One of the great things about living in El Nido is the abundance of fresh, delicious seafood, at a price point that makes most tourists salivate. A whole grilled fish is usually the cheapest thing on the menu here (from 120-260 pesos/$2.50-$3.35), and is usually stuffed with herbs, tomatoes and onions.

Every morning, the ladies from the village pass by with a wooden pole slung over their shoulders and dozens of plastic bags filled with fresh fish balanced precariously on each end. What we serve at The Alternative depends on who knocks on our door that morning, a practice I find extremely satisfying. At night, the solitary lights from the squid fishing boats dot the horizon and squid a la plancha - juicy and tender with a squirt of kalamansi and nothing else - remains one of my favorite dishes here. To make matters even better, Philippine lobster (rock lobster or spiny lobster) is both plentiful and out-of-the-sea fresh, if you know where to find it. Luckily for me, I had a friend who did. Katrien, a graceful Belgian woman who has lived in El Nido with her boyfriend Javier for the last few months stumbled upon a Lobster Lady who happened to have several kilos of live lobster in her banca boat. Having spent the last ten days with Rob, an environmental scientist from Holland who spent several months living in Palawan to help start a sustainable lobster farm but had never eaten lobster before, Katrien and I were dead set on finding him some crustacean deliciousness, stat. Katrien told the Lobster Lady to scour the town for me or a tall Dutchman named Rob, and she dutifully did just that, finally running into us at the fruit stand down the street from The Alternative.

The Lobster Lady was a sight to behold: she was at least a head shorter than me and likely half my body weight, with shoulder-length gray hair and only 2 teeth. She brought us to her banca boat and we departed with a net full of 8 squirming, angry lobsters. The lobster came in at just over 2 kilos, and we asked the staff at The Alternative if we could pay them a pseudo "corkage fee" to steam them. We also ordered a platter of garlic fried rice, bought a 1.5L jug of Carlo Rossi red wine and bought some Cloud 9 chocolate bars for dessert.

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  • Jodi Ettenberg

    Born in Montreal, Canada, Jodi Ettenberg is a former new media and technology lawyer who quit her job after 5+ years of working…

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