THE journey for tasteful traditional food will take you to the nooks and crannies of the region, making each province’s taste pallet different from the rest, creating a flavour distinctly original.
The Department of Tourism has embarked on a Cordillera Heritage Culinary Journey bringing into the limelight traditional ingredients which make indigenous food extraordinary.
The DOT started with a Cordillera Cuisine Enhancement Training Workshop for home stay owners and establishments in the region in a bid to improve food as well as services.
Dean Laarni Andam of the University of the Cordilleras College of Hospitality And Tourism Management said a tourists look for a complete package when travelling, a combination of sightseeing, shopping, comfortable accommodation and food, are integral parts of travelling.
Often times, food is an indication of culture and tradition, making home cooking fall off standards set by the industry of chefs, making it unique and definitive of a pride of place and heritage.
Andam said it is not the practice to standardize indigenous cuisine as to allow the tradition and distinction to stay but offered the trend nowadays to fuse it.
Andam who co owns local restaurant, Green Pepper Gourmet with Charlene Macalalag, who also teaches at UC, Dynah Gonzales of Lihim ni Maria and Damian Restaurant at Ili Likha Chef Alexander Molintas of the University of Baguio with Charlyn Buangan, a culinary professor and Jerry Acebes Cabalce, President at Batanes Wakay Travel & Tours Incorporated journeyed with the DOT to explore highland food in the hopes to bring home new recipes for their own restaurants, bringing a piece of the region with them in their food.
The Ifugao province is known for its majestic terraces, hand carved woodworks and hospitality of locals making every traveller’s experience unique in its own but more than its scenery, food in these parts combine tradition and culture.
The Ifugao Food Journey
The Ibulao – Ibulao bed and breakfast in Kiangan, is owned and managed Doctors Roberto and Tess Kalugdan, every corner of the intricate home will both amaze and humble visitors at the simple beauty of Ifugao woodwork combined with the extensive collection of the couple.
Tess said building the home started in 1999 with the intention to house relatives who often visit on vacation “Our nieces and nephews alone reach 30 pax already, so we wanted to build a comfortable place when they visit.”
As they were building their home, friends would come over and marvel at the modern yet traditional feel the home reflects, taking iconic pieces from their collection and using it for interiors “They started to ask if we could serve meals for small, scheduled occasions, then they asked if they could come and sleep over,” Tess relayed the early beginnings of a family home turned quaint guest house by the Ibulao river.
Today the Kalugdan homestay can accommodate as much as 50 with an additional 10 when the last leg of their expansion is finished; they have a function room for meetings and a dining hall for gatherings.
The homestay is now known to serve traditional food with a twist, taking local cuisine into another level, making guests appreciate the delicacies of the province even more “We both love to eat and experiment with food,” Tess said.
For that night, dinner started with a thick potato leek soup with crunchy Pinunog bits paired with a salad made of Pako (a native fern) in a local vinegar dressing, for the main dish, a pan fried native chicken breast was served with Tinawon native rice and sides of vegetables, for dessert local banana “Dippig” deep fried into a crispy turon with a selections of pickled lituko fruits or the local rattan.
Pinunog or smoked meat is common in the region but for areas in Ifugao, it is made almost like a sausage falvored with onions and garlic, in some areas the Pinunog is made of pig’s blood, the way of cooking and smoking differs in each place which is dictated by tradition and necessity.
Robert said the menu changes to suit the specifications of guests and they also keep a log of guests and food served to avoid repetition in each visit.
The Homestay association of Kiangan
The association is composed of owners and operators of homestay accommodation which is part of the charm of the staying in Ifugao. A homestay is set up like your personal abode with a family looking over your needs.
Food is served family style composed mostly of local food and vegetables cooked in the traditional way.
For lunch the menu was composed of authentic Inlagim Chicken (cooked over the fire) which has more flavour supermarket bought fowls, butchered and cut the way locals do, vegetables for the meal was composed of Pihing Itum or gabi leaves steamed and folded into squares after flavouring with with ginger, onions, garlic and salt paired with a fern or Paku salad was made with tomatoes, thinly sliced pinnnog, red eggs and onions.
Local cooks, Paning Gumulten, Ester Linawen and Agapita Tindaan prepared locally smoked Pinnnog served with Itab or freshly picked local beans and Kuwiwiw local shells cooked also in beans, for dessert, the rice cakes, binakle was served.
Ifugao is one of many stops the DOT plans to make with local and international chefs, hoping to fuse the local cuisine into mainstream kitchens making Cordilleran flavour world-class.
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on October 19, 2016.
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