The Kalinga and Apayao food journey

THE food of our forefathers may soon find its way into the menu of your favorite restaurant.

The Department of Tourism has embarked on a Cordillera Heritage Culinary Journey bringing into the limelight traditional ingredients which make indigenous food extraordinary.

DOT regional director Venus Tan said the plan hopes to inspire chefs and restaurant owners to fuse Cordilleran ingredients into their menu bringing the food of the mountains into restaurants.

In focus were the provinces of Apayao and Kalinga with chefs from Baguio and Manila in tow, hoping to have an exchange in skill and knowledge.

In Apayao, Albert Duran holds the recipes of the sinursuran, pinatan atang and sinuab, abraw all cooked in the traditional way either in bamboo using a wood-fired stove and utilizing leaves from the abundant pomelo (suha) tree.

Duran said in the olden days there was not much pots and pans to use for food preparation so the ancestors used leaves and bamboo to cook, which has in turn flavored their food perfectly.

Duran said pomelo leaves was used as it was the most abundant in the area, using it to wrap the rice for cooking and stuffing it into bamboo to be placed at an open fire and wait to cook giving it a sharp flavor, complementing the bland taste of rice.

The Sinursur can be an appetizer or a main dish and is using available meat from tuka’ (frog), iwat (eel), or hito (catfish). It is slow cooked inside a bamboo shoot and in the process the tender meat is crushed making the delicacy a delicious slush mixed with sili and gabi leaves.

Sinilian on the other hand is a native chicken, shredded and re fried with chillies and minced suha leaves, served as is, to be taken as a favorite beer match or viand depending on your fancy.

Pinatan - atang is a concoction using gabi leaves, coconut milk, ginger, garlic and salt. The ingredients are boiled to perfection while the sinu’bab just uses gabi leaves, chillies and salt slow cooked in a low fire and when done, uses a stick to pound the mixture before serving.

The local abraw uses grated coconuts, small freshwater crabs and lots of chilli, all put in a pan to be cooked until the coconuts are golden brown which is said to be used as a main dish but can also be topped on your fried fish or used as flavoring for rice.

Duran learned the recipes from his grandfather who learned it from his, passing on the delicacy from generation to generation, surprisingly, because of the simplicity of the recipes, ingredients are still available today.

The delicacies from Apayao can be used as appetizers and main dishes and is peppered with chillies, denoting the perchance of its people for spice which was scarce in the olden days, compensating by using leaves which abundantly grew in its forests.

In Kalinga, the cooking of rice inside the bamboo is called Linudag which dates back to the olden practice of cooking rice in bamboo cuts and then displaying the bamboo cuts with the rice still intact.

Tourism officer, Arlene Odiem said one of the most sought after local food is the binungor which can conform to the tastes of the family, adjusting ingredients according to the preferred flavor.

The local binungor uses beans, local papait, agurong (water shells), coconut milk, onions, garlic mixed with rabbong (bamboo shoots) and the most important ingredient, sichut (chili) which you may add on to or lessen, squash, mushrooms (tengang daga); banana blossoms or any leafy vegetable you may want to add; chicken or pig meat sautéed and cooked to our liking.

A favorite dessert which takes a community to cook is the Inandila, a local rice cake delicacy famous for the Kalingas which denote a cooperation of a community, the sweet concoction is made from pounded malagkit, banana leaves and coconut cream and brown sugar.

Kalinga cuisine is not complete without the coffee of the province which is a staple for any house hold, offering the brew to visitors paired with boiled camote and taken while chitchatting.

Chefs from Toyo Restaurant in Manila with Green Pepper Chefs from Baguio embarked on the journey to find a fusion from local ingredients and methods to the restaurant setting.

Dean Laarni Andam of the University of the Cordilleras College of Hospitality And Tourism Management said the local cuisine of the both Apayao and Kalinga is preservation of culture and needs no enhancement as it is the way of the people stressing what the culinary industry can do is to take inspiration from the cooking methods, ingredients and flavors to create a dish which will be in homage to the native dishes.

Charlene Macalalag who co - owns Green Pepper Gourmet with Andam said local cuisine is a taste of the culture of the people and should be preserved. Not attempting to recreate the dishes in their restaurant but making their own dishes championing these local recipes fusing ingredients and techniques.

The DOT started with a Cordillera Cuisine project in 2016 making the Ifugao province as a pilot area where the province is known for its majestic terraces, hand carved woodworks and hospitality of locals with their food combining tradition and culture.

The department plans to catapult local cuisine into the mainstream by inviting chefs to immerse into local food and find inspiration in the highlands to create a dish using ingredients and techniques by the locals.
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