“I love bagnet. My triglycerides will tell you that,” restaurateur Sandee Masigan said with a laugh.
Masigan, together with husband Andrew, has been in the food business for almost 30 years now. They are passionate about promoting local dishes to Filipinos. Through their XO46 Heritage Bistro, Filipinos discovered the different influences of some local dishes and learned that it’s not a homogenous plate.
“We are usually inspired by food, places and memory. We love good food and the good memories connected to it,” Masigan said. “As a restaurateur, you need to have a connection with the food. If you have no connection to what you’re serving, everything will fail. People will feel that.”
Three years ago, the couple opened Arroz Ecija (Uptown Mall, BGC), a restaurant that pays homage to the many flavors of the north. Among its star dishes is the 72-Hour Bagnet, a flavorful, marinated pork cooked three times to ensure utmost crispness. The dish is a favorite and is now available on a buy one kilo, take one kg promo.
It also serves a Longganisa Platter with sausages from Nueva Ecija, Alaminos, Tuguegarao, Calumpit and Lucban; a Chicharon Platter featuring Spanish torreznos, chicharon balat, chicharon manok (chicken skin), chicharon bulaklak, chicharon Cebu.
Arroz Ecija likewise has a grab-and-go selection of various versions of kakanin.
“We are also bringing in more variety of rice from the north—black, brown, red unoy, local basmati, adlai. We want to introduce people to other varieties. If people like them, then the farmers will profit,” Masigan said.
While admitting that she learned to cook adobo only 10 years ago, Masigan said she learned to bake at a young age from her grandmother. Even if she doesn’t do it commercially, she still bakes these days as a form of therapy.
“Some people exercise and meditate to de-stress or relax. I go to my kitchen,” she said.
There are hits and misses in the kitchen, she said, before a dish is introduced to her customers.
XO46 Heritage Bistro’s Bangus Salpicao was made when her husband, who loves salpicao, wanted a version that was not as heavy as beef. The boneless bangus salpicao is fried crisp on the outside and tender on the inside.
“We’re very flexible. We always have our ears on the ground. There’s always a risk. You have to be willing to stand behind your concept and your dish,” Masigan said. “If you don’t believe in the product, don’t put it out.”
Here is a recipe of one of Masigan’s favorite dishes.
Ginataang Sitaw at Kalabasa (serves 3)
150 g squash (cut slightly thin for faster cooking)
150 g yard-long green beans (sitaw)
3 c coconut milk
100 g crab meat
2 tbsp garlic crushed
2 tbsp white onions
¼ c fish sauce
½ tsp ground pepper
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 c water
Saute onion, garlic in vegetable oil. Add crab meat, cook for less than a minute.
Add water and squash. Cook until squash is semisoft.
Add beans, coconut milk, and fish sauce.
Simmer for 5 minutes until coconut milk thickens. Add ground pepper.