Belmont Hotel highlights indigenous ingredients in buffet 2
Some of the obscure Filipino ingredients featured at Belmont Hotel. Jeeves de Veyra
Food & Drink

Belmont Hotel, Lokalpedia highlight indigenous ingredients in buffet

For Filipino Food Month, the Belmont Hotel Manila collaborates with heritage food advocacy site Lokalpedia for very special Pamana dinner buffets that focus on the use of obscure Filipino ingredients.
Jeeves de Veyra | Apr 20 2024

 

For Filipino Food Month, the Belmont Hotel Manila collaborates with heritage food advocacy site Lokalpedia for very special Pamana dinner buffets that focus on the use of obscure Filipino ingredients.

The collaboration had an unusual beginning. The hotel was looking for personalities in the local food scene to be featured in the hotel’s social media Filipino Food Month campaign, when they stumbled upon John Sherwin Felix and his Lokalpedia social media pages. While shooting content, Felix’s enthusiastic sharing of his encyclopedic knowledge on native and endemic ingredients no one has even heard about took center stage. That’s when Belmont Hotel decided to work more closely with Felix by letting him recommend ingredients to use in dishes that would be executed by Belmont Hotel executive chef Andrew Ko.

 

 Lokalpedia's John Sherwin Felix and Belmont Hotel executive chef Andrew Ko. Jeeves de Veyra
 Lokalpedia's John Sherwin Felix and Belmont Hotel executive chef Andrew Ko. Jeeves de Veyra

 

The big difference between Lokalpedia and other parallel initiatives is that the main focus is on the ingredients rather than heritage recipes. Felix quit his public relations job to pursue the cataloging of these heritage ingredients using the communication skills from his previous life to shoot and write pieces that are compiled in their Instagram and Facebook pages.

Listening to Felix talk about discovering and using these ingredients is like watching a preacher-tour guide leading a group on a whirlwind trip of the archipelago. He’s just more than eager to share stories and anecdotes about going out into the middle of nowhere conversing with people about fruits, vegetables, grains, and unique preparations of meats and more. He even brought along a collection of these for guests to see, feel, and taste these uncommon ingredients.

“Food is the intersection of food, people and nature. We are so unaware of our wealth.,” said Felix.

Gamet is like Japanese nori. Jeeves de Veyra
Gamet is like Japanese nori. Jeeves de Veyra

 

Among the more unique ingredients he showcased was gamet, an umami-rich marine alga from the shores of Cagayan province up north. These were thick chewy sheets that are cut up and included into dishes somewhat similar to Japanese nori. Though unlike nori, it’s tough to harvest these and it can be quite expensive. Chef Ko added bits of gamet along with langkawas better known as galangal, and sampaguita in his tuna kinilaw that did add unique umami notes distinguishable from the acid and spice of the vinegar and the chilies.

PInikpikan. Jeeves de Veyra
PInikpikan. Jeeves de Veyra

 

Not as unknown as gamet, but certainly as tasty, is etag, preserved sun dried pork as done in the Cordilleras. This has distinctly strong gamey and fermented flavors as tasted in the buffet’s pinikpikan, a Cordilleran chicken dish traditionally prepared by beating a live chicken to get it into the soup as fresh as possible. Thankfully, they veered away from authenticity but used generous amounts of etag to get the dish right.

 

Pako Salad with Etag. Jeeves de Veyra
Pako Salad with Etag. Jeeves de Veyra

 

Etag was also used to add its unique flavors in the pako salad, bringhe and pancit buko, which used thin strips of coconut meat as noodles.

Balbacua. Jeeves de Veyra
Balbacua. Jeeves de Veyra



Chef Ko’s interpretation of Cebuano balbacua had guests going back for more as well as asking for more rice to go along with it. The dish itself is stewed in different spices, most notably kalingag, Philippine cinnamon which deserves more widespread use as this is indistinguishable from the imported ones.

I really enjoyed the kansi which uses batwan, a souring agent commonly used in Ilonggo cuisine and is endemic to the Philippines. The fruit itself is sour, not as acidic, but fruity in its own way.

 

 Batwan ice cream. Jeeves de Veyra
Batwan ice cream. Jeeves de Veyra

 

Chef Ko even churned batwan into an ice cream emphasizing the fruity notes which might have also worked as a sorbet.

 

Balicucha. Jeeves de Veyra
Balicucha. Jeeves de Veyra

 

I also liked the use of the balicucha, a hard sweetener from Ilocos Sur that is pulled for hours to form its final shape that I remember eating like candy when I was a kid. This is grated and used as a topping in the tablea balicucha tart. Then to complete this buffet’s sweet endings, Chef Kodelights with a very special salted caramel ice cream using the rare tultul artisanal salt from Guimaras giving this version a smoky sweet note.

Felix’s mini Lokalpedia documentary on tultul went viral and is partly credited for resurrecting the production of this salt.

There is a chance that this addition to Café Belmont’s buffet will extend beyond Philippine Food month. Filipino Food lovers really should get a chance to try these ingredients.

The Pamana dinner buffet is available at Belmont Hotel Manila’s Café Belmont every Friday and Saturday of April and May from 6:30-9:30 p.m. for P1,450 per person. For more information about Lokalpedia and its advocacy, please check out @lokalpediaph on Instagram and @LocalFoodHeritagePH on Facebook.