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From pampanga with love

Culinarya Pampanga consists of group of friends, chefs and restaurateurs from Pampanga whose goal is to preserve the province’s heritage food and actively promote it.

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Pampanga is the culinary capital of the Philippines, and for all good reasons, too! For one, it boasts of a distinct cuisine that marries exotic flavors and familiar tastes. It is home to such unique and oh-so-flavorful dishes as pindang damulag (carabao’s meat marinated to become tocino), buru or buro (fermented rice, usually eaten with fried or grilled fish and steamed vegetables), sisig (pork face and ears cooked with chopped onion and bell pepper to sizzling doneness and topped with egg), kilayin (pork and innards simmered in vinegar) and tidtad (Kapampangan version of dinuguan, with the pig’s blood stewed with green chili).

To enjoy authentic Kapampangan dishes, foodies usually drive all the way to Pampanga to dine in the province’s famous restaurants. Most of them are owned and manned by professional chefs who are proud of their Kapampangan roots and dedicated to promoting Kapampangan cuisine in mainstream Metro Manila and the rest of the country. So, they elevate Kapampangan dishes, both in taste and presentation, to make them at par with the best in the market. This way, when they drive up to have a taste of what Pampanga has to offer, the food would indeed be worth the trip.

Truffled Crispy Pork Belly Macadamia Kare-Kare by chef Sau del Rosario. / Photographs courtesy of Dolly Dy-Zulueta and Culinarya Pampanga

But in the face of the coronavirus pandemic and the shift of Metro Manila and surrounding provinces to modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) status, that special food trip to Pampanga just could not happen.

So, some of the province’s top chefs gathered together under the Culinarya Pampanga banner and decided to bring Pampanga to Metro Manila by making the signature dishes they offer in their respective Pampanga-based restaurant available in Metro Manila via delivery service on a daily basis. To make the trip shorter and food delivery more economical, the group — composed of chefs Sau del Rosario of 25 Seeds and Café Fleur, Den Lim of DenLim’s Kitchen, Howard Dizon of Howard Dizon’s Catering, Cherry Pasion-Tan of Apag Marangle, Vince Garcia of Rainforest Kitchene, Judy Uson of Café Noelle, Froi Cruz of Cioccolo and legendary home cook Aling Mila Gomez of Mila’s Tokwa’t Baboy — decided to set up their hub right in the heart of Metro Manila, where the group can easily dispatch food upon order.

Culinarya Pampanga is an assembly of chefs actively promoting Kapampangan cuisine.

A group of friends, chefs and restaurateurs from Pampanga whose goal is to preserve the province’s heritage food and actively promote it, Culinarya Pampanga has actually been in existence for quite a few years now. The chefs worked together during the APEC in 2015 and then the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games held in Angeles City in 2019.

After successfully pulling off such important national events, the group decided that it was time to bring Kapampangan heritage food to Metro Manila. They set up a commissary/delivery hub at Bistro 62, 62 Victoria Avenue, New Manila, Quezon City, where the eight chefs bring their dishes in chilled or frozen form after preparing them in their own kitchens in Pampanga. When an order comes in, the food is fired up and assembled then packed carefully for delivery so that customers may be able to enjoy them as if they just came out of the chefs’ kitchen(s) in Pampanga. Upon request, the food may be delivered in frozen form.

Since operations just started on 28 July this year, the ordering system is still being tweaked to serve customers more efficiently. But as it is, Culinarya Pampanga is being met with a very warm reception as well as positive, encouraging and inspiring feedback from all over Metro Manila. A lot of customers even share their Culinarya Pampanga experience by posting photos and rave reviews on their social media accounts. It also helps that the new food delivery culture borne out of the lockdown has grown by leaps and bounds in the past few months.

All items on the menu are moving fast — humba (braised sweet pork belly with spices), kalderetang baka (spicy beef chunk stew in tomatoes with vegetables) and relyenong bangus (stuffed whole boneless milkfish with minced milkfish meat) by chef Cherry Tan; truffle crispy pork belly (macadamia kare-kare served with Malagos tsokolate bagoong), sisig paella (thrice-cooked pork and chicken liver in soymansi) and duck confit adobo (eight-hour, sous-vide duck with paksiw na demonyo) by chef Sau del Rosario; asadong dila (slow-cooked ox tongue with castañas), Bistig Capampangan (bistek or braised beef cooked in calamansi, soy and onion) and menudo (classic pork, liver in tomato stew and vegetables) by chef Howard Dizon; callos (beef tripe and beef cheek Spanish stew with chorizo), begukan (pork binagoongan with eggplant and green chili) and kilayin (simmered pork and innards in vinegar) by chef Den Lim; pindang damulag (carabao’s meat made into tocino), fried apahap with buru (whole fish with fermented rice and steamed vegetables) and chicken galantina (stuffed then steamed chicken roulade topped with rice) by chef Vince Garcia; pastel de lengua (tender ox tongue stew with a buttery pastry crust on top), home style roast beef (tender pot roast with mushroom gravy) and prawns gambas in aligue sauce (prawns cooked in crab fat) by chef Judy Uson; tidtad (pork stew in pig’s blood with green chili), Spanish-style chicken afritada (bone-in, free-range chicken stewed in tomatoes) and horning pistu (baked pork meatloaf with chorizo and ham) by chef Froi Cruz; and tocino barbeque (grilled pork tocino skewers) and tokwa’t baboy (grilled pork and fried tofu in soy and vinegar) by Aling Mila Gomez.

Pastel de lengua by chef Judy Uson.

To order, call 0917-3242768, from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Payment can be made via GCash, BDO and BPI. Orders may be picked up from the Culinarya Pampanga commissary in Quezon City; while delivery options include Grab, Lalamove and Mr. Speedy.

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