Some may just dismiss it as Mindanao’s version of the Tagalog “binalot” – that is, rice meal wrapped in wilted banana leaves. But this offering commonly found in many Islamic areas in the Philippines (say, Maguindanao), as well as where Muslims have communities (say, General Santos City) is also a good representation of… ingenious preparation of cheap (or: affordable) food-on-the go. Here’s the “pastil“.
This offering’s differences with others also wrapped in banana leaves are numerous. For one, the viand (i.e. “kagikit“) lining the top portion (you can choose from chicken, beef or fish) are shredded, not served as-is as they are with other “binalot” offerings. Secondly, the shredded meat tend to be dry – some say they are cooked a la adobo, though others just sauté them with onions, garlic and ginger until they turn brown, and until the soy sauce and fish sauce dissipate. And thirdly, when wrapped, the leaves are fanned with oil so that the rice doesn’t stick to them (aside from giving that add-on “leafy” taste).
One “pastil” can cost as less as P5.00 (explaining its popularity among those with small budgets, such as students). They are available from BBQ places, or from vendors that pop up at night in many public areas (near plazas and markets) in Mindanao. Almost always, they are sold with “pepino” (cucumber) soaked in vinegar (also selling for P5.00); good pairing to remove the “alat” (saltiness) of the “kagikit“. They may also be enjoyed with “sugba” (grilled) fish, usually “katipa” (catfish) or “dalag” (mudfish).
So when in Mindanao, be sure to try this – whether as “merienda” (snack) or as full meal. Because truth be told, you can’t truly say you’ve been to Mindanao if you haven’t tried the “pastil“.