He was known as a soldier, writer, statesman and diplomat. In private life, Gen. Carlos P. Romulo was also quite a gourmet who knew how to enjoy superb meals, whether in a restaurant or in the privacy of the family dining room.
Which is probably why his grandchildren opened a restaurant named after him a few years ago—first in Quezon City and more recently on Jupiter Street, Makati, and in Alabang.
Not surprisingly, Romulo Café has the feel of Old World refinements in a contemporary setting. Treasured family photographs hang neatly on immaculate walls, interiors of black and white harmonize with the spacious setting, and an attentive wait staff solicitously anticipates the diners’ needs.
Many of the dishes on the menu are favorites of the Romulo family, from Lola Virginia’s Chicken Relleno to the General’s Chicken (baked chicken rubbed with special herbs and garlic) to Tito Greg’s oxtail and tripe kare-kare.
Recently, Romulo’s granddaughter Sandie Squillantini and her husband Enzo demonstrated how to prepare some of these dishes at The Maya Kitchen and Culinary Center. In the spirit of cherished family traditions, the dishes were prepared the old-fashioned way.
The chicken expertly deboned and stuffed with a perfectly balanced mixture of onions, Vienna sausage, chorizo bilbao, grated cheese, ground pork, raisins, peas and pickle relish. The oxtail and tripe for the kare-kare were patiently simmered to tenderness, the broth thickened with toasted glutinous rice and flavored with dry, roasted peanuts (no peanut butter shortcut here).
But there were also easy dishes during the class, such as the guinataang sigarilyas with tinapa. According to Sandie and Enzo, this recipe was created “by accident,” when one of the family cooks discovered she had some spare sigarilyas in the kitchen. What to do with it? She rummaged through the cupboard and added whatever she could find. As a result, the humble winged beans were transformed into a delicious vegetable dish, enhanced by the flavor of bagoong and the rich, creamy taste of coconut milk.
Here’s Romulo Café’s recipe for guinataang sigarilyas. It’s best eaten hot, as soon as it’s cooked, and with lots of freshly cooked rice.
Guinataang Sigarilyas with Tinapa
(Winged Beans in Coconut Milk and Tinapa)
450 g sigarilyas (winged beans)
¼ c cooking oil
¼ medium onion, chopped
6 small cloves garlic, chopped
½ c flaked tinapa (smoked fish)
3 tsp bagoong
1 chicken broth cube
1 c water
1 1/3 c fresh coconut milk (See tips)
Wash the sigarilyas well. Remove the seeds then cut the sigarilyas into 1½ -inch pieces. Set aside.
In a large sauté pan or skillet, heat the oil then sauté the onions and garlic. Add the tinapa flakes. Stir in the sigarilyas, bagoong and chicken broth cube. Pour in the water and allow to simmer. When the sigarilyas is tender, add the gata and continue simmering for a few more minutes. Transfer to a serving plate and serve. Makes 4-6 servings.
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For more information on Maya Kitchen’s cooking classes, call 8921185 or 8925011, local 108; visit www.themayakitchen.com
Romulo Café is at 32 Scout Tuason, cor. Dr. Lazcano St., Quezon City; tel. 3327275. Branches are also located at Jupiter Street, Bel-Air, Makati, tel. 4786406; and Madrigal Business Park, Alabang, tel. 5561443.
For the tinapa, Romulo Café uses galunggong tinapa. You can also use tinapang bangus (make sure it’s boneless).
For the coconut milk, use kakang gata, which is the first pressing of the coconut. This is thicker than the second or third pressing of coconut.
You can use freshly squeezed coconut milk (first pressing) or canned coconut cream.
If using canned coconut cream, shake the can well before opening.