A Banquet Fit for a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate
There’s no overstating the fact that Maria Ressa’s Nobel Peace Prize win is a pretty big deal. For the first time ever, a Filipino is a Nobel laureate; an honor that has previously gone to people like Dr. Martin Luther King, Bishop Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, and Barack Obama.
As is customary for winners of the Nobel Prize, a banquet in their honor is traditionally given in Stockholm (for laureates in Medicine, Physics, Chemistry, Economics, and Literature), and in Oslo (for Peace). But prevailing conditions forced the Nobel Committee to postpone this year’s physical banquet at the Swedish capital. However, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has announced that it is considering holding the awarding ceremonies and banquet for the recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize—Ressa and Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov—on December 10, the death anniversary of Alfred Nobel, whose prizes are named after.
But a group of individuals here in Manila are so proud of Ressa and her achievements that they’re throwing their own virtual celebration for her.
“We thought of honoring Maria with a banquet because this is a momentous occasion,” says Devi De Veyra, who works with local auction house Salcedo Auctions. “(We) thought of a virtual banquet in Manila, by Filipino cooks and chefs. It will be nothing fancy like the lavish feastings in both Sweden and Norway, but just hearty and meaningful. The creators of the dishes were chosen on the basis of their advocacy for Filipino flavors.”
De Veyra shared the menu for the virtual banquet with Esquire Philippines:
1| Starters and cocktail
Banana Heart Lumpia, Chorizo & Singkamas Pinsec Frito and Empanada
Served with three dipping sauces : Sinamak vinegar, Atsara, Sweet & Sour Chili Sauce
“JP Valencia, who runs his own Ilonggo-inspired food business, LaFang Ph, decided to honor Maria Ressa with dishes created by his own grandmother, Felicitas “Lola Etas” T. Valencia,” De Veyra says. “He described Lola Etas as outwardly very meek and proper. But she feared no one. Not even the Japanese who invaded during World War II.
“Lola Etas was also very resourceful, using banana heart as a substitute for meat to create dishes (burgers, lumpia, etc.) for her children while on the run as bakwits (evacuees or refugees) during World War 2,” she says. “(The lumpia) is accompanied by the chorizo and singkamas pinsec frito and empanada. The former, a signifier of courage and resilience; and the latter, a reminder of the good times.”
According to Valencia, the banana heart, which was Lola Eta’s staple ingredient during hard times, symbolizes survival; while the chorizo/singkamas empanada, which served in their Iloilo home during parties before and after the war, conveys resilience.
Valencia indulges Ressa with a choice of three dipping sauces: Bacolod Sinamak vinegar, atsara and sweet & sour chili sauce.
Meanwhile, the pica-picas are paired with a Guyabano cocktail, made from fresh guyabano juice and spiked with Ginto gin.
Pigeon Consommé with Chopped Chayote and Papaya; Adobo Deep-Fried Pigeon Legs on the side
“Belgian-Filipino restaurateur and sommelier Glen Ramaeker runs his own eatery, Humphrey, out of Brussels, serving fusion Filipino and European dishes,” De Veyra says.
“After looking at the history of the Nobel banquets, I thought of lifting from that tradition but also introducing Filipino touches,” Ramaeker says.
“The pigeon consommé is garnished with chopped chayote and papaya - a truly simple, but satisfying soup that bears some semblance to our own tinola,” says De Veyra. “He gives it a unique spin by serving the deep-fried adobo pigeon legs on the side.”
“No part is wasted, and besides,” Ramaeker says, “The pigeon legs add a nice punch to the simple, elegant consommé.”
3| Main Course
Coffee-Roasted Red Snapper with Coconut Milk, Pomegranate and Patis Dipping Sauce
“Purple Yam New York’s Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan took time off from their hectic schedule to prepare a special main course and salad dish for Maria Ressa,” De Veyra says. “Originally, the couple thought of serving roasted Red Snapper (or Maya Maya as it is known in the Philippines) with skewered star fruit, or balimbing.”
“Skewered balimbing…get it?” Besa says with a laugh.
The dish will go with a bitter melon and pomelo salsa (“Bittersweet victory!” Besa says), and served on banana leaves.
“Banana republic,” the couple adds chuckling. “We can go on and on!”
Unfortunately, De Veyra says the couple couldn’t get ahold of star fruit.
“So we decided to include plantains for the banana republic theme!” Besa laughs.
“Dorotan toiled in their kitchen for a tantalizing seafood banquet,” says De Veyra. “The Red Snapper is tied with pandan stalks, and coffee roasted on banana leaves. Veggies and other seafood are layered over the fish."
“It is served with two dipping sauces: the pomegranate, orange with patis and chilies dip, along with the coconut milk sauce, which is infused with coffee beans, lemon grass, garlic, ginger, onions, scallions, shallots and chilies.”
According to De Veyra, some of the veggies roasted with the fish make their way to a salad, which has okra, sitaw, amaranth, pomelo, pomegranate, and pili nuts, and is served with bagoong.
Atis Ice Cream with Caramelized Sugar
“JP’s dessert is just as straightforward,” says De Veyra. “Scoops of atis ice cream crowned with caramelized sugar.
“The ice cream dessert is also a Nobel banquet tradition,” she adds.
According to De Veyra, Ressa does not know about this tribute dinner, but she hopes it will make its way to her so she can partake of the dishes virtually.