The big question we will be forever asking is: “Why isn’t Philippine cuisine as well-known as Thai or Vietnamese?”
Many have their own answers. “It’s too oily,” is the most common. “Colors are not appealing,” is another, while others feel presentation is a major factor.
My dream has always been to make a name for our cuisine in the world market. While I agree with all of the reasons above, I don’t agree that it cannot be done. I have read many Pinoy chefs abroad who have put down our cuisine for a variety of reasons. But I have lived in the country practically my entire life, and I have yet to discover many dishes in the provinces.
There is still so much to learn about our food. Hence, there is also so much to introduce to the world market. For example, how many of us have heard of inutak? Or, serve a foreigner tibok-tibok or dinakdakan and see how they flip.
Funny how some of our dishes are not that acceptable to foreigners initially, but when labeled in a different way, the dishes suddenly become appealing. Dinuguan, for instance. In my restaurant in Vancouver, most foreign guests cringed at the dish when I would tell them it was made from pork blood. But whenever I said it was made from blood sausage, it became interesting to them. Europeans are familiar with blood sausage, by the way; we used to buy ours in Paris and use that to make our dinuguan.
Last week, I experienced a fine-dining meal that I thought qualified to be served at a state dinner. It was a full-fledged Pinoy meal, from appetizers to dessert. For cocktails, we were served adobo pâté, dulong in olive oil with melba toast and chorizitos. The homemade dulong topped with seaweed and pâté were to die for.
As we sat down, we were served soup of Arroz Caldo—gingered chicken consommè with crunchy popped rice, chicken and chive quenelles and saffron oil. Sarap!
For appetizers, we had Guinataang Sugpo, baby prawns and ripe mango with coco cream with vodka and shrimp bisque served with biscocho on the side. The dish was mildly spicy and quite delicious.
Another dish was Dinuguan at Puto, a salad of wild boar blood sausage, pickled shallots and crisp stuffed peppers with aged vinaigrette. This was served with a Bernard Boudry Chinon 2008 wine.
To cleanse our palate, we were served minted coca-cola sherbet. For main course, we were served good old kare-kare, or slow-cooked composition of beef ox tail, tripe and short ribs, ground rice and peanut paste and annatto shrimp fry. The sauce was deep and rich, the meat was sticky-tender, and, overall, the dish was simply excellent. I even ate the unhealthy ox tail fat, which was melt-in-your-mouth tender. With some of the kare-kare sauce, you find all kinds of justification to down this baby.
For wine, we had a Cotes Du Rhone Coudoulet De Beau Castel. We ended with Dulce De Leche made from carabao’s milk and lime custard with mock marrons glacé, mantecado ice cream, glazed fruits and pili nut brittle. What a superb meal.
I can imagine how awkward the conversation in a state dinner can be, but a delicious meal like this could easily be the topic of conversation—and a showcase of Filipino cooking that can make it worldwide.
The meal was served at the National Food Showdown Appreciation Dinner, held at 9501 restaurant in the ABS-CBN building. It was chef Myrna Segismundo who orchestrated the entire menu with her staff and gave all of us happy diners brought this wonderful experience.
Note: I will be having a live cooking demo at Maya Kitchens this Saturday, starting 9 a.m.