Welcome to The London Foodie

Reviews of London's Restaurants, Supper Clubs and Hotels, Wine Tastings, Travel Writing, and Home to the Japanese and French Supper Clubs in Islington

For the latest food events, restaurant openings, product launches and other food and drink related news, visit the sister site The London Foodie News

Friday 5 January 2018

Discovering the Best of Filipino Cooking & the Country's Hottest Restaurant Tables at Madrid Fusion Manila

With over 7000 tropical islands, there is just so much to discover about the Philippines. The archipelago and its people are brimming with variety and character, and the food scene has been making huge strides in recent times. So how lucky was I to visit it twice in the last 12 months, with the last of these trips coinciding with the annual gastronomic conference - Madrid Fusion Manila.

Lechon (roast sukling pig) for breakfast, no better way to start the day!

Madrid Fusion is a well-established food symposium held every year in Spain’s capital aiming to highlight new developments in gastronomy, with chefs old and new demonstrating their culinary know-how.

The grand opening for Madrid Fusion Manila gastronomic conference

An offshoot of this and now in its third year, the Madrid Fusion Manila takes place in the Filipino capital every April. The conference is an important date in the gastronomic calendar of the country and has helped to drive innovation and quality improvement in the food of the Philippines.

Madrid Fusion Manila 2017

Manila is an exciting place to be these days if you are a chef or foodie, with so much happening on the culinary scene and new restaurant openings, there is also a renewed focus on the unique local produce and on creative ways of using it. The result is that Manila has a number of rising restaurant stars who dig deep into the culinary traditions of the Philippines, but more on that later.

Unique Filipino Ingredients at Madrid Fusion Manila

International participation in this year’s Madrid Fusion Manila was seriously impressive, with chefs from Indonesia, Korea, Hong Kong, USA and Singapore joining their European counterparts. With the theme of the conference being sustainability, there was a strong emphasis on foraging and fermentation with a number of restaurants growing their own food, including the UK’s Simon Rogan of L’Enclume, one of the conference’s international chefs.

Chefs from all corners of the world attending Madrid Fusion Manila

Without wanting to sound partisan, Rogan’s presentation at Madrid Fusion Manila was for me outstanding. Taking the conference theme of sustainability to heart, he did not bring a single ingredient with him from home but went to the local farmers’ market on arrival in Manila for inspiration. There he purchased all the produce for the dishes he was still to create and demonstrate at the conference. Such self-confidence is perhaps not surprising - I have tried Simon Rogan’s cooking in the UK on a number of occasions, and consider him one of the top chefs in the country.

The UK was represented by Simon Rogan of L'Enclume

But for me the real stars of the show were the local Filipino chefs.  

I met and interviewed Josh Boutwood, son of a Filipino father and a British mother who trained as a chef in Europe. Though born in the UK, Boutwood considers the Philippines home, having spent his early years on the tropical island of Boracay. In 2010, after stints in Scandinavia and the UK, and wishing to build on Filipino traditional flavours, he returned to the island of Boracay to open his restaurant, Alchemy.

Chef Josh Boutwood - Image Courtesy of Tatler Philippines

In January 2017, at the age of 30, he opened his own private-dining restaurant, The Test Kitchen, in Manila. Seating only 22 and with an ever-changing menu of 6 to 8 courses, his is one of the hottest tables in Manila right now. 

Boutwood spoke to me with candour about the Filipinos’ quest to find their own culinary identity, in a country with so many influences – Chinese, Spanish, American, Malay as well as a strong indigenous culture. It is encouraging to see someone relatively young but with such experience and talent flying the flag for the country’s cuisine. 

Another local chef to look out for in Manila is Jordy Navarra, who has been making a name for himself at his Toyo Eatery after working at the Fat Duck and Hibiscus in London.

Navarra is also a real advocate for the country’s local produce, sharing the stage with a fisherman he brought all the way from his village in the north to demonstrate how he fillets dorado. Because they can only fish for two months of the year, their catch is dried in the sun, then salted and smoked. Navarra uses this for Kinilaw, a Filipino version of ceviche, made with vinegar, pickled ginger, onion, lime zest and coriander flowers.

Two other Filipino celebrity chefs I got to meet at Madrid Fusion Manila, although they were not speaking this year, were Claude Tayag and Margarita Forés whose knowledge and enthusiasm for Filipino cooking were inspiring. 

Forés is the founder of the Cibo Group of Italian restaurants, which are scattered around the more upmarket neighbourhoods of Manila. She was awarded Asia’s Best Female Chef in 2016 by San Pellegrino, and is one of the most famous names in the capital’s food scene.

The delightful Chef Margarita Fores of Cibo Restaurants

As well as hosting us at a local Farmer’s Market in Manila, where Margarita showed us around and introduced us to local vendors and produce, she also served up a cracking plate of corn piadina, sautéed river prawn, with crab head cream sauce and candied calamansi lime at the conference. This was one of the best dishes I had during the three days there.

Visit to the Famers Market in Manila

It was at the Farmer’s Market that Margarita Forés introduced me to sea grapes, a local delicacy known in the Philippines as lato, but also native to Okinawa in Japan (known as umi-budō) and the East Malaysian state of Sabah (where it is called latok).

Filipino Sea Grapes known as Lato

Noteworthy also was the huge variety of exotic tropical fruit and vegetables, and the freshness and great quality of the fish and seafood on sale.

Fresh seafood at Farmers Market in Manila

Claude Tayag, a Filipino polymath who writes and paints as well as being an award-winning self-taught chef was also at the conference. He is an authority on the cuisine of Pampanga (a province in central Luzon), which he serves at Bale Dutung (Wooden House), his home turned into a by-reservation-only restaurant. Bale Dutung reached stardom when Anthony Bourdain made it the location of the Philippine episode of his TV show, “No Reservations” in 2008.

Chef Claude Tayag

Claude Tayag presented a delectable Filipino dessert ‘Maja Lila’. Normally a ‘blanca’ or white pudding made with coconut and corn, his version was lilac because of the native purple ube, served with a lip-smacking salted quail egg yolk – certainly one of the highlights of the conference.

Maja Lila by Chef Claude Tayag

Though not Filipino, Chele Gonzalez is the Chef Patron at Gallery Vask in Manila, heralded as the best restaurant in the Philippines by San Pellegrino, as well as being listed 35th among the top 50 restaurants in Asia in 2017.

As part of the many activities around the conference, participants have the opportunity to sign up to various dinners hosted by the chefs, and if you plan a visit to Madrid Fusion Manila in 2018 or later, I highly recommend signing up to one of these events.  

I attended the one such dinner at Gallery Vask, where chefs from Locavore, Nerua in Bilbao and Odette in Singapore, collaborated with Gonzalez to prepare an outstanding tasting menu.

Every day of the conference there is a long themed lunch break with restaurants of different regions of the country showing their best fares. It is a great opportunity to sample a tremendous spread of Filipino specialities under one roof.

In 2017 the themes were Luzon and Rice, Vizayas and Nose to Tail, and Mindanao and Corn.

The most interesting of these for me was the “Nose to Tail” event, where all the unmentionable bits of animals were served up. I tried Dinakdakan, chopped beef tongue, braised oxtail and pig’s brain mousse, then Betamax, grilled chicken blood with Davoa dark chocolate and crispy chicken craw, all surprisingly tasty.

For the ultimate Filipino surprise, try Balut – a hard-boiled fertilised duck egg, which contains a developing embryo complete with beak and feathers. Don’t forget to add the dressing of chilli, onion and vinegar for that extra kick!

The 2018 Madrid Fusion Manila theme will be “Innovating Tradition”, the conference will take place between 19th to the 22nd April 2018. For more information visit their website at http://www.madridfusionmanila.com/.

Travel Essentials

Fly direct from London to Manila with Philippine Airlines.

For more information about the Phillipines, what to do and where to go, visit the national tourism board site - It's More Fun in the Phillipines

Madrid Fusion Manila

Test Kitchen by Josh Boutwood
9780 Kamagong St. 
San Antonio Village, Makati City
Metro Manila

Toyo Eatery by Jordy Navarra
2316 Chino Roces Ave, 
Makati, 1231 
Metro Manila

Cibo by Margarita Forés
With 12 locations in the Philippines

Bale Dutung by Claude Tayag
Villa Gloria Subdivision, 
Angeles City, Pampanga

Gallery Vask by Chele Gonzalez
5th Floor, Clipp Center 11th Avenue corner 39th Street Bonifacio Global City 1634 Taguig

Related Posts with Thumbnails