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Pigging out at the Hog Festival 2024

By KARLA REYES, The Philippine STAR Published Mar 21, 2024 8:54 am

One of the activities to celebrate the Hog Festival was a pork-feast degustation, or a small sampling of small-portioned pork dishes from several chefs in one seating. The farm-to-fork concept of this dinner was mainly an event by the National Federation of Hog Farmers to pay tribute to the local hog industry. It also aimed to increase awareness of the local industry, promoting local pork and linking institutional markets to producer farmers. 

As we all know, the industry has been fighting two pandemics in recent years: COVID-19 and African Swine Fever, which first broke out in the country in 2019. It has spread tremendously, affecting both commercial and backyard farms since. To this day, the Philippines continues to battle and manage the spread of the disease.

According to an article published by the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic, and Natural Resources Research and Development (DOST-PCAARRD), the local swine industry plays a vital role in the country's food security as it is currently providing about 60% of the total animal meat consumption of Filipinos. 

All porked out: Author Karla Reyes (center) with (from left) chef Jac Laudito, Chef Rolando Laudico, ad hoc project director for the Hog Festival, Jan Buenaflor, chef Nathaniel Uy, chef EJ Buenaflor, Hog Festival event director Hazel Ancheta Jover, chef Miggy Moreno, chef Mikel Zaguirre, Lechon Diva Dedet dela Fuente, chef Kalel Chan and floor manager for the evening chef Kai Ancheta. Photo by MIGGY MORENO

Pork is a major ingredient in Filipino cuisine, and this degustation proved just that. Pork dishes inspired from all over the country were featured during the dinner. I am thrilled and honored to have been invited to join this all-star-chefs lineup for the event. Though the lack of kitchen space and equipment posed a challenge, everyone was able to successfully pull off their dishes that evening.

Kicking off the dinner was a parade of the featured chefs followed by the lechon parade by Lechon Diva Dedet dela Fuente. The lechon de leche was stuffed with truffle rice and Divalicious sauce. 

Igado by chef Mikel ZaguirreL A sourdough pan de sal fried in bagnet lard, served with igado pate and sun-dried heirloom tomato chutney

The next dish was called Igado by chef Mikel Zaguirre, a sourdough pan de sal fried in bagnet lard, served with igado pate and a sun-dried heirloom tomato chutney. 

Two carving stations were set up by the stage highlighting The Plaza Premium Baked Ham served in a mini Plaza pan de sals and signature sauces: premium glaze, Gutsy Garlic, sweet mustard, and wasabi mayo. 

Sous-vide pork shoulder Mindanaoan sambal, shredded and stuffed in crispy wanton cups topped with ensaladang talong

The fourth dish was by chef Miggy Moreno of Palm Grill and Cabel, both featuring authentic cuisine from Southern Mindanao. It was sous-vide pork shoulder Mindanaoan sambal, shredded and stuffed in crispy wonton cups topped with ensaladang talong

Chef Rolando Laudico served a kaldereta salad using sous-vide pork tenderloin in roasted tomato and capsicum dressing. It was served on a cheese-crusted potato pillow and a mesclun salad with carrot strings, olives, and grilled chicken liver.

Chef Rolando Laudico’s kaldereta salad with sous-vide pork tenderloin in roasted tomato and capsicum dressing, mesclun salad, and grilled chicken liver

The sixth dish was a pork balbacua black garlic birria ramen by chef Kalel Chan, a boneless pork leg cooked with smoked Mexican chilis, ramen noodles, cilantro, jalapeño, and cheddar cheese. 

Chef Tatung served habichuelas, a Spanish-influenced Filipino dish with white beans slowly cooked with tomatoes, pork, and chorizo. Chef Tatung also served it with a couple of pieces of morcilla and a homemade sourdough toast on the side. 

Crispy pata tim by chef and author Karla Reyes, boneless pork leg marinated and cooked in pata tim sauce served with a shiitake mushroom risoni risotto, a swirl of pata tim sauce and bok choy

Finally, it was the eighth course—my course—named Crispy Pata Tim, boneless pork leg marinated and cooked in pata tim sauce and deep fried. Due to the venue limitations, Focus Global kindly came to the rescue at the very last minute, lending me five air fryers for me to use that evening. My air-fryer army consisted of various InstantPot and Oster models. Set at the highest temp of 200°C for 10 minutes, this made sure that the pata was hot and crispy. This was served with a shiitake mushroom risoni risotto, a swirl of pata tim sauce and bok choy

Karabella champorado gelato made from goat’s milk, dark tablea, and crunchy chicharon bagnet bits by chef EJ Buenaflor

Chef EJ Buenaflor of Karabella Dairy served two courses, a palate cleanser of Manille Liqueur de Calamansi-infused carabao milk gelato. And a couple of courses later, Karabella champorado con chicharon gelato, pure carabao’s milk blended with dark tablea chocolate and topped with chicharon bagnet

Pineapple bacon upside-down cake with caramelized white chocolate by chef Jac Laudico

For another sweet ending, a pineapple bacon upside-down cake with caramelized white chocolate was served by chef Jac Laudico. 

This was truly an exhilarating experience! This event would not have been possible without the assistance of students from Lyceum of the Philippines Manila headed by chef Heinz Pelayo, Premium Choice Meat Shop and other sponsors—of course, the National Federation of Hog Farmers.