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Binagoongan fit for a Queen

Posted on July 26, 2015 at 7:40 PM

Courtesy of Stella Sait 


Can you ever imagine Her Majesty The Queen feast upon binagoongan and rice? Maybe someday. Maybe soon.

Our humble everyday dish, binagoongan baboy (pork in shrimp paste) might be making its way to the royal dining table. A world famous chef who has catered for Her Majesty The Queen, has transformed this simple Filipino speciality into a classy, sophisticated one.'

Chef Cyrus Todiwala OBE (Order of the British Empire) of the popular Cafe Spice Namaste in London, was inspired by a binagoongan recipe from a talented Filipina, the late Des Rodriguez Torres. The original recipe, a heirloom from the Rodriguez family of Pampanga, was already a quiet hit among a number of Manila’s food lovers, as Des would happily share her special version with family and friends.

The lovely culinary expert is a friend and classmate since kindergarten and would always pride herself in her Kapampangan heritage. She added her own take on the family recipes and shared these dishes when she joined the now famous Salcedo Community Market in Makati a few years ago, where she was one of the organisers. Her daughters have now taken over her bright red Pamangan stall showcasing Kapampangan mouthwatering and scrumptious entrees.

Des’ original binagoongan must have so woven its magic hand on the acclaimed chef’s palate that he decided to enhance it further with special Goan mixes and spices. Chef Cyrus and his wife Pervin first decided to introduce it at a small fund-raising dinner at his restaurant right after Typhoon Yolanda struck the Philippines in 2013, then at another fund-raiser for the same cause, a £120-pound a plate benefit at The Savoy Hotel in London in October 2014 attended by 200 people (including me).

Its popularity has prompted yet another encore. This time, as a tribute dish to our very brave Des who recently lost her battle with cancer. Cafe Spice Namaste offered it as special dish for the Find Your Feet poverty action charity in June, but it has now been extended for another month.

Chef Cyrus’s version resembles a sweet and spicy curry where the spices complement the saltiness of the bagoong or shrimp paste. You can still taste the shrimp paste but the fishy shrimpy after taste has disappeared. Instead, a savoury kick takes its place which makes it even more delectable. It is gentle, not too strong and overpowering as most binagoongan recipes are. Of course. you have to eat it with steamed rice and this appetizing binagoongan just melts in your mouth. You eat more and you realise how addicting it can get.

He makes use of pork belly as the main ingredient and this sits on a creamy sauce that seems like a strong curry. There is a Parsee twist somewhere that truly makes it a gastronomic delight. Most important of all, it goes well with other Indian and Goan dishes being offered at the prestigious Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurant.

Having cooked for Her Majesty The Queen during her Diamond Jubilee, I would not be surprised if the innovative chef someday tempts Her Majesty and the royal family to try this exquisite dish.

It would be a dream come true for Des should Her Majesty one day, ask her Royal Household, “what’s for tea?”

To which they curtsy and politely answer, “Binagoongan fit for a Queen, Your Majesty!”

Categories: Press Release, InfoNews, Tradebooks

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