Latest Stories

Want to know more about our history? Cook ‘binakol’


COOKING with bamboo Photo by Arnold Almacen

The aroma of chicken binakol fills the classroom as the banana leaf cover is taken off the bamboo tube, an unlikely container in these modern times.

But the smell of the binakol by bamboo master Perry Mamaril is just a prelude to the exquisite experience of sipping its soup and chewing its meat that has been simmered in coconut juice for almost an hour in the pliable yet sturdy grass.

The sourness of guavas and kamias (bilimbi), the sweetness of half-ripe bananas and coconut meat, and the pungent taste of ginger and lemongrass are among the flavors that burst in one’s mouth. They are meant not only to satisfy gastronomical urges but also to invoke a sense of pride in an ingenious technique crafted by our Filipino ancestors and still practiced by some ethnic groups today.

Part of the binakol charm is the sugary taste of the fresh membrane lining inside the tube, Mamaril says in an interview after his cooking demo for a food-writing workshop at Enderun Colleges in Taguig City.

Sporting dreadlocks, a bandana and tattoo, the artist-chef says, “Using bamboo as a cooking vessel from time to time is a way of reviving the old tradition.”

Cooking is learning “history at its best,” says the Baguio native Mamaril, who cooks and decorates Filipino restaurants in New York City.

Pamana ng Pilipino awardee Amy Besa, the facilitator and main lecturer of the three-day food-writing workshop, points out: “Preservation of culinary heritage just doesn’t mean documentation. It means cooking and eating those foods again so they remain part of the people’s lives.”

Old recipes, old cooking techniques, old kitchen equipment are the key to preserving Filipino cuisine, she says.

“Flavors of food changed when they were no longer cooked in clay pots or bamboo tubes,” says Besa.

Photo by Arnold Almacen

The taste of the bamboo-cooked binakol is different from the chicken that we         usually eat, adds Besa, who co-owns with her husband the Purple Yam restaurant in Brooklyn, New York.

One of Besa’s advocacies is to show Filipinos that, despite 300 years of colonization, there are still many dishes and culinary practices that are ours, “that come from us.”

Beyond adobo

“Everybody thinks that they know Filipino food because they know adobo, sinigang … But there is so much more to Filipino food, so much more to learn,” said the owner of Purple Yam, a restaurant that serves Filipino dishes in New York.

In 2011, Besa formed Ang Sariling Atin (food that was always ours)  Culinary Heritage Institute  to preserve heirloom recipes and educate culinary students about old Philippine cooking techniques and traditional equipment as they help poor rural villages set up “community kitchens.”

“It’s an exchange of knowledge … a two-way process,” says the coauthor of “Memories of Philippine Kitchens.”  “We will send culinary students, who are being trained with Western methods, to the rural areas. When the students go there, they will learn about the food in that area. In exchange, these people will learn culinary school skills such as how to fry properly and bake.”

Enderun culinary students have committed to assisting the nonprofit organization. Besa hopes to get other culinary schools to participate when they start developing more community kitchens.

“Food unites everyone,” says Besa. It is “the easiest way to share philosophy and organize people.”

PERRY Mamaril

The community kitchen, she says, aims to alleviate poverty in rural communities while promoting native ingredients, dishes and cooking methods.

Besa says commercially produced powders and pastes should not replace fruits and vegetables as ingredients for dishes.

“If people now prefer packaged goods than the real thing then they (fresh ingredients) will disappear. We will lose our cultural heritage,” she notes.

Slow food preferable

Bamboo artist Mamaril says  if you love food, you will prefer the long and slow process.

“There is no shortcut. You can just add powder to the dish and it will be delicious but nothing beats fresh ingredients,” he says.

The Philippines is blessed with natural resources. “In the province, you can pick green mangoes and other fruits, or harvest crops from your own backyard and create a dish,” he says.

His binakol is a concoction of coconut juice and meat, guava, cassava, banana, kamias, ginger, lemongrass and garlic—a reinvention of the dish popular in Aklan, Batangas and Iloilo.

Philippine culture and history writer John Silva, who is one of the participants, says he grew up eating casserole-cooked binakol in Iloilo. Mamaril’s version of the dish has a fuller taste, Silva says. “There’s an explosion of flavors,” he says.  “The cooking style also engendered a personal appreciation of our Filipino culture.”

Besa says most Philippine dishes have versions in different regions of the country.

“You can go everywhere, you find out there is so much more to learn,” she says. “And the more you learn about the food and culture, the more you’ll love your country.”

E-mail rgranali@inquirer.com.ph

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: cooking , Education , News

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. Estrada: Gigi Reyes won’t testify vs JPE
  2. Gigi Reyes’ only option: tell all
  3. Unease in Vatican over cardinal’s luxury flat—report
  4. Santiago sees Palace hand in Gigi’s return
  5. Malaysia Airlines jet turns back after tire burst
  6. Gigi Reyes back to face charges
  7. Aquino vows to intensify anti-corruption drive further
  8. In the know: Gigi Reyes
  9. Healing priest invites political leaders to join ‘prayer for nation’
  10. ‘Malang’ next crocodile attraction after ‘Lolong’
  1. Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano
  2. Suspect in Vhong Navarro mauling tries to leave PH
  3. More legal woes for Cedric Lee
  4. Enrile chief aide back in PH ‘to face charges’
  5. ‘No real progress in PH if dynasties not dismantled’
  6. Henares on Pacquiao bashing: I did not start this
  7. ‘Mom, I love you,’ says text from student on sinking ferry
  8. Massive infra spending set
  9. Fr. Suarez says last Mass on Easter before returning donated land to San Miguel
  10. I’ll follow my conscience on Estrada, says JV Ejercito
  1. KL confirms Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 ended in Indian Ocean
  2. MRT passengers pass the hat for 6-year-old Ashley
  3. Rookie, lady cops lauded for quick response to MOA heist
  4. Malaysia averts another air tragedy; pilot lands troubled plane safely
  5. Revilla says he was joking; Lacson stands by his story
  6. Revilla ‘consulted’ Lacson on how he evaded arrest
  7. Cudia, dismissed for lying, got 99% in conduct
  8. Police rule out foul play in Helena Belmonte’s death as boyfriend is ‘traumatized’
  9. Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano
  10. Hammer-wielding robbers cause chaos at Philippines’ Mall of Asia


  • LPA enters PH, to bring rains and thunderstorms
  • Sing-along saint: Showbiz world gets papal inspiration
  • Two-thirds of underwater search done, no sign of MH370
  • S. Korea prosecutors turn to mobile app for ferry probe
  • 31 dead in Holy Week incidents—NDRRMC
  • Sports

  • Reigning champs Miami open playoffs with win
  • Spurs subdue Mavericks in playoff opener
  • Wawrinka beats Federer to win Monte Carlo Masters
  • Ageless Hopkins pitches 50-50 Mayweather deal
  • Goodbye MGM, Las Vegas for Pacquiao?
  • Lifestyle

  • Miss America: Don’t suspend teen over prom invite
  • Transitions and resurrection in the performing arts
  • ‘Archaeology tour’ of Cebu’s heritage of faith
  • Historic Fort Bonifacio tunnel converted into a septic tank
  • ‘Imports’ from London, and play of the year
  • Entertainment

  • Discovery network cancels Everest jump
  • ‘Captain America’ stays strong atop US box office
  • Easter musings
  • Solenn in shorts
  • Unmerry mix of attention-calling moves on ‘Mini-Me’ TV tilts
  • Business

  • Oil prices down in quiet Asian trade
  • Asian shares mixed in holiday-thinned trade
  • BDO seen keen on bidding for Cocobank
  • Bataan freeport investment pledges up 1,302%
  • Golden Week
  • Technology

  • PH has slowest internet in Southeast Asia
  • Nintendo’s trailblazing Game Boy marks 25th anniversary
  • Nasa’s moon-orbiting robot crashes down
  • Netizens pay respects to Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Nokia recalls 30,000 chargers for Lumia 2520 tablet
  • Opinion

  • Gigi’s home
  • Palace stonewalls on MRT inquiry
  • Couple of things too
  • There is plenty of water behind Wawa Dam
  • Triduum thoughts of a young boy
  • Global Nation

  • Obama on mission to quiet Asia skeptics
  • Search for Etihad passengers launched
  • Japan presents $57-B ‘dream plan’ to solve Metro congestion
  • Tim Tebow’s charity hospital in Davao seen to open in 7 months
  • OFW died of Mers-CoV in Saudi Arabia, says family
  • Marketplace