texture, this was spongy and airy spam with other gelatenous and more chewy bits thrown in.

  34. whoa! haha! pics look nice, though, considering they are what they are. with a cerveza negra, i’d have a bowl.. or two. ;)

    thanks for yet another fantastic post MM! ingat to everyone!

  35. Kurzhaar, you are absolutely correct but I err on the side of caution. I’ve never seen certified grass fed offal in any butcher shop I’ve visited. Asia is the primary market for offal from Canada and the US. I don’t think the corner turo-turo in Cebu is looking for certified grass fed offal, testicles, or skin.

  36. sister…chances are the offal, testicles and other “interesting” parts of cows and bulls served in turo-turo restos in Cebu are grass fed.

    They may not be certified, but for sure them animals never tasted inorganic fertilized grass or ever received homone implants and antibiotics….

  37. Sister, when I buy beef (infrequently) it is generally from a local farmer whom I know personally. So I am confident in the quality of meat (and manner in which the animals are raise, as I do visit the farm occasionally). It’s not “certified” other than by my own knowledge, since he only sells directly to a small circle of clients.
    Is it more trouble to purchase meat this way? Yes–I have to plan ahead, place an order well in advance, and drive out to the farm (not far) and pick it up. Can’t just stop by a local supermarket. But this way I am not only supporting a local farmer and keeping the money invested in my community, I am also assured of quality meat from an animal that was raised humanely. As I said, I do like brains and sweetbreads, but I’m not going to risk BSE to enjoy them!

  38. Apicio,as for the effects, my former Nepalese teacher would give you a thumbs up for it.effects may vary from person to person really.bodily temperature increase and for the otherwise part, i dont think MM would agree of me posting it here.this is after all a wholeshome blog.:).but then again the effects might just be placebo and all.

  39. I love balbacua…my uncle in Comval Province , Davao del Norte is famous fior his Balbacua and we would go there to get it weekly….the same goes for his Paklay.
    I am kinda adventurous on food but I just can’t bring my self to eat lanciao no matter what bribe my boyfirend offers me just to eat it…maybe in time I’d get the courage and partake some of it

  40. was enjoying all the feedback. Wow not all persons have the same enjoyment in their tongue. I sell balbacua after my father passed away to support my family. And personnaly , i just love the taste and i could eat forever wiht this food.
    I hope , for those people who wish to give it a try, i hope that they will encounter the one that is meticolously prepared.Enjoy.

  41. Lantsiao as we call it in Cebu it is the 2nd of my favorite exotic dish. Very delicious sweety taste with pinapple and some white beans on it, I miss it very much. You can have a taste of a well prepared lantsiao at the along Gorordo Avenue very near to Caltex Petrol Station and Perpetual Soccour Hospital entrance.

    If you visit Cebu, dont forget to try this food and the “linarang na pawikan” in garfield pasil near the fish market. I cant exchange it for lechon baboy. Mangaon nata!



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