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Gastronomic predictions

Gastronomic predictions

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Gastronomic predictions

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By Chef Gene Gonzalez


Every year, I am always asked about my gastronomic predictions. With Madrid Fusion on its fourth year in Manila, many of our fellow Filipino chefs have been put on the same pedestal so monopolized by their Western counterparts who have the vehicle for marketing media. It also has opened the eyes of Filipinos, from foodies to kitchen aficionados and professionals, to the advantages of being part of a little explored archipelago that on a per island basis can come up with unique or bountiful specialties and ingredients. Many such ingredients normally have been in use for hundreds of years, yet they seemingly too ordinary to the locals who take them for granted. It is only via deep appreciation and association with the locals that the sustainability and use of such ingredients can be realized. As Brillat Savarin once pointed out, “the discovery of a new dish confers on humanity more happiness than the discovery of a new star.”


What we take for granted has become a rising trend, now that the world is clamoring for foraged or wild food, which, being natural, already carries mother n ature’s seal of approval or even the expensive stamp of being organic. Foraged food is going to be even more trendy because of its natural state. Certain wild veggies will land on our plates, such as the clover-looking oxalis or wood sorrel that is quite tart in flavor. Another tart leaf, locally called alibangbang, is the old native Bauhinia used by farmers as a souring agent in sinigang or pinangat. One can walk around cool stoney areas and find Talinum, which is related either to spinach and lettuce. It is excellent braised or stir-fried or raw and mixed into a salad. Pipinitos or damong Maria are tiny, crispy cucumbers that grow wild in relatively cool, moist but sunny areas and bear fruits that are like tiny wild passion fruit. Ternate flowers make good coloring for calamansi or lime-ade, the prolific blue flowers can be topped on a salad or deep fried into fritters. If you go to the foot of dead volcanoes where it’s cool, chances are you will be find wild raspberries and e ven wild strawberries similar to the French variety called frais du bois. These are just some of the exciting foraged food items that can go from the wild to the world.

The Philippines has over 100 fig varieties. Their seeds and fruits are dispersed by birds and bats that eat them. Just go around your neighborhood and chances are you will find a local ficus or fig tree. The thing is nobody has made a conscious effort to come up with anything using the edible Philippine fig, although the young leaf shoots of the ficus pseudopalma are cooked in fermented shrimp paste and coconut milk with chili in the Bicol region, where it is a delicacy. But, otherwise known as the native lubi lubi, it is hardly known in other provinces. In fact, the edibility of its fruit has yet to be formally documented. I have a Viber group whose ambitious project for 2018 is to explore the many possibilities of the Philippine fig.


Also, the focus of Luzon c ooking for in the coming year will be the cooking of Albay, which has recently been aggressively pushing its culinary traditions and potential forward, charting every town’s specialty and identifying every town’s famous cook. Creamy, spicy hot cuisine is also gaining popularity, the sili ice cream included. Quite timely because the Filipino palate every single year the Scoville tolerance or heat tolerance of the Filipino has been going up and is reaching levels where they can compete in super hot Korean instant noodle eating contests.

Alternative grains will be in vogue. Think adlaw from Mindanao, which is very much like barley, but with better texture. Exotic rice, like tinawon and kintoman, upland varieties from the Cordilleras, will be highly prized.

On the Asian side, regional Chinese will be in the spotlight. Not the Hong Kong style, but Yunnan, Szechuan, or Hunan cooking. The taste for chili could give rise to the popularity of mainland Chinese cooking, but a lso the surge in migration of Chinese nationals, who are setting up eateries that serve spicy dishes, with touches of wood spices and the quintessential Szechuan peppercorn, which creates that floral, woodsy aroma and flavor. This may also be true with what may look like potpourri on the hotpot or shabu shabu styles that exude strong aromas from whole spices of varied sizes and colors. Thick rice noodles like a Chinese pappardelle, will make their presence felt in the food scene, as will stewed braised meat topped on freshly boiled or cooked noodles. The health conscious will crave Taiwanese, especially now that it is a reasonably priced food destination.


Western Cuisine will feature a lot of rusticity, from wood oven-baked pizzas to wood fired breads and handmade pastas. Old Eastern European dumpling like pirogis and egg noodles will make their way into the scene. Thick crusted breads with special flours will be “in” and t he 1950s yeast-raised coffeecakes with all sorts of sugars, swirls, and fruit preserves will enjoy a reintroduction into the coffee crowd. The coffee crowd, of course, will make a turnaround from the highly roasted dark beans powered up with robustas to nuttier, lighter roasts or blends. Though the acid levels of artisanal coffees have been going up on account of upfront flavors, many coffee drinkers who don’t put cream or sugar in their cups will look for a blend that will have full flavor without the acidity. Chocolate will have its place among those who appreciate the concept and characters they give to the cacao bean.

Rustic Filipino breads such as old-style ensaimada, buchokoy (bitso), and the unsweetened pan de sal with their original recipes will be quite in vogue as many Millenials will look and research for what is original, now that it is more easily accessible on the web.

For beverages, craft beer on tap will continue to enjoy a following, displacing the b ottled versions. Freshness is the word in 2018. Gin, which caught on last year, will be enjoyed as an element in more daring cocktails and our mixologists will concoct homemade infusions. As for Filipino spirits, a rediscovery of sasa or nipa with its lightly smoky character is something to watch. Philippine rum, artisanal and aged in true oak, whether new or previously used in wines and not compounded with flavors, may make a comeback.

At this point my speculations may have come to their limit as I’ve done my guesswork up to alcoholic beverages. Drop me a note if any of these predictions or projections turns up. In the meantime, have a delightful 2018 on your tables!

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Tags: Brillat Savarin, fig varieties, Gastronomic predictions, Madrid Fusion, Western counterparts

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