Chef Sau’s culinary touch
CHEF Sau del Rosario is one of the country’s finest celebrity chefs. His Kapampangan roots embody the rich cuisine and culture that he recreates in his culinary dishes that is refining the character of Filipino cookery. A native of Angeles, Pampanga, he grew up with a family whose passion is cooking, very typical of Kapampangans. Pampanga, after all, is the culinary capital of the Philippines. He polished his natural flair for cooking by enrolling in the Culinary Institute of America and gained invaluable experience in France for many years. In fact, he finds time to visit France every year. I had the pleasure of meeting and enjoying Chef Sau’s heirloom dishes in his Villa Café in Makati late last year.
Julie Alegrado-Vergara, president of Bluewater Resorts, which include Maribago, Sumilon and Panglao in Bohol, believes in capturing the discerning market through the palate. Proudly homegrown, Bluewater Maribago Beach Resort is managed by Filipinos, including the executive chef, Alan Mathay. So the celebration of Maribago’s 23rd anniversary as a premier destination with a distinct Filipino brand, started with “Northern Exposure 2012: The Best of Manila Restaurants and Chef Series”, which ran for three weekends. With my travel schedule, I was lucky to catch Chef Sau del Rosario whom I truly admire.
Chef Sau and his Villa Café‘s heirloom recipes from the old villages of his hometown, Angeles in Pampanga gave the Cebuano palates the culinary pampering at the resort’s Allegro Restaurant.
Before heading to the buffet layout, we had Tinapa (smoked fish) Mousse and Tomato Jam on Baguette, which was washed down with chilled white wine. Chef Sau welcomed us as we allowed our eyes to feast on the exquisite Kapampangan fare with Chef Sau’s touch of French sophistication. The appetizers were all worth trying—in small quantities, I reminded myself, to make room for the main courses. I had to have Pako or Fern Salad, Steamed Maya Maya with Mayonesa, Chicken Galantine Roulade, Ceviche with Pomelo. I went back for the Camaru and Vegetable Spring Roll. Camaru or dried locust is a crop pest and a delicacy in Pampanga. It was crunchy and tasty. Not too many are familiar with the “buro” or fermented rice but spreading this on mustard leaves, topped with “hito” (catfish) floss and tomatoes is a culinary novelty. The lowly “suso” (rice paddy golden snails) or escargot in French, were cooked in garlic with coriander and lemon grass in puff pastry. It was exotic and delicious. The popular “sisig” or twice cooked pork cheeks usually served on sizzling plates was a palate pleaser with the addition of Foie Gras and organic egg. The main courses were all tempting and selected what appealed to me most— Lamb Chops Caldereta served with local Vegetable Ratatouille, Crispy Pata Kare-Kare with Steamed Local Vegetables, US Ox Tongue in Creamy Sauce with corn and mushrooms. I had to have Aligue Fried Rice, made with “taba ng talangka” (crab roe) that I really miss.
Interestingly, the desserts have stories, recipes of which have been passed down from generation to generation. Saniculas or San Nicholas cookies are made of uraro (arrowroot) flour and coconut milk from Betis, Pampanga, so named after the Patron Saint of Bakers. The cookies are baked in molds with various images, depending on which town the cookies were baked. In the olden days, these were baked in anticipation of Christmas. The Leche Flan or Yema is almost translucent and nutty due to the abundance of egg yolks. The Tibok-Tibok, which means heartbeat, is the Kapampangan Maja Blanca made of fresh carabao’s milk that delightfully wiggles and creates a sweet sensation in the mouth. “Manyaman” !
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