Feeling very virtuous and totally cleansed after imbibing jugs of avocado-guyabano tea, we thought it a good idea to give our kidneys a little treat. We were afraid we'd take ill from withdrawal - a chain-smoker who suddenly stops smoking can die instantly, after all, and we didn't want to suffer the same fate.
So off we went to the public market of Dagupan City on our last night home, with the apparent reason of buying enough bangus and other seafood to bring back to Cavite. But the more weighty consideration was a trip to the pigar-pigar stalls by twilight, along the road leading from the meat market.
There, freshly slaughtered cattle are cleaved into hunks of meat, which are then hung from hooks to display by the roadsides. The street is closed to traffic, tables and chairs are set on the asphalted pavement still steaming from the afternoon sunlight, and the communion begins.
It's beef paradise. Beer paradise, too. People come to eat, as well as to drink. And it's easily the cheapest way one can chill out - ice-cold beer and stir-fried beef at unbelievably next-to-nothing prices that's unavailable anywhere else. The utensils and tabletops may be greasy, the plastic chairs smudged with years of use, but it's al fresco dining, and the lights are dim so what you can't clearly see won't really bother you. And you don't go to the public meat market and expect fine dining ambience, do you?
Pigar-pigar in the Pangasinan language is turning and overturning oneself or something. It has been taken to name this place along Galvan Street in Dagupan City to describe the way the beef is cooked. Once you've stated how much beef you want, and made your choice of pure beef meat or mixed with beef liver, the meats are weighed, chopped and sliced, then dunked in a deep pan full of boiling oil. The thin pieces of beef are turned over quickly to keep them from over-cooking and toughening up.
Sliced rounds of large white onions are added, and tablespoons of salt, and most probably MSG, as well, are then swirled with the meat. Everything's done in just a couple of minutes or so, the pigar-pigar served still sputtering from the heat. Even so, the beef can be tough, depending on the cut of meat available. So it would be good to request the slices to be really thin.
There are vegetable stalls near the area, and it's become our custom to buy a few grams of what's from Baguio that day - snow peas, young corn, broccoli florets, even marble potatoes, which are peeled and cooked along with the pigar-pigar at no extra cost. Some enterprising vendors actually choose to sell beside a pigar-pigar stall, and this has made the entire experience more convenient, although the choices may be a little wanting.
I like mushrooms - oyster or button or whatever kind - with beef, and I scouted around for a while looking for them, but in vain. I guess for another time.