A lot of fearless forecasts have been going around, predicting what new dishes and drinks we will be obsessing about this new year. But rather than getting into the standard trope of “what’s hot and what’s not,” we delved a bit deeper. Thanks to insights from leading chefs, restaurateurs, and industry insiders, we’ve listed 10 compelling trends we believe are guiding the country’s food landscape in interesting and sustainable directions:
1. In search of lesser known produce
The spotlight is now on vegetables that have often been overlooked.
“I am keen to incorporate little known vegetables, particularly locally grown ones, into my recipes. Raising awareness about these vegetables creates a larger market for them and encourages farmers to keep growing them. This helps us preserve our food culture and patrimony while increasing economic growth in rural areas,” says Chef Waya Araos-Wijangco of Gourmet Gypsy Art Café.
2. Finding beauty in the “ugly”
Restaurateurs are finding ways to enhance ingredients and create dishes from “ugly” produce. Food writer, consultant, and cookbook author Angelo Comsti agrees that this is something the agricultural community will benefit from. He explains that “items which people typically ignore and farmers throw out, misshapen vegetables, are typically set aside, but restaurateurs are now more open to using ‘ugly’ produce.”
Amy Besa explains how her husband, Chef Romy Dorotan, does it at their restaurant Purple Yam Malate. “The most exciting ingredients (Romy) found in seafood markets were our local mixed shells, which do not get much attention from other chefs and restaurants. Many shells like the kuhol and the pilipit require you to suck on the shell to pull the tiny sliver of meat out,” she shares. “It may be unglamorous at the table but the rewards of discovering unknown flavors of our seas and oceans are quite eye opening.”
Amy narrates how the mixed shells (the smaller they are, the more flavorful) can yield savory broths. “It can transform paellas into delicious showcases of the flavors of our terraces and seas when paired with our Cordillera heirloom rice varieties,” she explains.
3. And Philippine cuisine is still going strong
There’s no stopping the newfound appreciation for our cuisine, as it finds its way from casual dining restaurants to hotel outlets. And just as segmented specialties popularized Japanese cuisine, Filipino fare is spreading its culinary wings with regional establishments like Asiong’s in Cavite and Forest City in Laguna, to modern concepts of Agimat, and even a Filipino high tea offering at Hyatt Regency’s (formerly Hyatt City of Dreams) Lounge.
“I feel 2019 is the year of the Filipino cuisine in the Philippines. I know this sounds odd, but the masses will regain a newfound pride of our beloved food,” says restaurant consultant Cyrus Cruz.
4. Healthy vibes
With people increasingly informed about healthy eating, it is no wonder that establishments are offering fresh, flavorful options that cater to diners’ varying diets. “People will eat cleaner and fresher whole foods. More grain-centered dishes in restaurants and quick ready-to-eat plates with more protein, low carb, non-fast food-type foods,” Cyrus muses.
Chef Waya adds, “I think that more than a craze, eating low-carb and low sugar is here to stay. Gourmet Gypsy has been a leader in providing delicious and healthy meals, baked goods, and desserts made with almond and coconut flour and healthy sugar substitutes. We have also removed sugar and starches from most of our appetizers, salads, salad dressings, and entrees to make it easier for people to make real healthy food choices.”
5. Food preservation to fight food waste
In light of increasing reports of produce going to waste, a number of chefs have sought to counteract this with inventive ways to minimize food waste and spoilage. “I have been going around the country meeting farmers, and food waste is such a huge issue. I think we need to be more proactive in dealing with this problem and extending the shelf life of produce through pickling and jamming (which) can be part of the solution,” shares Chef Waya.
6. A Bicolano dish finds the spotlight
Angelo Comsti points to the favorite stewed taro leaves as the next must-try Filipino dish that both locals and foreigners will likely clamor for. Over the years, the classic laing has become a palette against which chef artists create interpretations of this Bicolano coconut dish. “It has been turned into a longganisa in Bicol and Margarita Forés has been cooking it in events abroad.”
7. Digital delivery
With humongous traffic and increasing gas prices, people think twice before leaving the house to dine out or buy takeout. Thankfully, delivery options have filled this need, becoming more convenient and immediate, especially with the rise of third-party delivery services such as Honestbee, Food Panda, Grab Food, and Lalamove. As long as the service fees remain reasonable, there’s no doubt this will continue to be a viable alternative, helping restaurants as well to extend the scope of their dining services.
8. Premium French
Are French wines getting a resurgence with Filipino wine aficionados? The past years have shown that there is still much love for beloved Bordeauxs, especially if there are more affordable alternatives to premiere growths available. Sherwin Lao of Golden Wines shares, “I feel premium French wines like second labels of Medoc Grand Cru wines are getting more traction. Our Charmes de Kirwan and Les Fiefs de Lagrange, second labels of third growths Château Kirwan and Château Lagrange had record sales last year.”
9. Gin is still in
The past year may have been about discovering gins from around the world, but this year may just ignite more passion for homegrown small batch gins, infused with local botanicals and aromatics to make them wholly Filipino. This includes Crows Hand-Crafted Gin, Sirena Blue Pea Gin, and ARC Botanical Gin to start with, but we can definitely look forward to more inspired infusions in the year to come.
10. Destinations worth dining for
It has been a joy to see dining destinations flourish in previously overlooked spots such as Poblacion, Makati. Not only do these hubs offer diverse dining options, but also present more creative spaces without the restrictions of malls. “I hope more young and brave restaurateurs will continue to put up different food businesses that veer away from malls and turn barangays into foodie destinations,” says Chef Jam Melchor of Yes Plate and the Slow Food Youth Network Philippines. Indeed, it would be wonderful to see more community-centered food destinations become the new normal, not just near business hubs like Makati and Ortigas, but in neighborhoods all around the country.
In the end, the Philippines’ food scene is dynamic and ever evolving. While the above 10 trends are our take on what 2019 has in store, let’s also take these with a grain of salt. More surprises await as long as chefs and restaurateurs are willing to cook beyond their comfort zones.