CALL it by any other name and it will taste just as sweet. Or not that sweet, which is the way I like my desserts.
It’s “lokot lokot” to some and “dinakdak” to others, the noodle-like roll, a traditional Muslim delicacy, made from ground rice was love at first bite. This was the reason I nodded to an invitation by Department of Toursim Socksargen Regional Director Nelly Dilleza to get first dibs on Maguindanao’s planned Halal Goodness, a Maguindeli (Maguindanao delicacy) food tour in the coming year.
There was no better moment to sample the region’s cuisine than on one the most important festivals of Islam, the recent Eid’l Ftr, a celebration to end Ramadan. The breaking of fast is the time to feast with the family.
I took part on this important feast. In replicas of tribal villages, hosts prepared a feast set for traditional dining—portioned servings filling round tables for four set low to the ground.
With three other friends, we partook of the traditional richly spiced fare—the specialty crabs, native chicken in chili coconut milk, beef and mutton stews, a condiment of fermented small shrimps, fried noodles and turmeric and glutinous rice to complement. “Turmeric and coconut milk is almost always present in Maguindanao dishes,” said Bai Shalimar Amerkhan Candao, DOT-ARMM assistant secretary.
Part of the feast is the dessert. Along with the “Dinakdak” are several other easy to fall in love with delicacies—the “B’rua” or “Bulwa” (muffins with pound cake consistency); “Dudul” (kalamay-like spread); “Tipas” (sweetened bread much like the pilipit) and it’s spiral version, the “Kumukunsi” (the spiral shape signifying unity), “pelil” (deep-fried balls of mashed bananas mixed with ‘natak’); and the dessert I call “love at first bite”, the “Putri Mandi”, a delicious cake made from red bean flour.
The Puntri Mandi’s disguise is that of a short, misshapen finger (or sometimes two fingertips pressing), but wait until you take your first bite. The mildly sweetened confection coated in rice flour, which resembles the taste of the Filipino kakanin of “Espasol”, is a “don’t judge a book by its cover” case. The goodness is in its taste. My love for it will be forever.
The near future will be an exciting time for Maguindanao when the cuisine takes center stage and DOT XII thrusts the Cotabato’s food tourism to the forefront. Halal Goodness will be about making halal food available in the restaurants around the city all year long.
Pride of food and pride of place, this is what to expect of Maguindanao. Hand in hand, the cuisine and the city will wow everyone who steps on its soil, or even its waters. This is where you will find the largest mosque in the country, the Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Masjid, and one of the coolest oasis, the Blue Lagoon in Barangay Marques in the town of Datu Odin Sinsuat, and the People’s Palace, the city hall of Cotabato City built from the citizen’s taxes, are among many other spots worthy of a visit.
Maguindanao is truly ARMMazing! Let your own love affair unfold.
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