For Philippine cuisine to make international mark, exotic is the way to go | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Most of us are proud of our cuisine. And most of us think Filipino cuisine will be a hit to foreigners.

But it’s not the case. Why?

It’s interesting to hear the various reasons why local cuisine hasn’t made an impact in the international market, unlike the Thai, Vietnamese, and even Singaporean cuisines.

Some say it’s the presentation; others say it’s “too oily”; still others say it’s “too salty.”

But if you ask foreigners who have visited our shores if they like our food, most will answer in the affirmative.

I have two reasons why Filipino food has not made an impact on foreigners.

Presentation is one reason, and the other is that many of our dishes are not as exotic as Thai or Vietnamese, for example.

A lot of our dishes have either Spanish or Chinese influence. Because of this, the taste is nothing new.

For example, beef caldereta, when cooked properly, is delicious. But  the presence of tomato sauce makes it not too exotic. That ingredient is nothing new to a foreigner.

Some of our dishes that I feel will make an impression are Binacol soup, Sinigang, Lumpiang Ubod, Sugpo with Taba ng Talangka sauce, and Bacolod Chicken Inasal. There are dozens we can think of that hardly have any “western” ingredients.

Aux Iles Philippines

In our Philippine restaurant in Paris in the ’70s, Aux Iles Philippines, some of the dishes that were a hit were Sinigang, Escargot with Binagoongan Sauce, Sugo with Crab Fat, Lechon Kawali, Duck with Adobo and Hoisin, Philippine mangoes, and, as after-drink, lambanog.

Was our Paris place a success?

There was a time when guests had to call two weeks in advance to reserve a table. It was consistently in the Guide Michelin and Gault Millau of France with a two fork-and-spoon rating.

Every evening, we had a line at our doorstep. And every morning we would wake up after coming home in the wee hours, to answer and take reservations that, up to this day, I can still recite my standard answer in French.

I think it was a great success. This just proves that if our cuisine can do well in a place with the most discriminating palates, I’m sure it will do well anywhere in the world.

New Filipino place

Here, I have a new place to suggest where you can sample the whole package: good local cuisine presented well, with nice ambiance and good service.

XO 46 Bistro Filipino is a fairly new place along Valero Street in Makati. “XO” stands for extra ordinary, while 46 stands for the year of Philippine independence from the US, according to Andrew, the owner.

As I sat down, I was served a very refreshing and new drink: Chilled salabat and tanglad juice. Amazing new flavor. Very refreshing. A must-have.

Then came the multicolored putlets (tiny puto). Interesting.

For starters, I was served a hot bowl of Sopas de Mariscos topped with a baked flaked pastry. The soup was rich and very tasty. It reminded me of the Bouillabaise I had in St. Tropez Southern France. Sarap.

Other must-try dishes are the Bangus Salpicao and the Pollo a la Plancha. These are both Spanish-influenced dishes that have loads of garlic and olive oil. Loved them. Served with garlic rice, they were amazing.

Another dish I tried was the Kare-Kare with a different twist, Crispy Tadyang. I enjoyed the sauce a lot.

I ambushed a dish en route to another table: Lechon Kawali.  The dish looked “artery-clogging,” but it was masarap.

Other interesting-looking dishes on the menu are Mejillos al Horno, Kilawin Salmon sa Dayap, Dinakdakan, Lechon Sisig and Aligue Rice.

Many of the dishes are contributions of the owner Sandy Masigan’s yaya, Manang Gloria Villanueva. Originally from Bicol, she started with the family at age 14 and is now 84. I’d love to talk to her about the style of cooking then.

It was a nice experience. You walk in and are greeted by  respectful Michael Jackson-wearing white-gloved service staff. “Magandang tanghali, Señor (or Señora).” New nice twist to the service.

XO 46 Bistro Filipino is  at Le Grand Condominium 130 Valero St., Salcedo Village in Makati; tel. 5336632.

Korean fest at Manila Hotel

I was just at Café Ilang Ilang at the Manila Hotel where they flew in a Korean chef. He will be doing the Korean festival for the next two weeks. I sampled dishes that I never encountered before.

Check the festival out!

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