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Festival proves how simple yet distinctive the region?s cuisine is
TRADITIONAL DAVAO CUISINE, says chef Paddy Lascano, is simple?there is no sauting, and food is usually grilled, broiled or ?baked.?

?Baking? doesn?t make use of the conventional oven, but what fuel that is left in the stove that has been used to prepare dinner.

?Firewood or coal is used in the province by the locals to cook. At the end of the day, they wrap camote or chicken in banana leaves and leave it in the stove to ?bake? to make use of the remaining heat. They wake up early to go to the farm and have the ?baked items? for breakfast,? says Lascano in recent lunch at the Intercon.

Contemporary Davao food is being served at Caf Jeepney of Intercontinental Manila until the end of the month. (The buffet is offered daily for lunch, 12 noon-2:30 p.m.; and dinner, 7-10:30 p.m, Monday-Saturday. Every group of four adults gets a fifth plate free. Call 7937000.)

Lascano is the author of ?Davao Cuisine? and ?Salads and Noodles.? He is finishing his third book that offers gourmet food for diabetics. He is also consultant of several Davao establishments such as Camp Holiday Resort Hotel, Center for Asia Culinary Studies and Bangayan Group of Companies? Holiday Spa and Gym.

At the Intercon food fest, he presents salads, appetizers, soups, seafood and meat dishes with ingredients abundant in Davao such as tuna, prawns, pomelo, yellow ginger (dilaw).

?Davao is rich in seafood and vegetables because it?s a fishing and agricultural area. The food traces its origin to the tribal communities,? he says. ?You would notice a lot of guinamos on the menu; it?s a fermentation method or a means of preserving using salt. There are also kinilaw and pickling processes that result in a sour taste.?

Non-meat salad choices are: Guinamos na Ampalaya; Pineapple and Cucumber; Pickled Ampalaya; Ubod and Sitaw; Kinilaw na Barilis (tuna in vinegar); Bulang-Bulang (a kind of weed that grows in saltwater that resembles kangkong stems); Guikilaw na Tuyum (sea urchin with green mangoes); Guikilaw nga Pasayan (shrimp salad); Papaya Manibalang in Vinegar; Tossed Pomelo; Bola-bolang Puso ng Saging with Moro-Moro and Pinya (heart of palm with fish balls and pineapples); Kamote with Guinamos butter (sweet potato cube with anchovy-butter icing).

Meat starters include Kilawen nga Sugbang Baboy (grilled pork salad); Kilawen nga Manuk (grilled chicken salad); Ham and Fresh Pineapple Salad; Hinalang na Dila sa Baka Guisado.

Sounds too heavy? Make space for soups like the Monggo with Sitaw and Kalabasa; Hinalang nga Baka (beef in spicy soup); and Law-uy with Tuna Cubes.

Lascano demonstrates how to eat the Law-uy: ?There are vegetables on the side like calabasa, sitaw, raw alugbati. Get a piece each and sprinkle with some bagoong Balayan. Then add clear broth with corn and tuna cubes marinated in ginger juice and some salt.?

The Davao dishes include Manuk Kiarehian (Maranao Chicken Curry); Baka Tula-sog (Beef in Chocolate Sauce); Pininyahang Baboy; Pasagayan Many (Mandaya grilled chicken); Inun-unan nga Buntot Sa Barilis hasta Tiyan (spiced tuna belly); Chipirones en su Tinta (baby squid adobo); Luot (vegetable casserole in coco cream).

There?s also a lechon de leche carving every day that goes well with the variety of rice (pandan rice with young corn, Davao Dinurado, Mandaya Rice) and noodles (Sotanghon Bam-I), Odong Guisado with chicken, tuna and tomatoes, or cheese, tomato and bacon.

Caf Jeepney serves unconventional desserts made by pastry chef Erwina ?Booboo? Maramba?Latik Cake, Sampalok Cake, Durian Pie and Cake, Guava cake, Pineapple Rambutan Gelatine, Tabliya Cake (with rich dark-chocolate tablea frosting).

The Latik Cake, reminiscent of the bibingka with latik, takes a long time to make, says Maramba.

?I had to be careful in making the latik, if it?s raw it gets too oily, if it?s overcooked it would taste burned. It has a light butter-cake base with kakang-gata, topped with caramelized latik.?

The Sampalok Cake is a surprise?fluffy butter cake with sampaloc bits and sampaloc-butter frosting. It is predominantly sour with sweet undertones, something dessert lovers will find new and refreshing.

Maramba operates Natalie, a home-based cake shop in Davao. She took up chemical engineering in college but pursued later a passion for baking. Her engineering background, she says, was a big help in in concocting yummy cakes.

(Ongoing is Hotel Intercon?s 40th anniversary raffle?every P4,000 single-receipt purchase until April 16 earns the diner a raffle ticket. Prizes include cruises to the Caribbean, Alaska or Mexican Riviera, and a trip to Europe.)

Green Mango and Pomelo Salad

1 head lettuce

2 pc green mango, fine julienne

1 pomelo, sliced

Dressing

1 c fish sauce (patis)

? c vinegar

? c salad oil

5 pcs sili haba

5 pcs sili labuyo, chopped

2 c sugar

? c calamansi juice

? kg adobo peanuts

Mix green mango and pomelo. Arrange over a bed of lettuce.

Mix ingredients for the dressing except for the peanuts. Blend well.

Top the green mango and pomelo salad with the adobo peanuts and serve with the prepared dressing.

Beef Stewed in Chocolate Sauce

1? kg beef sirloin, strips

1 c vinegar

? c soy sauce

150 g garlic

75 g ginger

?-? pack native chocolate or tablea (grated)

5 pcs bananas (saba, fried)

? kg kamote, boiled

50 g sili haba

Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the beef, adobo-style, in vinegar, soy sauce and garlic.

When tender, add the grated tablea and cook further until melted. Season to taste salt and pepper.

Serve with the fried saba and boiled kamote.

Maranao Chicken Curry

1 whole chicken, cut into serving portions

150 g onions

50 g garlic

100 g ginger

2 tbsp curry powder, according to taste

1 can coco cream

Fry the chicken portions. Drain. Saut garlic, onions and ginger in a little oil.

Add the fried chicken pieces, coconut cream and curry powder. Season with salt and pepper.