A “secret” that is not very well kept in Iligan is the city’s “halang-halang” – a “sabaw ng baka” (beef soup/broth) with lots of “luya” (ginger) and “tanglad” (lemongrass), topped with beef fat, scallions, “sili” (chili) and a squeeze of “kalamansi”.
I’m saying it’s a secret because tourists won’t necessarily know of it. But it’s also not well kept because – if you have the right contacts – you’d definitely end up having it particularly after a night of booze.
Now, is it worth making sure you grab it when in Iligan?
As mentioned, particularly after a night of drinking, I’d say yes. The “sabaw” is a popular sobering… tool that almost everyone (rich or poor) who partied can be seen grabbing after a night out. It’s a form of “immersion”, so yes, it ought to be tried.
HOWEVER, this is not a perfect food (“halang-halang”, by the way, comes with a hefty serving of warm rice), so it isn’t for everyone. Sure, the food can help you sober up. But leave it too long, and the “mantika” (oil) starts to “sleep”, so that every sip of the soup is like eating disgusting spoonfuls of hardened oil/margarine.
The venue where the famed “halang-halang” is also not fancy – i.e. it’s a wet market (!). It’s like eating in a rundown “karinderya” (eatery), where – at times – the stench isn’t exactly enticing, the lighting isn’t allowing you to see what you’re eating, the service provided not at all nice, and so on…
To sum up, though, if you want to at least eat as many of the locals, this is a must-try (even once, or twice, or thrice). If you want to grab something cheap (meals cost under P100), this is worth considering. If you want to follow where the (drunk) locals head after a night out, this is a must-check. Or if you just want to experiment… then by all means, have some “halang-halang”.
The Wet Market is located along Aguinaldo Street, Iligan City.