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A sizzler in Manila


Filipino cuisine has been quietly edging into the global food spotlight. At Madrid Fusión Manila Maida Pineda discovers that Spanish influences and local creativity have merged into a gastronomic delight that is ripe for discovery


F


ilipino food has been overlooked for years, while its


South-East Asian neighbours hogged the limelight. Fifteen years ago, as a neophyte food writer puzzled by this, I asked a well-respected American food journalist why Filipino cuisine was less famous than Vietnamese or Thai. “Your food is too brown and too sour,” he said. Not anymore. The Madrid Fusión Manila (MFM) made a splash in the Philippines on 24-26 April, demonstrating that Filipino cuisine is ready to take on the world. Since it began in 2003, Madrid Fusion has established itself as the world’s most important Spanish gastronomy congress, with Spain acknowledged as home to the culinary great Ferran Adrià, along with other phenomenal chefs and unparalleled restaurants. Meanwhile, Filipino food has been quietly emerging on the global culinary landscape in recent years. Tourism secretary Ramon J Jimenez Jr spoke of the importance of MFM as a day when focus finally fell on the Philippines, one of the undiscovered gastronomic adventures of the world. The highlight of MFM was the International Gastronomy Congress, featuring presentations and demonstrations from eight Spanish chefs: Andoni Luis Aduriz,


Left: Quique Dacosta


speaking on the versatility of rice dishes at Madrid Fusión Manila


“Food is one of the most accessible ways of exchanging cultural ideas, leading to greater understanding and co-operation between peoples”


Elena Arzak, Quique Dacosta, Ramón Freixa, Francis Paniego, Paco Roncero, Mario Sandoval, and Paco Torreblanca. Alongside them with demonstrations of their own, were 10 top Philippine-based chefs: Claude Tayag, Fernando Aracama, Margarita Forés, J Gamboa, José Luis González, Pepe López, Rob Pengson, Bruce Ricketts, Myrna Segismundo, and Juan Carlos de Terry. Topping off the list of notable experts were Asian chefs André Chiang and Alvin Leung. At the welcome reception at Malacañang Palace, President Benigno S Aquino III reminded guests about the importance of food to Philippine culture. “Whether in ancient or present times, food has been a fundamental part of the Filipino identity,” said Aquino. “Food is one of the most accessible ways of exchanging cultural ideas, leading to greater understanding and co-operation between peoples.” Chef Segismundo also pointed


out: “Five hundred years ago, we were discovered by Spain.” The two countries shared their history together for 300 years, until Spanish rule ended in 1898. “Five hundred years after that Spanish discovery, they’ve come back,” said Segismundo. Sharing a 300-year gastronomic journey, Madrid Fusion provided both countries the opportunity to rekindle ties, rediscover each other’s cuisines, sharing and learning side by side.


As presentations unfolded, the similarities and differences between the cuisines became clear. Fernando Aracama’s presentation on sour fruits became a fitting introduction to the sour flavours that are central


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