Late arts and culture writer Doreen Fernandez could not have put it better when she tasted Kapampangan cuisine: This is paradise.
Penchant for food—in all its potpourri of savor, aroma and fashion—is hegemony always to scintillate in every Filipino household through thick or thin. However embattled Central Luzon natives are or idyllic in times, there would always be a chasm where wistfulness on delectable entrees will permeate into their yearning palate. It is the craving for something “wow” that folks could not hold up.
Gathered accounts say Kapampangan cuisine, or Lutung Kapampangan, has gained a favorable reputation among other Philippine ethnic groups. Some popular Kapampangan dishes that have become mainstays across the country include ‘sisig’ (a Filipino dish meda from parts of pig's head and liver seasoned with lemon and chili), ‘kare-kare’ (a Philippine stew made from peanut sauce with a variety of vegetables, stewed beef or goat meat), ‘tocino’ or ‘pindang’ and their native ‘longganisa’ (sausage).
Nonetheless, a sword is no weapon without the swordsman. High-caliber gourmets roam the planet and among them are the very own progenies of Pampanga. An avant-garde and posh touch in food fashion is not all that it takes to catapult a chef into notoriety. Food historian Lillian Mercado Lising de Borromeo, more commonly known as Atching Lillian, has surfaced in national and international cooking and lifestyle shows with her mantra printed in “Atching Lillian’s Heirloom Recipes.”
She still concocts the age-old ‘saniculas’ cookies made with the imprint of San Nicolas de Tolentino, the miracle healer, who was an Augustinian Recoleto gifted with the power of healing through his blessed bread soaked in water.
A multi-awarded author of cookbooks and owner of successful restaurants like Café Ysabel and Gino's Fine Dining, Chef Gene Gonzalez, after plying overseas over and over, believes that Filipinos have the genius in the global kitchen.
Gonzalez said that in “any cruise ship or international hotel, many of the meals enjoyed in these establishments are prepared by Filipino culinary professionals. On the other hand, many foreign students are beginning to enjoy the benefits of the, inexpensive yet excellent, Filipino educational system.”
Artist, painter and Chef Claude Tayag takes pride in his wooden haven, Bale Dutung (Wooden House), which is a home to his family and also a restaurant for reservation. Tayag built his house from scraps and antiques as his soft spot for cooking eventually fits into the scene. His menu includes ‘pako’ salad (sald of ferns' shoots), ‘lumpiang ubod’ (roll of seasoned palm tree trunk), ‘bulanglang’ (a vegetable stew), ‘kare-kareng’ dagat (a type of kare-kare that uses seafoods instead of meat) and the desert Paradiso (balls of custards), among others.
The long queue of recipes waiting to be savored will never end brought by the relentless spring of cooking whiz like those in Central Luzon. After all, torrential typhoons—natural or political—will continually roll up and devour our pep. That’s why we always have to be full. (WLB/Jose Mari M. Garcia PIA-3)