Just as familial and collaborative as Filipino food is at heart, this new cookbook brings together Filipino talent from the United States to the UAE.
After the release of the e-cookbooks Come Together back in April and Home Comforts in July, award-winning food author Flavel Monteiro returns once again with the release of a new cookbook for a cause that dishes familiar and filling flavors. A collaborative opus, Cuisinero: Taste the Philippines is a cookbook that features 50 dessert recipes and 50 savory dishes created by Dubai-based Filipino chefs Nouel Omamalin and John Buenaventura, respectively. With them is Keesa Ocampo, Emmy award-winning director and producer, serving her signature Filipino-American touch to the 5-course meal, Fiesta Filipina, of the book. Containing over 100 recipes that showcase our local flavors to the world, Cuisinero marks a new chapter in the global ascendancy of Filipino cuisine.
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Starting off with sweet before savory, the book’s recipes first feature Nouel Omamalin’s confectionary prowess with his reinvention of many local desserts. Originally from Mindanao, Nouel’s family has a deep culinary history, growing up helping in his mother’s restaurant. The new that he brings for this book is the application of modern techniques to Filipino sweets. After being trained and working in the UAE, Nouel has learned how to adapt to international palates. This flexible adaptation is clearly seen in his dessert renditions. From the sweet and lush bombs of his Caramelia Yema Bombons with roasted cashew nuts, Valrhona chocolate, and Himalayan salt; to the elegant assembly of his Davao Durian Tart—there is great respect taken in handling these flavors while taking bold but delicious steps in elevating them. On how he balances this idea of staying true to local sensibilities as well as pushing it forward, Nouel quips, “I think it’s more of the courage to really put your ideas out there even if it sounds crazy, but [as long as] it has the core of the Filipino.”
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After you’ve tested your skills in sweets, the next set of 50 recipes come from the mind of John Buenaventura. With a family hailing from Nueva Ecija and then Manila, John also has been accustomed to international standards. Stints in the Maldives and all around the UAE has made John an esteemed voice for Filipino cuisine overseas. For his dishes, he harkens back to simple childhood flavors and dialing them up to plated sophistication. His recipes reflect personal history and culinary mastery, such as his Lumpiang Sariwa, which is a tribute to his grandmother who enjoyed the dish with raw garlic. Never one to shy away from experimenting, John’s Kilawing Talaba is a cured oyster dish that takes the Peruvian ‘leche de tigre’ marinade and recreate it with Filipino ingredients like kamias and kalamansi.
In between the sweet and savory sections of the cookbook is a 5-course Fiesta Filipina that brings together the talents of the two chefs with Keesa Ocampo and Flavel Monteiro. As the Vice President of the Filipino Food Movement, Keesa helps in providing financial support for Filipino restaurants and food businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. On enriching the Filipino identity in America through the movement, Keesa shares, “I think it’s so important, especially in this day and age …in the environment that we’re in, specifically in North America, …I’m being able to really create some sort of a stamp of your identity and be able to kind of bring that forward.” For the fiesta, Keesa created dishes that highlight key local ingredients such as malunggay and queso de bola in her Malunggay Pesto and Manila clams for her Tinolang Halaan. Author and Filipino food aficionado Flavel provides a flavorful entry to the fiesta with his Sardinas at Bangus served with toasted pandesal.
As much as Cuisinero stands as a pioneering force for Filipino cuisine on a global scale, it also holds true to the collaborative heart of the Filipino by supporting charities that aid our kababayans locally and internationally. First is Philippine International Aid that provides support programs and educational scholarships for disadvantaged children in the Philippines, and second, the aforementioned Filipino Food Movement that aids food businesses in the US during the pandemic.
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It’s always an exciting day when Filipino cuisine gets its due praise, and we’ve been seeing the momentum grow over recent years. Cuisinero shows that progress we’ve gained in this international recognition, but never forgetting the importance of bayanihan in helping others. As Keesa puts it simply on the reputability of our cuisine in the world, “Filipino food has arrived.” The world better be ready.
Cuisinero: Taste the Philippines features an introduction by our Dining Editor Ysmael V. Suarez and is available for download on August 15 at the Filipino Food Movement’s website. All proceeds will be for the benefit of Philippine International Aid and Filipino Food Movement.