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Filipina chefs give world-class twists to Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao dishes

MANILA, Philippines — In celebration of Women’s Month last March, Filipino Food Month last April, and National Heritage Month this May, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) recently held “Higara: A Night of Filipino Food Culture 6 Hands Dinner” featuring Filipina chefs to honor the country’s vibrant culture and delectable cuisine.

Recently staged in Sheraton Hotel Manila in partnership with the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Tourism, and the Philippine Culinary Heritage Movement, the month-long Filipino Food Month (FFM) celebration had the theme “Kalutong Filipino, Lakas ng Kabataang Makabago.”

Presidential Proclamation No. 469 established April as FFM or Buwan ng Kalutong Pilipino, while the dinner featuring Filipina chefs is in relation to Republic Act No. 9710, otherwise known as Magna Carta of Women, and initiated by NCCA to enable women’s participation in the formulation and implementation of plans for national, regional, and local developmental activities.

The dinner emphasized the presentation of cuisines and meals that Filipino women farmers, women-led cooperatives, and women chefs have planted, harvested, processed, and prepared. The event highlighted the culinary artistry of three talented Filipina chefs: Waya Araos-Wijangco, Gel Salonga-Datu, and Rhea Castro SyCip.

Chef Jam Melchor, head of the Philippine Culinary Heritage Movement, kicked off the event with an opening message, followed by Agnes Catherine Miranda from the Department of Agriculture and Hon. Verna Covar-Buensuceso from the Department of Tourism. Victorino Mapa Manalo, NCCA Chairman, praised the chefs for elevating Filipino cuisine.

The menu, crafted by the three chefs, featured appetizers like Pinikpikan Rillete by Chef Araos-Wijangco; and Kulawu Salad by Chef Salonga-Datu, main dishes including Banguigui-Sulu marlin by Chef Araos-Wijangco, and Kalderetang Pato by Chef Castro SyCip, and desserts such as Bibingka Cheesecake by Chef Salonga-Datu and Binaki by Chef Castro SyCip.

Araos-Wijangco shared at her introduction of Banguigui-Sulu marlin that she used a 41-kilo fresh catch straight from Sulu fishermen.

“And because it came from Sulu, I wanted a little Mindanao treatment to the dish, so we dipped it in a coco tamarind sauce. I pickled some Sakurap – little onions you see on top of the fish. It’s grown in Benguet, because we have now substantial Muslim communities up in the north. They grow a lot of the condiments and herbs that they use in their cooking in Benguet also,” she narrated.

“We always feel successful when we know the people who grew everything in the plate that we serve,” she declared. “And now, we already know the fishermen who caught the fish in the plate. Creating systems like this, can you imagine if this kind of transaction can be repeated nationwide by so many restaurants in so many ways? The benefits that farmers and fishermen would get for not having to deal with middlemen, and they get so much value from their produce is the kind of system that we want to create.”

Climate change, according to her, is among the biggest threats to the country’s food system.

Castro SyCip, a food and beverage practitioner for over 20 years, including for international hotel chains, likened Kaldereta to Adobo as “each family or each household has its own traditions” in cooking these. Her family, she shared, prepares Kaldereta with coconut milk or cream.

For Kalderetang Pato, she added liver to the coco cream she used to flavor the seared duck breast as sauce thickener. Instead of whole peas, she added foam peas in the plate to taste.

The evening was enriched by performances from Banda Kawayan, Ramon Obusan Folkloric Group, Bayang Barrios, and Angeli Benipayo. A tribute video honored the farmers who contribute to the meals we enjoy. Beyond just food, the event celebrated storytelling, culture, and the unique experiences that define Filipino cuisine.

Credit belongs to : www.philstar.com

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