Filipino cuisine at Melbourne Food and Wine Festival

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ALL-TIME Filipino favorites such as  kinilaw, sinigang, kare-kare and adobo were highlighted at Australia’s most important gastronomy event, the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival (MFWF).

Food lovers and guests were captivated by the flavors unique to the Philippines served at Rice Paper Sister—a place known for serving Filipino fusion in Melbourne, the country’s culinary capital.

The event called “Barrio,” a re-imagined Filipino neighborhood feast, was held on March 12 and 13, and part of MFWF’s Global Dining Series that was organized by Entrée.Pinays, a group of food-loving and enterprising Filipino women entrepreneurs.

The group collaborated with Filipino-Australian chef Ross Magnaye of Rice Paper Sister and award-winning Filipino chef Jordy Navarra of the popular Toyo Eatery in Manila. Restaurateur Nicole Ponseca of Maharlika and Jeepney restaurants in New York and author of I Am a Filipino: And This is How We Cook also flew in from New York to conduct a master-class demonstration of her own brand of authentic Filipino food, while Sydney-based food and travel writer Yasmin Newman, author of the critically acclaimed book 7000 Islands: Cherished Recipes and Stories from the Philippines also participated in the event.

The chefs presented an exquisite menu composed of kinilaw na talaba (raw oysters) and pritong isda (fried fish) for appetizer.  Pork at buro and lumpiang Shanghai with vinegar and sweet chili sauce were served as the second course, pritong escabeche and sinigang na hipon for the third course, and kare-kare, lamb adobo and sinangag for the main course.

For dessert, they served cassava keyk at buko sorbetes, leche flan espesyal and chocolate dulce de leche with dilis.

Light and refreshing calamansi cocktails, along with wine pairing options, were also offered to the diners and finished off with a glass of Lavazza Kafa Forest Coffee liqueur.

The exclusive dining experience received enthusiastic reception and praises from the guests who were pleasantly surprised with the unique range of flavors presented from salty, sour, spicy to sweet and tasty. Some guests especially liked the pork at buro,  a fried pork-belly dish with fermented shrimp and rice paste and local vegetables, while others who were uninitiated to Filipino cuisine quipped about their surprise and discovery at having (happily) survived the experience.

Over at our table where I hosted importers, strategic partners and businessmen to take part in the unique dining experience, my seatmate Natalie O’ Brien, former CEO of MFWF, loved the new dishes, ingredients, stories and memories shared by the chefs and guests.

Natalie is organizing a new major trade event, the Global Table, a series of internationally focused business events that will connect Australian traders and investors with business leaders from across the Asia-Pacific. Natalie shared opportunities for Philippine companies in this event, while I also discussed opportunities for cross-promotion, sending of business missions, and an Australian delegation to Ifex (International Food Exhibition) Philippines, an international food event showcasing Asia’s ethnic food and ingredients, to be held from May 24 to 26 at the World Trade Center in Pasay City.

Meanwhile, Neil Grimes, vice president of the Australia Philippines Business Council, said “tonight was a great example of what’s possible when people with a vision to exhibit their culture in a unique food experience deliver on that vision. This is a fabulous concept delivered in great Filipino style.”

Neil enjoyed not only the amazing food  but also the foodie giveaways such as Auro chocolates, 7D dried mangoes and the products from my goodie bag, which prompted Neil to comment if my secretary of trade is aware that I bring along samples of Philippine products in my big bag for importers and potential buyers to try.

Fides Santos-Arguelles, cofounder and marketing director of Entrée.Pinays, said it is an important milestone for the Philippines to be invited in an international event such as the MFWF, but equally important is how we can sustain this activity to further put on the global map the cuisine that we love most.

Fides and her group are already thinking of what’s next for Entrée.Pinays and the opportunities for collaboration with the Filipino Food Movement, private sector, government agencies and other industry stakeholders.

As I mentioned in my previous article, I am excited to partner with Entrée.Pinays and other stakeholders to promote Filipino food and discussed with Fides the need to come up with a strategic road map to advancing the Philippines’s food-diplomacy agenda in Australia that will identify the gaps, needs, potentials and opportunities for trade, investment, tourism, agriculture and encouraging more Filipinos to take ownership and participate as entrepreneurs, whether it be as restaurateurs, franchisors or franchise owners of food businesses, suppliers of products and services and/or organizer of food events.

While the Philippines’s participation at MFWF was a resounding success, there is definitely more work to be done. One way of contributing to this development is to patronize Filipino restaurants and start a conversation about how we could better promote and mainstream Filipino food and cuisine.

I thank and congratulate Entrée.Pinays for this great initiative as well as the visiting Filipino chefs, writers, sponsors, guests and other supporters.

Mabuhay ang pagkaing Pinoy!

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