In Provenciano, food that reminds us of good old hometown fare
I have found a kitchen reminiscent of my own, away from home. Luckily, it isn’t very far.
Along the row of interesting dining spots on Maginhawa Street in Teacher’s Village, Quezon City, is a bungalow transformed into a restaurant called Provenciano. It is the fulfillment of chef Hernan Christian De Jesus’ longtime dream.
The menu features Philippine regional cuisine based on heirloom recipes that De Jesus learned from his travels around the country. A stickler for doing things the old-fashioned way, the chef sees to it that every plate of food presented to guests is prepared with as much authenticity and tradition as possible.
Filipino fare fascinates De Jesus. He is intrigued by its flavors, and how one and the same dish can evolve into something else from one locale to another. Everywhere he goes, he makes it a point to learn a dish or two—its origins, how it is prepared and why it is considered a specialty in that area.
His passion for food was inherited from and influenced by his two grandmothers. He fondly recalls trips to the markets of Paco, Quiapo and Guadalupe with his maternal lola, Nanie Arriola, when he was 8. At age 13, he started cooking beside her.
Originally from Vigan, Ilocos Sur, Lola Nanie is frugal and adept at buying the freshest ingredients at the best possible price. These traits, along with her mastery of traditional cooking techniques, would greatly influence De Jesus.
Though he has adapted modern cooking methods whenever possible, De Jesus has remained very traditional in many ways.
The meats for his stews are still marinated overnight, the way lola did it, before the process of sangkutsa begins. The niyog on the puto bumbong is still grated by hand, using the kudkuran.
His paternal grandmother, Perla de Jesus, was also a gifted cook. She owned a food stall at the Sacramento Public Market in Makati. Her specialty was pancit Malabon.
I first met De Jesus when I was a consultant for Brazil Brazil Churrascaria. A young man at the time, he already showed great promise.
His craft was further honed by chefs Linda Junio and Heny Sison.
“Chef Heny taught me to master my craft and to meticulously pay attention to detail,” said De Jesus. “I greatly appreciate the time I spent working with her at Victorino’s.”
The other chefs that inspired De Jesus are Nick Rodriguez, Claude Tayag, Sau del Rosario and Tatung Sarthou.
The menu at Provenciano seems to me like a collection of specialty recipes in old homes—the kind I can’t help but associate with food prepared by Aling Emy—our cook, whose food I loved when I was growing up—or by my lola, my mom, my tita and other cooks in our hometown of Agoo, La Union.
De Jesus’ food has that
bygone-era quality, when people still had the luxury of time to go to the market daily and prepare home-cooked meals, lovingly and patiently, three times a day for the family.
At Provenciano’s, food is simple yet marked with technique, soulful, with not many trimmings, but very tasty.
Among my favorites are Okoy ng Calamba, Pusit sa Bawang, Binagoongan, Adobong Balut, Tocino Barbecue, Bistek Ni Nanay (nothing fancy, but brought back lots of childhood memories) and the puto bumbong.
There is much more I wish to try, but I seem to end up ordering the same ones I love.
Here, De Jesus shares Lola Nanie’s recipe for Guisadong Monggo.
250 g monggo, soaked overnight in water
2 tbsp oil or pork lard
25 g garlic
75 g onion, chopped
200 g tomatoes, chopped
3 tbsp patis
Pinch of black pepper
250 g bagnet or fried pork belly
1 pack (125 g) chicken noodle soup
1 c ampalaya leaves or malunggay
In a pot, bring 4-6 cups water to a boil with monggo. Cook until slightly tender.
In a separate pan, heat oil and sauté onion, garlic and tomato. Cook until tomato has softened.
Add fish sauce and boiled monggo.
Simmer over low fire until desired consistency is achieved.
Add chicken noodle soup and simmer a few minutes.
Add black pepper.
Add ampalaya or malunggay leaves
Add fried bagnet or pork belly before serving.
Provenciano, 110 Maginhawa St. Teacher’s Village, Quezon City; tel. 9222736.
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