Flavors of Christmas
“Lahat tayo may hugot (we all have our mawkish moments),” said renowned Chef Myrna Segismundo as she whipped up a festive Filipino Christmas spread during a session of The Maya Kitchen Culinary Elite Series.
“We all have what I call flavor memories – the vivid scents and flavors of dishes that bring back happy memories, including that of our childhood,” she added.
Segismundo, who has been advocating the promotion of local dishes on the international scene, said Filipino food does not need to be made gourmet or fused with other cuisines to be good.
“Our cuisine holds a special place in our hearts. It is special because of the memories and emotions we have attached to it. It reminds us of home, of family, and of comfort. Do we need foreigners to validate this for us and tell us how wonderful our ingredients and food are?’
“We have to think of what we have and take pride in the food that we serve, particularly during the holidays,” she said.
She recalled her mother’s own Christmas showstopper, beef morcon, which took her several years before being able to replicate it despite having followed the family recipe to the letter.
“Several Christmases ago, when my mom, Emilia, was still alive, I documented the way she cooked morcon. I followed exactly the way she does it, hoping to replicate its taste,” said Segismundo, who started helping in the kitchen at the tender age of five years old.
“Now, I have probably accomplished replicating it by 95 percent. Hopefully, by the time the morcon and the sauce heat up, my mother would have already blessed the dish from heaven and it would taste just like her morcon,” she said.
For her holiday menu, Segismundo started with a delectable and intelligently-executed adobo pate and a fresh salad of ubod and pomelos with honeyed-patis dressing and topped with shrimp kinilaw drizzled in Balayan bagoong.
“Everybody loves adobo, and Filipinos will also claim that their adobo is the best version. I decided to tweak the dish and apply French cooking techniques to turn it into adobo pate,” she said. She also prepared pepper jelly, a wonderful sweet and spicy foil to the saltiness of the adobo pate.
Segismundo chose to up her salad game with the kinilaw, which to her is a “memorable” dish as she served this in her attempt to promote Philippine food during the 2015 Madrid Fusion.
“Our kinilaw is really different from ceviche because of the vinegar that we use, which gives the dish a hint of sweetness,” she said.
For dessert, she prepared Turrones de Manila (which is really the proletarian saging turon with langka) but up-served with vanilla gelato spazzacamino (coffee powder and whiskey-spiked ice cream).
Segismundo’s holiday spread is familiar and comforting, evoking cherished memories of Filipino food favorites while revealing innovations that allow one to tweak the flavor without overly deconstructing the dishes.
“They key really is this: Don’t be afraid to taste the dish that you are cooking. Any chef who does not taste is only showing off.”
“I like to work with flavor layers, to achieve that balance of sweetness, sourness, saltiness, and spiciness that is the trademark of Filipino cuisine,” she said.
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