Text & Images: Michael Karlo Lim
MADRID Fusion Manila is the Asian equivalent of one of the biggest international gastronomy events, Madrid Fusión. The former has been celebrated annually in Madrid, Spain since 2003 and the local version is just on its third year, this year. With this year’s theme: Towards A Sustainable Gastronomic Planet, the congress explores the ability to sustain production, maximize quality yield and to maximize use of those.
That Filipino food has been the next best thing to watch out for since the early 2000’s now feels like a self-deprecating joke. We’ve been sitting on that cusp of world renown too long twiddling thumbs and swinging crossed ankles in nervous uncertainty. While much terse foot-shifting and craning of necks are happening, the brown food of the brown people seemed like it’s getting pushed to the distal ends of Zimmern’s exotic and the basic blah. Just when my eyeballs rolled too far back up my head, my faith in our local cuisine and what more we can do with it was restored.
Piquing my interest and quite along the lines of the waste-not-what-not leanings of sustainability was the second day’s lunch theme, “nose-to-tail.” Some offerings were literally on-point sparing no part of the feature item. Others looked at what are generally subprime then incorporated these into imaginative interpretations. We’re no strangers to offal but, as feature ingredients, we’re definitely going to see more of those in the offing.
Nino Laus elevated the street food classic, Betamax. Davao dark chocolate tempered the metallic taste of the congealed chicken blood while complementing the bitters. The crunch came from a flavorful crust of crispy chicken craw, pili & cashews. Ube puree gave it a subtle sweetness with the toppings of inengkanto rice crisps and cacao nibs adding more flavor and textural elements. An emulsion of uni, kalamata, and kamias anchored it back as a savory.
Next Generation Adobo
JP Anglo wowed with his Next Generation Adobo that came with an attack sequence leaving almost no poultry innard untouched. One was to start with the Gata Adobo Isol – chicken tail braised in coconut milk giving it a mild flavor, and work counterclockwise around the plate to appreciate the flavors in gracdients. Gizzard braised in the souring agent batwan and roasted garlic made up the, needless to say, tangy and garlicky Batwan Baticolon Adobo. The Cerveza Puso Adobo had the darker meat of the chicken heart sweetened by a beer-braising. The richness of chicken liver took on the savory-spiciness of X.O. sauce and, yet another intense flavor, the chocolate adobo sauce in the Atay Chocolate Adobo. One couldn’t go wrong with Grilled Isaw and this last one got more flavor with roasted garlic adobo sauce.
Cacao Wine with Dark Chocolate Truffle and White Chocolate with Cacao Nibs
There’s liquor-filled and then there’s straight up liquor. What chocolate and wine have common in sensual, seductive and addictive properties can be traced to the cacao bean. The smooth, clear ferment, cacao wine, goes down warm comparatively like white tequila. The heat masks most of whatever sugar there is in the liquid to end in the rich dark chocolate from the truffle and the sweetness from white chocolate disc with cacao nibs, both to be nibbled on between sips. The overall impression is that of mint chocolate made R18.
Blood, this time porcine, again made a scene in the traditionally sweetened soy pudding, taho. The fusion with the otherwise salty blood stew, Dinuguan, made for a rather mealy taste in the blank slate of the tofu made ever so slightly fragrant and tangy by the Sampaguita-Kaffir Lime Sauce. The traditional pairing of the steamed rice flour cake,puto, also got the dinuguan treatment and was served like an edible garnish. Chopped pig-ears surprised those who bottoms-upped.
Pig’s Head Skewer
Patrick Go played with offcuts from a pork head in his Pig’s Head Skewer with brown rice porridge. Pickled pork tongue, batwan-braised pork ears, coconut-smoked pork cheeks made a more interesting if not gamey BBQ stick complemented by smoked pork hock porridge.
Mindanao Milk Gelato
Richer and creamier than your usual was this freshly churned gelato using Mindanao milk. “Nose-to-tail” was in the milkception of dehydrated milk foam crumble echoing the gelato flavor in the crunch. Orange sponge cake brought in a mellow, fresh flavor. A meringue piece dusted with cucumber powder registered barely perceptible herbals along with the microgreens and a largely decorative butterfly pea flower. Sour punches came from calamasi gel dotted sparingly around the arrangement to cut through and tie up the entire dish from MNL Creamery.