By CJ Juntereal
Lobster House Manila’s aswang lobsters, squid ink crepe, peanut sauce, aligue, and cilantro
Kitayama Wagyu, burnt coconut, coconut cream, roasted sweet potato
Ensalada of pomelo, dragon fruit, passion fruit, pajo mango, wild blackberries, and edible flowers
Food writer Margaux Salcedo of Mission Manila with Chef Myke Tatung Sarthou
Michael Lopez Teves, the first Filipino master carver of Iberico ham, carving a Cinco Jotas 5J Jamon Iberico Bellota from Terry Selection
FIESTA!: Jamon Iberico Tartar with quail egg
Bangus with smoked cream on a fermented purple rice bun from Chef Jordy of Toyo Eatery
Empanadita from Toyo Eatery, from Chef Jordy, was similar to an Ilocos Empanada
Native snails sauteed with bone marrow, parsley, and cognac from Chef Carlos of The Black Pig
Inspired by Maranao cuisine—Chef Tatung’s Kuning or yellow rice, uni, oysters, shrimp, and seaweed
Spanish cured meats and chorizos from Terry Selection
This year, I kicked off my personal Madrid Fusion Manila week with two excellent events. The first was a Mission: Manila event held in partnership with the Raffles and Fairmont Makati, featuring chef Myke Tatung Sarthou. The second was the Embassy of Spain in the Philippines’ traditional Tapas Night to signal the start of the Madrid Fusion Manila festivities.
Mission: Manila is food writer Margaux Salcedo’s passion project to promote Filipino chefs, and Philippine cuisine, products, and produce. Margaux says that her project was born in 2016 when she realized that amid all the special dinners featuring foreign “rockstar” chefs during Madrid Fusion Manila 2016, there were no dinners showcasing the talents of Filipino chefs. So her first Mission: Manila dinner was held with “El Kusinero” Claude Tayag.
As for Chef Tatung, he had returned from Madrid Fusion in Barcelona where he spoke during the conference and cooked two successful dinners. I’ve been a fan since 2012, when he opened his second Chef Tatung’s restaurant in Taguig featuring heirloom recipes with a twist. Since then he has grown as a chef; it shows in dishes that look more restrained but clearly show that much thought has gone into the ingredients and flavors that are used and how each component of a dish balances the other.
His eight-course dinner for Mission: Manila highlighted regional cuisine, with several dishes focused on Mindanao. I have a fascination for the cuisine of Mindanao, and apparently so does Chef Tatung, who spoke about Mindanaoan cuisine being entwined with culture and religion. We rarely see the influence of Muslim culture in our food, he added.
My favorites from the dinner were mostly the Mindanao-inspired dishes. The first was a dish he dubbed Moros y Kristianos because it was a play on both color and region. The dish that I know is one made of black beans and rice that my grandmother used to eat. The black beans were the Moros or Moors, and the white rice was the Christians. It’s a dish that references the Moorish wars that occurred in eighth century Spain. Chef Tatung’s version combined the flavors of the Tausug and the Tagalog in a dish of kitayama wagyu beef cooked two ways. The Tausug pyanggang beef was cooked with spices and coconut that had been burnt black to impart a smoky, slightly bitter flavor. It reminded me a bit of Malaysian food. The Tagalog beef was cooked as the Tagalog adobo sa gata. Look at how the same ingredient is approached differently by the two cultures, he pointed out, referring to the coconut. The beef dish was paired with a fresh, fruity Urban Uco Tempranillo from Artisan Cellar Door—it’s a good wine to remember when serving meatier Filipino stews that are on the sweeter, not sour side.
I also loved a Maranao-inspired dish that Chef Tatung named kuning, after a rice dish that is flavored and colored yellow with turmeric. He topped the rice with uni, oysters, shrimp, and seaweed—briny sea flavors combining with umami. The dish stood out for me because he flavored it with palapa, an essential Maranao condiment made from chilis, native onions called sakurab, ginger, and burnt coconut. I can eat palapa and rice, and be very happy.
To represent Negrense cuisine, Chef Tatung came up with a version of their fresh lumpia. Only he used local aswang lobsters from Lobster House Manila, a wrapper flavored with squid ink, the ubiquitous peanut sauce shimmering with a sheen of annatto oil, and dollops of salty crab fat (aligue). It felt over the top, but it was balanced, with each element enhancing the fresh sweetness of the lobster. I’m usually horrified by anything except butter on my lobster, but this dish worked well. It was paired with a crisp Banfi Le Rime Pinot Grigio from Wine Depot, a wine to remember when serving Filipino food. Another good wine to remember is the reasonably priced Selbach Oster Riesling from Artisan Cellar Door because it has both sweetness and a balancing acidity that works well with many of our sweet-sour dishes like sinigang sa bayabas.
Chef Tatung is a big believer in our local produce and ingredients, and for this dinner he pulled out all the stops to go local—from sustainable tuna from Meliomar, Ilocos vinegar, and local dried fish to a garden of edible flowers, local mesclun, and purple corn from Home Grown Organics and Down to Earth farms. Even the cocktails served that night were made from local calamansi, dalandan, mango, and coffee liqueurs produced by Destileria Limtuaco.
The nine Spanish and Filipino chefs who cooked for the Spanish Embassy’s Tapas Night also made use of local ingredients in their dishes because although the event was a celebration of the Spanish tapas culture, it was also an affirmation of the shared history of the Philippines and Spain. This year’s Madrid Fusion Manila theme is “Toward a Sustainable Gastronomic Planet,” a broad topic that covers not only the need to preserve the environment our food comes from, but also a respect for ingredients, produce, and a future that sustains the earth while fulfilling gastronomic needs and wants.
The chefs who cooked for this year’s Tapas Night were: Chef Juan Carlos de Terry of Terry’s Selection, Chef Carlos Garcia of The Black Pig, Chef Jordy Navarra of Toyo Eatery, Chef Nicolas Diaz of The Barcino Group, Chef Amado Garcia of Pablo, Chef Miko Aspiras of Le Petit Souffle, Chef Chele Gonzales of Vask, Chef Edgar Sanuy of La Lola Group, and Chef Margarita Fores of Cibo d’ M.
Aside from what each chef prepared, Spanish charcuterie and cheese stations had been set up by Terry’s Selection, and Filipino master carver of Jamon Iberico Michael Lopez Teves carved up a premium Cinco Jotas 5J Jamon Iberico Bellota. And then there were the desserts of pastry chef Miko Aspiras, which disappeared as soon as he brought the out. I only managed to try a crisp pastry roll filled with local mango and passion fruit mousse and fresh cheese.
Among my favorite tapas that night was native snails sautéed with bone marrow, garlic, parsley, and cognac by Chef Carlos. Each bite was unctuous, and I realized that our local kuhol could be cooked in ways other than with coconut milk. Chef Jordy served bangus that had been made into a pate with smoked cream and spread onto hearty fermented purple rice bread that was reminiscent of pumpernickel. Chef Margarita’s jamon flan with a crisp shard of Jamon Serrano and Manchego cheese slid down so easily that I had eaten three before I realized it.
Another favorite because it felt so summery during that hot night was scallop carpaccio on a dollop of citrusy avocado tartar and a crisp disk of melted cheese. And to absorb all the alcohol, I enjoyed my favorite arroz caldoso, soupy seafood rice from Chef Edgar Sanuy of La Lola Group, which owns Rambla. In true Spanish fashion, alcoholic beverages flowed freely—tubs of Vilarnau Cava, Ramon Bilbao Reserva and Edicion Limitada, crisp Marques de Caceres Verdejo, La Guita Manzanilla, lightly fizzy Lolea white sangria, Estrella Galicia and Estrella Damm Barcelona beers, light and floral Estrella Damm Inedit beer created by Ferran Adria, and Nordes gin, which had everyone gathering around the bar area for refreshing gin and tonics.
If the first few months of 2017, and the lineup for Madrid Fusion Manila 2017, are anything to go by, it looks like this will be the year of discovering and focusing on the diversity of Philippine ingredients. I’m looking forward to that.
Madrid Fusion Manila 2017, which begins today, runs until April 8 at SMX Convention Center at Mall of Asia. Aside from the International Gastronomy Congress at which internationally renowned chefs will be speaking, there will also be an International Gastronomy Expo featuring all things food related. The expo includes culinary tourism, farm and agri-tourism models, sustainable farming and fishing, and interesting workshops and symposiums. The Department of Tourism is also organizing a month long Flavors of the Philippines food festival in hundreds of venues around the country. www.madridfusionmanila.com.
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