Fans of Ilonggo cooking are expected to make a beeline to the Mandarin Oriental Manila for the weeklong festival “Flavors of the Visayas,” featuring traditional dishes prepared by chef Pauline Gorriceta-Banusing.
This is not the first time the Iloilo-based chef has graced the kitchens of the Mandarin. Her first guesting was back in 2006 at what was then the Captain’s Bar, now the MO Lounge. Repeat “performances” were held the following year and then again in 2011 and 2012.
Something fresh and new
Banusing told Inquirer Lifestyle that her goal for every promo is to bring something fresh and new.
“This year, we will focus on giving guests a feel of the Visayan culture with pass-around Ilonggo street food, both sweet and savory, as well as refreshing summer drinks like sago’t gulaman, buko pandan, salabat iced tea and kamias shake,” she said.
Banusing said that people from the Visayas have a habit of snacking all the time. This is evident in the markets of Iloilo where a great variety of snacks greets visitors as they enter. These
can include shrimp ukoy (fritters); Valenciana (local paella) wrapped in banana leaves; fried lumpiang togue (spring rolls); puto manapla (rice cake); and bitso-bitso (crullers).
“All of these will be served at Paseo Uno. I even plan to have a taho vendor dishing out fresh taho to guests,” Banusing said.
If the appetizers alone whet your appetite, check out what the chef has planned for lunch and dinner, ongoing until this Sunday only.
Fresh seafood like Capiz shells (windowpane oysters); juicy Roxas oysters; and four types of fish (black marlin, blue marlin, local red snapper and Managat or mangrove jack) will be flown in daily from the Visayas. Guests can have their choice of seafood grilled to their specifications.
Thick and creamy
“I usually don’t serve pancit Molo during the promotion since I know how common it is. But I realized that our guests in Manila should really try an authentic pancit molo which is thick and creamy, with dumplings made of chicken, shrimp and pork,” she said.
Banusing admitted that given how this is her fifth time to serve as guest chef at the Mandarin, she wanted to present new dishes or at least items that are uniquely hers. In Iloilo, she runs a number of restaurants, namely: Al Dente Ristorante Italiano, Steps of Rome, 101 Luna Steak Room and Rooftop Brewery.
She also offers menu consultancy for other establishments and runs Gruppo Al Dente Catering Services, which is considered the prime catering service in Iloilo City.
“While I want to come up with new dishes, I realized over the years that guests come to the promotion looking for traditional Ilonggo food. Since this is just a weeklong event, I focused on featuring iconic Ilonggo dishes daily like Batchoy; Kadios-Baboy-Langka; Chicken Inasal; Kansi with Beef Short Ribs kag Lanit Lanit (with beef tendons); Pinamalhan; Aklan Crabs with Guinamos; Prawns with Aligue Sauce and Green Mangoes; and Native Chicken na may Estiwitis kag Tultol,” she said.
Salt from Guimaras
What is interesting to note is that the chef will be using solid salt made in the town of San Miguel on the island of Guimaras.
“Nowadays, we see a variety of gourmet salts from Europe, so I took up the challenge of using materials found here in our province. There is just one family that continues to make this tultol salt from Guimaras. I want to use this since I feel that I have to support our local agricultural industry in the Visayas,” Banusing said.
The salt is used in the simply named Native Chicken cooked with annatto seeds. She says one can taste the freshness of the chicken which is cooked for more than eight hours, enough time for the meat to fall off the bone. The dish is then seasoned with tultol salt, flavored with laurel leaves and fresh coconut milk. The annatto seeds simmered in oil give this dish its orange color.
Those who prefer meat over seafood should head straight to the Beef Kansi with short ribs, a consistent favorite. This time, Banusing added lanit-lanit (beef tendons) to give the soupy dish “more substance.”
Flavors of the Visayas is ongoing until May 12. Call 7508888.
PHOTOS BY RAOUL J. CHEE KEE