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She cooked filipino food for ferran adria, and he loved it |


She cooked filipino food for ferran adria, and he loved it

CULTURE VULTURE - Therese Jamora-Garceau - The Philippine Star

You might know Ferran Adria as one of the world’s greatest chefs.  As a pioneer of molecular gastronomy at his restaurant, El Bulli, he put Spain on the culinary map and changed the face of fine dining forever.

One of our own, Christina Sunae, the chef of Señorita Sunae Asian Kitchen in BGC, recently got a chance to cook for him, and culinary icon Adria loved the Filipino flavors she let him try.

Chef Sunae is a Korean-American who spent her childhood years in Pampanga, and learned how to cook from her adoptive grandmother, Apu Nena, after whom she named her Asian tapas bar in Argentina, where she’s now based.

It so happens that Sunae’s partner at Apu Nena in Argentina had worked at El Bulli in 2011, so when Adria visited Buenos Aires last April to give a talk to food industry people, Sunae suggested that he reunite with his old intern.

“So they reconnected and she said that he was tired of eating meat,” Sunae relates. “And we said, ‘Well, we have a new concept, Apu Nena, Tapas Asiaticas. It's a new concept, based on Spanish tapas but Filipino style and a lot of seafood.’

“And he was, like, ‘Oh, that sounds really nice. I would like to do that.’”

Sunae got a call the very next day: “Ferran wants to eat at your restaurant Saturday lunch.”

Even if Apu Nena was normally closed on Saturdays, Sunae and her team opened up the restaurant just for the Spanish chef.

“First he came to the bar and I gave him lumpias, bola-bola siopao — for the Spanish, those are new textures. And I made him Ilocano empanadas with rice and atsuete, but the filling was made with squid. That he really liked.”

She also made shrimp and razor clams with guinataan sauce, and grilled squid filled with tomato and green onion over banana ketchup that they make and ferment themselves.

Another dish Sunae served was kinilaw Tahure made with Pez Limon fish, strawberries and pomegranate, “and he loved it.”

Chef Adria stayed for four hours, eating and drinking with his team.

“He's a man that doesn't show emotion,” notes Sunae, “but when he left he goes, ‘It was so good. I mean it. It was really good. Thank you so much.’”

The good news is that we can eat the food that so wowed Ferran Adria at Señorita Sunae’s Asian Kitchen in BGC. The beauteous chef recently launched a new menu that includes the Tahure ceviche that he loved. And I loved it too. It had a pleasant heat to it, thanks to chili oil, and an herbal cream sauce made from fermented tofu and cilantro, dill, basil and mint.

Next came a very authentic laksa, which Sunae included not only because she loves laksa but she also thought it would be a great way to showcase the “insane” nylon clams she got from Bicol. With chewy white noodles and a rich, lightly spiced soup chockfull of flavor and ingredients, this is a must-try.

In coming up with her new menu, Sunae noted that the crabmeat omelet in Bangkok is all the rage right now, so she wanted to do her version using our local crab, tiger shrimp, and most of all, aligue. The way the crab fat coats the rice is so good I’m going back to Sunae just to eat that dish again.

But there are still more treasures to be gleaned on the new menu. Sunae is known for her curries, so much so that she judged a curry competition on Master Chef. So another must-try is her Penang Curry, grilled fish of the day with kaffir lime leaf and Thai basil, which is incredibly well seasoned with intense and punchy flavors.

Those who prefer chicken to seafood can order the Korean fried chicken bowl or chicken inasal from the restaurant’s head chef, who was inspired by Sunae’s Filipino-Korean background.

We ended with Sunae’s version of halo-halo, featuring strawberry granita instead of shaved ice, Thai iced tea ice cream, nata de coco, pomelo and lychee, which is lighter and more refreshing than traditional halo-halo.

Another standout is her version of karioka: “Actually I found it when I was researching for my book,” Sunae relates. “I went to Vigan, and I was in a local public market and there was a lady selling them. I was, like, this is amazing. I asked her how she made it and she took me to her stand and showed me how.”

While hers was made with purple glutinous rice, Sunae makes hers with white sticky rice, putting mango inside to give it a pop of sourness. We loved its contrast of crisp textures with the pillowy softness of the mochi.

Sunae says that when Ferran Adria gave his talk, he spoke about the importance of marketing, of communicating what you’re about, talking about yourself, your local products, and your restaurant.

Señorita Sunae doesn’t just do a great job of communicating verbally, we think she speaks great volumes through her food, and we’re always here to listen.

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Señorita Sunae is located on the second-floor view deck of One Bonifacio High Street Mall, PSE Tower, 28th Street, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig. Call 0916-607-4903 to make a reservation.

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