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Unique Philippine Food II

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LubegIn last month’s column, we gave you a glimpse of some of the more popular food from the Philippines. Here’s more.

Traditional Products
Bagoong and Patis: Bagoong is fermented fish meat found in almost all places in the Philippines. Patis is the salty golden goo that remains after the bagoong is harvested. Although a potentially profitable export, especially to countries with a significant Filipino population, these are not accepted by many countries. It has nothing to do with product identity since there are various fermented animal products all over the world. The simple reason is we cannot meet the hygiene standards of most countries. After all, the strong flavor and aroma comes from natural bacteria responsible for rotting fish meat.

Boneless Bangus (Philippine Milkfish): Our biggest market abroad for bangus is the European Union. For many years, Philippine bangus was not approved for import to Europe. So the Philippine government, manufacturers, and other groups put in a lot of effort to meet the EU’s requirements. (For the uninitiated, boneless bangus is NOT milkfish genetically modified to be boneless.)

Their efforts were successful and several companies are now allowed entry into the Union.

Banana Chips: These deep-fried, sweetened banana slices are popular across the archipelago. The Philippines is one of the largest suppliers of banana chips in the world market, and the demand still far exceeds supply.

Dried Mangoes: These are sun-dried, sweetened mango strips made mostly from Carabao variety mangoes. Manufacturers of our local dried mangoes recently had their products rejected because of too much sulfite. Sulfite was an accepted additive to processed mangoes for a long time. It prevented the degradation of the mango’s color by preventing browning. Recently, however, the international market decided that it no longer liked additives to dried mangoes and would rather buy slightly browned products instead of bright yellow-orange ones that contained the additive.

Laing: Coconut creamed and spiced taro (also known as gabi) stalk and leaves are popular in the Philippines’ Bicol Region. Canning this native dish proved to be a challenge for years, but it was finally done less than a decade back.

Virgin Coconut Oil: The Philippines has been producing and exporting coconut oil even before the Japanese occupation. In recent years, a new product from the raw and minimally processed oil has gained popularity among health buffs, primarily due to the high lauric acid content. Since 2000, a great number of operations popped up around the countryside to produce this new “miracle product.” The competition created lots of variants and consumer choices.

Ensaymada: This pastry was brought by the Spaniards a few hundred years ago in the form of the original Majorcan Ensaimada. This has since been rebranded into the traditional ensaymada. Substituting butter or margarine for the original lard, this now uniquely Filipino product is a lot richer, lighter in color, and creamier than its predecessor.

Innovative Products
Here are some favorites we found at expos around Metro Manila.

Tanglad (Lemon Grass) Oil: Made by Gold in Grass Corp., this innovative product is extracted from native lemon grass or tanglad found in many parts of the Philippines. Distilled tanglad oil has been used from processing roast chicken to aromatherapy. In its concentrated state, the oil has a mild depressant effect on the human nervous system.

Mango Rolls: Dried mango is already a unique product. But with the entry of competition from Mexico and other mango-producing countries, some Filipinos innovated on the product. Mango Rolls are delicious candies, which are lower in sugar and higher in nutrient value. Made by Gracias Foods.

Coffee Wine and Mango Wine: Wine from coffee?! This was our reaction when we first encountered the product together with Mango Wine. After serious consideration, the science of it was indeed possible! A question that’s nagging us though: If we get drunk on this, do we still need a cup of coffee to fight the ensuing hangover? Made by Don Roberto’s.

Lubeg Wine: Lubeg is a fruit that grows only on the western side of the Philippine island of Luzon. We discovered it on a trip to Cagayan Valley last December. It is produced in very limited quantities, making it a precious commodity.

print ed: 07/08

 

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