In a nation where everyone loves fried chicken, the word steamed chicken is virtually unheard of. So when a little stall opened in the streets of Talamban, It had something not even the biggest food chains have. Intrigue.
I can only recall two instances that I have tasted Calye’s Steamed Chicken. The first time I did was during its early and humble beginnings. There wasn’t really much to it; basically a tiny stall at the side of the road. It was so small that it was immediately drowned out by its neighboring stalls that sell fruits and vegetables. Even their chicken was concealed in a metal steamer so the only sign you’d know it was selling something was a vendor religiously charming passersby to sample their offering. Albeit the slight drizzle, I accepted the vendor’s offer. I chewed on their free sample, a pale pinkish strip of steamed chicken whose flavor was accessible only by a tiny toothpick piercing its tender body. I chewed on it for a moment, expecting it to taste like, well, chicken. I was already a few steps away from the stall, trying to secure a dry place from the now stronger downpour when something magically happened inside my mouth. The thing I was chewing was now giving me more than what its pale and humble demeanor had previously promised. It was love at first bite. To put it simply, it tasted like a whole potful of tinola was infused inside that fleshy fella. It was good. Really good. For 16 pesos apiece, I ordered two and a single serving of rice. And since I don’t occasionally bring plates with me on random, I had to eat on a cellophane plastic.Yes, they don’t even have a table. They have a special oil sauce that makes the chicken even tastier. I remembered contemplating just how something so unassumingly boring as that, was now sending explosions of flavors in my mouth. From that moment on I kept looking for that make shift stall at the side of the road. But it seemed that our love story was short-lived. To my horror, the stall was gone. I kept looking but failed. It was only recently that I happened to be near their newly opened stall that I took my chance. It was now two folding tables bigger and is situated in front of Julie’s bakeshop, a much better location. Their chicken is now selling at 26 pesos per piece which made me a bit sad but it doesn’t really matter because it still tastes as good as the first time I nibbled it.
If by any chance you’re from Cebu, you should really give it a try. It’s not a restaurant that’s for sure (though I believe It deserves to be), more like a scaled down carenderia. But despite its shortcomings I can promise that their chicken is worth a try. Truly, steamed chicken love is tastier the second time around.