The La Paz district of Iloilo City, located near the center of the Philippines, is famous for a noodle soup called batchoy. Joefred Devicais grew up eating batchoy in La Paz -- "I was born a year before it was invented in 1968," he says -- and after he moved to the States he began making the soup for family celebrations and holidays.
Almost two years ago, he opened La Paz Batchoy
near the border of San Francisco and Daly City, which has a couple of rice plates on the menu, corn dogs, and batchoy ($3.75 for a small bowl, $4.25 for a large). The cafe is barely wide enough for two tables, and after SFoodie ordered our bowl of soup, we sat next to a couple of retired guys, all of us watching Filipino game shows on TV, while a younger man drank coffee and answered e-mails on the cafe's computer.
Devicais makes his batchoy with a lightly sweet beef broth, flavored with the nutty, aromatic notes of fried garlic. He covers a nest of egg noodles in green onions and chopped chicken, beef, pork, and pork liver -- crowning the bowl in a downy heap of crumbled chicharrones, or fried pork skin.
"Batchoy is traditionally made with organ meats," Devicais says, "but a lot of people don't like them these days because they're high in cholesterol, so I use leaner meat and a little pork liver to give it that authentic taste." Despite the fact that he omits another traditional ingredient, MSG, the broth is lovely, dark and deep. We added a little soy to bump up the salt, then finished the noodles in all of five minutes, dipping soft, sweet rice cakes into the broth after they were gone.
"Did you like it?" Devicais asked when SFoodie went up to pay.
"How can you not love noodles covered in chicharrones?" we answered.
"You can ask for extra, you know." he replied. "Some people like it with a lot of pork skin."