Thursday, February 15, 2018

Highlights at Madrid Fusion 2018

International culinary conference Madrid Fusion, one of the most prestigious in the world, was held last January 22-24 at the Municipal Palace of Congresses Madrid. The gastronomy summit, now on its 16th year, gathered together top chefs from Spain and the rest of the world to learn, to share their latest works and discoveries, exchange techniques, to inspire and be inspired, to collaborate, and to support one another.

The conference also featured workshops, cooking demonstrations, and - brace yourselves - the best gourmet products in the market. I know I had more than my fair share of jamon iberico de bellota, Russian caviar, fresh oysters, Alaskan king crab, cheeses, turron, Bruno Paillard bubbly, endless wine tastings at Enofusión, and pork fat ice cream laced with saffron. 

There was so much to see and learn and eat during the three activity-filled days. I ate, I learned, and now it is time I share a few highlights from the event.

Present day eating tools: Spoon, fork, and phone
Diego Coquillat, CEO of online newspaper, emphasized how the digitalization of the world will revolutionize gastronomy, that technology is a connector of restaurants and customers. “Today the diners discover restaurants on the internet and social networks, which means that the doors of the restaurants are no longer made of wood or glass, but digital doors," Coquillat expounded. Restaurants must understand that the future is without limitations, it is not only the clients who go to the restaurants, but restaurants also go to the clients through digital tips and tantalizing food photos shared online. Technology allows food businesses to serve different neighborhoods, they are no longer limited by square meters, chairs or tables. Delivery boys are not just delivery boys but roaming waiters. Coquillat believes that the future leaders of the industry will not be catering companies, but technology companies that sell hospitality.

Zaiyu Hasegawa of Den, Tokyo

Unconventional approach to make people happy
Zaiyu Hasegawa of Den is a rebel through and through. At his restaurant in Tokyo, he serves kaiseki the unconventional way, making the traditional multi-course Japanese meal a fun and exciting experience for his customers, especially foreigners. “Kaiseki is hard to understand, but I make it easier, like how a mother teaches her child about food. I cook to make people happy,” the playful Japanese chef shared. The most popular item on his menu, Dentucky Fried Chicken (DFC), gives diners an immediate sense of familiarity, because really, who doesn’t know Kentucky Fried Chicken? Onstage, Zaiyu demonstrated how to prepare the famous fried chicken wing, stuffing it with jamon because we were, after all, in Spain. At Den, Zaiyu stuffs the wings with seasonal ingredients. I had it with edamame in the summer, and black rice with gingko nuts in autumn. His team also consists of three women, which is yet another unconventional practice in Tokyo where kitchens are dominated by men. Women, according to chef, “bear the important role of handing down recipes from generation to generation.”

Jordy Navarra of Toyo Eatery, Manila

Palamos prawns with green mango and bagoong, and pork belly wrapped in mustasa by Jordy Navarra

Buro and bagoong of the Philippines
My proudest moment at the conference was when our very own Jordy Navarra of Toyo Eatery introduced our humble bagoong and buro to the audience. At his presentation "The Wild and Untamed Flavors of the Philippine Islands," Jordy explained the fermentation process, which happens naturally in the Philippines because of our climate. Buro is baby shrimp or fish fermented with cooked rice, and bagoong is salted shrimp fermented for weeks and cooked with garlic, tomato, and onions. He demonstrated the use of these two ingredients in a dish where he married the best of Spain and the best of our country. He used Palamos prawns, quickly splashed with coconut vinegar, tossed with green mango and bagoong, and topped the seafood-fruit medley with our sweet Philippine mangoes, a squeeze of prawn head oil, a bit of seaweed and fried sweet potato leaves. He served this alongside pork belly topped with buro, wrapped in mustasa and drizzled with charred eggplant oil – a dish that made my mouth water heavily. A few lucky people got to try Jordy’s signature truffles, made with dark chocolate, dulce de leche, and another well-loved fermented ingredient – patis or fish sauce. 

Joan Roca of El Cellar de Can Roca with his mother, Montserrat Fontané

Simple can be sublime
Joan Roca announced to the packed auditorium that they were going to cook a simple soup, because we all need to be reminded that sometimes, simple can be sublime. The Roca brothers’ dear mother Montserrat Fontané took the stage to do just that, she prepared a painstakingly simple but a most beloved mint soup, which she cooks only for family or for herself when she is ill. The lovely 81-year old Mama Roca feeds and nourishes her sons and their staff of 70 every day at her restaurant next door. “She is our mother, but also the mother of everyone who cooks with us in the kitchen,” Joan shared affectionately.

Madrid Fusion inspires, provokes, encourages and awakens not only professional chefs but also the gourmand in each and every one of us. Chefs return to their kitchens armed with a wealth of valuable learnings, restauranteurs are probably scrambling to set up their social media accounts. I come home filled with desire to make dinner reservations at twenty restaurants across the globe. And as a soon-to-be wife, I am excited to take on the kitchen with new techniques I learned by watching some of the greatest chefs in the world. I plan to make that comforting mint soup for family, and I am currently creating a list of all the seasonal ingredients to stuff into my Jintucky Fried Chicken.

I am excited for Madrid Fusion Manila happening on April 19-21 at the SMX Convention Centre. Pam Samaniego, Director of MFM 2018, said at the announcement of the much awaited event, "The old will be making a comeback as traditional cooking techniques and native ingredients will be in the spotlight for the fourth serving of Madrid Fusion Manila."

This year’s chef presenters will include Susi Diaz, Curtis Duffy, LG Han, Mingoo Kang, Hajime Yoneda, Matt Abergel, Paul Qui, Pepe Solla, Aitor Jeronimo Orive, Roberto Ruiz, Diego Gallegos, Gorka Txpartegi, Akrame Benallal, Maria Fernanda di Giacobbe, Tom Cunanan, Floriano Pellegrino and Isabella Poti, Inigo Lavado, and Javier Estevez. From the Philippines, we have Nicco Santos of Your Local and Hey Handsome, Patrick Go of Black Sheep, and JP Anglo of Sarsa.

Monday, July 17, 2017

7 Delicious Reasons to Visit Singapore this July

7 Delicious Reasons to Visit Singapore this July

Published on Manila Bulletin Lifestyle, July 13, 2017

1. STREAT. My absolute favorite Peranakan chef Malcolm Lee of Candlenut (best crab curry in the planet!) will be teaming up with the pioneer of modern Singaporean cuisine Willin Low of Wild Rocket in this exciting collaboration happening on July 14 and 15 at Clifford Square. The two champions of Singaporean cuisine will helm a pop-up restaurant featuring modern Singaporean and Peranakan food, alongside nine hawker stalls personally curated by the duo, each presenting a quintessential local dish with a fun twist. 

2. Whitegrass. The Michelin Guide Singapore just launched its 2017 edition on June 29 and bestowed its coveted stars on 38 dining establishments. Among the newly minted restaurants is Chef Sam Aisbett’s 18-month old Whitegrass where he serves cross-cultural flavors unconfined by geographical limitations. I had the most amazing meal with Challans duck on eggplant cream and Chinese jelly mushrooms, Australian freshwater marron with burnt chestnut miso and a 20-year aged Kamebishi soy sauce that my server ever so carefully squeezed onto my plate. Too precious! For dessert, milk jelly, milk ice cream and milk curls from Hokkaido paired with fresh honeycomb from northern Thailand, followed by an intensely mouthwatering Taiwanese mandarin sorbet that jolted me awake from my delirious food-induced coma. Every course was divine and I strongly recommend you book a table at once. 

Challans duck on eggplant cream and Chinese jelly mushrooms at Whitegrass

Australian freshwater marron, burnt chestnut miso, 20-year aged Kamebishi soy sauce 
at Whitegrass

3. Meta. The most tender octopus - a result of slow cooking for hours and hours - topped with ridiculously tasty XO sauce, plump mussels, garlic crumbs, and a side of squid ink and sunchoke puree hidden under a radicchio leaf… this is just one of the culinary treasures you will find at Chef Sun Kim’s restaurant Meta. The Korean chef could not help but add bits and pieces of his Asian roots into his dishes – gochujang on fresh Irish oysters, yuzu and shiso on raw fish, crab bibimbap – and I could not help but admire every unique bit of it. Meta received its first Michelin star this year. My first mouthful of his beetroot and burrata dusted with tobiko, I already knew in my heart that it deserves the accolade.

Irish oysters, gochujang at Meta

Octopus, mussel, XO sauce, radicchio at Meta

4. Manhattan Bar. Be transported to 19th century New York once you step into this bar, with its seductively dim lights, oak barrels, lots of dark leather, and shelves of jars containing spices and fruits for drying and pickling. All five signature cocktails I tried were masterfully crafted, but if you must to choose one drink only, let it be the Aviation (Citadelle gin, Luxardo maraschino liqueur, fresh lemon juice) which comes with a vial of Tempus Fugit crème de violette that you stir into your drink and watch the special concoction turn into a pretty purple hue. Manhattan is voted number one at Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2017 and our sweet Filipina server presented us with apple cheesecake poppers to celebrate the win. 

Manhattan Bar at Regent Hotel

5. Yayoi Kusama: Life is the Heart of a Rainbow Exhibit. Pumpkins, pumpkins, pumpkins! They are not only for eating, but also for indulging your visual appetites. This exhibition features 120 fascinating works of the Japanese artist and runs until September 3. Be ready to be blown away by the spell-binding experience which will make you smile, make you laugh, make you sad, make you cry. After the feast for the eyes, head down to Gallery & Co. for the most adorable pumpkin, and completely edible this time! 

Pumpkin by Yayoi Kusama

National Gallery Singapore

6. Shangri-La Hotel Tower Wing. What a treat to be enveloped in lushness every time I walked into the lobby of my home in Singapore. Look to your left and be amazed by the nine-meter high mystical rock wall, look to your right and be amused by the massive, refreshing balls of green in place of the usual, oftentimes boring flower arrangements, look up and be mesmerized by the two thousand pieces of cascading leaves by Japanese designer Hirotoshi Sawada to create a tree canopy in this enchanting oasis. The newly renovated Tower Wing at Shangri-La Singapore takes my breath away each and every time. One of the best things about my stay, aside from the heavenly bed, was being able to enjoy a multitude of Singaporean heritage dishes without leaving the comfort of the hotel. One lazy day I had chili crab and mantou, Hainanese chicken rice, and an incredible katong laksa all by myself, washed down with a comforting mug of teh tarik followed by a sweet, chocolatey glass of Milo dinosaur. 

Shangri-La Hotel Singapore

Katong Laksa at The Lobby Lounge, Shangri-La Singapore

7. Singapore Food Festival is happening between July 14 to 30 and there will be a roster of activities to celebrate the richness and diversity of local Singaporean flavors. Imagine a hawker wine safari where Bib Gourmand hawker eats are paired with artisanal wines from Australia and New Zealand, a kueh pairing workshop where you enjoy the sweet little treats with coffee, tea, and cocktails, and a 50 Cent Festival featuring nostalgic dishes like abacus seeds, paper wrapped chicken, beehoon, and iced candy at 1980 prices – 50 Singapore cents! 

Hawker food and wine pairing at Maxwell Food Centre

Singapore nostalgic dishes at 50 Cent Festival

Kueh and cocktail pairing at Bar Stories

So fly your empty stomachs to Singapore this July, speak your best Singlish, and immerse yourselves in Singaporean culture by eating, eating, and never-ending eating!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Carte D'Or Gelato

When I was in London for three weeks last summer, my neighbour (aka the supermarket - more specifically the frozen goods section) was my best friend. I would buy Carte d'Or gelato on my way out and oftentimes on my way home, too - it was strategically located between the underground station and the apartment I was staying at. My favorite flavours were triple chocolate parfait and crema di mascarpone. 

So imagine my delight when I found out that UK's #1 gelato brand is finally coming to Manila, and just in time for the summer months, too!

To get to know Carte d'Or more, I attended a fun and interactive gelato-making class where I learned the step-by-step on gelato-making process and the ingredients that go into every scoop of the frozen treat.

My take-home lessons:

1. Carte d'Or uses only premium ingredients sourced from the places where they make them best, so we can enjoy natural flavours free from additives.

“We take pride in sourcing from only the best, no matter where it takes us - from Australian butter to pistachios harvested from South Australia and California, from Belgian chocolate to hazelnuts grown in Turkey,” boasts Earl Keh, Carte D’Or brand manager.

Real cream and butter from Australia

Pistachios from South Australia and California 

Chocolates from Belgium

2. Gelato-making is an easy and uncomplicated process. As long as you have the best ingredients, you are already halfway there!

Chef Miko Aspiras showing us how it's done. Basically, you just throw in all the 
premium ingredients and mix thoroughly.

3. It is simple, but you will need a very expensive gelato machine like this.

Cattabriga is said to be the Maserati of gelato machines

It churns gelato slowly but surely, and the result is a smooth, rich and creamy frozen dessert.

Fold pistachios into the churned gelato

Now it's time to enjoy the smooth, creamy, nutty fruit of my labour. 

4. To save yourself time and trouble (and all that Maserati money) making your own gelato, just buy a tub or four from a supermarket near you.

Carte d'Or launches four irresistible flavours in Manila:


Salted Caramel

Chocolate Hazelnut

And my favorite of the four - rich, dark and sultry Double Dark Chocolate 

We are the very first country in Asia to enjoy Carte d'Or gelato and I cannot wait to try all the local flavours that Chef Miko is cooking up for us. On my wish list: ube, buko pandan, pili nut, tsokolate, turon...

Carte d'Or Gelato is available in select supermarkets and convenience stores nationwide.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Eat, Pray, Eat in Ubud

Eat, Pray, Eat in Ubud

Published on Manila Bulletin Lifestyle

I chose to spend the last few days of 2016 in a place I had always wanted to go back to, a place that promises peace and quiet, a lot of nature, smiling people, healers, raw food, vegan restaurants, a place where I could slow down, reflect, and most importantly, detox my mind, body and spirit, a place which means “medicine” in its native language - Ubud.

I should have known better.

Despite being in the mecca for health, the one and only clean meal I had was at Paradiso, a really cool cinema that shows old films and serves strictly plant-based food. So you see, there was no choice but to eat falafels (which were delicious, by the way) and a plate of vegan nasi goreng while I watched Matthew McConaughey and Ken Watanabe try to make their way out of a Japanese suicidal forest alive. It was a movie that called for steak.

The rest of my meals were heavy on meat. Too bad for my body, but lucky for you, you now have a good eat list for your next Bali trip.


My search for the best beef rendang in town led me to this quirky restaurant where everything on display is for sale. The rendang served here is made using Bernadette’s family recipe and involves cooking the meat in coconut milk and secret spices for twelve hours – eight on the first day, and another four on the second. No wonder the beef was ridiculously tasty. Warning: You are likely to consume more than one bowl of rice.

Waroeng Bernadette: Jalan Gautama Utara, Ubud


The biggest dilemma here is whether one should order the Balinese crispy duck or the fried smoked chicken. I suggest both because aside from the fact that they are equally delicious, I must admit, portions are tiny. Do not forget to mix and match the different sambals, and wash everything down with avocado iced coffee. After overeating, walk off the meal around the beautiful property surrounded by lotus ponds and rice paddies.

Bebek Tepi Sawah: Jl. Goa Gajah, Ubud


The coconut curry noodles here is one dish I often fantasize about ever since my first taste of it in 2013. You can opt to have your bowl plain or with tofu or meat. Of course, I had mine with beef. Rich and hearty with a broth boasting so many layers of flavors and a depth that can only be achieved after hours and hours of simmering, it was the simplest meal of the trip but one that brought me the highest satisfaction, even topping the chichi, award-winning Mosaic. The place is always packed so call ahead to reserve.

Melting Wok: 13 Jl. Gootama, Ubud


It is difficult not to compare babi guling to our Filipino lechon (which is still, hands down, the best pig for me), but when in Bali, do as the Balinese do – eat Balinese pork. The suckling pig at this overly popular warung is stuffed with a paste made with shallots, ginger, galangal, garlic, turmeric, chili, peppercorn, and shrimp paste, and then roasted over open fire for six hours. The result is mildly fragrant pork with not so crunchy skin. Admittedly, it is not something I am ecstatic to eat again, but definitely a dish you must try once when in Bali.

Ibu Oka: 2 Jalan Tegal Sari, Ubud


From the makers of Mamasan and Sarong comes the newest addition to Ubud, serving Indonesian flavors with finesse and always with a surprise factor. My kambing curry (the spicier the better!) came with roti canai that was chewy and crispy at the same time, the tuna tartare was served with a medley of watermelon, Thai basil, sesame seeds and chili shallot lime dressing. It is the place to go for local flavors when you need a break from the warungs.

Hujan Locale: 5 Jl. Sri Wedari, Ubud


I discovered this place through an Instagram follower who tipped me about Chef Joshira’s crazy dishes. I went without any expectations, and honestly, the funky interiors left me doubtful. But WOW, my cinnamon and cumin-rubbed lamb appetizer was out of this world! The grilled meat sat on a bed of toasted cashew and feta salad tossed in lamb tamarind jus, its flavors complex, bold, exciting. The prawn tacos were fresh and delightful, the chocolate mousse rich and decadent and made even more fabulous with candied orange peel. Secret to finding this hidden gem: look for the blue octopus on the wall.

La RaMona: 9 Jalan Dewi Sita, Ubud.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Chinese New Year Lucky Eats

Of all the special occasion feasts, Chinese New Year is the most interesting to me. Unlike noche buena or media noche where heirloom recipes and family favorites are usually served, during Chinese New Year, we eat dishes that hold symbolic meanings.

In our family, a Chinese New Year meal consists of lucky foods which are believed to bring us good fortune in the year to come. On our dining table will be a whole fish with head and tail intact because fish signifies abundance, and head to tail represents abundance from beginning to end. There will be pork, dumplings, abalone, noodles, glutinous rice balls, oranges, each dish symbolizing wealth, prosperity, longevity, happiness, and good luck.

I must admit it is a tedious task to prepare a traditional Chinese New Year feast, and how lucky are we that we can now just take the whole family out to celebrate the special occasion at a restaurant. Or two. Or three.

Because I live closest to Mall of Asia and the new S Maison at Conrad, I thought I’d share with you my picks of dishes to eat in these two malls for a lucky and tasty Year of the Rooster.

One word to describe the siomai at Masuki - SIOMAI! Ginormous in size and packed densely with meat, it is best enjoyed drowned in the signature special sauce and then bathe with fresh calamansi.

Noodles represent longevity and the maze soba is a wonderful way to eat your way to long life. Bouncy noodles that you toss with chunks of tender pork chasiu, bamboo shoots, spring onions, leeks, sesame seeds and a runny onsen egg, it is 100% MSG-free yet full of umami. Add a drizzling of chili oil to make things even more exciting.

Mann Hann oyster cake is a fluffly, gooey, chewy egg pancake studded with juicy, briny oysters. I know this sounds weird, but the best way to enjoy it is to smother the whole thing with ketchup. An oldie but always a goodie. 

Radish in Hokkien sounds similar to good fortune, so the more radish you eat, the better fortune you will enjoy. Biting into Paradise Dynasty’s radish pastry's incredibly crisp and flaky crust reveals the naturally sweet, moist and creamy bundle of turnip strips. The play on different textures and flavours makes this golden nugget a sheer delight to eat. In fact, it is so delicious I sometimes I forget I am eating vegetable!

The bean curd roll with seafood and pork is the siomai’s heartier and tastier albeit lesser known cousin. Wrapped in a spongy bean curd skin that has soaked up all the deliciousness of the soya-based gravy, this is one dimsum so flavourful it does not need any condiment.

Chinese New Year is about family bonding and a hotpot meal is the perfect venue for this occasion. Unlimited meats, seafood, dumplings, offals, vegetables, every kind of ball imaginable, sushi, sashimi, desserts and drinks, Four Seasons has the widest selection I've seen in Manila. There is something to suit everyone's taste, and you can eat to your heart's content for a price that just can't be beat.

Pork knuckle is one of the lucky foods to eat during Chinese New Year because its roundness and fattiness symbolise a well-fed year to come At Modern Shanghai, the trotter is braised until fall-off-the-bone tender, served with a superior brown sauce, and priced at P888 - the luckiest number which means "to prosper."

Imagine boiling and simmering Jidori chicken bones until they are fully dissolved and reduced to a rich and velvety chicken broth. And then imagine using this collagen broth to cook your complete meal of chicken, meatballs, vegetables, noodles, and shrimps. Every ingredient you put into this beauty pot adds a layer of flavor to the soup, making every sip a whole new experience. Best part is, the more you eat, the younger, more beautiful and supple your skin becomes.

Gong Hei Fat Choi and bon appétit!!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Paradise Dynasty

Eating in Paradise

Published on Manila Bulletin Lifestyle, December 15, 2016

My first time at Paradise Dynasty was in Singapore six years ago. I saw the posters everywhere, along the walkway to the MRT station and all over ION Orchard, the most happening shopping mall during those days. Photos of bamboo steamer filled with dumplings the colors of the rainbow haunted me. Oh how I love rainbows. And chasing/eating them.

I made plans to have lunch there with a friend almost immediately. We ate our way through the colorful babies, which also doubled as educational materials for her learning toddler. “What color is this dumpling mama is eating?” “Green!” “How about the one Auntie Jin is eating?” “Yellow!” “Orange!” “Red!” He had almost as much fun as we did, even if all he ate was blended chicken and vegetables.

It was not surprising to see the same reception when Paradise Dynasty opened in S Maison. Curious people queued up for the fun experience and there was always a basket or two of rainbow xiao long bao on every table.

During one of my visits I was able to chat with Paradise Group CEO Eldwin Chua who was in town to oversee the opening of his first Manila branch. “We are very excited to be in the Philippines. We have been wanting to bring our brand here for many years, we were just waiting for the right partner and the right location,” shared the young Singaporean businessman.

In the span of 13 years, the Paradise Group has expanded into over 30 restaurants in Singapore and 20 outlets in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Japan, China, Hong Kong, and London, with every branch exuding opulence and luxury. When you go, make sure to check out the VIP room with its monstrous dragon sculpture hanging on the wall. It’s like stepping into the lavishness and drama of 1930’s Shanghai, with you feeling like some emperor, ordering and eating up a feast, and then feeling absolutely pleased with yourself when the bill arrives and you realize you are paying ordinary working men prices.

This is exactly the experience Chua wants to offer his diners. “Here at Paradise Dynasty, we want customers to enjoy premium food in fine dining setting without breaking their wallets. We use simple ingredients and find ways to elevate their flavors. We always work to improve and innovate so we can offer gourmet food with exceptional value.”

So what are the five dishes you must try at Paradise Dynasty?

1. The most popular 8-color Dynasty Xiao Long Bao, of course. 
You will be given an eating instruction manual to ensure you get the optimum taste of the
technicolor pouches. No, you cannot just eat them according to your favorite colors. 
You have to follow rules here and eat the dumplings in this sequence: Original, Ginseng, 
Foie Gras, Black Truffle, Cheese, Crab Roe, Garlic, Szechuan. The two I enjoyed most
were #3 foie gras and #4 black truffle. While I thought this was fun and something 
people should try once in their xiao long bao-eating lives, I am still a purist at heart
 and prefer uncomplicated flavors, which brings me to the second dish.

Rainbow xiao long bao eating manual

2. Original Xiao Long Bao
To be enjoyed simply with vinegar and ginger because the classic way is the best way. Period.

3. Scrambled Egg White with Fish and Conpoy 
This dish dates back to a time when seafood was a rare commodity in China. The emperor
wanted crab during a time there was none so the kitchen had to create a dish to satisfy
his craving. The result: egg whites cooked painstakingly under low heat to attain a texture 
similar to that of the crustacean. If this dish made the emperor happy, I believe it should 
make ordinary people like you and me happy, too. Tip: There is a special way to mix
the egg yolk so sit back and let your server do the honors.

4. Stir-Fried Shredded Pork with Chinese Crepes 
Paradise Dynasty’s take on peking duck. Shredded pork stir-fried in black bean and hoisin
sauce until tender, to be paired with scallions and wrapped in thin, soft and chewy pancakes.

5. Radish Pastry
This is THE BEST THING at Paradise Dynasty. Soft and creamy radish strips in an 
incredibly fine and flaky crust that is almost too gorgeous to eat. Do eat it anyway. 
I can come to the restaurant and order nothing else but eight pieces of this golden 
beauty and leave perfectly merry and content.

Paradise Dynasty is located at 2/F S Maison at the Conrad, Mall of Asia Complex, Pasay City 
Tel: 828-8333

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