World Streetfood Congress 2017 | Philippine Food Safari
Twenty-nine foodies, seven food hubs, about forty dishes & one mission—to survive a 15-hour food safari in Pampanga. Quite a calorific challenge but that’s probably how to train our tummies for the bigger madness on May 31-June 4 when the World Streetfood Congress 2017 plates up in Manila.
Our lips were greased all day & burping was the only rest we ever had. Neither to surrender nor to complain was an option. After all, our mouths were always full!
Bring it on, World Streetfood Congress 2017!
While most of the international food & travel journalists started the day with a platter of hangover & jet lag, the Filipino team came in hungry. Blood pressure, check! Sugar level, check! Heart rate, check! Now we’re ready to chow!
Bulaluhan sa Espana
Who in his right mind & appetite begins his day with an artery-clogging bowl of bulalo?
This popular dish made of beef shanks & wiggly bone marrow languishing on a clear gingery broth is what you call a kickass beef stew ala Satan. Austrian Mark & Flo who partied hard the night before surely got a sample of the Philippines’ adored natural hangover cure.
And in this side of Manila, Bulaluhan sa Espana is the universe of this collagenic delight.
After that fattening day starter, we wanted to pig it out by snoozing on the road. But KF Seetoh, yes, THE KF Seetoh, of the Makansutra fame threw in a question that left us groping for answers.
“What is Filipino cuisine all about?”
I wanted to comment that Philippine gastronomy is an exciting pot of mixed cuisines from various influences like the Malays, Spanish, Americans & Chinese adapted to local tastes by utilizing Filipino cookery.
But it was too damn rhetoric! So I just burped my reply away & decided to park the thought until we get to Pampanga, one of the country’s bastions of Filipino food.
Kusina ni Atching Lillian
Filipino chefs look up to Atching Lillian Borromeo, the demi-goddess of Kapampangan cuisine. She is loved for her purist cooking style & so adored for putting life to the saying “culture is best served on a platter”.
Indeed Atching Lillian’s home kitchen is legendary. Her Pindang Damulag, Tidtad, Pistu, Lagat Hitu & Paksing Demonyo are divine. And that dessert called Brazo de Mais is sinfully delicious!
If you can’t wait for her food to take the centerstage of the World Streetfood Congress 2017, make a reservation now (09157730788) & she’ll whip up something in her kitchen at Brgy. Parian in Mexico, Pampanga.
Nanay Norma Garcia of Taldawa is the queen of all duck & goat dishes in Angeles, Pampanga.
Her bestsellers are Adobong Bibe, Sinigang na Kambing & Kaderetang Kambing. Although they’re really savory, I have to admit that I am not a big fan of quacks & meehs.
Follow your nose & the herd to Santo Cristo Road in Angeles.
If there was any part of the itinerary that I highly looked forward to, it was 25 Seeds.
One, it is by THE Chef Sau del Rosario, who he kept me so starstruck throughout the trip. Two, it is Kapampangan heritage food whisked with contemporary techniques. Three, it supports various farm communities, struggling scholars & embraces other homegrown chefs.
It was a wonderful experience seeing Chef Sau in his element as he exclusively prepped for us a dish that will make its public debut on the World Street Food Congress 2017. It is called Sisig Paella, a wicked & progressive take on the darling dish of Pampanga & the oh lala Spanish casserole.
Seriously, 2 hours wasn’t enough to spend in 25 Seeds. I can lounge all day in his art deco resto at Santo Rosario among good food & good vibes.
We were already bloated by the time we left 25 Seeds but we can’t resist the delectable Filipino snacks that have also made Pampanga famous. And yes folks, Susie’s Cuisine beside Nepo Mall is the star of this game.
Among the spread of goodies, Tibok-Tibok, meaning heartbeat truly made my heart skipped a beat. This carabao milk pudding is devilishly luscious. I have to invite my diabetologist at Susie’s for him to understand what “irresistibly good dessert” means.
As we snailed back to Manila, I wondered if I already got the reply to KF Seetoh’s question.
My struggle to define Filipino cuisine was perhaps finding a cohesive description of all its eclectic characteristics. I was looking for that rightful expression, those words that bind the elements together to create a definition.
At that point, I realized I still haven’t had the answer. Or maybe the San Nicolas cookies that I snipped from Atching Lilillian would give me divine intervention for answers?
As everyone was serious in the press conference of the World Streetfood Congress 2017, I was busy doing my ninja moves on the food prepped at Makansutra.
I have long wanted to visit this food hub at SM Megamall & this time I was lucky to have gone there with no less than the founder himself, KF Seetoh. Makansutra has 11 stations boasting of the best hawker food from various parts of Asia.
This place done in a retro-chic finish instantly brought me back to early 90s when I had my first taste of Singaporean hawker food at Boon Tat Street.
At 10PM, the streets of Manila were already clear but my tummy was still jammed. And lord of lords, we were still snaking our way to “dinner”. And by dinner, I mean lechon at Zubuchon!
I told everyone I will just have a small bite & I will call it the night.
I had ribs, belly & of course the crunchy skin dipped in chilli vinegar. Terraces of rice & ice cold Coca-Cola! I lied, I lied! But no regrets because who can resist the happiest pig on earth?
I’m glad they picked Cebu lechon because seriously there are only 3 places in the Philippines that do it best.
On my way back home & 10 pounds heavier, I couldn’t help but drop by at my fave cafe for a cup of tea. And in my overfed state, I had a few thoughts (see, I think clearly when I’m full).
First, that Filipino food are as many as our islands & as diverse as our culture. But why it isn’t globally appreciated like the Japanese, Chinese, Italian & Indian cuisines?
Second, we have deep culinary traditions & heritage food. But many of it remains in our kitchen cupboards. Is it because it failed to progress? Or have we lost the integrity of taste of our heirloom recipes when some of it left for the streets?
Third, we may have tons of delicious streetfood. But we miserably failed on sanitation & presentation. Also, other than “isaw” & “balut”, everything else is Chinese. Where’s the “pinuneg” of the Cordilleras, the “halang-halang” of Iligan, the “tuslob-buwa” of Cebu & the “pipian” of Vigan?
Okay, the last realization I have is to wait for the World Streetfood Congress 2017 when it finally happens at the SM MOA Concert Grounds. After all, it promises to bring at least 13 countries on a 5-day food jamboree.
There will also be dialogues, demonstrations & awards to the best hawkers of the world. And yeah, I have to make a special mention that Anthony Bourdain is coming too.
Maybe this time, I will finally have answers to KF Seetoh’s question. Or maybe not. Burp!
To know more about the World Streetfood Congress 2017, click here.