All the Important Terms Every Serious Foodie Should Know
This little known grain is love at first bite for both chefs and curious eaters. Abundant in Mindanao and brought to the spotlight by the Department of Agriculture's Berna Romulo-Puyat, Adlai (or Job's Tears) was the star ingredient at the 2015 Madrid Fusion Manila (MFM). Everyone was singing praises for this versatile alternative to rice and corn, especially those who were able to try Tippi Tambunting's dish at MFM, which paired this springy grain with juicy pork belly.
Being organic isn't enough anymore, especially when the word is overused and often abused for marketing purposes. While the principles behind biodynamic farming have been around since the 1920s—it refers to creating a diversified, balanced and natural ecosystem in which to raise produce—it has only gained widespread traction fairly recently. Taste the difference when you order produce from Holy Carabao, the forward-thinking, healthy food purveyor that is an advocate of this movement in the Philippines.
I’ll go straight to the point: calamansi is the new yuzu. While it is ubiquitous to us, it’s still pretty exotic for the rest of the world. This small package packs a potent and unique citrus taste that makes it great in anything—as a requisite acid to cut through rich flavors or as a tangy touch in a trendy cocktail. Manille Liqueur de Calamansi has been a big boost to its popularity outside the Philippines, because it has become the go-to gourmet gift to replace the expected, but still delicious, dried mango.
Death of Food Porn
Food snobs—those who refuse to eat without white tablecloths or consult the star rating before booking—are a dying breed. Today, it's not about the most expensive or exclusive, but all about the most exotic. We have Bourdain and Zimmern to thank for ushering in this anti-elitist dining movement. The criteria are based on effort: How far did you travel for a true taste of Isaan cuisine? Who never gave up in the search for ingredients to make ghee? These gourmands demand authentic experiences, and are more likely to populate their #foodporn feed with finds from a dingy side street.
Remember in the early 2000s when the hottest thing was to enroll in culinary school? Well, those who took the gamble are most probably reaping the gains, but we’ve learned that cooking school isn't just for those who want to make a career in food, but also for home cooks and food lovers who just can't get enough. If you’re one of them, visit Casa Artusi, which opened its first Asian campus right here on our shores. From pasta-making, Italian degustation dinners to an amazing in-house shop, it just goes to show that there’s an insatiable appetite for anything food. Not a surprise considering we all have to eat to survive.
The saying "too many cooks spoil the broth" does necessarily apply in a world obsessed with collaboration. Four Hands dinners, where two chefs come together to cook one cohesive meal, have been all the rage. It appealing to both chefs and diners—cooks get to challenge the status quo while hardcore eaters get to try two different cooking styles in one go. The best perceived pairing would be two chefs with opposing styles that hopefully result in a harmonious synergy. Recent examples of chefs with good chemistry include Richard Ekkebus and Corey Lee, who cooked together at Amber in Hong Kong to promote the latter’s book Benu, and the pairing of veteran Juan Carlos de Terry with chef-of-the-moment Bruce Ricketts in a collaborative dinner last May 2015. A month before, Toyo Eatery's Jordy Navarra also had a collaboration with Chef Alvin Leung of Bo Innovation.
Grand Gelinaz Shuffle
The idea sounds preposterous—get the world’s top chefs to exchange identities and restaurants for one night only. Then, ask diners to reserve a seat without knowing who’ll be cooking. To be fair, neither the chefs nor diners really knew what they were getting (or getting into). But in a time when every course is painstakingly documented on food blogs, being in the dark sounds extremely appetizing and brings back the anticipation that made dining out exciting. On July 9, 2015, the culinary jetset experienced the Gelinaz shuffle for the first time, the luckiest of who lapped up Noma’s Rene Redzepi's cooking at Nahm in Bangkok. Let's hope this becomes an annual event.
That we import rice from our neighboring countries not for the sake of variety, but to be able to meet demand, is a bone of contention in the Philippines. Though we are far from meeting our production targets, it’s good that we are finally exploring our “native” form—heirloom rice. The difference in color, taste and texture adds an interesting dimension to this staple; it’s also a healthier alternative to the industrially farmed variety. Buy a portion from Legazpi Market or check out Arrozeria, which features heirloom rice from the Cordilleras in their Spanish recipes.
Indian by Gaggan
All of us revel in restaurants that have a strong sense of place, but Gaggan, the number one restaurant in Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards two years in a row is far from meeting this criterion. Capitalizing from its unique position—being an Indian restaurant in Bangkok—can only last so long. The real draw isn't the novel formula or Gaggan’s beautiful setting, but the playful, “progressive Indian” cooking of chef Gaggan Anand. Mixing molecular techniques that intensify flavors and offer an element of surprise, both novices and experts on Indian cuisine are in for a revelation. Just make sure you make a reservation.
The farm to fork movement started a concerted push to eliminate, or at least minimize, the prevalence of junk food. If the slumping sales of McDonald’s are to be taken as an indication, we’ve certainly turned a corner when it comes to junking junk. the wellness trend is also due some credit—from natural food to nutraceuticals, we’ve certainly become more discerning about what we put into our bodies. You are what you eat indeed.
The ambassador of Peruvian cuisine, ceviche has taken over the world with endless variations available from Miami to Manila. Our local version, kinilaw, also instantly impresses—it was the dish that Margarita Fores, Enting Lobaton and Myrna Segismundo presented at Madrid Fusion 2015, received with much acclaim. Instead of leche de tigre, the various vinegars used to “cook” the raw seafood makes our very own kinilaw stand out. It’s a local dish that showcases the beautiful seafood available in the Philippines, while also shining the spotlight on our myriad vinegars.
Peru has undoubtedly cemented itself as a culinary destination, and Lima a rightful global food capital. Home of Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards for the past two years (the event is moving to Mexico this year), the city draws plenty of food-loving tourists eager to try out Virgilio Martinez’s Central, the number one restaurant on the list. Martinez presents a microcosm of Peru on a plate—making use of indigenous produce that showcases Peru’s biodiversity. We should rip a page out of their book on how to promote a country through its food, as well as how to make use of ultra-local produce.
From bulgogi beef burritos to scallop uni tostadas, there’s no other food that is open to more experimentation but Mexican cuisine. For good reason: Mexican flavors exude pure comfort and its dishes are fairly easy to elevate. Global food lovers search for authenticity, but are also looking for bit of whimsy; and nothing hits the food g-spot more than a mix of comforting flavors with premium ingredients. Get your fix at Ooma or a bit further, at Chino in Hong Kong.
What’s driving international chefs nuts? Nothing more than the humble pili nut. Reports from Madrid Fusion Manila say that the pili nut was a revelation for foreign chefs, who loved its unique, buttery flavor. It’s good news for all of us: apart from being healthy and easily available, the Philippines is one of the few countries in Southeast Asia that commercially produces this nut, making it a big export opportunity.
Already know your Chablis from your Chardonnay? Well, level up by mastering another kind of tasting note—that of oysters. Much like wine, the nuances of an oyster’s flavor are determined by weather, terroir and farming methods. Get started by bookmarking In a Half Shell and downloading one of the many apps to familarize yourself with the difference between a Moyasta and Kongai oyster.
Named an “emerging country of influence” in the Future of Food report by marketing communications firm Catch On, the Philippines is on track to be a strong culinary force if we continue to play our cards right. This requires a solid synergy amongst farmers, chefs, and consumers, as well as strong leadership from the government in setting the direction and molding the narrative. The interest is certainly growing, so when people ask you what Filipino food is really like, take on the role of ambassador and entice the uninitiated.
The story of how quinoa came to be a success story illustrates the most important qualities we’re looking for in our food—natural, healthy, exotic. Quinoa and other grains has become a staple pantry item for health nuts and incessant eaters, and proves that future food trends will centre on the health aspect. See also: Adlai.
While 'casual fine dining' outlets and no reservations restaurants have become the norm nowadays, Daniel Humm and Will Guidara, the duo behind New York’s Eleven Madison Park argue that fine dining is ripe for a comeback. The reason: quality of service. According to Guidara, who spoke at this year’s Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants Congress, people are getting tired of paying top dollar for a cramped space with incompetent service, which has led to a resurgence in demand for formal dining experiences. He goes on to explain how at Eleven Madison Park, they look into those who’ve made reservations to learn more about their preferences. This ensures that the experience is not only luxurious, but also tailored to the diner. Talk about going the extra mile.
Say goodbye to umami, the global taste profile is going sour. Calamansi, vinegar, and other souring agents are having a moment, matched with a growing interest in pickling and fermentation.
Third Culture Cooking
Some may consider the California Roll an aberration, but this is a prime example of third culture cooking. Mixing cultural influences to a delicious outcome is more than just “fusion”, but recognition of how global food experiences have become. Almost every trendy restaurant feature a multicultural slant—visit Your Local and 12/10 to have a proper taste. Sriracha mayo, anyone?
Ultra Local Produce
“Jet-fresh” used to be a positive description… not anymore. The closer the ingredient source is to a restaurant, the more premium the offering becomes. Top restaurants such as Aziamendi and Narisawa focus on the traceability of their ingredients and routinely feature indigenous, seasonal produce. The logic is simple: good food comes from great ingredients, and knowing where it comes from guarantees quality. In fact, this is not a trend, but a mandate in many a progressive kitchen. Something we could also apply to our homes. See also: Zero Carbon footprint.
Every chef can cook a perfect steak, but many stumble on something simpler: vegetables. It’s not just about proteins; the new determinant on whether a chef or restaurant is good, is whether or not they can make vegetables shine. And we’re not talking about kale chips.
Who still wants to eat foam? While scientific techniques are part of every chef’s skillset, it's not necessarily the way food is advancing. The pendulum has firmly swung the other way—there’s a yearning for down-to-earth flavors and simpler techniques. Watch Netflix’s Chef's Table documentary and see how Francis Mallmann’s Gaucho grilling and Ben Shewry’s caveman methods strike a chord. From cooking with an open fire out in the wild to baking potatoes underground in a natural oven, old-school ways are the new cool.
Native to central Mexico, Xoconostle is a kind of prickly pear cactus used in salsas and loved for its acidic flavor. This ingredient yet again proves how the profile is moving towards sour, citrus flavors and also shows how chefs and diners are continuously rediscovering what’s right in their backyard.
Being able to make a good sauce is the foundation of French cooking. Lauded chef Yannick Alléno has unveiled a new technique called extractions, one that he worked on for over two years. A report at Fine Dining Lovers detailed that Alléno’s innovative method includes a reduction process called ‘cyroconcentration’, in which “the extracted liquid is added to a sorbet style ice before it’s spun very quickly in a centrifuge. The liquid is drained and the ice that remains in the centrifuge plays a similar role to that of steam in traditional heat reduction—a sort of cold evaporation.” This meticulous technique results in stronger, concentrated flavored sauces that is the base of any amazing dish.
Zero Carbon Footprint
A lot of us worry about our carbon footprint when we travel, but as food documentaries and books have taught us, industrial food processes are the biggest contributors. Be part of the solution: eat a little less beef, eat a little more local, and perhaps start planting. A small thing goes a long way.