7 Delicious Ingredients That You Can Find in the Philippines
From aromatic rice and succulent lobster to an indulgent aligue and rich chocolate, we've found some of the most impressive ingredients the country has to offer. Let these seven ingredients deepen your desire to go local and make the recipes specifically made to showcase its flavor potential.
1 Heirloom Rice from Benguet
Heirloom rice is grown in the farmed rice terraces of Benguet. The more-than-2,000-year-old terraces were formed by the region's settlers, developing a comprehensive irrigation system that relies on water from the mountain forests. The different rice varieties and the traditional farming method have been passed on through generations, hence the name "heirloom rice". According to the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), heirloom rice is more aromatic and more flavorful compared to regular varieties. For example, heirloom red rice is softer and stickier than other red rice varieties, making the rice in this dish a wholesome option for white malagkit rice.
2 Lobster from Isabela, Sorsogon, and Palawan
Our waters are home to a bounty of seafood, including lobster. In Isabela, Sorsogon, and Palawan, a variety of lobsters are abundant, including the flathead lobster (pitik), red lobster (pula), and painted spiny lobster (bamboo). The local varieties might not be as huge as Maine lobsters, but their meat is sweet and succulent, with a briny taste and firm texture. When using lobster in recipes, remember that fresh lobster shouldn't be overpowered by bold, heavy sauces. Let its succulent meat shine by pairing it with subtly flavored ingredients such as this delicately sauced pasta.
3 Chocolate from Davao
Because of its rainy tropical climate, the Philippines is one of the few areas in the world where the prized cacao plant grows easily, and Davao is at the forefront of cocoa-bean production. Here, Trinitario, the finest type of bean, is harvested. It has produced award-winning dark chocolate bars like Malagos's 65 percent Dark Chocolate and Askinosie's 77 percent Davao, Philippines Dark Chocolate. The roasted, earthy, and bittersweet flavors of Davao chocolate is the perfect complement to this rich and dense cheesecake.
4 Tuna From General Santos
For the best tuna in the country, look to General Santos City, the Tuna Capital of the Philippines. Its surrounding waters are teeming with yellowfin tuna, making Gen San the country's largest producer of sashimi-grade tuna. Sear this fresh, good-quality tuna just until medium-rare. This will bring out its distinct briny taste and tender texture.
5 Carabao Mango from Guimaras and Zambales
Ask for the most succulent mango and many will agree that the carabao variety grown in Guimaras and Zambales is the best. In fact, the 1995 Guinness Book of World Records listed it as the sweetest in the world! Not only that, it's also rich in vitamin C, beta-carotene, and calcium. The good news is, carabao mangoes are available year round! So, impress your guests with a delicious meal-ender that features layers of fresh, fruity flavors. This no-bake dessert only takes minutes to prepare!
6 Aligue From Pampanga
Aligue, also know as taba ng talangka, is one of the most delicious delicacies from Pampanga. It's the rich orange fat extracted from hundreds of painstakingly shelled mini river crabs. This indulgent ingredient is best mixed with steamed rice, added to seafood stews, or made into pasta sauce. Just a spoonful of aligue is mixed in makes the dish extra flavorful, just like in this delicate yet rich dish.
7 Pili from Bicol
Pili nuts are widely grown in the Bicol region. They taste like pumpkin seeds when raw; when roasted, they become rich, creamy, and buttery, with a soft yet crispy texture. This nut is a nutrition powerhouse, too-it's high in calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and amino acids. Add roughly chopped pili nuts to oatmeal to turn it into a nutritious breakfast that's easy to prepare, especially when you cook the apple mixture the night before.
These impressive ingredients and more are all local, so take advantage of the wealth of food sources that may just be available in your neighborhood to make your best meal yet.
Article "Sariling Atin" by Rachelle Santos and recipes by Him Uy de Baron from April 2016 issue of Yummy magazine. Minor edits were made by the Yummy.ph editors.