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FILIPINO CUISINE


to Philippine cuisine. Aracama’s childhood recollections of his mother’s burong mangga (pickled green mangoes) and his first taste of kinilaw (Philippine ceviche) – when his father handed him raw crabmeat dipped in calamansi (Philippine lemon) juice and tuba vinegar – resonated with many of the Filipinos, while leaving Spanish chefs wide-eyed and excited at the idea of including these acidic ingredients in their revolutionary cooking styles. Dacosta’s presentation on ‘A thousand faces of rice’ educated Filipinos on dishes beyond the iconic Spanish paella, while Ramon Freixa presented his modern spin on the tapas tradition. Tayag discussed the quintessential Filipino dish, adobo, while Segismundo tackled the versatility of the Philippine ‘tree of life’ – the coconut tree. Nothing goes to waste in either cuisines. Spanish chef Francis Paniego demonstrated his take on offal, with Filipino chef J Gamboa presenting nose-to-tail eating. Margarita Fores explored the use of reproductive ingredients like eggs, tuna sperm, and roe, speaking up for these local ingredients instead of imported foie gras and caviar. Elena Arzak, the chef behind


Arzak, a restaurant which has had three Michelin stars for nearly 26 years, presented a session called ‘Creativity: a cuisine open to the world’. Her point was simple: “To evolve, we have to be curious.” Arzak talked of discovering coconut vinegar, tiny Pajo green mangoes, seaweeds, calamansi, pili nuts and other ingredients likely to surface in future menus that she creates. After seeing how Filipinos use banana leaves to


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“In 10 years, maybe, people will be better educated and proud of their food. When that emerges, the Philippines will be unstoppable”


cook, wrap their food, and impart flavour, Arzak will further explore the use of leaves in her own kitchen. Andoni Luis Aduriz’s presentation on ‘Open creativity’, with videos and demonstrations of dishes from his restaurant Mugaritz, left delegates in awe of his ways with food. Demon chef Alvin Leung showed his culinary wit by reinventing tortang talong (aubergine omelette) as a posh cocktail and turning the humble Filipino breakfast of sardines and pan de sal (bread) into a molecular gastronomy masterpiece. Already familiar with paella,


cochinillo, churros, and olive oil, all central to Spanish cuisine, the delegates were delighted to watch how the Filipino chefs introduced


Above: Margarita Forés holds court at Madrid Fusión Manila


these into new dishes. In reverse, Chele Gonzales, a Spanish chef who has lived in Manila for four years, reinvented his dishes, taking inspiration from Filipino street food, the local ingredients of the archipelago, and the rustic cooking of the Aeta hilltribe. He discovered a leaf that tastes like a green apple, something few Filipinos know of. Having worked alongside Aduriz in Mugaritz and Elena in Arzak, Gonzales celebrated their reunion with special invitation-only dinners at his restaurant Vask – the Spanish greats joining him in the kitchen. To complement the congress, a three-day trade show featured wines and food from Spain with Philippine products, such as Calamansi Liquor – a Filippino take on Italian limoncello – various vinegars, gourmet salts, cheeses, chocolate, and agricultural products including heirloom rice, barako coffee, sour fruits like batuan and kamias, siling labuyo, and local, organic muscovado sugar. Asking Aduriz his thoughts on the future of Philippine cuisine, he said: “What will happen is whatever Filipino people want to happen. Restaurants should start thinking about competing with each other, so they can push creativity to the next level. The media will have to share what is happening here. In 10 years, maybe, people will be better educated and proud of their food. They will change their habits. The people are ambassadors of Philippine cuisine. When that emerges, the Philippines will be unstoppable.” The seeds of a culinary renaissance have been planted in Manila. The real work now begins.


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