MANILA -- "Where's my patis?" asked Lanai Tabura, a famous chef in Hawaii whose roots trace back to the Philippines, as he looks around for what he uses in place of bagoong in his own recipe for pinakbet. He doesn't like the pungent smell of it, he admitted.
Tabura was cooking for a modest crowd of around 100 hundred people during a forum co-hosted by the Department of Tourism focusing on the potential of local food as tourists' lure.
The three-hour long talk, held Thursday, highlighted the need to promote abroad the diversity of Filipino cuisine in which recipes for a single dish can differ vastly from one place to another, based on who is cooking it or who it is being cooked for.
Tabura's pinakbet, which also has longganisa, could be seen as a good example of this.
For one, he uses patis instead of bagoong. He also shared that the recipe was passed down from his lola, who only came up with it because there was always sweet longganisa in their fridge.
According to the forum's host, celebrated chef Claude Tayag, one of the hallmarks of Filipino cuisine is the lack of "fixed recipes."
"Recipes are just a guide but we (Filipinos) make do with what we have, what is preferred," Tayag explained. "The dish will always conform to the maker."
The forum also invited Charles Olalia, whose restaurant Ma'am Sir in Los Angeles was recently named among the best new places to dine in for 2019 by GQ magazine, and Tom Cunanan, perhaps one of the most recognized chefs cooking Pinoy food in the US.
Both of them called for more "exposure" for regional dishes.
Cunanan said: "If you go to an Italian resto, you can tell that this pasta is from a different region in Italy and it's really important that Filipinos should know that [about our own food], too."
"There's a lot of valuable information in knowing where this durian came from or where did this kamias came from --there's so much to know and learn and I need to continue learning.," he added.
Olalia, whose known for "extraordinary Filipino rice bowls," as per the GQ article, said that he plans to incorporate the things he learned from this two-week long immersion, which took them from Pampanga to Davao, into his future menu items.
"It gave me appreciation for the type of cooking that actually lives in the Philippines, and that not everything has to be learned from the West. What's actually here is delicious," said Olalia.
Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat was also at the forum co-organized by the World Food Expo.
She praised all three of the guest chefs for "shedding blood, sweat and tears to give Filipino food the global popularity it enjoys today."
You can check out the full talk, which was held at the Tent at Enderrun Colleges in Taguig, below: