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These local ingredients show that Filipino cuisine is a far-reaching experience in itself

By Brooke Villanueva Published Jul 01, 2021 10:29 pm

Filipino cuisine has had its shining moments in the culinary spotlight, but there’s still so much of its sheer magnitude waiting to be taken in.

The late great Anthony Bourdain, who once declared sisig as one of his favorite dishes, forged an undeniable connection with the Philippines through Filipino food. When asked by journalist Ces Drilon when he thought our delicious dishes can have their claim to global fame, he referred to it, like for any cuisine’s popularity, as an “organic process.” Food lovers, the storyteller added, may then have to find that out for themselves.

While big names like Bourdain and renowned culinary expert Andrew Zimmern have predicted that Filipino food could be at the forefront of the international food scene, a huge chunk of it is still yet to be celebrated. Case in point: Just last month, a Filipino-Norwegian MasterChef Norway judge said on national television that our food is “very bad.” For him, it “does not have the same taste composition as Thai food” as it’s “more on the sour side.” Perhaps it’s time to think again.

There are a lot of unique local ingredients that make every dish an adventure. Even Filipinos didn’t realize this until they came across a Facebook postby Pinoy foodie and amateur cook John Sherwin Felix, who gave netizens a glimpse of local food products that remain obscure to many. Discovered during his out-of-town travels, some are indigenous while others were introduced and have since become part of our food heritage.

Tabon-tabon: used for kinilaw in Northern Mindanao

From Hoskyn, Guimaras, tultul (salt blocks) has been enjoyed by some locals with rice.

Carrying an umami flavor, gamet (Ilocandia's Nori)—from Sta. Praxedes, Cagayan—is best used for salads and/or soup.

Ominio, from the Rice Terraces of Cordillera, has a chocolatey taste and aroma.

Sourced from Buri tree, landang is used for binigit in some areas of Visayas and Mindanao.

Imbuucan is brown rice from the Rice Terraces of Cordillera.

While Inawi is the heirloom rice from the Rice Terraces of Cordillera.

Natek (Nipa starch) can be used as an alternative to cornstarch.

Ilocos fine salt placed in a Burnay jar

Palapa is a condiment made from thinly chopped white scallions, pounded ginger, turmeric, labuyo chili, and toasted grated coconut

Sukang Irok/Kaong (Sugar palm vinegar), Sukang Sasa/Paombong (Nipa palm vinegar), Sukang Tuba (Coconut vinegar), and Sukang Iloko (Sugarcane vinegar)

Tuyong Kamias

Kalumpit can be used for making jam and juice

Kalingag (Philippine cinnamon)

The balikucha can be used as a sweetener for tea, coffee, or hot chocolate

Asin tibuok is an artisanal salt from Alburquerque, Bohol

Pako or edible fern

Minaangan is a heirloom red rice from Cordillera

Pili

Dayap's extract is best for sawsawan, while the rind can be used for tibok-tibok, gurgurya, and leche flan

Local tablea at cocoa nibs

From Botolan, Zambales, Buy-o is a kind of sea salt placed in woven palm leaves

Panutsa de bao

Bignay can be used as a wine ingredient or a souring agent

Bagbagkong (edible wild vine flower) can be used in pinakbet, munggo, and/or lumpiang shanghai

Bulaklak ng saging

Kadyos is used for the Ilonggo's KBL (kadyos, baboy, langka)

Tabon-tabon: used for kinilaw in Northern Mindanao

From Hoskyn, Guimaras, tultul (salt blocks) has been enjoyed by some locals with rice.

Carrying an umami flavor, gamet (Ilocandia's Nori)—from Sta. Praxedes, Cagayan—is best used for salads and/or soup.

Ominio, from the Rice Terraces of Cordillera, has a chocolatey taste and aroma.

Sourced from Buri tree, landang is used for binigit in some areas of Visayas and Mindanao.

Imbuucan is brown rice from the Rice Terraces of Cordillera.

While Inawi is the heirloom rice from the Rice Terraces of Cordillera.

Natek (Nipa starch) can be used as an alternative to cornstarch.

Ilocos fine salt placed in a Burnay jar

Palapa is a condiment made from thinly chopped white scallions, pounded ginger, turmeric, labuyo chili, and toasted grated coconut

Sukang Irok/Kaong (Sugar palm vinegar), Sukang Sasa/Paombong (Nipa palm vinegar), Sukang Tuba (Coconut vinegar), and Sukang Iloko (Sugarcane vinegar)

Tuyong Kamias

Kalumpit can be used for making jam and juice

Kalingag (Philippine cinnamon)

The balikucha can be used as a sweetener for tea, coffee, or hot chocolate

Asin tibuok is an artisanal salt from Alburquerque, Bohol

Pako or edible fern

Minaangan is a heirloom red rice from Cordillera

Pili

Dayap's extract is best for sawsawan, while the rind can be used for tibok-tibok, gurgurya, and leche flan

Local tablea at cocoa nibs

From Botolan, Zambales, Buy-o is a kind of sea salt placed in woven palm leaves

Panutsa de bao

Bignay can be used as a wine ingredient or a souring agent

Bagbagkong (edible wild vine flower) can be used in pinakbet, munggo, and/or lumpiang shanghai

Bulaklak ng saging

Kadyos is used for the Ilonggo's KBL (kadyos, baboy, langka)

CLOSE

Among the delectable food components shown in the gallery above, the Ominio/Balatinaw rice variety surprised Felix the most. From the Rice Terraces of the Cordillera, this black (deep purple) glutinous rice is amped up with cocoa notes and aroma. “I love using it for biko and champorado,” he told PhilSTAR L!FE.

Champorado and biko made with Ominio/Balatinaw rice variety

Another great combo would be sinigang made with gamet—a wild seaweed from Santa Praxedes, Cagayan. “It gives another level of umami flavor in broth or soup dishes like sinigang na hipon or isda,” said Felix.

Gamet in fish sinigang

The most utilized food item in his pantry, however, is the Asin Tibuok. This kind of artisanal salt from Albuquerque, Bohol gives off a smokey taste that goes perfectly with grilled meat.

Grilled meat seasoned withAsin Tibuok

Now, let’s go back to the aforementioned interview with Bourdain. He advised that a cuisine’s popularity lies in “creating something good” and “serving it long enough.” This is in line with his belief that “people would build their own conceptions and misconceptions about what an entire nation’s cuisine is based on their exposure to it.” Who knows? Maybe if we start exploring such wonderfully produced local ingredients more, they could, someday, help us get there.

Photos and photo gallery captions by John Sherwin Felix