THE only way to truly enjoy Diamond Hotel's Filipino Culinary Pride is to come in hungry and bring with you your inner child—the one who's unafraid to try new dishes, the one who's always ready for a new adventure.
The food festival is headlined by Chef Sau del Rosario and Chef Miko aspiras—a deadly combination of an avant-garde teacher who has trained a lot of culinary greats and a former student who has carved his own name as a pastry chef.
The two are known for their bold approaches to traditional filipino dishes, creating masterpieces with unexpected twists and new interpretations. Some of the food served in the buffet may be too different or too deconstructed for comfort, but props still to Chef Sau and Chef Miko for taking that brave step toward innovation.
For starters, try the plump aklan oysters ceviche, served with a bit of coconut cream and calamansi and topped with homemade chicharon; paku (forest fern) with kesong puti, watermelon, palm vinegar, and salted egg; and Chef Sau's signature Tamales Pampangueña, a savory pudding made of ground rice topped with shredded chicken.
The tamales, Chef Sau said, was brought to the country by the Spaniards, who originally used corn and corn husk. Since corn was not organic to the Philippines, filipinos then used ground rice and banana leaves as substitute. for Kapampangans, however, tamales, which goes by the name boboto, has a deeper historical relevance.
"Before, it was only men who were allowed to vote while the women would be cooking tamales. The women would remark that it was as if they also voted from the sweat they invested in cooking tamales, that's why they called it boboto," said Chef Sau.
The soup that Chef Sau prepared during the exclusive media preview was bulanglang, which is reminiscent of sinigang but uses guava to provide the perfect balance of sourness and a hint of sweetness. Ripe guava is also mashed to thicken the soup.
The main dishes are equally bold in flavor: maya-maya mayonesa with aioli, olives, and capers; crispy pork karekare macadamia and truffle oil, the macadamia providing a smoother and a bit sweeter sauce contrasting well with homemade bagoong; adobo duck confit; and salted egg prawns with aligue-calamansi aioli dip.
But the showstoppers, really, are the three kinds of lechon: from Luzon, which is stuffed with buro; from Visayas, which is filled with pickled Guimaras mangoes; and from Mindanao, which is stuffed with goat's cheese and semi-bitter tablea from Malagos farms. The Mindanao-inspired lechon, in particular, may be polarizing given the bitterness of the tablea that makes dipping into the sauce made of liver and balsamic vinegar a must.
Chef Miko's desserts reflected his playful take in creating dishes—from the tempting "mansanas" made of dulce de leche mousse and apple compote dipped in red glaze, complete with a single twig and leaf made of chocolate, to the luscious "cherry" filled with black forest cake.
He also prepared keso de bola macarons, a salty-sweet dessert that would pair well with coffee, as well as a giant ube ensaymada as homage to the pastry that Diamond Hotel has become known for.
Diamond Hotel's filipino food festival is truly an interesting and sumptuous spread. Catch it until July 1 and be prepared to be amazed by new flavors while reminiscing memories of traditional comfort food.
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