Manila (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - Many foreigners get tongue-tied when asked to describe Filipino cuisine. There's a hodgepodge of flavours that in the end translate to dishes without any real standards or possibly too much variety. Perhaps it is no wonder that the cuisine has yet to find an exalted position among its esteemed Asian neighbours such as Thai and Vietnamese cooking where flavors are more defined and distinct.
Nancy Reyes-Lumen, who calls herself the Adobo Queen, came up with "The Adobo Book" that confirms the multiple versions of adobo recipes available in the country. She suggests that the adobo is the dish that unites the country since the word is spoken in all dialects, although she also mentioned the impossibility of coming up with one universal recipe. In the book, she described her grandmother's (Aling Asiang of Aristocrat) adobo, as follows: "The pork cuts were bigger than usual, about three bites big and the pork cuts had a promise of meat and fat layering, nothing of that "healthy" kind where it's all lean meat... Little did I know then that the real secret of my Lola's (grandma) best-in-the-world-stickiest-tastiest-darkest-oiliest-most delicious adobo was deep down under."
On the other hand, the sinigang dish also deserves attention. During a 2010 conference held at Enderun Colleges, Professor Bel Castro pondered on the future of the sinigang, citing the growing use of instant mixes over the traditional practice of making broth from scratch. She mentioned that Filipinos are getting increasingly divorced from the environment and such relationship reflects itself in the food we eat. With growing urbanisation in many parts of the country, people have less time to cook from their gardens and rely instead on easy solutions. Aside from compromising the cuisine's flavours, the concept of food and lifestyle is also altered.
After taking the above into consideration, it may be worth ruminating whether the Philippines really has a national dish to offer the world. For example, Cebuanos may have a different take on the subject. More than a delicacy, the Cebu lechon symbolises prestige or stature that parties will not be considered grand without it. The roasted pig (usually with an apple on its mouth) occupies an esteemed position at the center table and is rarely served chopped. It is typically the host or his assistant that meticulously carves the lechon in front of the guests, sometimes in a checkered cutting method, as described by Ofel Bisnar whose father has operated a lechon business in Talisay, Cebu. She relates that aside from lemongrass and other herbs, her father also adds a whole chicken inside the lechon's cavity, thus making it more flavourful. Instead of a mechanised rotisserie, her father employs the manual version that also ensures that the pig is constantly brushed. Keep in mind that other provinces such as Pampanga, Bacolod and Davao also have their own favourite heritage recipes to showcase to the world.
Tourism efforts include the promotion of the country's cuisine and Filipino food forms an integral part of the national identity. Thus, there appears a need to develop more objective ways of defining the cuisine, perhaps some kind of standardization or classification that is typical in other countries. It may be worth looking into the possibility of synthesizing all the regional flavors into a collective brand or promoting each region uniquely - in a manner that visitors or international gourmets can taste, recognise and appreciate as well.
During a workshop held in Manila where she gave participants a taste of the most delicious duck adobo, Amy Besa who owns the Purple Yam Restaurant in New York, shared their efforts in asserting the uniqueness of the cuisine without having to apologise for it - like providing a spoon for guests, among others. While retaining its ethnicity, the restaurant has gained prominence and acceptability among Americans, an example that other Filipino marketers may wish to consider.
With the right market research and positioning, there is no stopping Filipino cuisine from becoming a truly global brand.
Reposted From ANN (Asian News Network)