If the fabulous food served at the cocktail reception in Malacañang the night before the much-awaited food event of the year was any indication, Madrid Fusión Manila 2016 was definitely going to be a smash hit.
Well-crafted hors d’oeuvres highlighting Filipino heritage ingredients were enjoyed by an appreciative crowd of foreign and local diplomats and delegates, celebrity chefs, foodies and guests.
Among the entrées: delicate Nori Tacos (fried nori seaweed “taco” shells stuffed with a mix of heirloom rice or tinawon brown and diket turmeric pilaf], diced beef tapa, green mango, tomato, bayabas and singkamas salsa); Chicken Pianggang (a popular Tausug chicken dish prepared sisig-style on a bed of organic lettuce, papaya and green mango salad); dreamy scallops dressed with toasted pili from Dumaguete; and coconut panna cotta.
Other local dishes kept the crowd abuzz around the central table and in every food station prepared by this year’s featured Filipino chefs: Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan of Purple Yam Philippines and New York; Myke “Tatung” Sarthou; and Miko Aspiras of Scout’s Honor and Le Petit Soufflé.
The Purple Yam couple shared a hot dish of Tamarind Bihon Guisado seasoned with pinipig and cashew crusted prawns, snow peas, shallot, garlic and homemade chicharon.
Sarthou presented a Maranao dish of slow-roasted wagyu short rib in burnt coconut gravy, yellow coconut sticky rice in banana leaves and Prawn Satti with Peanut Sauce and Cassava Dips.
Aspiras, meanwhile, demonstrated his pastry skills with little plates of Philippine Mango Tostadas and Davao Chocolate Polvoron.
Two of last year’s Madrid Fusión Manila chefs, Margarita Forés and Gallery Vask’s Chele Gonzalez, also delivered a spread of Filipino traditional fare, including roast Bacolod-style lechon stuffed with Cerveza Negra, red wine liver sauce, calamansi-santol and mostarda di fruta; and sour ribs wagyu with soymansi, onions, garlic casein and talinum.
Tourism Sec. Ramon Jimenez Jr. welcomed foreign and local guests to the cocktail dinner by noting how this gastronomic event is designed to help boost the country’s economy and tourism through food.
“When Madrid Fusión happened in Manila for the first time last year, no one was really sure how well it would be received and how successfully it would be managed,” Jimenez said. “But then that is the story of this (Aquino) administration. We never hesitated to do what had never been done and achieve what had not been achieved. Madrid Fusión 2015 was not only a success, it made history as it reunited us with our gastronomic roots.”
Jimenez added that it was indeed a celebration of the idea that true gastronomy is not just cuisine, it is also history—the history of a people told through the palate.
“Manila emerged through from Madrid Fusión more self-assured, more mature and more determined to explore the future of food along with the greatest chefs in the world,” Jimenez said.
Spain’s Secretary of State for International Cooperation Jesus Gracia responded to Jimenez’s positive stance on Spain-Philippine relations.
“When Spain thinks of Asia, we, the Spaniards, have first in mind the Philippines,” said Gracia. “Our vibrant and common cultural heritage in many fields like architecture, arts, literature and popular traditions invite our countries to share the common goal of uniting in our love for true gastronomy.”
The “Stars of Madrid Fusión 2016” were introduced to the guests that included Sen. Cynthia Villar, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., Agriculture Undersecretary Berna Romulo Puyat, Spanish Ambassador to the Philippines Luis Antonio Calvo and Tourism Director Verna Buensuceso.
Presented onstage were chefs Joan Roca, Dani Garcia, Jordi Butron, Angel Leon, Ricard Camarena (from Spain); Yoshihiro Narisawa (Japan), David Thompson (Thailand), Virgilio Martinez (Peru), Nurdin Topham (China), Kevin Cherkas (Indonesia), Jungsik Yim (Korea), Enrique Olvera and Jorge Vallejo (Mexico); and (Philippines) Leah Cohen (based in New York), Dorotan, Besa, Sarthou and Aspiras.
“When you come to a celebration like this,” said Besa, “you realize that you are in the best profession in the world. People working in this profession are very passionate, very committed and with integrity.”
Besa and Sarthou said Madrid Fusión is the best place to share who and what being a Filipino is, through what he eats.
“The key to knowing and understanding Filipino history is to go back to our roots —and that includes our way of cooking,” said Sarthou.