Only in Secrets of the Masters!

2 05 2010

I JUST caught the latest episode of Secrets of the Masters – this one with the tagline, “On the road!” – and I couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride, both for the wealth of culinary talent we have, and the sustainable bounty of the sea and the earth that can find their way to our dining table.  Chef Boy Logro was the featured culinary master and he did a wonderful job getting this message across.

The Taal Volcano and Lake

The show took me on a gastronomic adventure of Tagaytay City and the surrounding Taal Lake.  Chef Boy, together with a couple of guests from the Taal Vista Hotel, prepared a total of five dishes that put local ingredients on the spotlight, front and center.

He started with Al Horno Ostras Y Quesillo (Baked Oysters with Kesong Puti), an homage to the bivalves that thrive abundantly in the city’s nearby waters.  I like the potent mix of whirred greens (basil and spinach among others) that he slathered on to each oyster.  It’s so much better than a solitary, sad spinach leaf that makes it to a Rockefeller.

Pinausukan Yaman Taal ng Maliputo at Unsoy” (Steamed Maliputo Fish with Unsoy Herb) featured this fish that is indigenous to the Taal Lake.  The poaching liquid used was a heady mix of Chinese wine, oyster sauce, some kind of mushroom sauce, onion leeks, and pungent ginger, among others.  But the star flavor comes from the “unsoy” herb, also indigenous to Tagaytay.  I don’t think I’ve ever come across it – unless it’s some hybrid or derivative of the “wansuy” (fresh coriander).

The Taal Vista “Bulalo” (beef bone marrow in a ginger broth with fresh vegetables) by Chef Babes Austria brought this dish to a whole new level as her broth used coconut water!  I was also fascinated by her use of a whole vine of fresh peppercorns, but more so by her presentation of the soup in a coconut shell.

Crispy Taal Lake Tawilis with Tagaytay Micro Greens in Calamansi Vinaigrette featured yet another seafood that originated locally, the “tawilis.”  It was cleaned (gutted), then seasoned with salt and pepper before being dredged in flour and then deep-fried to a crisp.  It was served on a bed of the baby greens and dressed ever so lightly with the simplest of vinaigrettes – just fresh calamansi juice, salad oil, salt and pepper.

Herbs Aromat Crepe with Tagaytay Tinapa and Seafoods began with an “unsoy” herbed crepe.  Chef Boy swirled his batter to perfection on a lightly greased non-stick skillet that I scrambled for paper to take down the proportions of his “perfect” batter.  Each very thin herb pancake was filled with seafood – mussels, fillets of Maliputo fish, squid, and smoked tawilis – before getting nestled on a layer of bechamel sauce, smothered with mozzarella cheese, and then baked.

I’ve often wondered why Filipino cuisine hasn’t shattered the glass ceiling of international renown.  At some point I thought that probably its because unlike the Thai with their sweet basil and Tom Yum, the Vietnamese with their mint and pho, the Chinese with their peanut oil and dim sum, the Japanese with their miso, nori and raw fish, and the Indian with their curry, Filipino dishes aren’t yet defined by a unifying flavor or ingredient.

But one thing is for sure.  We come from an archipelago blessed abundantly by nature, with talent that is truly on a par with the best in the world.  Secrets of the Masters shows us exactly that.

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