Feast with the eyes
SINGKIT (The Philippine Star) - February 5, 2017 - 12:00am

Notes from the editor

After all the feasting over the extended holidays just gone by – Christmas, New Year and just four weeks later the Lunar or Chinese New Year – the farthest thing from our minds now should be food. Although I can’t help but wonder whether all those reed-thin Miss Universe candidates got to feast even a little, the holidays being so close to their big day, and how they resisted the temptations – if they did – of the Pinoy handa (party fare) that surely met them everywhere they went throughout the country.

My efforts at not thinking of food too much got waylaid when I found a handsome tome on my desk one day a couple of weeks ago: Flavors That Sail Across the Seas (Sabores Que Cruzaron los Océanos) from the Spanish embassy. It is a documentation of the exhibit of the same title at the National Museum that opened last November and ends today. Both the exhibit and the book are efforts of the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID).

And what an effort! The exhibit and book seek to show “the Hispanic gastronomic legacy in the Philippines and the development of a brand new Filipino culinary tradition as a result of cultural interaction.” What better way to view history than through food – what went into the pot, how it was prepared, cooked and served, and eaten. As curator of the exhibit Antonio Sanchez de Mora encourages us, “Let’s approach our history and cuisine with the five senses.”

There is an accounting of the food acquired for Ferdinand Magellan’s expedition of 1519 (which included honey, almonds, dried fish and garlic) as well as voyages of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi (which had corn, lentils and chillies) and others. 

Through exhaustive archival research, particularly at the Archivo General de Indias in Seville, Spain, the exhibit and book tell us how flavours literally crossed the seas through the various maritime trade routes, picking up ingredients and influences along the way, exchanging tastes and tales at ports of call.

What I found most interesting are the recipes, centuries old but adapted for today by the chefs at Gallery Vask at Bonifacio Global City, Chele Gonzalez and Ivan Saez Sordo. Imagine a recipe for pickled sardines (originally using alosas, a shad from the northeast Atlantic) from as early as 1477 that, from the beautifully tempting photo in the book, looks like the sardines in oil that is absolutely yummy with sinangag. 

There is an intriguing recipe called “500” – an adaptation of a recipe that is 500 years old. It is fish in a broth spiced with cinnamon, pepper and saffron.

There are other dishes, familiar ones like Escabeche and Buro (fermented rice), and unfamiliar ones like a pan de sal using malagkit (glutinous rice) that is puffed with adobo gel and adobo mousse.

Going through the book made me want to head straight for Vask at BGC – must try that pan de sal! – but I guess it is just as well that the feasting I am doing here is with my eyes.

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