Cebu Eats: The Barracks @ Carbon Market, Cebu City
Opened in May 2023, The Barracks is a new "hawker centre" located right next to the Freedom Park monument and is part of the modernisation programme of the Carbon Market in Cebu City. It is said that the new setup was inspired by Singapore's hawker centre concept and its way of displaying Singapore local dishes. Similarly, The Barracks seeks to house most, if not all, of Cebu's local dishes under its roof.
Setting off from SM Seaside City, one of the super malls in Cebu City, we took a Grab car to "Carbon Night Market", where we thought was the place to go for local food. Seeing that we were foreigners, the Grab driver asked if we were going to eat and we confirmed. He drove us to The Barracks instead, a couple of streets away from the Carbon Night Market (which is a market for locals to sell fruits and vegetables at night). We were very thankful to that good driver.
Just before 7pm on a Friday night, The Barracks was already pretty crowded.
It was not long before we managed to find some vacated seats at the end of a long table. Once our seats were secured, we went to Loy's Tuslob Buwa stall to order the Cebuan dish called tuslob buwa. Each set of tuslob buwa was only ₱150 and included 10 pieces of puso (rice wrapped in coconut leaves).
A staff arrived, with the necessities to make tuslob buwa, within minutes. He asked if we wished to cook ourselves, but noting that it was our first time trying the dish, he set off to cook it for us.
After adding some chopped garlics, onions, chillies and oil in the heated wok, he added in the frozen minced innards (usually pig liver and pig brain).
After a few minutes, the tuslob buwa, also known as "dip in bubbles", was ready. The staff motioned that we could add in the other condiments as desired. We wanted to try the original taste before adding anything.
The prepared "sauce" was meant to be eaten with puso rice, which is very similar to Indonesian ketupat except for the shape — puso is triangular whereas ketupat is diamond in shape.
There was no cutleries and we had to eat using plastic hand gloves. We took some puso, dip it in the cooked innards before eating it. The tuslob buwa was already very tasty without adding more of the condiments — this Cebuan dish is really a must-try!
Apart from tuslob buwa, we also ordered some grilled foodstuff from Cedro's Grill, which was opposite Loy's Tuslob Buwa. A selection of three grilled items cost us about ₱290 in total. It took about 15 minutes for our orders to be grilled at an open space not far from the stall.
First, we had the meaty and nicely grilled pork ribs. The meat had retained its juiciness and the bones separated easily from the tasty meat. We continued to eat using our hands in plastic gloves.
Next, the grilled fish with tomato slices and spices sandwiched in the cut fish — I forgot to open up the fish before taking a photo. Despite the charred skin of the fish, the white meat is soft and tasty with the spices.
The last item was the chorizo de Cebu, which looked like short or round pork sausages. It was made by stuffing minced pork meat, fats, sugar, sweet anise liqueur, etc, into thin intestine and best eaten after being grilled. It was a sweet sausage, undoubtedly, and not bad in terms of taste and soft textures.
Before wrapping up the meal, we had a cup of fruit shakes each from Ville Fruit stall for a total of ₱275. The red dragonfruit shake had the most striking colour.
After giving up our seats, we took a short walk around The Barracks to check out the remaining stalls. Many popular local food can be found here, including lechon (roasted suckling pigs), siomai (Chinese-style dumplings), etc. As it got deeper into the Friday night, the foodcourt became much more crowded — by the way, The Barracks opens at 10am but it is usually livelier and crowded at night.
We were not able to find any stalls selling the popular local snack, balut (or fertilised duck egg), in The Barracks and went outside the premise to look for it among the push carts that lined the streets. We found two carts selling them.
The Barracks @ Carbon Market
7VVX+636, Cebu City, 6000 Cebu, Philippines
10am to 10pm | Fri to Sun till 1am | Daily