Saturday, August 06, 2011

Travel and taste

by Ana Valenzuela

Published Manila Standard Today

July 27, 2011

The Philippines has a rich culture, and this is reflected in our cuisine.

“The international media has long been saying Philippine cuisine is Asia’s best kept secret, so it’s time to discover the taste of Philippine flavor,” says Ryan Sebastian, project coordinator of the Department of Tourism during a recent tie-up of the DoT with the Center for Culinary Arts (CCA) in promoting Pinoy culinary delicacies.

With 7,107 islands, the Philippines is rich not only in marine and natural resources and seas but also in recipes. DoT is encouraging people not only to visit the sites and see the attractions, but to taste the food as well to really enjoy the Philippines.

“We have a lot of recipes including cooked or barbecued innards (like small intestines, heart and gizzard of chiken) which are popular treats among Pinoys and is also gaining popularity among foreign tourists. In cooking, we usually season it with the usual herbs and spices that we use at home (like onions, garlic, laurel leaves and black pepper),” says CCA instructor, Chef Ojie Reloj of Filipino food.

"Foreigners enjoy these treats because for them, it's like like being in a Fear Factor challenge that is taste--rewarding. These aren’t the only gastronomical fare that we can be proud of. There is also our popular Adobo and Lechon, which are doing really well in the international market,” adds Chef Reloj.

What also makes Filipino recipes special is that it doesn’t have only one interpretation. This is evident in the different variations of adobos, sinigangs, pancit, and other dishes that we have grown to love. Chef Ojie even related that he would go as far as Cebu just so he could eat their lechon, even if there are numerous lechon outlets in metro Manila. What's more a dish may be interpreted in several different ways depending on the region.

For example, Chef Ojie shares, the La Paz Batchoy he grew up with in Manila is quite different from the original one. “I grew up with a family of food lovers and cooks. I grew up eating a version of La Paz Batchoy that does not have any noodles. But, when I went to Bacolod, Iloilo, that’s where I realized that they put noodles in it, the miswa. It is an entirely different-clear soup. They just put certain veggies, like kutchay. Per region, they have their own interpretation,” he says.

For foreigners or balikbayans wanting to learn to cook the dishes that have left them in awe, CCA offers a half day course. “One thing nice about the CCA is their facility is within the market. So that tourist would familiarize themselves with the ingredients needed on how to cook as they have already seen for themselves the available ingredients,” notes Ryan.

“Ten to 15 years ago, what was being served to foreigners were continental dishes.Now they when there is awareness, they now serve the likes of danggit, tinapa in a buffet breakfast. Now everybody is aware, that what they should serve is unique,“ says Ryan.

Seems like, more and more people are uncovering the secret that is Philippine cuisine. They have not only seen the sights, strolled in the beaches, swam in the seas, gained new friends, but also savoured a unique Pinoy travel experience as they’ve tasted our local dishes.

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