A Diamond-studded Filipino food fest

Ching M. Alano (The Philippine Star) - May 22, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Ever tried sisig with foie gras (duck liver)? Or kare-kare with bagnet (deep-fried pork)? Or baked salmon wrapped in banana leaves with chunks of kalabasa? Or sizzling chicken tinola with clam gravy? Or good old fried chicken dipped in sampaloc sauce?

In the nimble deft hands of chefs Sau del Rosario, JP Anglo and Bruce Lim with Diamond Hotel executive chef Marko Rankel, all-time Pinoy favorites get an all-new gourmet twist at The Best of Filipino Cuisine running until tomorrow at Diamond Hotel’s Corniche restaurant’s lunch and dinner buffet.

“Have you tried my adobo sliders (with grilled piña slaw on kaiser buns)?” chef Bruce Lim of Chef’s Table asks us.

We certainly will, we tell chef Bruce, as we wonder what this kitchen whiz did with our tried (sometimes tired)-and-tested beloved adobo.

If you have an attitude (like you think you deserve everything), you will like chef Bruce’s roasted turkey inasal. I most definitely like chicken inasal; you get double the inasal treat with the big fat turkey.

“I also have kalderetang itik (duck stew),” chef Bruce shares. “It’s cooked for seven hours so everything is nice. I love duck, I like the way it tastes, and I want to showcase it in Filipino food with a Western way of cooking.”

He adds, “Definitely, we can introduce our Pinoy dishes abroad if we standardize them so people will understand the flavor. We have to find the line where it’s gonna be OK and where hindi sya puede (it won’t do).”

Especially for Diamond’s annual Filipino food festival, chef Bruce has put a refreshing spin to homespun dishes. He’s got fried pusit with sweet salted egg cream sauce. Now, that’s one dream of a cream! He’s got kilawin na lapu-lapu (instead of the usual pork parts). He glazes his chicken wings with a coating of quezo de bola and makes our taste buds soar with delight.

For the dessert buffet, chef Bruce’s sweet offerings include kalabasa cheesecake, deep-fried biko with panocha sauce, and a variety of breads and pastries like tapa-filled brioche, quezo de bola pretzels.

This year’s The Best of Filipino Cuisine has the special participation of Diamond Hotel’s well-loved executive chef Marko Rankel who comes up with his own version of our goto and adobo. One mouthful of chef Marko’s congee and you’ll goto heaven. After all, this gourmet goto’s got foie gras, shredded duck breast, duck broth, ginger, garlic, shallots, freshly cracked pepper. And you may choose from the following condiments: sliced fresh calamansi, chopped red chilies, chopped spring onions, deep-fried tofu cubes, crispy leeks crepe, fried shallots, fried minced garlic, fish sauce, spiced vinegar (pinakurat), fish sauce, crumbled chicharon, boiled quail egg/chopped boiled regular egg, onion-egg omelette.

Chef Marko’s adobo is one for the (cook)books. He uses US pork tenderloin that’s tender, meaty and not fatty, cooked with a little red wine, apple cider vinegar, olive oil, carrots, and German potatoes. To top it all, you can garnish Marko’s adobo with grilled shrimp and aubergine skewer, toasted garlic, shallots, and spring onions.

For his part, young chef JP Anglo of Bacolod presents his banana-wrapped baked salmon with kalabasa gata, lechon Angus baka, pritchon pancakes with hoisin sauce,  chicken skewers with tanglad gata, sizzling chicken tinola with clam gravy, crispy garlic Kurobuta with homemade banana ketchup, tortang talong with crispy sardines and kesong puti, among other Bacolod dishes with a Western accent.

“You can do a lot with Filipino food,” says JP. “You’re only limited by your imagination and creativity.”

So, how does he come up with a winner?

“You dream about it, do it, keep doing it until it works,” he reveals his secret recipe to success.

After today, JP is serving his lechon manok lumpia with sinamak (Iloilo’s version of spiced vinegar).

JP’s Chinese and Asian restaurants are two of the hottest in Bacolod. He also has his Sarsa to further perk up the dining scene in Fort Bonifacio, Global City.

And so, we meet again French-trained restaurateur and one of the metro’s most in-demand private chefs Sau del Rosario and ask him what’s cooking. “I’m doing my signature dish, kare-kare, it’s my mom’s recipe which I’ve been doing for the past few years, but it’s not your typical kare-kare,” says chef Sau. “Instead of oxtail coated with heavy, messy peanut sauce, I use bagnet (deep-fried pork meat) and truffle macadamia sauce. One of my advocacies is to promote Filipino cuisine, which I’ve been doing all over the world. How do we elevate Philippine cuisine? Like kare-kare served in a palayok na wala namang laman, yung gulay na wash out na ng sauce. So, why not use bagnet to give it texture?”

Chef Sau adds, “I still like using classical recipes, but my take is modern. The young generation now doesn’t eat dinuguan when you serve it. They’ll say, ‘Yuck, it’s blood!’ But if you put bagnet, it’s gonna be different. That’s also a way we can educate the palates of our young people.”

Chef Sau’s sisig truly makes a sizzling attraction at Diamond Hotel’s Filipino food festival. “I’m from Angeles City, Pampanga and I know personally Aling Lucing (the late Lucia Cunanan, credited for having invented or re-invented sisig). I wanted to present it the Kapampangan way, but it’s all snout and ear and Reno liver spread. Instead, I put a lot of foie gras and chicharon, and top it with egg; I want to sensationalize it a bit. And I have a secret ingredient: Star margarine! That’s the original recipe of Aling Lucing. And we grill everything before boiling the ingredients to give it a smokey flavor. Did you know that the original sisig was never served on a sizzling plate? As far as I know, it was even served cold, like kilawin.”

Having trained, worked, and lived for sometime in Paris, chef Sau incorporates modern techniques in his cooking. Another one of his titillating recipes is his camaru (crickette) wrapped in spring roll, “so you don’t see it.”

Chef Sau also has his susu (snails or escargot to the French) with lemongrass made into soup like tinola with some sago.

While he was working in a Michelin restaurant in Nice, the chefs would take turns cooking the employees’ food. Sau was the only Asian cook and every Saturday, when it was his turn to cook, the employees would excitedly look forward to the dish he would cook, oui! “I would do sinigang, adobo, paksiw, sotanghon, lumpia. I used Asian ingredients, but I would improvise, like I’d use pasta noodles for the pancit.”

Yes, chef Sau loves Paris, but he loves the Philippines even more. And he stresses that the best way to promote Philippine cuisine is to love it, never be ashamed of it. He notes, “We love eating sea bass and salmon, but would you choose frozen salmon over fresh gindara or fresh lapu-lapu?”

To celebrate his 20 years as a chef, Sau is coming out with a book titled Twenty in July, a collection of his recipes from around the world. Every dish has a story and people love stories as much as they love food.

To go back to the food fest, don’t forget to leave a lot of room for chef Sau’s array of sinful desserts. The Pampangueños sure have a sweet tooth, thanks to the Spaniards who went to Pampanga to build churches with eggs, but using only the egg white and giving the egg yolk to the natives who turned them into the most delectable sweets.

For The Best of Filipino Cuisine, chef Sau offers the best Kapampangan desserts: Doña Editha’s Spanish bread, butter pudding, halo-halo espesyal, ube pandan pastillas, suman and mango skewer with Tsokolate Ecija, Atching Lilian’s brazo de mais, tibok tibok with langka, sapin-sapin, and leche flan with duck egg.

The Best of Filipino Cuisine will have three different cycles so diners are sure to taste something different on each visit.

Three chefs plus one and three different takes on Filipino food? What more can lovers of Filipino food ask for? This Diamond-studded food fest will surely make your taste buds sparkle with sheer delight.



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