IT WAS a great morning-to-lunch affair as the Philippine Consulate in Vancouver, Canada hosted a cooking demo by Filipina chef Helen Orimaco-Pumatong, who is a chef instructor at Vancouver Community College.

The event started with registration and strictly following health protocols instituted by the Health Authority. The consulate served a light breakfast consisting of Ube cheese pandesal with pansit and truly Canadian Tim Hortons coffee.

Chef Helen started the cooking demonstration of Filipino food by showing us how to make embutido. This is one dish I have not tried making as it looks complicated. But of course, when a chef demonstrates it, the making of embutido seems easy. Chef also showed us how to make pork humba. I learned from Chef that there are various ways to jazz up the delicious humba by adding hard-boiled egg, Saba or plantain, potatoes, carrots or even banana blossom as filler. Did you know why cooks add pop soda to pork when marinating? It is because soda pop tenderizes the meat. Did you also know that pineapple is a natural tenderizer? One of her cooking tips was not to add salt and pepper one time to the dish but to add them little by little as you go along cooking, never all at once.

Next up was Chef demonstrated how to make fish Escabeche. This is a classic Spanish recipe in which you sear meat or fish then marinate it in a vinegary sauce loaded with herbs and spices. It works perfectly with fish, especially oily fish. Chef suggests the following fish variety that can be used for this dish-snapper, halibut, tilapia. Another cooking tip I learned from the demo is to rub lemon on the fish to take off fishy smell. Another thing I learned is that when white juices start coming out of the fish, it means it is already overcooked.

For the avid cooks who attended the demo, Chef reminds us to always sharpen the knife so we won't cut ourselves when preparing. She shares her story of buying herself a $200 Japanese knife which she uses for 10 to 20 years, which definitely tops buying a $200 dress she will only wear a few times.

She also gave her last tip -- to use chickens and fish without bones when serving a party so that they are easy to eat, and no messy bones to clean up.

She finished her demonstration with delicious steamed bibingka that was served to the attendees as well. Bibingka definitely made me wish to be in Manila for the Simbang Gabi season. However, with Omicron looming, I wonder how this Christmas will be like in the Philippines?

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