Flavors of the Philippines, the month-long and nationwide gastronomic food event, officially started with the Gigantes Paella, where about 50 chefs, culinary students and staff from the Philippine Young Chefs Club (PYCC), cooked together to create a giant paella, at the Greenbelt 3 Mall in Makati last 11 March.
Flavors of the Philippines is one of three principal events of Madrid Fusion Manila, the Asian edition of international gastronomy festival Madrid Fusion, celebrated annually in Madrid, Spain since 2003. Organized by the Department of Tourism (DOT) and the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB), Madrid Fusion has three components: Flavors of the Philippines, which highlights regional specialties and runs from March 11 to April 30; the International Gastronomy Congress, which will bring together the world’s most renowned chefs under one roof; and Fusion Manila International Gastronomy Expo, a food and beverage fair which will exhibit the world’s best culinary exports, ingredients, delicacies, and new foodstuff.
“We are bringing Flavors of the Philippines out in the open as a major event, we will be bringing in more people, more partners into an expanded Flavors of the Philippines to better highlight the regional delights of the country, including the new takes and approaches on these regional culinary selections,” said DOT Director IV Verna Buensuceso.
Now on its fifth year, the Giant Paella cook-off also aims to raise funds for the benefit of Sociedad Española de Beneficencia (SEB). Chef Mikel Arriet of the PYCC, who headed the creation of the paella along with Chef Rolando Laudico, said that the most challenging part of cooking any paella, especially one with the size of more than 1,000 servings, is maintaining uniform heat throughout the giant paellera.
“The Gigantes Paella is only fitting as the first event for Flavors of the Philippines because paella is a festive food, it is also spectacular to prepare at this level. Also, paella is one of the dishes shared by the Philippines and Spain,” said Arriet, who is a operations head of a resort-hotel in Tagaytay City Philippines.
About 100 kgs of rice have been put into the paella, along with 60 kilos of chicken and squid, 25 kgs of chorizo, 5 kilos of bell pepper, onions and garlic, and, mixed with about 210 liters of stock seasoned with saffron, salt, and other spices.
“The paella is like the chicken adobo—every family has its own recipe, but, if you go to Spain, the paella is dependent on where you live, for example, if you live on the seaside, it’s likely that your paella will have more seafood; if you are in the mountains, it’s filled with rabbit meat, snails, or pork, different, and culturally speaking, it is the food of most people,” Arriet added.
“What I enjoy the most about this event is that we are all friends doing one big task together, this is the most important thing. The challenge, as you can see, with the huge pan, compared to cooking regular paella on a regular gas stove which you can control or switch off, we need to right amount of fire and heat to cook the paella, and once it’s done we need to put the fire out. The fire for me is the most challenging,” said Arriet.