By Mye Mulingtapang, ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau
The Philippines is blessed not only with talented singers but also with creative cooks and chefs. Being a tropical island there is abundance of delicacies and dishes in each region. The name of each traditional Filipino dish tells the origin. Each city has its own gastronomic delight but some Filipino specialties may not be considered food in other countries. With the famous street food balut as an exception, gaining popularity as being a terrifying and exotic aphrodisiac.
Filipino cuisine may not be as famous as Italian and Japanese cuisines but for Chef Jose Antonio Miguel Melchor or Chef Jam, it is high time for Filipino food to be noticed internationally. The first and only Filipino invited at the Academic Tables of the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenza, Italy believes that there should be pride in promoting Filipino gastronomy and that it is more than just adobo and pancit.
Said Melchor, UNISG is the best place to promote Filipino food culture being the "Harvard” for gastronomy. It can spark the interest for deeper understanding of local food in the Philippines.
“Before anything else, we must understand our food for what is and what it was. We must recognize its story, its meaning—its heart. Because before we can prove to the world that it is not just Filipino food, we must first realize it ourselves."
For three days Melchor, the young culinary expert from Pampanga who is famous for his organic dishes and advocacy for sustainability prepared a series of traditional recipes representative of the different regions of the Philippines. With the help of the Department of Agriculture, he also brought a selection of Ark of Taste products from the Philippines. He showcased Asian fragrances and flavors characteristic of a cuisine still little-known in Italy.
“My objective is to raise the profile of Filipino gastronomy outside our country, particularly among the students of the University of Gastronomic Sciences, a place where the culture of food is studied and promoted,” Melchor recently said in an interview with the Filipino press. “I would also like to inspire more young Filipinos to discover the past and future of their cuisine."
The Academic Tables is more than just the dining hall at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo; it is a space that combines education, haut cuisine, and local products at a fair price. The preparation of each dish takes into account seasonality of locally sourced products, the furnishings and cutlery are eco-sustainable, the kitchen features energy efficient equipment, and finally, meals are ordered in advance through a booking system which reduces food waste at the source.
Each year, 25 guest chefs are invited from around the world to visit UNISG and prepare creative recipes for their students which respect the principles of good, clean, and fair by using local, seasonal ingredients while keeping the meal at an affordable price.
The menus planned by Melchor for the Academic Tables from the 18th of October until the 20th undoubtedly piqued the curiosity as well as the palates of Pollenzo’s neogastronomes.
Melchor featured swam na mais, a corn soup with pork; adobo, marinated pork and chicken stew; binulo na Tinawon, a dish based on traditional Tinawon rice, grown in the Banaue terraces; and lastly maja blanca, a coconut-milk dessert on the first day.
The second day opened with sinigang na hipon bayabas, a shrimp soup flavored with guava from the Kapampangan region, then continue with chicken galantina ensalada, a chicken galantine, followed by kare-kare, a pork stew with peanut and shrimp sauce, then finishing with banana pili langka turon, caramelized banana rolls.
On the third day, Melchor prepared binakol, an aromatic chicken soup; sinuglaw, grilled pork belly; ceviche made with fresh fish; bringhe, a paella-like dish with coconut milk; kaldereta, pork stew with potatoes, carrots, peppers and tomato sauce; and buko pandan, a jelly pudding with pandan leaves, coconut and milk cream.
“I want people to get to know our fascinating food culture, with all its diversity and wealth,” says Melchor. Pollenzo will be the perfect location to start this culinary voyage of discovery.
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Photos taken from Chef Jam's Instagram account: http://instagram.com/chefjamme