Quibranza: Good things come in pairs

·3 min read

Chinese philosophy figured it out with its concept of the yin and yang. Even the black and white colors of the symbol remind me of the ultimate pairing revered in all kitchens across the world—the mighty salt and pepper.

Another pairing that’s recently gotten our town quite excited is the humble beef pares. When it started to trend, the first thing that came to mind was how this food place near Fuente Osmeña in the late ’90s was two decades too early.

It branded itself as a “beef pares place” in Cebu. My father, who has Bisaya roots but practically spent his formative and young adult years in Manila, was immediately sold with the idea of having one of the capital’s iconic, roadside eats finally served in the Queen City.

While nostalgia is a very good sales proposition, it puts any product on a pedestal. Whatever is sold goes under intense scrutiny among those who have a picture, taste or sound that, they believe, were the stuff of legends back in the “good old days.”

Briefly put, nobody wants to mess with good memories.

So my dad took us brothers to the beef pares place and had our fill. However, I recall him leaving the place wanting more. It wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t the same.

Jump forward two decades in an Instagram-crazed society, and Cebu picked 2022 to go all-out with beef pares. For a time, people lined up in front of food carts and holes-in-the-wall that served the dish.

Being a half-Tagalog (my mother, whose roots stretch to Quezon province), I’ve had my own memories with pares. I remember introducing a few Cebuano media friends from the entertainment circle to the sweet and savory beef dish when we were in Quezon City to cover an event. I remember having beef pares at 3 a.m. with my brothers after watching the U2 concert in 2019.

After the hype settled, I tried to decide which beef pares place I wanted to try out here in the city. My search—and quite honestly, proximity to home—led me to try out Pares Pares in Brgy. Kamputhaw, Cebu City.

I’ve always associated beef pares as a no-nonsense dish: Braised beef served with garlic rice and clear soup. But having tried this combo for several times now, I figured ordering the Spicy Kutchay Beef Pares to try out something new. I steered clear of noodle variations or those that emulated dim sum dishes.

I enjoyed my food very much, but then would find myself occasionally dipping my spoon in my brother’s bowl of Original Beef Pares. Back and forth. Back and forth. I guess nostalgia, indeed, is the ultimate sales proposition. My tastebuds yearned for a taste of that sweet beef on top of garlic fried rice—a match made in simplicity heaven.

Good things do come in pairs. Even both my parents approve of Pares Pares.

At the end of the day, beef pares isn’t something worth overthinking about. It’s comfort food for the soul.

Did it taste the same as the ones I’ve had up north? Maybe? It was pretty close. I’ll take close any day instead of having to fly for hundreds of kilometer and then driving in the middle of the famed Manila traffic for beef pares in Parañaque.