After five years of struggles and sacrifices, after months of negotiating with farmers, buying the best equipment and setting up a high technology processing plant in a remote town in Leyte, after all the hard work, angst and tears, the product of all these Herculean efforts finally made its debut at a gala dinner at the Grand Hyatt.
That product is a tiny grain of rice. But not just any rice. Like the little engine in the children’s story, Dalisay is the little grain that could.
In a four-course gourmet meal prepared by chef David Senia, Dalisay rice alternately played supporting and starring roles. For the first course, the rice was enriched with native spices, shaped into a round platform upon which were arranged egg yolk cream, paper-thin slices of marinated tuna tartare, fish roe, anchovies, amaranth and bits of cucumber.
Dalisay was also the Provençal crisp and crusty risotto that accompanied the sautéed sea bass embellished with a rich bouillabaisse sauce. Then for the Chinese-style crispy suckling pig, Dalisay became the perfect stuffing to balance the richness of the pork.
For dessert, Dalisay rice (sometimes called Renucci rice) was reincarnated as its sticky sister, much like suman, paired with mango cream and served with coconut milk dough and sorbet.
Such versatility can only be attributed to the fine quality of Dalisay rice. And it is thanks to a French-Filipino couple, Patrick and Rachel Renucci, that it came to be.
The couple were enjoying all the trappings of success in Paris—he as founder and manager of one of France’s largest printing companies, she as an investment banker—when Supertyphoon “Yolanda” hit Leyte. The devastation they saw in the photographs and videos shook them to the core—and made them rethink their purpose in life. They packed their bags, left Paris and headed for Leyte.
In 2015, they founded Chen Yi Agventures, a fully integrated rice-processing business. They deal directly with rice farmers, providing them with seeds at zero interest rates, then buying back their harvests. Using modern combine harvesters, they can harvest rice in less than half the time it used to take the farmers to do it manually.
The harvests are then processed in the company’s processing center which mills, dries and polishes the rice using end-to-end Japanese technology. No more winnowing of rice by hand. No more drying the wet grains on the road. Instead, Chen Yi’s team of well trained engineers operate the processing center and take care of quality control.
The result is rice that’s fragrant, with a freshly harvested aroma, and grains that are whole (never broken) and naturally white with no pests, no pesticides, no impurities and 100-percent pure.
Indeed Dalisay’s excellent quality makes it not only very palatable but also versatile. The grains are neither long and separate, nor short and stubby but somewhere in between. As such it’s perfect for everyday meals as well as for special recipes.
Chef Sau del Rosario, who assisted Senia in preparing the gala dinner, said he has used it to make bringhe, the much-loved Kapampangan rice dish cooked in coconut milk, similar to paella. He has even made champorado using Dalisay rice. But it’s not your run-of-the-mill champorado. It’s a modernized version, served in dainty squares, topped with wisps of fish floss.
Here’s chef Sau’s recipe for champorado.
Chef Sau’s Champorado
150 g uncooked Dalisay rice (about 1 cup)
3-4 c water
150 g chocolate tablea
1/3 tbsp salt
50 ml condensed milk
In a cooking pan, simmer the Dalisay rice with the water, stirring occasionally. After about 15-20 minutes, check on the doneness of the rice. The rice should have a softness like that of porridge (lugaw).
When the rice is of the desired texture, add the chocolate tablea, salt and condensed milk. Stir vigorously.
Spread the champorado into a baking pan lined with parchment paper. Chill in the refrigerator until firm. When firm, preheat the oven to 200°C .
Using a round mold, cut the champorado into circles and arrange them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Bake the champorado circles for seven minutes. Remove from the oven. If desired, top with fish floss before serving.
Dalisay rice is available in more than 100 supermarkets in Metro Manila.
To cook Dalisay rice, use 1½ to 1¾ cups water for every cup of rice.
Chef Sau makes his own fish floss to top the champorado circles. You can use store-bought pork floss or chicken floss as a substitute. These are available in Chinese stores and in specialty stores like Aji-Ichiban.