Next week, the 5th Western Visayas Tabu-an Ilonggo Heritage Cooking Competition will be held in Iloilo.
Serving as judge the past four years and as writer and researcher for books on the cooking of the region, I have learned much about the cuisine of Panay Island (Iloilo, Capiz, Aklan and Antique), Guimaras and Negros Occidental. Yet, every year of Tabu-an, I discover dishes and methods that make food writing exciting.
Apart from the culinary competition, there will be talks for students of culinary science on various topics, such as rice by Joby Arandela, and the similarities and differences of Western Visayas cuisine by Myke Sarthou.
Author Ige Ramos will moderate a forum on going organic.
There will be cooking demos using endemic herbs and spices by the “Purple Yam” team and Don Colmenares.
TV chef Boy Logro is the main cooking attraction. He’s the funniest chef I have ever encountered. He will conduct a demo on the region’s bountiful seafood.
Apart from judging, my other task is to reacquaint the participants with their cooking. They have many soup dishes in Iloilo. Aside from batchoy and pancit Molo, there are tinu-om nga manok (chicken pieces steamed in banana packets); laswa with its combination of vegetables simmered in water flavored with juice extracted from shrimp heads; chicken binacol that uses buko juice and meat as part of its broth.
The most unusual are linagpang because boiling water is the broth added to the mix of ingredients, and hinanggup where ingredients are just placed over hot water.
There are versions of these dishes in the other provinces like Antique, which is the only one I haven’t visited.
In Aklan, Inubaran uses ubad or banana pith making it different from binacol.
The town of Old Buswang in Kalibo has suman made of malagkit rice mixed with liquefied panocha and cooked for hours.
Sonie Altavas of Capiz has bagongon or black long shells cooked in coconut milk and ginger. She included takway or yam roots plus puso ng saging or banana heart to her laswa.
Linabong was pagi or sting ray cooked in coconut milk and ginger. She also uses the toddy expressed from the nipa palm (tuba sa nipa) to cook duck and a soup of glutinous rice called basa-basa.
The best are the “noncooking” dishes like oysters and diwal, the latter saved from extinction by wise harvesting practices.
Negros Trade Fair
In Negros Occidental’s 33rd Trade Fair last week, we went straight to Enting’s for Enting Lobotan’s kinilaw of tanguigue (mackerel) and hipon (shrimp). There was pork lechon as well and it was surprising that it had liver sauce—probably because the Manila crowd would look for it.
Manolo’s of Manny Torrejon had its best-selling, different kind of paella.
There were sweets, including Virgie’s boat tarts and Felisa’s ensaymada. There was a long line at the piaya cooking booth although not too many wanted the added flavors.
The booths were too close together that it was difficult to navigate and look for favorites like lumpiang ubod and chicken inasal.
Guimaras is famous for its mangoes since much of the land is planted to mango trees. The province also hosts the National Mango Research and Development Center.
I discovered tultul in Guimaras, the salt block which is part of the culinary tradition of Western Visayas.
These are some of the dishes and products that define Western Visayas cooking. It should be stressed that the available ingredients, the history of the place, and environment contribute to the region’s cooking.