MANILA -- “A Taste of Negros” featuring celebrated chef Fernando Aracama’s take on Negrense cuisine kicked off Sawsaw by Sau’s regional food series.
This regional food series is an initiative by chef Sau Del Rosario to highlight unsung LuzViMinda flavors and food culture. The food for this and upcoming featured menus is based on heirloom recipes that can be modernized if the guest chef wishes.
“It’s fun to learn from other people and it’s fun to rediscover the roots of other Filipinos.”, remarked Del Rosario.
As for Aracama, the now-retired celebrity chef was behind Uva in Tomas Morato and Greenbelt 1, and Aracama at The Fort Strip -- restaurants that were part of aspirational to-eat lists of many foodies in their heyday.
When teased about his “retirement,” he merely said he was on hiatus.
In fact, it didn’t take much to get Aracama into Sawsaw by Sau’s kitchen. When asked how Del Rosario got him for this event, Aracama simply answered, “He asked”
The genial chef was indeed in his element, saying Del Rosario’s invitation brought back sweaty memories of running a restaurant.
Here’s what Aracama cooked up in Sawsaw’s kitchen:
Aracama said his first bite of kinilaw was a distinct memory. This was the first thing that his father fed him as a kid that he thought was out of this world -- a fresh simple crab taken from a boat swirled and dipped in tuba. The unmistakable sour and slightly sweet notes of tuba made richer and creamier with coconut cream is inspired his father’s northern Negros recipe. Have a bit of this with a gabi chip for a crispy bright bite.
A Negrense menu would not be complete without inasal. Aracama did not want to use chicken as everybody else was doing it. He collaborated with Sawsaw chef Bong Sagmit to sous vide pulpo (octopus) to infuse inasal flavors and keep it soft and tender. Served on a hibachi grill, the aroma was intoxicating even before it reached the table.
Guests had a choice between seafood and meat for their main course. Aracama described the tambo as his most beloved soup. A ginger soup with labong (young bamboo shoots), saluyot, lotus root, and coconut milk loaded with different kinds of crab, prawns, mussels, and sea bass.
The estofado sauce used on the lamb shank is a recipe passed on from Aracama’s grandmother, the aroma from this dish bringing up olfactory memories of a time and place when this was being cooked back in Bacolod. The chef used this dish to highlight his “Tropicalized Spanish” cooking from his Spanish father and Filipino mother, picking out the elements like the ubud achara from Negros’ version of fresh lumpia, and binulud (polenta) that was a staple at a Negrense breakfast table. This was a rather generously portioned dish with many elements. With roasted garlic and singkamas bits, everything brought together makes a perfect mouthful.
The Crispy Ibus highlighted Aracama’s Manila career. This dessert was the showstopper at his UVA Tomas Morato restaurant where he was the first to use muscovado sugar in his latik and coconut milk. Paired with Salabat ice cream for an extra kick, and fresh mangoes, this was a nice combination of flavors and textures to end the meal.
Del Rosario already has a lineup of chefs for the next regional series. Upcoming guest chefs include Den Lim who will feature a different side of Kapampangan cuisine; Datu Shariff Pendatun who will give a taste of Maranao cuisine; and chef Reggie Aspiras who will take diners up north for her take on Ilocano cuisine.
Follow @sawsaw.ph on social media for final schedules and for reservations.