Back to basics, Cebuano cuisine
COOKING WITH CHARACTER - Dr. Nestor Alonso ll () - May 31, 2011 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines - For the past several weeks, this column has featured  the food of several nations like Israel, Italy, China   (Shanghai), Canada and New Zealand. Though such food adventures were truly wonderful, it's time to be back to our daily sustenance, Cebuano food.

In the past, your favorite food columnist had to answer a fundamental question, whether or not, there is such a thing as "Cebuano cuisine". Some people think otherwise; they have adopted Cebu as their homes and their encounters with these food are only those prepared by househelps.

This cuisine has been defined by Wikipedia as an "aggregate of various ways of cooking and dish preparations distinct to the Cebuano people of the Visayas, Central Philippines". As early as 1525, excuse me, documented na this type of cooking in a book, Primo Viaggio Intorno al Mondo (First Trip around the World) authored by Antonio Pigafetta recording the voyage of Ferdinand Magellan. Zubu was then a flourishing village with "sailing ships from Siam, China and Arabia". Rice was the main staple…"they add the water and the rice…boil until the rice becomes as hard as bread". They drank wine called tuba nio nipa, eat or macan certain rice cakes called tinapai and domesticated pigs (babui) and chicken for eggs (silog).

My beloved readers know that another book, Lagda sa Pagpanluto (1924) by Maria Fadullon Rallos, written in Cebuano, documents food in that era. It has 292 pages of recipes of Cebuano, Spanish and Chinese food.

In the past, there have been attempts to open restaurants that serve authentic Cebuano specialties like the Kinamot sa Escario.

They had dishes like kinaposan, pinakurat nga nukos, bistek bisaya, binisayang escabeche, bam-i (noodles) and balbacua (beef). It did not do well because many families then entertained guests in their homes and employed cooks to prepare the dishes. Cebuanos at that time thought that what they ate daily was too ordinary for their guest.

Today, times have changed. People entertain guests in restaurants rather than homes since living space is limited and time to prepare food is inadequate. They have also realized that visitors do want to sample what Cebuano culture is all about and food is an integral part of that expectation.

And what better place to sample such food than a hotel in Cebu that stands for Cebu: Parklane! On a daily basis, this hotel (corner Archbishop Reyes & Escario Street, phone 2347000, www. offers Cebuano specialties at the Kan-anan Restaurant.

For abregana (appetizers), you have a choice of Ginabut, Kinusit-kusit nga nukus, Hinalang nga bulinaw or Labtingaw. The latter is popular in Bantayan Island. It is sun-dried fish and marinated only with sea water. It tastes better than the regular dried fish but keeping quality is poor. For reasons of food sanitation, the hotel makes its own dried fish and even prepares its own puso using first class rice. They do want to keep their guests healthy and happy!

For the sud-an (main course), I selected Bakasi sa Cordova and Caldereta nga Kanding in a private food tasting with Parklane Manegement headed by GM Cenelyn Manguilimotan, F& B Joseph Edward Tongco and Marketing & Communications Head Jaybee Aquino.

Maybe I should have ordered Lansyaw (Stewed Bull's Gonads) as the main course because in the past I have attempted to make this dish with the help of my Chinese friends. It is a derivative from a Chinese dish, Go-Kong (five animals) and cooked with Sibut (four Chinese herbs). We used one male Chinese chicken, one male duck, one dried black sea cucumber 1 ½ feet long, one whole leg of native female pig with some dried pig tendons and the gonads from a bull which my friend insisted had to be jet-black in color.

How did this dish taste? My beloved readers can use their imagination!

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