‘Bitso-bitso,’ ‘pan de bisaya,’ ‘napoleones’ at DOT’s yearend event
The Department of Tourism’s (DOT) yearend event, Kaon Na ’Ta, had an all-star cast of the best eats from Negros.
From Talisay was bitso-bitso, caramel-glazed fried dough balls akin to donuts; from Escalante, pan de bisaya, similar to pan de coco, only cylindrical in shape; and from Bacolod, popular delicacy and pasalubong napoleones.
There was also maja blanca made with squash from Sipalay, steamed, glutinuous rice with coconut milk called ibos from Pulupandan, and panara, triangular empanada filled with bean sprouts or togue, from Bagu.
And that’s not even half of the menu.
Drawing in the crowd was Sinda Belleza from Silay Market, a celebrity in her own right. At 75 years old, she enjoyed being photographed with guests as she prepared what she’s been selling for over 50 years now—her famous Silay fresh lumpia or ubod with a piece of lettuce, a dab of sweet and garlicky brown sauce, and crushed chicharon.
Kaon Na ’Ta (in English, “let’s eat”) was the culmination of a years-long project started by then Department of Agriculture (DA) Undersecretary Berna Romulo-Puyat, who has continued her advocacy of promoting local cuisine as current Tourism Secretary. It started as Kain Na! in September 2017, with Margarita Forés flying to Hong Kong to present Filipino fare including sisig, kinilaw and sinigang.
It was prompted by an article in the South China Morning Post, which mentioned how Hong Kong chefs wanted to get their hands on Philippine heirloom rice.
Puyat grabbed the opportunity and brought in not just the country’s rice varieties, but also other ingredients and local flavors. This continued in Tokyo, where Forés staged for fellow chefs and media guests a dinner of bulalo, chicken inasal and adobo.
“When I was still with the DA, the objective of Kain Na! was to link producers of local and high-value agriculture and fishery products with domestic and foreign buyers in order to augment the income of our farmers and fisherfolk, and to encourage them to continue producing their respective products,” said Puyat.
“It also aimed to introduce Filipino cuisine to the world as one of the up-and-coming trends and the ‘next best thing’ in the international dining scene, hence, raising awareness on our local culinary traditions and indigenous ingredients, and pushing for the discovery and preservation of less-popular regional cuisine and food-related traditions in the country.”
Upon her appointment as Tourism Secretary, she continued Kain Na! in various parts of the country in support of Republic Act 10816 or the Farm Tourism Development Act of 2016. Identified as one of the priorities under her leadership, it seeks to maximize the benefits from agriculture and tourism and further contribute to countryside development.
Ready to eat
Though it was raining that gloomy day in mid-December, people took shelter at the newly opened Ayala Capitol Central in Bacolod and kept warm, satisfied with Kaon Na ’Ta’s featured delicacies including ready-to-eat items, as well as bottled gourmet goods from the food stalls.
Clara’s Food Products had goat’s milk barquillos on display, Fresh Start Organics had flavored piaya (squash, calamansi and Chocnut) cooking on site, and Satoca from Negros Occidental had packed veggie pancit canton.
Red onion dressing from Peñalosa Farm in Victoria and Ereñeta-Manaloto’s chorizo were also present.
Delicious food didn’t end there, as Negrense and Manila-based chefs did cooking demos of a dish using homegrown ingredients. Forés kicked things off with a blue pea flower-steeped adlai salad with truffle oil and burrata, while Patrick Go made batchoy xiao long bao.
Bacolod’s JP Anglo grilled lampirong and paired it with laksa and a batwan sambal, Niño Laus made a delicious terrine using chicken inasal, Bacolod-based Joeri Arro served inagpang nga manok, and Kalel Demetrio concocted beverages including Dios Buhawi (grilled batwan syrup, fresh sugarcane juice and Vigan basi), and Lasa ng Masskara (hibiscus syrup, Sirena blue pea gin, langka infusion and Very Old Captain rum).
Nico Millanes of Terrasse Bistro in Bacolod prepared Peking duck pato tim with Adlai risotto by braising local ducks in soy sauce, pineapple juice and tuba for long hours to make sure they were tender and robust in flavor. Millanes said he hoped this dish motivates people to include duck in their diets since they grow fantastic ducks in Negros.
Don Colmenares, also a Negros native, demonstrated his take on a popular barrio dish, ginataang monggo with langka. His version uses smoked jackfruit for a bolder flavor, and a local shellfish called lampirong for texture. “I’m reinventing and adding a twist to it to make it look more appealing and balanced than what you’d normally get,” he said.
Kaon Na ’Ta was successful in reminding the people that the region has more to offer than chicken inasal. It gathered the best of Negros—from homegrown products and specialty dishes to talented chefs—and gave them the platform they deserve. —CONTRIBUTED
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