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A Feast of the Islands’ Flavors

If there’s one thing that majority of Pinoys can’t live without—it’s Filipino food.  It’s a common practice for our kababayans to stuff their luggage with tuyo (dried fish), bagoong (shrimp paste), and taba ng talangka (crab fat) when they visit their relatives abroad. Some hand carry polvoron, chocnut, dried mangoes, and other delicacies which have been specifically ordered by (again) relatives and friends who pray that their all-time favorite goodies from home won’t be confiscated by immigration authorities. Similarly, balikbayans look forward to returning to the country to eat Filipino food. And no celebration or reunion is ever complete without the main fare—the mighty lechon!

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  • MOUTHWATERING PINOY DISHES – Enjoy these mouthwatering dishes at the Filipino Food Festival in Café Ilang-ilang; hiplong, a shrimp dish with salted egg sauce, lechon stuffed with truffle rice, Pepita’s FIilipino paella, a Spanish specialty done with a Pinoy twist, and crab claws with gulong-gulong sauce.
  • (from left) Gerhard Doll, resident manager, Dedet Dele Fuente Santos, Nian Rigor, AVP for PR and corporate communications, Christoph Kuch, food and beverage director
  • The author with the “Lechon Diva” of Pepita’s Kitchen and her infamous lechon stuffed with truffle rice.

Every year, we are treated by The Manila Hotel to a culinary showcase of the best of the Philippine Islands. This month at Café Ilang-ilang, the spread at the Filipino station (there are seven other stations serving different international cuisines which are open to be enjoyed by guests) takes centerstage.  From Aug. 25 to Sept. 16, the café will host the much anticipated Filipino Food Festival.  Those who were able to experience last year’s sumptuous offerings will be glad to know that Dedet Dela Fuente Santos, more popularly known as “Lechon Diva,” is once again at the helm of the festivities.True to her moniker, kitchen sensation Dedet brings to the forefront her unparalleled lechon truffle along with her modern and unexpected rendition of local dishes.

At the media launch last Aug. 2, guests were treated to a feast of sights, sounds and, of course, Filipino food! The Manila Hotel’s resident manager Gerhard Doll was present to welcome the select crowd. To the delight of everyone, Mr. Doll gamely hit the palayok (clay pot) to signal the start of the festival. Philippine flags adorned the dining tables alongside a serving of local appetizers which consisted of manggang hilaw, singkamas and bagoong dip (green mangoes, turnip and shrimp paste dip). The San Sebastian Manila Rondalla provided the music for the afternoon affair while various folk and ethnic dances were performed by the Children of Mother Earth dance troupe.

“The positive response from our diners last year made us decide to invite the “Lechon Diva” again as our featured culinary personality. Her dishes are familiar but innovative. Rich but tempered with flavors. Our mouthwatering spread is guaranteed to satisfy,” said Nian Liwanag-Rigor, AVP for Public Relations and Corporate Communications. For her part, Dedet shared, “I always try to bring something new to the table. An unexpected twist to the old recipes.You should try the adobo or palabok pizza. However, I can’t do without the winning staples which people have come to love.  The bestseller truffle rice stuffed lechon must be the star of the show.  There’s also the hiplog (shrimp swimming in salted egg sauce) and the super suman (a huge serving of sticky rice combined with different local treats).”

Having tried the lechon truffle before, I made it my business to be one of the first to line up for it. Think of melt-in-your-mouth crispy skin.  Only those who have tasted this sinful delight will understand my oxymoron. It’s simply the best I’ve ever tasted. The dessert table also never fails to impress. The hotel’s French macarons are simply divine! For the Filipino Festival, however, I tried the various servings of local sweets. I love the sapin-sapin (multilayer, multicolored rice delicacy). Ang sarap (It’s delicious)!

Calorie counting is strictly not allowed. An openness to taste the wonderful local flavors is all you need to enjoy this season’s Filipino Food Festival. See you all at Café Ilang-ilang!

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