Filipino culture is big on the respect we have for food. We are taught to finish the food on our plate, making sure that nothing is put into waste. Visitors are greeted with kumain na ba kayo? instead of just the usual how are you? because we are known to express our hospitality through the serving of food. In fact, it is considered disrespectful to resist food when offered. As the saying goes, ang tumangi sa grasya, mabubulag (those who say no to food will go blind).
So when Tina Decal of Kulinarya Tagala invited me to join a culinary tour, I left everything behind and joined the Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho television team to Tayabas, Quezon.
Together with Tina, the segment producer and the cameramen, we rolled south through SLEX, passing Calamba, San Pablo, Tiaong, until we reached our first stop –Dory’s Lambanog in Candelaria, Quezon. As Tina explains, it is a folk tradition in Quezon to welcome special visitors with a shot of potent lambanog.
Though sleepless, tired and hungry, we were happy to arrive at Memphis Gardern Cafe of the 22-hectare Graceland Estate and Country Club in Tayabas by lunch time. With the welcome drink made from the gumamela flower and lunch ready on the table, we immediately felt at home.
Over lunch, Tina explains the importance of coconut in their local dish.
The provinces of Laguna and Quezon are known for their coconut plantations. So it is not surprising for the local folks to find ways of incorporating coconut juice and meat or parts of the tree of life itself into the preparation of their food.
The Kulawo melts in the mouth, tasting like smoked bacon. The Adobong Baka sa Gata and the Sinigang na Hipon sa Mura taste heavenly when paired with steaming rice wrapped in banana leaf.
The Hardinera and the Pancit Habhab are presented in cosmopolitan style complete with garnishing but the authentic local flavor has been preserved just like how it is served in the olden days. For dessert, we were treated with chocolate cake balls with essence of lambanog.
The rest of the afternoon was spent shooting for the February 3 episode of Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho where Memphis Cafe resident chef Jio Rodriguez Macapilay revealed how the mystery flavor of the kulawo is concocted using grated coconut meat and burning charcoal. He also demonstrated the cooking of sinigang na hipon sa mura and pilipit calabasa. To watch the Feb 3 episode, here’s the link to the Kulinarya Tour segment:
Reading blogs or watching from TV about the food presented in culinary tours is not enough to taste the local flavor. To experience food, one has to go to where it is being cooked.