DAVAO -- Chef JP Anglo is one very busy guy.
In the past couple of months, he's worked on a new culinary show, got engaged, and launched his food up into the skies.
In his new series “Show Me the Market,” Anglo tag-teams with celebrity food blogger Joel "The Marketman" Binamira to explore wet markets around the country.
It is one of the flagship programs of the new Metro Channel and was borne out of Binamira's obsession with the humble palengke. The duo looks for produce not commonly found everywhere else and Anglo is tasked to come up with recipes highlighting the ingredient.
The latest feather in Anglo’s culinary cap is having one of his dishes make its way into the new AirAsia Santan in-flight menu.
AirAsia, long a champion of Asian flavors, tasked Anglo to create a dish featuring Davao’s famed Malagos chocolate. He didn’t take the easy way out by concocting a smoothie or a dessert. Anglo already serves Lechon Kawali with Chocolate Sauce in his restaurant Sarsa, so he's quite comfortable with the savory pairing of chocolate and rice.
His new creation, Roasted Dalandan Chicken with Pimiento Sauce, was launched at a special preview for the press and bloggers from Manila, Cebu, and Malaysia at a special dinner at the Malagos Garden Resort's Koi Cafe in Davao.
He cited a pimiento-batwan chorizo dish he cooked in Spain for Madrid Fusion, and mole, a rich thick spicy chocolate sauce, as his inspirations for the dish, which will be available on all AirAsia domestic and international flights in the Philippines with Z2 flight code starting April 12.
A dressed-up version was served at the Davao event with sides of roasted garlic, grilled bananas, and grilled corn.
The chicken’s acidity from the tuba vinegar and dalandan marinade nicely tempered the pleasant bitterness and heat from the sauce's chocolate and pimiento. Personally, I would have liked it spicier but I could understand that they needed this at a safe heat level to cater to all passengers. The version of this dish that will be available to AirAsia passengers will be served on top of garlic rice with slices of bell pepper.
If that wasn’t enough, Anglo also served a shawarma variation using spicy pulled pork. A perfect bite of the tortilla, pulled pork, garlic sauce, Malagos chocolate sauce, and shavings of Malagos peppercorn cheese had complex flavors intermingling together.
Anglo also mixed in deep-fried bits of crispy pork fat whose crunch was a surprising contrast of texture with the pulled pork’s tenderness.
Amid selfies from the dinner guests and praises for his food, it was nice to see Anglo remain grounded despite his “rockstar” status. The chef stayed at the open kitchen until the last portions of the two dishes were served to guests. And at the end, he had great things to say about his collaborators in the Koi Café kitchen and the AirAsia ancillary team.
Anglo said he would like, in his own little way, to help improve the image of airplane food.
"There’s a misconception that airplane food sucks because it’s mass-produced. But if there’s a little care into it...," Anglo said about his collaboration with AirAsia.
"Also you don’t have to take first class or business class to have good food.”
Meanwhile, Anglo shared that he is busy coming up with a new concept for his Sarsa Group which will launch later this year.
Aside from this and wedding preparations, he will be participating at this year’s Madrid Fusion “Innovating Traditions" event which reflects his “breaking the rules, but still knowing the rules” kitchen philosophy.
But before these, Anglo is taking a much-needed break by tagging along with AirAsia to the Ubud Food Festival in Bali, Indonesia where he hopes to find new flavors to add to his culinary stockpile.
“I’d like to think I’m just warming up. I have still a lot of tricks up my sleeves. I’m a bit of an adventurous guy. When I travel, I see new things. When I taste and experience all of these unfamiliar flavors, then my mind starts to think again. It’s a never-ending journey, and there will always be something new,” assured Anglo.
If this is Anglo warming for take-off, we can’t wait for what he comes up with when he takes flight.