Sira-sira store: Fit for a prexy

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Friday, May 2, 2014


WHEN we visit relatives in their hometowns, we are treated to a meal that the host will normally not serve on an ordinary day.

Chances are, the cousin of ours will prepare humba, made of chunks of pork or knuckles, stewed for hours to ensure fork-tenderness. The host might also serve a platter of fish escabeche made with the day’s freshest catch of either anduhaw or maya-maya.

Filipino hospitality announces itself whenever there are visitors in the house. Why, even the poorest in our villages will not deprive his visitor of a sincere welcome of at least ice cold orange juice (from a sachet) and hopia.

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This care for visitors was something the country recently showed US President Barack Obama on his first state visit to the Philippines.

One radio report said that the American president would have Filipino seafood for his dinner.

Makati Shangri-La hosted the state dinner, which would give you an idea just how much care was placed on the safety of the food. Fresh ingredients, no less. You don’t want Obama talking about a dinner that made his stomach act up, do you?

I can imagine the jitters the chef and his staff had while preparing the meal.

One dish that perked up my appetite was the lobster from Guimaras. A few years ago, I attended a wedding reception held at Laguna Cafe. It had a seafood theme since the bride and groom were from Filipinos who had made America their home.

They wanted Pinoy food, which included rock lobsters. I shamed myself going back to the buffet table to stuff myself with the luscious meat of the lobsters. Fortunately, no one was counting the trips to the table.

Anyway, I can just imagine how wonderful this Guimaras lobster must have tasted. According to the report, Shangri-La executive chef Gene Del Prado said it is “the best in the country.”

Lobster is not a regular table fare and even those who catch it, would rather sell it. I’ve seen a lot of documentaries made GMA 7, and seldom do lobster farmers eat their crop.

Another dish that Shangri-La served was the fish dish named in honor of Obama, the Obama Lapu-Lapu, which had pili nuts instead of cashew nuts or almonds.

Here’s another seafood that people don’t ordinarily eat at home because it very costly, especially the red variety. And since it is not an ordinary culinary ingredient, it is served in honor of esteemed guests.

A familiar Pinoy food that was served was pochero, but it was made special with the addition of juicy shell fish.

The two main ingredients—beef shanks with bone in and shell fish—are in themselves expensive.

Obama closed his meal with a dessert made of Guimaras mango and buko lychee ice cream.

Flavor of the road ice cream (i.e. homemade ice cream and peddled all over the city streets in ice cream carts) carries buko flavor but not lychee since this fruit is difficult to come by and therefore expensive when available.

Guimaras mango is noted for its excellent flavor and sweetness. According to a report, it is one of the sweetest mangoes in the world. They are reportedly served at the White House and Buckingham Palace.

Cebuanos just make do with Guadalupe mangoes and sour Indian mango, and hope to someday taste the famed Guimaras mango. Obama was one lucky guy, don’t you think?

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on May 03, 2014.

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