5: What to do with Etag (smoked mountain ham)

Roughly four months after visiting Sagada for the first time and I am already thinking about where I can get etag minus the 13-hour travel. Etag, or smoked mountain ham, is 4 parts meat and 1 part pork fat. Traditional preparation can take as much as 6 months although there are already shorter curing processes these days. Anyway, I bought two slabs which would have been too much if Choi didn’t do a lot of cooking. Choi, my sister’s boyfriend, does a lot of experimenting in the kitchen like me so let’s just say we had a lot of fun. Here, I’ll be enumerating a number of things you can do with etag. I’m thinking of putting up a link from my travel blog to this list of etag recipes as it’s related to Sagada.

Tinola or Nilaga

Although the most common recipe used with etag is tinola, Choi found out that it is just as good mixed with Nilaga. Thin slices of etag may be enough for the soup to have that smoky taste. You should especially watch your seasoning as it can get a little bit too salty. You would need to boil etag for at least 3 hours to make it tender if you are planning to eat it. However, you can skip the boiling part and not eat it especially that most of the flavor is already in your soup. It’s tedious but you can simply use a sharp knife and shave it as thin as you can.


Local sautéed vegetables may sound ordinary but with etag, Filipino dishes are completely transformed. Instead of mixing in pork or shrimp, kalabasa at sitaw (squash and string beans) can be sautéed with a slice or two of etag before stirring in gata (coconut cream). You can also do the same for kangkong, pechay, broccoli and any other type of legume or vegetable you want to sauté. Mushrooms will also do just fine. Basil, parsley and celery can also be put into use for more variation. Not happy? Make chopsuey!

Vegetable soup

I can think of about 5 pureed soups right now and give me about a minute and I’ll tell you 10 more. Anyway, pureed broccoli, squash, cauliflower, asparagus and carrot are only some examples of vegetable soups that can be transformed by simply infusing a shaving of etag while sautéing garlic. You can add water and vegetables and boil until tender. After that strain vegetables and set the broth aside. Use a food processor or a blender before mixing it with the broth. Sprinkle some spices cause it’s no magic.

Fried Rice

The smoky taste of etag is perfect for breakfast. Sauté garlic and shavings of etag before mixing in chopped vegetables. Carrots, cabbage and peas are only some examples of what you can make use of. If you want more flavor, add in shrimp and other kinds of meat. Just try not to overdo it as etag has a very distinct taste. I, on the other hand, will be quite satisfied with garlic, green onions, shavings of etag and pair it with good old scrambled egg for breakfast.


Sauté garlic and shavings of etag in olive oil. Once cool, strain olive oil into a bottle. Mix it with your typical salad dressings as needed. The result is something in between bacon and dried anchovies. Choose from mixing it with classic vinaigrette, mango and capsicums, honey mustard, Caesar, sour cream and onion and any other dressing you can think of. Have fun with a bit of heat like cayenne and chili. drizzle over salads, sandwiches or use as a dip for tacos and chips.

And please, don’t let me stop you. Cheers!

Sagada: Food Joints

Salt and Pepper

Exhausted, cold and tried, we settled for the nearest food joint we can find. Salt and Pepper looked inviting though we haven’t heard much about them online. We ordered nilagang baboy as it seemed most apt considering we went for a dip at Bomod-ok falls. The soup was very tasty and you can really tell the vegetables were fresh just by smelling the soup. The chunks of pork did taste good but it was very difficult to chew and may not have been boiled long enough. I ordered garlic vegetables and was disappointed that it turned out to be just kangkong. I wasn’t expecting any kind of meat but I kinda thought it would be more like chopsuey. It took such a long time but we were too tired to complain and we were just happy when the food finally arrived. I suppose there is no need to explain why I skipped taking photos of the food. *wink*

Bus Stop Snack Umbrella

Here I was enjoying coffee, suman and pancakes served near the bus stop. It’s the cheapest snack you can have! Quite filling too if I may add.

Haddeku Cafe

I was expecting people to be cranky because everyone was hungry and we were always missing meals during our whole truth but the truth is nothing like that happened. I just love how I captured exhaustion in pictures after every tour. haha!

I ordered tinola and Phil ordered Fried Chicken. I think the soup was fantastic or maybe the weather is really helping me love all kinds of soup that you can order. But anyway, I loved the three’s order of chicken curry and Benj’s order of vegetable curry even more than the chicken. I guess a little spice cannot possibly hurt in cold nights.

Below is Haddeku Cafe in the morning and the other photo is the group who enjoyed the bonfire for a few minutes before heading home. It still wasn’t manageable even with a fire nearby.

Kimchi Restaurant

This little Korean joint got me really excited because I had been craving for some time. When I checked it out I saw the part where there’s mostly Filipino food first but when I flipped it, Voila! Samgyupsal in Sagada! I was disappointed as there were only two side dishes that came with an order of samgyupsal but I am still recommending this place for many reasons. Firstly, it is the only Korean joint in Sagada (or so I thought). Next, most shops have curfew so they can close as early as 8 or 9pm. However, this joint is open as late as 2am depending on how many customers they have. If you plan to drink all night and if you don’t have plans of going trekking the next day, it’s perfect. I kinda love what they did to the place too. I like the bottle caps and pieces of furniture they have. It would also be nice to photograph. Lastly, the whole group first noticed the resto for their blasting reggae music. So I guess there can be dancing, chilling and just sliding, if you know what I mean.

We shared a few bottles of beer with 2 Canadians. It was lovely. We had no photos taken but I kinda like it that way.


That is Jeffrie, our main guide holding a kilo of Etag (smoked meat)/small bottle of blueberry wine and the group during our short lived drinking session. We tried out etag soup from Lucky Shanghai and paired it with wine and beer. Yum!


Sagada: Lemon Pie House

We were almost turned down for the third time but thankfully the cook accommodated us saying we should only choose breakfast items or any of the chicken viands so that he wouldn’t have a hard time preparing. He said it’s because he’s alone but it was already our third visit so again I am not used to establishments turning down customers.

We wouldn’t have come back if the place wasn’t so intriguing. Just look at lemon yellow wall outside. Almost every corner is picture perfect so people who loved posing for the camera would love it here. It also helps that there are few people so you wouldn’t be so conscious when you pose and take shots repeatedly. In fact, we were the only ones there at the time.

Told you it was only us. Maybe they do fill up the place during peak season. I hope so!

mat, table and throw pillows/ Jodi, me and Phil

That’s Phil’s order of Spicy Chicken, Benj’s order of longganiza and my order of fried chicken. Again, there was nothing spectacular about their food and it took very long before our orders arrived but anyway they have big servings and it’s still better than junk food.

I end this post with a slice of lemon pie! Phil wasn’t the one who ordered it but he loved it had at least half of it. prick! hahaha!

Sagada: Vincent Cafe

This was where we ended up when the cook of Lemon Pie House was not available. Phil ordered longganiza and I ordered sausages as it was for breakfast. Mine turned out to be hotdogs. We also sampled Nina’s hearty arroz caldo (chicken porridge) as it was a very big serving. Though we did not enjoy it very much trying out new restaurants is always interesting. Most of the restaurants here got attitude. haha!

Perhaps I forgot to mention but we were with Elaine, Benj, Fia, Nina and Jodi.

That’s Phil and me. (picture from Benj!)

picture outside, picture of food and Nina smoking

Sagada: Log Cabin

Phil and I weren’t with the rest of the group when they made reservations for Log Cabin so we had to go there the next morning to order. I was thrilled to see that it was really a Log Cabin! I was also glad that I went there in the morning because I could take as much photos as I want. It was perfect because the restaurant was deserted. Besides, it’s a lot easier to take photos with sunlight than in the evening. I loved the combination of paintings, statues/sculptures, signage and china around the main dining area.

Log Cabin is most popular for their Saturday buffet. Just like Yoghurt house, it is all over the net. There are so many people who want to try out their buffet when they visit Sagada that you need to make reservations. Actually even if you plan to eat a la carte they still recommend ordering in advance. Apparently it is to ensure that your dinner will be on time. A deposit is also required. I don’t think it’s too much of a bother as you can simply do it before or after breakfast. Our pictures suck because we went there after the cave connection tour which took 5 1/2 hours underground! I guess we were tired. haha!

We shared a bowl of tomato based soup. I had chicken paprika served with home fries and cucumber salad while Phil had roast pork with buttered vegetables and mashed potatoes. The serving I thought was too much for Filipinos. We could finish it but maybe it wouldn’t be the good kind of full. Maybe foreigners would find it just right but I can’t really be sure. All in all I was disappointed. The soup was quite ordinary. The chicken was nondescript and Phil’s mom can whip up better pork chops. The mashed potatoes which had curry would have been something but it lacked salt.  But even if that’s the case, I still want to try the buffet the next time I go to Sagada. Yes there will be a next time!

me + cat + round stone bench + fire pit


Sagada: Bana’s Cafe & Resto

Bana’s Cafe & Resto is another popular destination and while it is not as picture perfect as Yoghurt House, it sure did please me more. It still was not mind blowing but at least I loved some items and did not feel bad after having a meal there. It was too bad that we weren’t able to try out their lunch and dinner menu. If their breakfast was quite alright then I thought maybe their meals would be equally good or even better.

The corned beef looked yummy but the thing is I don’t like ordering canned goods from restaurants and as it was not stated it’s homemade I kinda just skim at those items on the menu. Their onion tomato and cheese omelette was also good except that I would have loved it with rice and I kinda crave meat for breakfast so it still was not perfect.

I particularly loved the longganiza but I think the serving was too small; too small to be full and too small for the price.  I think Nina’s order of Bana’s Favorite with bacon, toast, eggs, marmalade and butter plus some slices of fruits on the side otherwise known as an American breakfast was quite promising. I did want to try it but as I said life was so short there. (Nina offered many times but I thought too many people asked to have a sample of her order that maybe she was not able to eat as much as she would have so I said I was already full.)

The banana pancake at 80 pesos was certainly a treat. It was served with lemon honey syrup and had big chunks of banana thus its rounded shape. We were told that it is only for one person but I think a group can share it if it’s only for dessert. This is also where I tried the local civet coffee otherwise known as alamid and I was disappointed that it tasted like regular brewed coffee at 200 pesos. Elaine’s order of Bana’s Café Mocha at 80 pesos tasted better! Anyway I loved their breakfast the most out of the other joints we tried out while in Sagada.

That’s me pointing to a cat. Why do Batibot chairs look so rustic? I loved that little corner and it would have been perfect for a smoke only if I still do smoke.

Sagada: Yoghurt House

Yoghurt House was all over the net when I was reading about Sagada. Everyone was suggesting it even when they haven’t exactly been to Sagada. It is that popular so of course that was the first place we had to look into.

The reason why it is so popular? Well, I don’t think it is the food or the yoghurt that they serve but I think it’s all about the charm of the tastefully decorated two-storey house. Everything they have is picture perfect. From the sign, the fire place the wall panels, the balcony, the tables and chairs to the foods that they serve, everything looks so inviting.

The others seemed to have enjoyed orders of pasta, sandwiches and yoghurt but nothing really impressed me.

I guess maybe I am being a bit too harsh. I did love something. Their salad dressing is so good that I ordered it for merienda. and that little mountain of vegetables? I finished it! The dressing is made from yoghurt but it is plain awesome and refreshing.

Yoghurt lovers will love the variations and the huge servings but it won’t exactly make converts out of people who stay away from this sour dessert. I am not saying the food is bad. It’s okay. It’s just that I am hoping for servings that will make me want to go back for every single meal for the short stay we will have in Sagada.

Do still drop by and try their healthy helpings. Don’t forget to take pictures. It’s just lovely!