PAMPANGA isn’t the culinary capital of the Philippines for nothing. A province rich in history, cultural heritage and culinary traditions, Pampanga owns one of the most distinct and interesting regional cuisines in the country primarily because it has an exotic component to it. Have you ever tried Betute (stuffed frog), Crispy Camaru (crickets fried to a golden crisp), Pindang Damulag (carabeef tocino), or Kalderetang Kambing (spicy goat stew)? Did you know that the favorite pulutan (beer drinking companion) called Sisig (chopped pork face cooked with chicken liver and served on a sizzling plate) originated from Pampanga? And yet Kapampangan cuisine is not just about exotic dishes, as Pampanga is also home to such delightful ‘regular’ dishes as Bringhe (the Filipino version of the Spanish paella), Ensaladang Pakô (fresh fiddlehead fern salad), Suam na Mais (rich, chunky corn soup with chopped shrimps), and Lumpiang Ubod (fresh lumpia with coconut palm filling).
All these – the exotic and the uniquely regular dishes that originate from Pampanga and have made the cuisine of this Central Luzon province famous – are on spotlight in the Stopover: Pampanga food festival ongoing at InterContinental Manila’s Café Jeepney until June 26, 2013. For the duration of the food festival, guest chefs from InterContinental Manila’s sister hotel in Pampanga, Holiday Inn Clark, Chefs Jerome Ayson and Atoy Mandap, work with Café Jeepney’s kitchen team to present Kapampangan dishes in the restaurant’s daily lunch and dinner buffet spreads.
Not to be missed among the appetizers are the Ensaladang Pakô (which has fresh pakô or fiddlehead fern, sliced tomatoes and diced onion tossed in just the right blend of sweet-and-sour vinaigrette dressing and topped with wedges of salted egg); Quilo Babi (pork mask in ginger vinegar, which is a cross between Sisig and the baboy in Tokwa’t Baboy); Lumpiang Ubod (fresh lumpia with coconut palm filling on lettuce, served with sweet brown sauce and a sprinkling of chopped peanuts); and Burong Nasi or Nasing Par o Atin Lagang Gule (fermented rice with shrimps, eaten with steamed vegetables such as okra, stringbeans and eggplants).
The best choice for soup is the Suam na Mais, which is rich, chunky and loaded with roughly ground corn kernels and chopped shrimps, but is not as heavy as regular cream-based soups.
For the main dishes, Stopover: Pampanga puts emphasis on Sisig Kapampangan, which originates from the province of Pampanga. Sisig has become such a popular dish that people from different parts of the country have come up with several versions of it. The Kapampangan version of Sisig combines chopped pork mask and chicken liver, serves it on a hot sizzling plate with a fresh egg cracked on top of the sisig. Other main dishes that diners can expect to find in Café Jeepney’s buffet spread are Bringhe (Filipino paella cooked with chicken, green peas, bell pepper strips, raisins and sausage); Rellenong Ampalaya (bittergourd tubes stuffed with ground pork and veggies, then battered and fried); Stuffed Betute (frogs stuffed with meat and deep-fried to a golden crisp); Paro King Taba Ning Talangka (juicy prawns cooked with crablet roe); Kalderetang Kambing (spicy goat stew that is so savory and flavorful that it whets the appetite); and Pindang Damulag (carabao meat made into tocino).
Kapampangan desserts actually all-time favorite Filipino desserts which the Kapampangans just call with different names. Guinataang Halo-Halo, for instance, is called Sampelot in Pampanga. Palitaw, or boiled glutinous rice rolled in freshly grated coconut), is called Pepalto in Pampanga. Another dessert, Haleya Ube, or sweet purple, goes by the same name.
With the Kapampangan food festival going on at InterContinental Manila’s Café Jeepney, a Kapampangan cooking class conducted by chefs from Holiday Inn Clark and InterCon’s executive chef Alisdair Bletcher is taking place at Prince Albert Rotisserie on June 16, 2013. The Php2,000++ per person rate of participation in the cooking class includes ingredients, aprons and toques plus set lunch.
Kapampangan furnishings will also be available at the hotel lobby until June 26, 2013, with Prizmic & Brill Valises and Companies displaying its exclusive products, such as trunks and period pieces manufactured in Pampanga.
(InterContinental Manila is located at No. 1 Ayala Ave., Makati City. For inquiries or reservations, call 793-7000.)