The Regional Dishes of Mindanao
Dr. Nestor Alonso II (The Freeman) - June 28, 2019 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — It was the 121th anniversary of the proclamation of Philippine Independence last June 12. Republic Act 4166 changed the date of the celebration from July 4 to June 12. To commemorate this historic event, Marco Polo Plaza Cebu featured Filipino cuisine at Cafe Marco – the “Independencia, Flavors of Mindanao.”

To lend an air of authenticity to the dishes, Marco Polo Davao Executive Chef Alex Destriza joined his Cebu counterpart MPPC Executive Chef Juanito Abangan, in the preparing the regional dishes of Mindanao. Marco Polo Cebu GM Brian Connelly gave the welcome address to the invited media practitioners and guests, saying that it was time for the cuisine of Mindanao to shine.

Main Dishes were Piyanggang Manok (Grilled Chicken in Burnt Coconut, Tausug), Tiyulah Itum (Slow Cooked Beef/Chicken in Burnt Coconut Broth), Piyalam (Stewed Fish, Tausug), Piyaren Udang (Prawn with Sautéed Coconut, Lanao), Piassak (Cow Liver in Burnt Coconut), Riyandang Kambing (Mutton with Coconut and Spices, Lanao), Kulma Baka (Beef Stewed in Coconut Milk, Tausug), Kiyuning (Golden Rice), Kagikit Manok (Spicy Chicken Flakes) and Kagikit na Isda (Spicy Fish Flakes).

The ingredients and spices common in these dishes are burnt coconut, coconut milk and turmeric. Piyanggang Manok uses coconut flesh blackened on both sides over charcoal grill. The grilled chicken is cooked in coconut milk flavoured with a special spicy paste made with burnt coconut. This black condiment is also used in Tiyulah Itum (two versions were served; beef tasted better than the chicken) with a Burnt Coconut Broth and the Piassak (cow liver).

The burnt coconut meat, which is grounded, imparts a smoky flavour to the dish. Turmeric gives the color and flavor to the rice (Kiyuning) and the fish (Piyalam), while coconut milk is the common ingredient in Kulma Baka (Beef), Piyaren Udang (Prawn) and Riyandang Kambing (Goat). The Riyandang tastes like Malaysian Rendang, albeit the Rendang has more spices and chillies.

Kagikit Manok (Spicy Chicken Flakes) has some similarities to the Kwoy Bah-hú (Rousong or Chicken Floss), a dried meat product, although the latter has a light and fluffy texture. I’ve had assisted in making the chicken bah-hú, where we used 12 live chickens (all 24 kilos). It took two hours to dress the birds, two hours to debone it, and four hours to dry-cook it in a large wok. The final yield was, excuse me, 1.5 kilos and that was my goodbye to this chapter of Chinese cooking.

Cheeses were available, like the Chèvre, Mango/Pineapple/Pesto Sublime and Guava Membrillo from the Malagos Farmhouse of Davao. The Membrillo is similar to the Quince Cheese (thick jelly from quince fruit pulp) and had a tart and sweet flavor. Desserts served were Amik (Sweet Rice Noodles, similar to the Cebuano Tagaktak), Dodol (ube-flavored kakanin), Daral (Sweet Coconut Grating Pancake), Wadjet Makadurian (Durian Rice Cake, Sama Tribe) and others.

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