Enjoy a nostalgic gastronomic journey with chef extraordinaire Jessie Sincioco as she returns to her native Bulacan. This food trip is part of Edsa Shangri-La Manila’s ongoing (until June 25) tribute to Filipino cooking, featuring time-honored specialties at its buffet restaurant, Heat.
Sincioco revives the good old way of cooking, with ingredients harvested right before they are cooked in palayok (clay pots) and open fire. She recreates a fare that reminds her of her family in Bulacan with its no-nonsense approach to flavor, taste, aroma and presentation.
Hearty dishes such as sinampalukang manok (chicken cooked with tamarind); morcon (beef roulade); paksiw na pata na may bulaklak ng saging (pork leg and knuckles with banana blossoms); and pinaputok na pla-pla at burong mustasa (fish cooked in banana leaves with pickled mustard greens) are just some of the comfort food she grew up with and now wants to share with guests.
“I came up with a selection that I was really fed with in my younger years in Angat,” says Sincioco, who recalls how every weekend she and her father would gather clams and snails by the river and cook them.
Since the food promo is about Filipino culinary traditions, Sincioco has involved her whole family in preparing the regional dishes.
“Because most of these recipes have been enjoyed in our family for generations,” says Sincioco.
Her brother Reo Sincioco and niece, chef Abby Sincioco, prepare the hot dishes and salad for the Pinoy buffet, while desserts are handled by sister Mercy Sincioco-Mateo and niece Noreen de Guzman (also the pastry chef at Chef Jessie Rockwell Club and Top of the Citi). Aunt Estelita Sincioco Dy is the consultant for the entire menu, ensuring that only traditionally cooked Filipino favorites with farm-fresh ingredients are served.
Each dish has its own story to tell. For instance, the kinilaw na puso ng saging (banana bud ceviche) is a specialty of her brother, who, every time he sees a banana heart (the white variety), picks it and cooks it in native vinegar and other spices. It remains their mom’s (Carmen) favorite dish.
The crispy, lip-smacking Bulacan lechon is also a family specialty and is one of the most sought after on the buffet spread.
“I remember it was my uncle who would cook the lechon for us,” recalls Sincioco. “It’s only now that I realized that the goodness of the lechon has something to do with how you clean the pig, inside and out. My uncle would choose a good pig, clean it thoroughly, season it with just salt and roast it in open fire. Anywhere you get the meat, it’s so delicious.”
Sincioco’s Bulacan lechon has crispy roasted skin. It has no herbs or spices to flavor it.
“There’s a logic to it. It’s like when you grill a steak and you only put salt and pepper. It will still taste good as long as you have good meat,” she adds.
Lechon sauce is homemade, too. Her Nanang Yaya (Ofelia) makes it for them. After slaughtering, they get the liver, broil it and puree it to make a thick and savory sauce.
Sincioco has made sure that rich heritage is reflected in Heat’s daily menu. She’s particularly proud of her salads that include alugbati and kesong puti drizzled with bagoong vinaigrette and adobo flakes and inihaw na talong with pako and manggang hilaw.
Appetizers range from burong mustasa and burong mangga, atchara (with just the right sourness and sweetness of raw papaya), to pakasam (fermented rice).
Main courses include pochero, pinatisan na baboy, bistek, kalderetang manok, inihaw na tiyan ng bangus with ginger, tomatoes and onions.
Native desserts like sapin-sapin Bulacan-style, ginataang bilo-bilo, pastillas, suman sa bigas with minatamis na kundol and kalamay (assorted rice cakes) are not to be missed.
1 whole chicken, about 1-1.2 k
2 tbsp ginger juice
2 tbsp virgin coconut oil
3 tbsp fish sauce (patis)
25 g ginger, cut into strips
60 g sliced shallots
¼ tsp ground black pepper
500 g green papaya, cut into ½ inch slices
1.5 liters rice washing
20 g sili leaves
Dress and cut chicken into bite-size pieces. Marinate with ginger juice and 1 tbsp patis. Set aside. Heat the coconut oil in a skillet and sauté strips of ginger and sliced shallots. Add marinated chicken.
Season with black pepper and the remaining fish sauce. Cover the skillet and cook the chicken until almost tender. Add the green papaya and simmer for a while. Add the rice washing. Bring to a boil. Lower heat. Allow to simmer until chicken and papaya are cooked and tender. Just before serving, add the sili leaves.