MANILA -- Corniche at the Diamond Hotel Manila is once again celebrating Filipino heritage cuisine with its Philippine Culinary Heritage Food Festival, which is ongoing until June 30.
Corniche has been featuring leading Filipino culinarians as guest chefs in this annual food festival, and for this year, it invited celebrity chef Cristopher Carangian to curate and showcase his dishes in the buffet.
Carangian is the founder and president of Razorchef Philippines, as well as the punong heneral of the Culinary Generals of the Philippines. He has appeared in various television shows with his signature dishes, which are featured in the Corniche buffet.
Carangian’s passion for Philippine cuisine takes root in his desire to revive forgotten recipes to promote the Philippines’ historical identity.
“We decided to feature ‘maharlika cuisine’ or pre-colonial food. Nire-revive natin ang mga documents na sinulat ni Pigafetta, na ito 'yung mga binigay sa kanila ng mga locals in the Philippines… We decided to create Philippine heritage cuisine, featuring traditional food and culture, food related to our heroes, and [related] to the belief of people in the province… Ito 'yung kasaysayan, tradisyon, at kultura, ng mga pagkain natin,” explained Carangian when asked on his inspiration in creating the dishes featured for the Corniche buffet.
Hailing from Bacoor, this Caviteno brought exciting new dishes to the Corniche spread like his signature dish, the Ciento Quinse. This extinct Chavacano dish is gaining popularity again, with some people calling Carangian the "inventor" of the Ciento Quinse. The chef is quick to correct them to say that it’s an old recipe, and relishes telling the story behind the nuances of cooking this dish.
Ciento Quinse is named for the 115 chilies that are added to the ingredients—usually vegetables and protein. This dish has two versions—one for the “poorer” households where it contains kangkong instead of langka, and the “rich” version (the one featured in the buffet), which is indulgent with seafood like shrimp and crabs with langka and pork.
Unlike the traditional version though, the Corniche version has less chilies, to suit more palates. In a nutshell, this dish took the best of a ginataang langka and married it with the richness and gloriousness that seafood has to offer, made more interesting with a hint of spice. Definitely a must-try and delicious with some Sinaing na Pandan (rice steamed with pandan leaves), also in the buffet.
On the meaty side of things, there was the Warik Warik. This dish, that resembles the more common sisig, is a traditional Northern Luzon dish that’s steeped in cultural history. Used in divination during the pre-colonial days, Cariangan narrates that when people were making decisions, they would take care of a pig and then conduct a slaughtering ritual that would "read" the entrails of the pig to guide them in making a decision. After divination, they would then cook the pig in charcoal for a long time, imbuing the meat with a bitter taste.
For the Corniche, Carangian dialed down on the bitterness, but retained the grilled flavor that charcoal brings to meat, resulting in a smokey sisig-type dish with ginger and aromatics, and a beguiling back note of liver.
Cariangan also had Caviteno dishes on offer like the Pansit Langlang of Imus that was mentioned in "El Filibusterismo" by Dr. Jose Rizal, a sotanghon dish generously topped with chicken, quail eggs, shrimps and vegetables.
Other dishes included Adobong Dilaw ni Aguinaldo, a chicken adobo with turmeric and coconut cream; and the Mutya ng Cavite, a light coconut chowder that had generous flavors and portions of seafood like clams and shrimp.
The carving station also drew a crowd with perennial crowd-pleasing lechon, which Cariangan made more traditional by using native black pig, but with the same delicious cracked skin.
Barakong Bibe was also another dish in the carving station—a deep-fried duck marinated with kapeng barako.
For dessert, Cariangan had quite the selection. There was the Minukmok, a pudding of banana and sweet potatoes that was used in courtship rituals. I much preferred his other desserts, especially his Kinampay Sorbetes, which is perhaps my favorite ube ice cream to date – ube and milk/cream in perfect not-too-sweet harmony.
Dark chocolate lovers, meanwhile, should rejoice with a spoonful of his Criollo Sorbetes, an unapologetically bitter ice cream that would perfectly cut the richness of a fatty dish, like lechon.
Chilled and fresh taho, halo-halo, and a bibingka bar were other options, but this author wholly enjoyed munching on the milky goodness of Tinustang Pastillas, which were milky creamy caramels, that were quick to disappear.
The Corniche at Diamond Hotel Manila’s Filipino Food Festival is priced at P2,990 nett per person, and available for lunch or dinner. For a minimum spending of P5,000 at the buffet, diners can get a chance to win a 2-night stay in Baguio.