COTABATO CITY – Choosing on famous Muslim food, pastil has continued its popularity even on Christmas among ordinary Muslims, even Christians in most parts of Muslim Mindanao region.

Pastil remains to be the most popular Maguindanaon delicacy, according to Babo Alay Manabay, a 60-year-old mother whose main source of income is vending pastil.

“It’s a poor man’s instant food and you can have it anywhere in areas where Muslims dominate,” Manabay said. “Even non-Muslims love it.”

For Manabay, her 35 years of experience in preparing “pastil” had been accompanied with passion and love. She said passion because “I seemed not getting tired of doing it almost every dawn.”

“I love preparing it because this is my identity, our identity,” she said, adding anyone loving “pastil” must have a Muslim blood in his or her veins.

Bai Aileen Samad, 35, who operates an eatery inside the Cotabato City mega market, said she sells at last 675 to 100 pieces of pastil a day on a regular basis and could reach 150 pieces on some occasions, like market day.

What is pastil?

If you have leftover fish, chicken or beef from yesterday’s meal, you can easily prepare pastil.

Pastil is made of boiled rice and in the middle topped with ‘kagikit’ – sautéed shredded meat of chicken, beef, or fish that is wrapped with a wilted banana leaf. It can be prepared with only shredded beef, chicken, fish or you can have it all.

The more ingredients, the tastier it is. But chicken and fish pastil are the famous here and in Maguindanao.

“I don’t use leftovers,” Babo Manabay quickly said when asked if her supplies of “pastil” are freshly prepared.

“While it is allowed or practice among Muslims, I preferred newly cooked chicken meat or beef because I am selling it.”

With added onion, garlic, ginger and soy sauce, one can have a sumptuous meal, Bai Samad narrated. “It is a budget meal,” she added.

At an average, pastil sells at P7 or P10 a piece, depending on the ingredients and size. Some eateries sell it at P5.

“It is best if pastil is accompanied with a hardboiled egg and a coffee for breakfast,” Samad said, adding her clients included ordinary people, government officials, businessmen and Christian market goers.

In Tagalog region, pastil can be likened to “binalot sa dahon” food.

However, pastil is wrapped differently and as Babo Manabay said, it is “prepared with love.”

Any Muslim gathering like weddings, birthdays, thanksgiving, pastil is always there where people have different ways of taking it in.

Some put in on a plate along with other viands while others who are economical only add soy sauce and take it like eating a banana.

Preparation of pastil is as easy as 1-2-3. With rice already cooked, put the shredded chicken fish or beef then wrapped it with wilted banana leaves like preparing a “suman” (rice cake).

Once on vacation or official business in Cotabato City, a trip without taking pastil” is not complete. However, pastil can also be bought anywhere in the country where there are Muslim residents. (PNA)