MANILA -- Like Filipino cuisine, Colombian food has many influences — from Spanish to African to English to Turkish. This South American cuisine also varies in flavors and technique depending on the region of the country.
But what makes Filipino and Colombian cuisines similar is that both use almost the same ingredients.
“You are going to try food that has similar ingredients you have here in the Philippines. However, the preparation and technique is totally different,” explained Colombian chef Rey Guerrero during the first-day celebration of Colombian Gastronomic Week.
“[Colombian food is] diverse and features different flavors. You cannot describe Colombian food in one single flavor, because each region in Colombia has different ingredients,” he said.
The chef showcases the flavors of Colombia's Pacific region in a special four-day event at Spices restaurant at The Peninsula Manila in Makati City. The three-course offering is available to the public from October 4 to 5, for P2,800. The dishes on the menu are also available a la carte.
The menu mostly consists of traditional Colombian dishes in the Pacific coast of the country. And it is mostly comprised of seafood dishes.
According to chef Guerrero, who operates the Sabor Pacifico seafood restaurant in Bogota, he has to ship some specialty ingredients from the coastal region to Colombia's capital, which is 10 hours away by land. One such ingredient is a kind of snail and clam that live in the mangroves.
One of the appetizers on the menu is the Ceviche Mixto Piangua y Piacuil, which uses the mangrove clams and snails.
Chef Guerrero brought in dehydrated clams and snails from Colombia for the special food affair. The shellfish were re-hydrated and served ceviche style, which is similar to kinilaw. It uses onions, tomatoes, cilantro, vinegar, coconut milk and to make it a bit Asian, he added soy sauce to the dish. Using a smoke gun, he also smoked the dish with dried oregano.
“Soy sauce is not commonly used in Colombian food. I used it as a bridge to have a familiar flavor,” he said.
Another appetizer is the Aborrajados de Pescado, which is a deep-fried plantain and coconut croquette with smoked sea bass and cheese served with a sesame sauce. There's also the Patacones Endiablados which is a shredded fried plantain with shrimp sauce, parmesan cheese and topped with a shrimp.
For the entrees, there's the Cazuela de Mariscos or seafood casserole, mixed seafood cooked in coconut milk seasoned with coriander and pennyroyal, an herb in the mint family.
Another is the Pandao de Pescado or sea bass fillet wrapped in banana leaf topped with coconut milk and fresh herbs. This is served with a special gravy that also uses the special herb mix from Colombia.
Then there's the Arroz Putiao or rice sauteed with seafood and Colombian longaniza. Chef Guerrero said that like Filipinos, Colombians also eat a lot of rice but rice dishes are mostly seasoned with aromatics and herbs.
For dessert, the chef opted to serve two dishes: the Dulce Pacifico or mango ice cream on top of caramelized coconut candy; and the Flan Aromas de Nuqui which is a flan topped with coconut and anise syrup.
“This celebration is in collaboration with The Peninsula Manila. During this week, we're going to showcase the Pacific cuisine from Colombia. Expect seafood, expect a lot of flavors and spices,” said David Montoya, charge d'affaires of Embassy of Colombia in the Philippines.