Chef Tatung Sarthou creates peanut butter dishes at his new restaurant Azadore
MANILA, Philippines — Award-winning chef and "Simpol" cookbook author Tatung Sarthou has no problem with using peanut butter in Kare-Kare.
To him, one culture's comfort food maybe looked at by others as a weird dish. Consider the way Filipinos owned spaghetti by using red hotdogs and cheddar cheese. Or, the way canned liver spread is the secret ingredient in Caldereta or Adobo.
"For chefs who want to preserve the traditional method, that's a kind of genre that's all to their own. But if you go to the mainstream market. you can't prohibit people from cooking their favorite dishes just because they'll be using more affordable substitutes.
"Cooking shouldn't be intimidating. We can't not cook just because one ingredient isn't available. We're in a period wherein we're bridging lavish cuisine with accessibility. If we don't adapt, there's a possibility that our own cuisine may just die," he said.
But hey, the Filipino diaspora has helped the Western world become more accepting of our native cuisine and it is now spreading its influence. No thanks to Rachel Ray's offbeat way of preparing Adobo, and thanks to the overseas Filipino worker (OFW) phenomenon. This writer knows of an Italian chef working in Manila who once shared that his daughter prefers her Filipina nanny's "red spaghetti" over his own Ragu Toscano that, admittedly, he cooks with perfection.
To be honest, peanut butter is best served on a giant-sized spoon to be licked away like there's no tomorrow. But this month, Chef Tatung pays homage to the delicious gooey glue of lifeChef.
His luscious triple-take on the ingredient is worth the trip to Azadore, his new restaurant serving international grilled dishes.
The chef has tied up with Skippy, which is celebrating its 90th anniversary (thank you, Skippy for even existing!), to create a trio of dishes, ranging from the savory to sweet, that are being served in Azadore.
Spicy Peanut Chicken Pizza is inspired from Indian Chicken Tikka with a nutty butter chicken sauce and is served on flatbread. Chicken Satay Burger with Hoisin Peanut Sauce is a filling mix of tender chunks of chicken satay with tart coleslaw, served in soft and buttery brioche bun.
For dessert or as a celebration cake, the Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake is a must-try. It's twice the decadence with nutty chocolate cake smothered with creamy peanut butter frosting.
Chef Tatung finds Skippy as a good ingredient for making savory dishes as well as for cakes and pastries because it is not cloyingly sweet. This writer also liked Skippy's toasted peanut smell and no-oil but spreadable body.
'It's just peanut butter'
The versatility of peanut butter was spotlighted by the brand's nationwide contest where home cooks were invited to send recipes of their best dishes or baked goodies using Skippy.
Grilled Pork Kare-Kare by Jeny Ann Casintahan, an entrepreneur and mom of two, emerged as the winning dish. Jeny revealed she is an avid fan of Chef Tatung and relies on his popular cookbook series, "Simpol," for her family meals.
Familiar with the creamy and nutty taste of the Kare-Kare peanut sauce, the smokiness of grilled pork added a second layer to its taste profile. Jeny presented her dish Pinoy barbecue-style, with knotted sitaw and kangkong, and eggplant pierced through bamboo skewers and roasted on a charcoal grill.
Chef Tatung said using peanuts in Filipino dishes is a result of our Mexican and Spanish interactions during colonial times. Peanut butter, on the other hand, was brought to the country during the American period.
"I think peanuts, or peanut butter as its substitute, is a basic ingredient that's just not discussed that much with regards to our cuisine," he said.
Thus, you'll find it in dishes like Sinantomas, which is like Quezon's version of Caldereta, and Tamales, which has peanuts as ingredient. Chef Tatung goes back to his uncomplicated "Simpol" wisdom: "What works for you, works for you. That's really my philosophy for cooking. How you cook for your family, the people you love, your considerations for budget, for health, that's what's most important."
Chef Tatung's special Skippy dishes are available until August 20 at Azadore, which is located at 111 Sct. Fernandez corner Sct. Torillo Streets, Quezon City. For queries and reservations, call 0917-1010070.