To become a real traveler one must experience a destination not in the eye of a tourist but in that of a local. When you visit General Santos City, for example, do away with eating in fastfood restaurants that are usually found anywhere else. Try to go where locals take their fill.
One place that is popular among locals, especially students who are on a tight budget, is the pastil strip around Plaza Heneral Santos.
Pastil is cooked rice, topped with tasty shredded fish meat, cooked with a mix of spices and seasoning, and wrapped in banana leaf. Newer versions include flavors based on popular Filipino dishes like Bicol Express and Sisig.
When you visit Plaza Heneral Santos at sundown you would notice umbrella-covered tables sprawled along the Pendatun Avenue side of the plaza. These are the stalls that sell Pastil to hungry students, employees who no longer have time or too tired to cook dinner, and economizing lovers, among others.
Stall owners, eager to make a sale, talk passersby into eating at their stalls with offers like, “You get eggplant salad for free,” which everyone offers, by the way.
You will then be offered a seat, which you would most likely share with strangers.
On your first visit, you might wonder how to eat pastil because the stall owner will not offer eating utensils. Let me tell you how to eat pastil in GenSan.
1. Choose your flavor
Most stalls nowadays offer a variety of flavored pastil. You choose from original, hot and spicy, Bicol Express, Sisig, Adobo, or Curry. You might want to try them all.
2. Wrap your hands in cellophane
Yes, you will not eat pastil with utensils. I think, Pastil is oriilginally designed for people on the go, back in the days when Tupperware was not a household name yet. A sawlthough not usually practiced, you might want to wash your hands first. Feel free to ask for water.
3. Add a generous amount of soy sauce and vinegar
You might not find the toppings on your pastil plenty enough for your rice. Adding soy sauce and vinegar does the trick.
4. Enjoy pastil with a side dish of your choice
You can choose from among the usual aide dish offered like spicy eggplant cooked with coconut milk and dried fish, cucumber salad, or shrimp paste. Eggs are also available if you want them. Other more established shops like Pastil Republik at Laurel Avenue also offer fried chicken to go with your pastil.
I’m sure you would want another pastil after finishing your first.
More than just being able to taste this popular dish, eating pastil in GenSan is an experience that would make you feel like one of the Generals, as locals of General Santos City call themselves.