NOW that the Philippine Independence Day celebration is just a few days away, you can really feel the nationalistic fervor all around you. Hotels, for one, are “turning Filipino” for this occasion by staging Filipino food festivals, and one of the more prominent ones happens to be The Peninsula Manila’s Fiesta Filipina food promotion, which starts tomorrow, Monday, June 8, 2015, and ends on June 19.
Fiesta Filipina features Chef Myrna Segismundo, one of the brightest names in the local culinary scene, as guest chef, and she takes diners on a gastronomic tour of the Philippines, retracing and rediscovering the Spanish influences in the country’s vibrant and colorful culture through the rich flavors of well-loved hearty Filipino dishes. The two-week Filipino food promotion takes place at The Peninsula Manila’s all-day dining restaurant, Escolta.
Chef Myrna, Kulinarya cookbook author who recently retired from ABS-CBN’s Restaurant 9501, has always been known to be an advocate of Filipino cuisine. She promotes Filipino cuisine in different parts of the country and abroad, and she was one of the key personalities in the groundbreaking Madrid Fusion Manila 2015, a prestigious world culinary event that had its Philippine version for the very first time last April. Promoting Filipino gastronomy with her signature dishes has become her life’s mission, with the flavor profiles of her culinary creations ranging from sweet and spicy to smoky and tangy. It also unlocks a treasure trove of stories from the kitchens of her childhood to those she learned from some of the very best—and at times unheralded—provincial kusineros that she has met along the course of her work. Her cuisine honors generations-old, time-tested and honed dishes, some of which have almost ‘faded into oblivion.’ She kept them alive, improved on them and made them her own, and continues to share them with food lovers, whether Filipino or otherwise.
Fiesta Filipina showcases Chef Myrna’s signature dishes, such as Lechon Kawali (twice-cooked crispy pork belly), Adobo Pate (chicken and pork adobo made into a smooth and flavorful pate), Lumpiang Ubod (fresh spring rolls that serve as refreshing appetizers and get the palate ready for the mains), Lechon de Leche (roast suckling pig), Mini Shrimp Okoy (crispy shrimp fritters), Kinilaw Shooters (ceviche of shrimps, tuna and tanigue), Sopa de Molo (chicken soup with vegetables, shrimp and pork dumplings), Chicken Tinola (ginger-flavored chicken broth with green papaya and chili leaves), Batchoy (noodles with pork crackling better known as chicharon), Fabada Filipina (bean stew with ham and chorizo), Pork Binagoongan Paella (cooked rice seasoned with pork and shrimp paste), Pastel de Pollo (chicken casserole), Roast Beef a la Pobre (garlic-rubbed roast prime rib), and Kaldereta (beef stew slow-cooked to fork tenderness).
During the media launch and tasting held a few days prior to the opening of Fiesta Filipina, Chef Myrna even served awesome Fried Chicken Wings with Tamarind Dip, a simple but very refreshingly flavorful Paksiw na Bangus sa Kamias with Okra, Pancit with Chicharon (stir-fried noodles with pork crackling topping), Monggo Soup, and Chicken Barbecue.
The best, for me, was the Paksiw na Bangus sa Kamias with Okra. Aside from the fact that I’m partial to fish and seafood dishes over meat dishes, Chef Myrna’s version of Paksiw na Bangus had a very subtle, just right flavor. The sourness provided by the vinegar wasn’t overpowering–and the fish dish was not fishy at all. It had a clean, fresh flavor. Chef Claude Tayag, who was at the other long table during the media tasting dinner, loved the Kaldereta. His charming wife Mary Ann said Chef Claude ate two claypots of Chef Myrna’s Kaldereta. That, of course, was a slight exaggeration meant to stress the point that Chef Claude really loved the Kaldereta. Media colleague Adolf Aran, who was seated right across me and my husband Raff, also enjoyed the Kaldereta, while his lovely wife Alu took a fancy for the Fried Chicken Wings and was fascinated with its tamarind dip.
So much for the main dishes. Now, it’s time for dessert.
When Chef Myrna entertains, a meal is not complete without dessert, and so, for Fiesta Filipina, she lays out a spread of traditional Filipino sweets, such as Leche Flan, Banana Langka Turon (caramelized banana and jackfruit spring roll, served with sorbet), Batangas Coffee Jelly (served with macapuno balls), Glazed Kamote Fries (caramelized sweet potato fries served with sorbet), and the all-time favorite and Chef Myrna’s own creation and specialty, Queso de Bola Cheesecake.
Fiesta Filipina is available at Escolta’s lunch and dinner buffets at Php1,530 for lunch from Monday to Saturday and Php1,750 for dinner from Monday to Thursday. The Seafood Buffet dinner every Friday and Saturday is priced at Php2,000, while the Ultimate Sunday Brunch can be had at Php2,200++. For inquiries or reservations, call 887-2888 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.