Mangan Taku: Celebrating Cordilleran Cuisine
Mangan Taku is the best food fair I have been to among all other culinary shows that had hit the country in years. And the reason is as shiny as my kiniing-kissed lips: it is wonderfully & deliciously staged!
Let’s face it, many places in the Cordilleras are famous travel destinations. And food being one of the best travel souvenirs is supposed to rise with it. But have we gone past the fame of pinikpikan & taho strawberry? Really, have we?
Mangan Taku: 1st Cordillera Food Fair
Mangan Taku, Malugja Taku, Mangan Tada, Mangan Kito, Mangan Ta’u. However they say it all around the Cordilleras, it only takes one savoury meaning, “let’s eat”. And if you have been around the region, great food is very much a part of their culture too just like anywhere in the Philippines.
Mangan Taku is the first ever Cordillera Food Fair held last April 8-14. It is an initiative of the Department of Tourism-Cordillera, in partnership with the Tourism Promotions Board & supported by the City of Baguio & the Department of Agriculture.
For a week, the Rose Garden of Burnham Park in Baguio City became the epicenter of gastronomic extravaganza showcasing the best of Cordilleran cuisine. It gathered all its provinces in one venue & turned the place into a massive kitchen of culinary wonders.
Mangan Taku: Serving Culture on a Pot
Let me ask, in your latest trip to the Cordilleras, were you able to eat any traditional food? Or without Googling it, can you instantly name at least one indigenous dish other than pinikpikan?
Indigenous Cordilleran food is facing a challenge. It is losing patronage even among locals in favor of the easy-to-cook meals. Especially the new generation in the lower grounds, the taste for highland cuisine is labeled as exotic.
The unfamiliarity of the palate to these ethnic-based food midwifed the idea of Mangan Taku. At the fair, each province delighted everyone with the food that lived through time. Some brought us to a gustatory spin with exciting Cordillera fusion flavors.
Apayao offered the traditional Isneg “pinalatan”, a dry chicken dish made aromatic by a crush of pomelo leaves. Also, they wowed us with “pinaktan” made from taro & kicked with “sagket” or shrimp paste.
“Sinursur”, a yummy mélange of “kiwat” (catfish), “ungal” (banana stalk), as well as “ot-an” (shellfish) was Kalinga’s way to our hearts. There was also “binungor”, a vegetable appetizer. But they floored us with “inandila” or “inanchila”, a traditional snack made from chaykot rice, lachok, coconut milk, salt & sugar.
I was looking for Ifugao’s “inlagim”, a salt-and-pepper chicken dish but there was none. However, the bloody delectable “pinuneg” or blood sausage was one for the steal! Of course, Mountain Province’s “pinikpikan” fired up the show.
Then there was “miki” from Abra. Needless to say, the long queue was enough to explain how flavourful it is. Well, it might be of Chinese origin but Abra owned it with the best version, I yummily believe.
Cordilleran Food Version 2.0
If there is one thing that binds Cordilleran cuisine, probably that is the “etag”. Called “kinuday” in Ibaloi & “kiniing” among the Kankanaey, it is a cured slab of pork, usually salted & sun-dried. Although, the taste for it is something acquired & surely takes a little more time for the palate to appreciate especially among non-Cordillerans.
However, some gave it a wickedly delicious take to suit the new world taste. From indigenous to progressive, today one gets to enjoy it in pasta, burgers, sharwarma, sisig, sandwiches & even salads.
Among the exhibitors in Mangan Taku, I admit I holed up at the University of the Cordilleras for its Kiniing Pinulpugan & Sinursur Fritters. But their Coffee & Spice Rubbed Pork Barbeque instantly won my gusto.
Green Pepper’s Kiniing Sisig is phenomenal too! No hype here but Pampanga must check this out before it takes over the sisig world!
But Wait There’s More
There was just so much to love about Mangan Taku. Apart from the food, there were daily cultural performances, cooking demos as well as weaving presentations. Some provinces also offered homestay accommodations & sale of traditional crafts.
Cordillera is never the same without mentioning its coffee. And yes, as of this writing, I am drinking what would have been the best brew yet. Yagam Coffee just got the right body, acidity, aroma & flavor. It is produced by Kapi Tako, a social enterprise that ethically sources it from the farmers in Tublay, Kapangan, Kibungan & Kadaclan.
The Renaissance of Cordilleran Cuisine
Mangan Taku is a product of years of culinary explorations by food experts & enthusiasts. The discoveries & learnings from those trips formed the goals of the fair. And that is to promote Cordilleran cuisine, from the indigenous to the progressive, from the exotic to the popular.
Above all, what made it well-executed was it provided the public a chance to experience it in a venue that is open like Burnham Park. Obviously, it created the feeling of inclusiveness among locals who own the cuisine’s identity & the tourists who took on a toothsome sidetrip.
Mangan Taku is a soulful expression of Cordillera’s kitchen stories. It brings people & culture together in larger than life table, sharing conversations of appetizing memories & discoveries. Indeed, it’s filling & fulfilling to be part of a culinary cause that rocks the way you travel in the Cordilleras.