Country Cooking

Seven chefs in superhero costumes, presenting their super creations

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BLUE-MARLIN inasal with pako salad, by Makati Shangri-La chef Gene del Prado

Expect chefs to come to work in their whites. But the Makati Shangri-La’s Circles Event Café offers a different treatment, with the chefs coming in costumed as superheroes just to make things interesting.

Even better, seven chefs of the hotel were competing for our vote—not for Best in Costume, but their work through small tastings of their creations.

It seems that at Circles, one chef takes care of the special for the day. This occasions a healthy competition among them. Anna Sobrepeña of Lifestyle Asia and I served as judges, a difficult job because each offering we tasted had its own merit and all were delicious.

It was all in good fun, of course, with chefs coming in to explain their respective dishes and to charm us with their spiels and smiles. Some managed to talk in Filipino (yes, that was a plus).

Delectable appetizer

Hamed Ghayedi takes care of Persian Mondays, and he did a delectable eggplant appetizer. Italian Tuesdays are handled by Franco Brodini, and his porcini ravioli with sage was so delicate and aromatic. Gene del Prado does Filipino Wednesdays, and his blue-marlin inasal with pako salad had us smiling as we tasted the familiar Ilonggo flavors.

Soval Singh, who takes care of Indian Thursdays, made a spicy chick-pea dip (chole kulche) with papadum and naan breads. Seafood night on Saturday is Yusuke Hino’s night, and his “volcano” had rice topped with a milky mix that had salmon caviar, among others.

Maran Mariapin handles Saturday BBQ Night, and his oxtail assam pedas, a Nonya braised recipe, had a ring of pickled pineapple. Sunday Brunch, meanwhile, is under Anthony Collar, who presented the dessert that day, an orange cake with clotted cream plus a smackingly delicious chocolate concoction.

They were all small servings, but seven of those equals a full meal. The winner was Franco Brodini and his Italian dish. Chef Brodini said many of their creations happen during relaxed drinking sessions when creative juices flow with the drinks. And while they have their Circles days to whip up those creations, the competition acknowledged who was the best—but only for that day.

Deli favorites

Executive pastry chef Roberto Mollemann of the Mandarin Oriental Manila recently explained the breads we were having at the hotel deli. The company of friends doubled the pleasure. We tried walnut rye baguette, rolls with apricot and prune, bread with flax seeds, oatmeal and granola.

There were the favorites of each of us, like the focaccia, ciabatta and the bagels—all these taken with butter and jams made at the Mandarin kitchen, one of them an excellent strawberry with pepper.

Doesn’t it make you wonder why  rice-eating people like us should take to bread as well? Consider the many bakeries and how each town has its many panaderia. In my case, it’s difficult to pass a grocery or mall bread corner or even a hotel deli without buying bread.

The deli displays the variety of breads that are supplied the hotel outlets. If you come after 7 p.m., you pay only half the price.

Junior sous chef Michael Sotomango joined our table to tell us about the hard life of a baker, how one has to wake up early for work, then go home late after the dinner hour. He looked happy, nonetheless, and would not at first take the hint of chef Mollemann to quit our table and return to the kitchen to finish working on what was expected by the dinner crowd. We were Sotomango’s conspirators, urging him to stay and talk some more about the breads.

Cantonese cooking

Restaurant manager Nancy Farm of Edsa Shangri-La’s Summer Palace, along with new barbecue chef Chang Kean Min, also recently talked about their restaurant offerings.

Barbecue in Cantonese Chinese cooking is the English way to describe roasting. And so in the hierarchy of the Chinese kitchen, there is a specialist known as the barbecue chef.

Char siu is the Cantonese word for it, and the roasted products always have a glaze that can be red or brown in color. The marinade includes honey, five-spice powder, soy sauce, hoisin, sherry or rice wine, and a red-bean curd called hong fu ru.

Roasting comes after. Does Peking duck come under the barbecue category? Yes, was the answer.

And so we tasted the duck, pork asado, chicken wings filled with glutinous rice, and my favorite, taro pork roll wrapped in bacon.

Of course, leave it to Nancy Farm to give her guests more than the featured dishes. Just when we thought we had our fill, out came the Summer Palace dim-sum delights. We had to find space in our stomachs, but that was the easy part.

E-mail the author at pinoyfood04@yahoo.com.

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