Through my TV show “Foodprints,” I have been to many provinces where I discover dishes I have never tasted. I also get to meet the people behind these dishes, many of them foodies and great cooks. This show is a dream come true.
This passion for delicious Filipino food started when I worked as a waiter in our restaurant in Paris, Aux Iles Philippines. Every time a French diner told me they enjoyed our food (“C’est tres tres bon”), it made me so proud. It also gave me joy to recommend other dishes, and later on be told that they liked these, too. It made me proud to be Filipino.
Another blessing is that I get ideas for my restaurants Wooden Spoon at Rockwell and my brand-new baby, Casa Daza by Chef Sandy at the UP Town Center in Katipunan. The recipes are mine; many are from ideas I got traveling for “Foodprints.”
Rice, ‘tilapia’ capital
On my first trip to Isabela, I learned that this northern province is the rice, mongo, corn and tilapia capital of the country.
During lunch with Gov. Bodjie Dy’s wife, Anne Arcega Dy, I had the freshly picked white corn. It was so delicious and different.
She also served sinigang with lisas, a fish found only in Isabela. The taste and texture is similar to ludong, the most expensive fish in the country. That was such a memorable lunch. It’s really different when the first lady of a province is a true foodie.
I returned to Isabela last week as judge in the province’s annual Bambanti festival. As soon as we arrived, we were brought to the governor’s home for lunch.
I zeroed in on a soup dish I have never found anywhere else: papaitan na sinampalukang kambing. It was deliriously delicious—mildly funky which I love, salty, sour, sticky, tender and simply luscious. I asked the governor’s permission if I could duplicate it in my restaurants. You have to experience this.
His Bicol express was also a winner. Although a bit dark, it was still tasty. They also made a simple but outstanding lechon kawali served with kamatis and fish bagoong on the side. Yum!
The province’s different towns competed with a dish and drink created by representatives. Those I found interesting were a pakbet drink whose ampalaya flavor came out surprisingly well, and a beverage with various healthy ingredients from the town of Echague.
It used ice made with a blue flower that gave the drink, once the ice had melted, a bluish tinge. Brilliant!
For the main dish, everyone had to make a dish out of goat meat. Here, I again picked up new ideas for the restaurants. The ones that stood out to me were a mildly spicy caldereta rack of goat, and a sizzling papaitan na kambing sisig. Sparkling ideas.
But the one that took the crown was a tender goat shank that was seared on the outside topped with crispy flakes, with atchara made from what looked like cucumbers. This was paired with yellow rice flavored with the drippings from the simmered shank. Out of this world.
I have judged many food competitions but for this dish I would give—and I did give—a perfect score. This one gets a Gold with Distinction from me.
Thank you “Foodprints” for this blessing of combing the land for food finds.
My Japan food tour is on Feb. 18-23. I have a few slots left. If interested, e-mail me at [email protected]. Visit sandydaza.blogspot.com