Flavors of the Philippines: Sabores de Visayas
Western Visayas is known for its sprawling sugar plantations, fishing ports, beautiful beaches, and the lovely, lilting language of its people, but it is also one of the country’s top culinary capitals, with centuries-old culinary heritage that has been passed on from generation to generation.
Flavors of the Philippines, organized by the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) of the Department of Tourism (DOT), now on its third year of promoting regional cuisine through activities held simultaneously across the country, recently showcased Ilonggo heritage dishes in “Sabores de Visayas,” a special dinner by chefs Tibong Jardaleza and Margarita Fores, food writer and bestselling cookbook author Angelo Comsti, and food historian Ige Ramos.
The celebrated dinner marked its second year at the Casa Real del Iloilo (the province’s Old Capitol Building) and served an impressive lineup of dishes that traditionally grace festivities across the region.
“Following a request from last year’s dinner, Sabores de Visayas showcases more Ilonggo dishes in this round, like Pancit Molo, showcasing the craftsmanship of the dumpling and amazing broth,” enthuses Chef Margarita Fores, chef and restaurateur of Cibo, Lusso, Grace Park and Alta. “This event is really in line with what’s happening all across the country as a result of Madrid Fusion Manila, which is basically showing the world the good food we have to offer, and we Ilonggos have a lot of that.”
“This year’s dinner showcases the various influences on Ilonggo cuisine, from the Chinese to the Spaniards, even the Americans and the Japanese,” states Chef Tibong Jardaleza, chef and restaurateur of Rafael’s la Cocina del Sur, and the lead chef for Sabores de Visayas. “We have a lot of the local favorites, like the Lengua Estofado, Lumpia, Callos, Paella Negra, and many more.”
DOT Western Visayas Regional Director Atty. Helen Catalbas adds that even amidst the modern lifestyle of fast food, Ilonggos pride themselves in slow cooking. “We really put premium on slow-cooked food, because we believe that the longer food takes to prepare, the better tasting it is.”
The entire hall was filled with Ilonggos wanting to savor well-loved dishes. Starters included charcuterie; Spanish sardines with olives, capers and cocktail onions; Gambas; Fresh Lumpiang Ubod; and of course, Pancit Molo.
For the main course, the dinner showcased Goat Kaldereta with sweet bugnay wine and chocolate; Bacalao; Beef Tenderloin in Gravy; Lengua Estofado; Callos Madrileño; and Paella Negra.
Dessert did not disappoint with a selection of cakes, including Crema de Fruta, Canonigo, Guava Cake, and Tres Leches, and a refreshing Kapeng Barako Ice Cream with Candied Camias.
“The Ilonggos have an honest cuisine that uses fresh and local ingredients. Some of the dishes may have been influenced by the Chinese and Spanish, but in the end, they embraced it as their own and made more delicious and appetizing,” states food historian and book designer Ige Ramos, who also did a Bacalao demo at SM City Iloilo prior to the dinner, exploring the relationship of the various iterations of the Lenten dish across the country.
“I’ve always been impressed in what I discover and taste in my travels to Iloilo. This was my fourth time and it was no different. It’s nice to know that the next generation, like the daughters of Maridel (of the eponymous dessert shop), are pumping new blood into the local industry,” states Angelo Comsti, editor in chief of F&B Report and bestselling author of ‘From Our Table To Yours’ and ‘The Filipino Family Cookbook.’ “I also learned to make a couple of local dishes, food that I’ve never encountered anywhere else in our country before. Ilonggo cuisine hides a lot of surprises. And I think no matter how many times I go back, I’ll always find something to be excited about.”
Sabores de Visayas is one of the events of Flavors of the Philippines, which runs for the entire month of April. For more details and a list of upcoming events, log on to http://www.madridfusionmanila.com/flavors-of-the-philippines.