Chef Tina Legarda.
Photos by Tina Legarda
Chef Tina Legarda’s Top 10 favorite summer eats
WORDSWORTH - Mons Romulo (The Philippine Star) - April 17, 2018 - 12:00am

I first met chef Tina Legarda during last year’s Madrid Fusion Manila. What attracted me to her booth was the long line of guests patiently waiting to have a taste of her two dishes inspired by corn. And the same guests did not mind falling in line again for the same dishes.Her first dish was called Tindahan ni Maria salad, which had everyday ingredients that all Filipino homes usually use or can be found in stores around the Philippines. It was a salad of pechay, corn that was cooked in longanisa oil, kesong puti, pork chicharon and pineapple tuyo vinaigrette. Her second dish was pili-rubbed pork rib served on top of corn-coconut rice, pomelo sambal and wansoy gremolata.

Tina grew up watching her mother at the kitchen where she learned cooking at a very young age. When her mother saw Tina’s interest in cooking, she would always enroll her in cooking classes every summer. “From there, I took it up in college. I was always fascinated by food. I was lucky enough to work for amazing mentors who have always inspired me throughout my career,” says the young chef.

After an intensive training at Le Souffle under chef Jessie Sincioco, Tina flew to Singapore and worked at chef Mario Batali’s Osteria Mozza at Marina Bay Sands.

Tina continues her passion to serve good food through her own restaurant Bamba Bistro, which is celebrating its fourth year.

 “I look at it like having the daily freedom to express myself through cooking. Something I have always loved to do since the beginning. Except now, I have a bigger audience  and I get to do it with an awesome team.”

In line with the most-awaited season, here is chef Tina Legarda’s Top 10 favorite summer eats.

1. Lechon. It is one of those Filipino specialties that I seldom eat but whenever I’m on vacation, I crave for it. I usually choose the rib part — where the meat is a bit softer and tastier. I remember how amazed I was when I traveled to Cagayan de Oro and discovered Lechon Paella. It’s a whole pig stuffed with rice, allowing all the pig fat, lemongrass and garlic to melt and flavor the rice as the pig is being roasted.

2. Coconuts. Whether it’s summer or not, I’m a huge coconut fan. Nothing beats having fresh coconuts on a hot day. I’m also fascinated, of course, by all the delicacies that can be made with the coconut. From using it in different ensaladas to watching (and smelling) coconut become latik for our local kakanin like biko, which is my favorite.

3. Lobster/Prawn.  These are my personal favorites whenever I’m on vacation. Prices can be a bit steep in Metro Manila, so I  make it a point to scout for good, reasonable suppliers for lobsters when I’m outside the city. Also, there are a lot of different lobster/prawn species in the Philippines, depending on which province you’re vacationing in.

4. Local ice cream. Not only is it the ultimate treat to cool you down in our tropical weather, but I just love how, depending on which province you are in, they make ice cream (sorbetes) out of the produce they are most famous for. I usually stick to ube (purple yam) flavor when I’m on vacation.

5. Mangoes. Because there really is nothing like Philippine mangoes. I grew up in a family that ate mangoes during every single meal, especially during summer time when mangoes are sweeter than usual. I love eating ripe mangoes with adobo and garlic rice after a day in the beach.

6. Halo-halo. It is every Filipino’s favorite summer treat! I am a “less is more” kind of girl, though, when it comes to my halo-halo. I like mine with sweetened saba, langka, ube, nata de coco, pinipig and milk.

7. Kinilaw. Also known as the Philippine version of ceviche, this is my favorite “happy hour” dish! Not only does it showcase the freshness of the seafood but I love how there are also so many versions of it. I love the one that uses vinegar, calamansi, ginger and kakang gata.

8. Oysters. There is really nothing better than devouring a plate of oysters or talaba after a day of exploring. I love mine raw and doused with vinegar.

9. Inihaw everything.  In my opinion, nobody does barbecue better than Filipinos. Grilled liempo, isda, pusit, local vegetables, etc. All served with steamy rice. I particularly love how we take our sawsawan (dipping sauces) so seriously. I love putting a lot of onions and siling labuyo in mine. These inihaw treats are best consumed using our hands by the shores of one of the 7,000 beautiful islands in our country.

10. Tayom (Sea urchin). I remember the first time I tried sea urchin, the guy selling it asked me and my friends how many urchins we’d like to eat. We did a head count and told the man how many our orders were. We watched him walk towards the water and started “picking up” our orders. I don’t think sea urchin can be any fresher than that! He cracked the sea urchins open, poured some sukang tuba (coconut vinegar) and served them to us. So, so delicious.

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