Rice too pricey? Ex-DOH chief suggests ‘unli kamote’
MANILA, Philippines — Not only extra “kamote” and “unli” kamote, but also garlic kamote, yang chow kamote, sushi kamote (wrapped in nori, of course), kamote paella and, go figure, kamote tapuy.
The possibilities are endless if one were to adopt Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin’s recommendation to promote kamote or sweet potato as an alternative to rice.
She urged the Department of Agriculture to lead that effort. “One way of doing this is to increase production and make the necessary investment in root crops in terms of agricultural research, food technology, or marketing,” Garin said in a statement on Tuesday.
“Our love for rice has given birth to the famous ‘extra rice’ and ‘unli rice’ cultures,” she also said, adding that “we encourage restaurants to try using kamote in place of rice and even French fries. What we need today are innovations in the kitchen.”
This means the popular “arroz valenciana” in her home province can be innovated accordingly.
And how about mashed kamote instead of potatoes?
But to be sure, the lawmaker and former health secretary had in mind a possible rice shortage next year with her suggestion.
Rice production has been a thorny issue in government, prompting the previous administration of Rodrigo Duterte to introduce rice tariffication in 2019, which in turn led to rice imports that imperiled local production.
The problem of rice supply continues to bedevil the Marcos administration, and last month the Federation of Free Farmers warned of a shortage next year because of low palay output and the damage left by Supertyphoon “Karding” (international name: Noru).
Garin’s idea is also not without basis. Inquirer columnist Segundo Eclar Romero on Tuesday cited agronomist Ted Mendoza’s recommendation in a recent forum that Filipinos should “shift more toward a plant- and fish-based diet for food self-sufficiency, environmental sustainability and health reasons.”
But the congresswoman was also inspired by culinary thoughts.
She said Filipinos will quickly adapt to kamote if it is added to restaurant menus as an alternative to rice or potato dishes.
Incentives could also be introduced to encourage restaurants to serve kamote, she added.
Change of attitude
Considering “our fondness for rice” and “our meals having been designed to complement rice,” Garin said, “it’s high time we changed our attitude toward both rice and root crops.”
She clarified that she was not saying that people completely abandon rice, but rather “include root crops as part of one’s diet, as root crops are beneficial to overall nutrition.”
She noted that Japan, South Korea and the United States have adopted sweet potatoes as a “superfood,” whereas here, the crop is rejected and seen as inferior.
Garin also emphasized the health benefits of the fiber-rich kamote, which she said can help lower hypertension, bad cholesterol and blood sugar, unlike rice which breaks down into sugar in the body.
“Now that we have a problem with rice supply and high consumption of rice is linked with Type 2 diabetes, it’s about time that we watch our diets and avoid eating too much rice,” the lawmaker said.
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