RED hot and delicious. That’s the best way to describe Bicolano cuisine, and everyone who loves hot and spicy food can get to savor it at Edsa Shangri-La’s HEAT All-Day Dining Restaurant from June 12, Independence Day, until the end of the month. Held in conjunction with the 115th Philippine Independence Day celebration this June, Pinoy Hot at HEAT pays tribute to the colorful Philippine culture and cuisine, focusing on the Bicolano culinary heritage of Edsa Shangri-La’s executive sous chef Sonny Almandres. Chef Sonny hails from the Bicol region, particularly from Ligao, Albay, which is the home province of the world-famous, perfectly cone-shaped Mayon Volcano.
The decision to focus on Bicolano cuisine, however, wasn’t just because it’s where Chef Sonny hails from but also because it has a totally distinct, interesting and appetizing cuisine centered on siling labuyo (bird’s eye chili) and gata (coconut cream/milk). Red hot, spicy and totally delicious cuisine, yes, Ma’am, is what you’d find in the Bicol region.
But while Laing, Bicol Express and Pinangat may be the best-known Bicolano dishes, there’s certainly a lot more to Bicolano cuisine than these, and Chef Sonny tries to highlight them in the Pinoy Hot at HEAT food promotion by making it a culinary journey to the six provinces of the gastronomic region of Bicol — Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Albay, Masbate, Sorsogon and Catanduanes. He features specialties and signature dishes from each of these six provinces in the Bicol region, so nobody feels left out. Being the creative chef that he is, however, Chef Sonny takes these traditional Bicolano dishes and breathes new life into them by preparing these classic dishes using traditional ingredients and Western cooking techniques and modern plating ideas.
Chef Sonny gave members of the food media a glimpse and a taste of Pinoy Hot at HEAT over lunch today (June 5, 2013) at the Rankine Room of HEAT. And what a full course lunch it was!
My husband Raff and I arrived a bit early, so we got to chat with Edsa Shangri-La’s director of communications Ouie Badelles and communications manager Claire Hernandez. We marveled at the centerpiece, which was a ball made up of countless red hot siling labuyo (bird’s eye chili), and took a sip of the welcome drinks Formosa (basically pineapple juice in a tall glass with, yes, chopped chili!) and Cool Magma (an alcoholic drink of lambanog, palm wine, pineapple syrup and grenadine with, correct again, chopped chili!). I got the Formosa, and from the first sip, I already got a whiff of siling labuyo, which gave the drink quite an interesting twist. Raff said it was the same with his Cool Magma.
As the other guests arrived, the waiters started serving bite-sized pass-around Bicolano treats on ‘picture frame’ glass trays that featured images from Bicol like Mayon Volcano – Sinarapan sa Tanglad (sinarapan, which is the world’s smallest freshwater fish found only in Bicol, made into nuggets and served skewered in lemongrass sticks); Kandingga (Bicol’s version of spicy bopis served on melba toast), Kinunot nin Sorsogon (tuna and stingray meat with moringa leaves in small banana leaf packets); and Nilutong Balaw (salty, creamy and spicy shrimp paste with beans and wild wood ear mushrooms).
Finally getting everyone settled, the wait staff then served the appetizer, Ceviche of Banana Heart and Fresh Dilis (with taro root puff, pickled papaya, pomelo and fiddlehead fern salad with coconut cream), followed by the soup, Cocido (seafood stew with vegetables and camote tops), in individual portions, sit-down style. I loved both, since I love vegetables and seafood. The Ceviche, served in a small mound on a square slice of ripe papaya, was fresh, and the crunchy taro root puff went very well with the pakô salad that was topped on it.
The main courses that followed were served family style in bowls placed over a long wooden tray lined with what else but red hot siling labuyo: Bicol Express (pork baby back ribs with coconut cream and chili); Camalig’s Pinangat (soft-shell crab wrapped in fresh taro leaves with young coconut meat and cooked in coconut milk); Sorsogon’s Catch of the Day (grilled seafood on skewers); Laing (dried taro leaves simmered in coconut cream, shrimp paste and chili); and Pancit “Bato” Rinuguan (noodles topped with shrimps, pechay, pig’s blood, crispy chicken meat and served with wintermelon). My favorites were, you guessed right, Camalig’s Pinangat and Laing, two dishes I had a lot of and truly enjoyed during a recent trip to Naga. The Laing was breathing-fire spicy, and I definitely had to eat it with rice, and Camalig’s Pinangat was the tamer, lighter, milder version.
Next item on the media preview menu – dessert! It wasn’t just one dessert, though, but a host of desserts. Plated dessert was Daet’s Formosa Pineapple Upside Down Cake with Lambanog and Lemoncito Coulis on Pili Nut Brandy Snaps (made with Bicol’s famous small but ultra sweet Formosa pineapples). Pass-around desserts came in the form of Bird’s Eye Chili Crème Brulee, Chili Pralines, Chocolate Chili Truffle, Pampuyak (pili pulp cooked in condensed milk), Nilupak (mashed cassava to which, I think, pineapple was added, served in banana leaf cones) and Pinipig Cookies. Yes, even some of the desserts had chili in them!
More sweets came in small boxes of take-home French Macaroons, which Chef Sonny made using ground pili nuts instead of the traditional ground almonds, as well as packets of Mazapan de Pili from Albay.
So, if you love Bicolano food or just plain spicy food and you’d like to try a chili-rich, full-course lunch or dinner, catch Edsa Shangri-La Manila’s Pinoy Hot at HEAT food promotion from June 12 to 30, 2013. It promises to be red hot and delicious.
(Edsa Shangri-La Manila is located at 1 Garden Way, Ortigas Center, Mandaluyong City. For inquiries or reservations, call 631-1067.)