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The Hunt for Filipino Food: Kusina to Cuisine - The Theresian Cookbook

Posted by JTP on May 26, 2014 at 12:55 PM

Courtesy of Corinne Trang


The Hunt for Filipino Food:Kusina to Cuisine – TheTheresian Cookbook I am a cookbook reviewer, and it’s always exciting to leafthrough pages that offer an insight into a new and vibrant cuisine. AndI am a food writer, so I appreciate the effort it takes to compile sucha book. Kusina to Cuisine – The Theresian Cookbook had me glowing withchild-like joy.

We think we know all about food, don’t we? Those classic French dishesthat are so prized …by the French; sumptuous and spicy curries from theSubcontinent (I am personally addicted); baked goods from these veryshores – yes, we are au fait with food. But then there are plates fromthe Philippines!

I am fortunate to have a dear friend who hails from Manila. She is an‘Old Theresian’ and has contributed to this volume, a compilation ofrecipes from former pupils of St. Theresa’s. For us non-Filipinos, it’sa delicious introduction to a very individual cuisine. There is nothingin this book that would strike epicurean terror into the heart of evena timid European home cook. OK, granted, a very few of the ingredientsmight demand a trip to an Asian supermarket, but that aside, themajority of recipes here are accessible and they are all tempting.

Chef cookbooks are glossy, polished and sometimes intimidating. On theother hand, cookbooks such as Kusina to Cuisine offer a real vision ofhow folks cook and eat, and in this case the cooking and eating isenjoyed in the Philippines. Perhaps I am naïve but I trust recipesfrom home cooks. They take pride in that cake, that sauce, that pasta,those noodles might be dinner every Wednesday night. These particularhome cooks have flair!

I am rather surprised that Filipino restaurants are not flourishingoutside that country. Its foods have so many elements with which we arealready familiar. I have seen menus from the best of Manila’srestaurants and I could book my flight this very moment. The recipeshere are a more domestic take on these dishes but they indicate thevalue of this internationally little-known cuisine.

Good use is made of both fresh fish and shellfish. Pork is prominent,along with chicken. Lots of Asian fruits and herbs but chilli isn’toverpowering. Garlic is evidently popular, along with the expectedChinese accents of soy and rice. It’s a delicious amalgam of all thecultural influences that make these islands what they are today.

I have several favourites from this practical ring-bound collection.Killer Chili Dip is simple and comforting and flexible. Great for aparty and it can be spiced up for those with adult tastes; nothingexotic, admittedly, but worthy of a try. Yema are sweet caramelisedmilk balls that would make delicious gifts if one could bear to giveany away. Toyoma is a pork belly stew with eggs – just a couple ofingredients, used to present a unique dish. Lengua is beef tongue andit takes advantage of that underestimated meat. This recipe turns thathumble offal into dinner party fare with Asian colour.

My dear reader might wonder why I bother to review a book that themajority will not find. Kusina to Cuisine – The Theresian Cookbookisn’t readily available, that’s true. I have used this volume toillustrate the broad appeal of Filipino food and to act as a catalystto ask the question: ‘Where are the Filipino restaurants in London?’Failing that: ‘Where are the cooking classes?’ I am sure I will beadvised that there are one or two but they are not well publicised. Aswe speak I would say that the most authentic food is found in homes.There seems to be little publicity about the dishes, although there arefaint rumbles of enthusiasm from those who have travelled. There arefolks who are endeavouring to introduce Filipino food served from foodtrucks. Word is slowly getting out to those who are open to anothertaste palate.

I will travel to Manila and beyond at the soonest opportunity and enjoylearning about the restaurant trends, classic dishes, home cooking and,undoubtedly, snacking. I will muse on origins of dishes and considerhow to describe this European-infused multi-Asian culinary delight inone word. I guess ‘Filipino’ will do nicely.

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