(Is it possible for the Kapampangan, Ilongga, Bulakeño and Batangueña chefs to agree with a single version of preparation and presentation of a Filipino dish?)
I have been often asked for gift suggestions for a person who will be based abroad. I would consistently remark that it should be something practical, handy and useful. A cookbook has been one of the favorite suggestions. Yes, the person taking off may not immediately appreciate it until he or she begins experimenting in the kitchen. But whether you are gifting it to a kitchen expert or not, there is one cookbook that is an absolute pleaser.
Kulinarya: A Guidebook to Philippine Cuisine is a product of genius effort from six well-known and respected Filipino chefs, with its editor Michaela Fenix. They have collaborated, debated and performed kitchen testings since 2006 to come up with precise recipes that all Filipinos would embrace as their own no matter which dialect they speak.
It sounds like it is impossible to standardize recipes since we grew up in different homes such that each ilaw ng tahanan (mother) has her own way of preparing the dish (e.g. there are at least 8 versions of adobo as mentioned in the preceding entry).
(It was a perfect timing that I was in the culinary tour in the house of Claude Tayag, one of the writers-chefs, when the book has just been launched. Next in line when he autographed it was the foodie/former GMA newscaster/Erap’s spokesperson Margaux Salcedo. I remember almost behaving like a giddy adolescent when he was writing on my copy. How can you not be starstruck by the chef featured by Anthony Bourdain and is the brain of 5 ways lechon that made me eat for 5 hours straight? He was also the food stylist of this book.)
I got a copy of the “most coveted” cookbook in December 2008. Since then, it serves like a bestfriend in the kitchen and an easy reference for everyone. (Well, when someone’s consulting over the telephone or through the email, I can at least pretend that I know how to prepare a certain dish. There is a codigo to help me.) Although there are some recipes that I do not follow 100% because of certain preferences influenced by my orientation, like putting in a little amount of sugar to my chicken pork adobo, simplified halo halo because I prefer the hard to replicate Razon’s version, etc.
Kulinarya has positioned itself as an edible library which is a rich source of reliable documentation on how our major Filipino dishes should taste like withstanding the given variations for each region. Although the authors avoid using the term, I think that they succeeded in the “standardization” of the recipes.
Kulinarya becomes extra appealing because recipes are documented in a way that you are psyched to conclude that “yes, this is easy!” And no matter how difficult cooking may seem to a kitchen newbie, the delicious photos (taken by Neal Oshima) situated beside each recipe is more than enough motivation to give it a try. To the extent that you will be inspired to prepare everything down to the last line, creating an occasion to do it.
For people like me who is poor in butchery know-how, there are dedicated pages for butchery orientation, e.g. equivalent of Western to Filipino cuts and corresponding cooking methods (saute, grill, braise, etc.).
“Kulinarya was very expensive and a very difficult book to produce. The pre-production, the kitchen testing of the recipes and the initial writing of the text took about 2 years. The principal photography, graphic design, including its seven revisions took about a year to complete. All in all, it took about three and a half years to produce Kulinarya. The publishers, the chefs, the photographer, the book designer and the stylist were very patient to make sure that the book see light of day.
Kulinarya is now on its fifth printing and some of the recipes tweaked and essays updated based on the reader’s response. We also included, Anthony Bourdain’s views on his last visit and interview with Claude Tayag, one of the six chefs featured in Kulinarya.” – Ige Ramos, Book Designer (2 May, 2009)
Recipe selections were based on regional preferences and popularity throughout the country. At least 90 recipes were presented into different sections such as pulutan (appetizers), sabaw (soups), gulay at ensalada (vegetables and salads), ulam (main dishes), adobo (vinegar braised), pancit (noodles), merienda (snacks), and minatamis (desserts).
(Pinais na Alimasag)
“Filipino cuisine is a sum of Filipino history, from the indigenous food of the prehispanic era, to the influences of Southeast Asian cooking brought by trade, and the colonial influences brought by conquest.” – Michaela Fenix, Kulinarya editor
(Pinaputok na Isda)
Sawsawan (Sauces and condiments)
Kulinarya is a project of Asia Society, in cooperation with the Philippine Department of Tourism, which advocates improved cooking methods and best practices in the preparation and presentation of Filipino food. It hopes to build greater appreciation for and understanding of Filipino cuisine and its traditions at home and throughout the world.
Kulinarya: A Guidebook to Philippine Cuisine
Available at bookstores in the Philippines
You may call Anvil Publishing at +63 2 637 3621/ +63 2 631 7045
Hardbound (Php 2,500), Softbound (Php 750)