Seven provinces, a myriad of signature dishes!
The recent Central Luzon Expo (CLExpo) held at the ASEAN Convention Center in Clark Freeport Zone had one fantastic centerpiece: a specially-prepared culinary showcase put together by the Central Luzon Growth Corridor Foundation, Inc. (CLGCFI) featuring a showcase of dishes prepared by local chefs from Aurora, Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Tarlac, and Zambales.
“Each province was asked to present signature dishes by chefs selected by the provincial government and tourism representatives. We gave them a free hand on what dishes to present, as they would know best how to communicate their identity through food, using produce that is abundant in their province,” explains event curator and chef Cherry Tan of Pampanga’s Apag Marangle.
AURORA, BATAAN AND BULACAN
Thus Aurora Province came up with dishes such as Lumpiang Pako and Adwas Pako Panacotta. “Pako (fiddlehead fern) is mixed with ground pork then wrapped in lumpia wrapper, with Sinantol sa Gata as dipping sauce,” states Chef Jester Leander. The earthy tartness of the soup is sweetened by the gata and makes a perfect foil for the savory spring roll. Adwas Pako Panacotta, on the other hand, makes use of a leafy souring agent called adwas along with pako. “The leaves are blended in a coconut cream custard garnished with bukayo that’s infused with turmeric, ginger and pandan,” Leander notes.
For Bataan, Chef Clem Fule of Montemar prepared Pininyahang Kulita and Tinapa Rolls with Pinakurat Dip. “Kulita is baby octopus caught from our shoreline, a delicacy famous in Bagac. Bataan is also famous for tinapa processing, so we made some spring rolls with our own pinakurat.”
Bulacan’s spread included the famous Hamon Bulakenya, Pinaso and Gurgurya. “The hamon is prepared the traditional way, using an heirloom recipe,” explains Christina Talbelito, manager of Bistro Maloleña. It is thick cut and tender, with a distinct hamonado flavor and sweetness from the pineapple glaze. The Pinaso and Gurgurya, likewise are traditional Bulakenyo sweets. “Pinaso uses the same ingredients as leche flan, but soda crackers are added. It is called pinaso because the method of caramelizing was traditionally by scorching the top with a cast iron turner,” Talbelito elaborates. Gurgurya, on the other hand, is a buttery cookie rolled into shells and served with tea, hot chocolate or coffee.
NUEVA ECIJA, TARLAC, PAMPANGA and ZAMBALES
Nueva Ecija capitalized on the strength of its rice and livestock with the Longganisa Fried Rice and the Cara Leche Flan. Pia Gutierrez of Hapag Vicenticos notes, ”Rice (bigas) is the pride of Nueva Ecija, and we paired it with the longganisa, which is Cabanatuan City’s most popular product. Carabao Milk is also very abundant in the province, so we make our leche flan with carabao milk, which makes it creamier, softer and tastier.”
Pampanga, which prides itself as the culinary capital of the Philippines, showcased its tamales, pork sisig and a variety of delicacies. “For our starter, we have tamales, made from glutinous rice, atsuete, chicken and egg. We also have Suam Mais, a corn soup; bringhe, a rice dish, made from turmeric and malagkit; and Sisig, of course is a traditional Kapampangan dish,” enumerates Don Edward Quito of Fine Cuts Diner. “We also have hopia kamatis, which uses tomatoes instead of kundol or monggo; San Nicolas cookies from Aching Lillian Borromeo, and Tibok-tibok, a pudding made with carabao’s milk.”
Tarlac also showcased a traditional spread featuring Sisig na Puso ng Saging, Sinigang sa Culibangbang soup, Sweet and Spicy Goat Adobo, and Sampelot. “Our appetizer is a vegetarian sisig, using the banana heart, while our sinigang uses culibangbang as a souring agent – it comes in butterfly shaped leaves abundantly growing by the roadside leading to the mountains of Tarlac. We have plenty of goats in Tarlac, so adobo is a popular way to enjoy the gamey meat, while Sampelot is our ginataan, with saging saba, kamote, langka, and sago.”
Zambales, meanwhile, incorporated mango in their entire menu. Chef John Ver Sabangan of Isla de Potipot. “We have Shrimp Mango Shooter – shrimp skewers with mango puree sauce; Mango Chicken Curry; Mango Wine; and for dessert, Mango Cheesecake and Mango Rice Cake. Zambales is known for the sweetest mangoes in the world, and we want to showcase it as a key ingredient in our dishes.”
The regional showcase was also supplemented by a buffet spread by Chef Vince Garcia (of Pampanga’s Rainforest Kichene, Velvet Ganache and En Croute Café. The buffet menu included Ebun Buru, Ensaladang Manga and Spice Bagoong; Pako Salad with Mayumung Aslam Dressing; Kare Kare; Sisig Babi (Lutong Matwa); Adobong Puti; Balo-balong with Priting Hito, Pritong Tilapia, Mustasa; Puso ng Saging, and Sagu’t Gulaman.
CLExpo is organized by the Central Luzon Growth Corridor Foundation Inc. CLGCFI is composed of seven (7) governors of the provinces of Aurora, Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Tarlac and Zambales; DTI Undersecretary for Industry and Investments; and DTI-3 Regional Director. Also lending their support to the event are the Department of Tourism (DOT), Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Transportation (DOTr), Philippine Information Agency (PIA), Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), Clark Development Corporation (CDC), Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA), TIEZA, Subic Clark Alliance for Development (SCAD) and the Board of Investments (BOI).