Side Dish: Going local

THERE'S more to Cebuano cuisine than lechon. That and other gastronomic eye-openers were shared by chef Raki Urbina last April 25 during Cebu Flavors, an event staged at the Northwing Atrium of SM City Cebu. The initiative is in line with this year’s theme, “Flavors of the Philippines Culinary Adventure.”

By promoting, if not revisiting the rich local flavors that are really Cebuano, the event aimed to explore the potential of Cebu as the center of culinary excellence in the country. An interactive culinary demo and lecture were spearheaded by the featured chef himself. The first activity was the mystery game wherein the participants had to guess the ingredients in every mystery box. Familiarity with the smell was the key to the right answers. Next was the “Create a Recipe” contest wherein the challengers had to formulate their own version of kinilaw with whatever ingredients were available in the table. Each output was included in the buffet to be judged by a select panel.

Throwing in a couple of indigenous ingredients, chef Raki graced the gathering with his quirky pieces; fare which made the common recipes look uncommon and it was all cool that way. He dished out “pako, tambis, tinapa with guava jelly vinaigrette” and “tres mangga, hala! with kalamansi honey dressing” for salad and “tasik sa duwaw na tuno” and “lechon, tomorrow” for the main course.

The buffet was enjoyed with utmost satisfaction. Why, it’s a medley of local offerings—buwad kinamatisan; kagomkrisp tarorot in tamarindo glaze; amigos guinamos; nangka hilaw and adobong uga; guso, lato, talong; and Cebuano tapas. Desserts included binignit ice pops, tuslob latik station and nilusak in torotot. Almost every section was emptied.

“We have a lot around us as ingredients. It’s just a matter of making something out of something. We might be surprised with the outcome,” chef Raki suggested on experimenting with native elements.

“Many new restaurants as well as hole-in-the-wall food destinations are already adapting local ingredients into their recipes. Even foreigners are into the trend too. Understanding Cebuano cuisine is not only about naming recipes but identifying them as what they really are,” chef Raki left a challenge.

Chef Raki Urbina is managing director of Laguna Group, the mother company of homegrown restaurants Café Laguna, Laguna Garden Café, Lemon Grass, U Kitchen, Ulli’s Streets of Asia and Parilya.
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