Another Tausug signature dish, called Tihi-tihi. These fresh sea urchins are filled with ginger-, turmeric- and coconut-milk-flavored rice then cooked – steamed, I think – so that the urchin roe flavor totally permeates the rice. My wife and I loved how each urchin shell is wrapped with its own banana leaf ribbon. They look like little birthday gifts. The flavor, of course, was incredible – it was like a marriage between our favorite Uni Sushi and a Biryani!
Here are the cleaned raw urchin shells, ready to be filled, with the yellow rice in the background.
And this is Sanipaan Shoal, also known as Vanishing Island, a long sandbar off Samal Island and just a few kilometers from the site of the Tausug festival. We’ve often seen Tausug and Sama women gathering urchins here, so this was the likely source of our feast!