The many ways we eat rice: Madrid Fusión Manila, day 1

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Heirloom rice takes up the lunch table at the regional cuisine showcase in Madrid Fusión Manila's first day. In photo: Complete with a Philippine flag, the lechon de leche with sisig rice by Dedet dela Fuente-Santos (Pepita's Kitchen) comes with Spanish chorizo and taba ng talangka stuffing. On the side is lechon sauce made of black heirloom rice, and red heirloom rice paste. Photo by GABBY CANTERO

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — Madrid Fusión Manila tags itself as an "international gastronomy expo," one where the best of chefs, here and abroad, share what they know of one of the rare things that bind the world together: food. For a pedestrian newcomer, however, the food congress at the SMX Convention Center looks like this: a wonderland of organic produce, local ingredients, regional cuisine, and foreign fare over at the second floor, where trade exhibitions are held, and a showcase of different chefs churning out their own renditions of plates based on a theme or a key ingredient, at the first floor, where regional lunches are served.

On its first day, the spotlight for the regional lunches is on the ubiquitous white grain that most Filipinos can't live without: rice. Specifically, these are heirloom rice varieties passed on from generation to generation, whose flavors differ subtly from the usual varieties sold in markets. To focus on rice is also to focus on farming as a source of livelihood, and incidentally the need for more farmers, whose numbers are decreasing as agriculture faces a decline.

Here's a glimpse of what they served.

rice tacos.jpg Happy Ongpauco-Tiu (Pamana Restaurant and Tsokolateria) serves heirloom tacos. In photo is Ifugao black rice tortilla with pickled vegetables, fruits in gata, and Batangas bulalo carne asada. Photo by GABBY CANTERO

goat meat on rice bread.jpg Dino Dizon (The Smoking Joint) calls this the WildRice smoked goat BBQ: pulled smoked goat slathered with BBQ coconut syrup sauce on top of flat rice bread. Photo by GABBY CANTERO

oxtail.jpg Hidden beneath the crunchy fermented black rice and onion mousse is ox tail, in this confection by Raul Bolledo (The Test Kitchen MNL). Photo by GABBY CONTERO

junay.jpg Myke "Tatung" Sarthou (Agos) takes inspiration from the indigenous Tausug in coming up with the junay with utakutak: a spiced fish nugget atop sweet sticky rice, seasoned with even spicier pamapa. Photo by GABBY CANTERO

rice balls.jpg Rice on rice: David Cruz and Paul Samson (5060 Bar and Restaurant) stuff Innawi rice balls with kesong puti, watermelon gherkin, and catfish, which comes with two sauces — burnt eggplant and balatinaw fermented rice aioli, and mustasa pesto. Photo by GABBY CANTERO

horchata.jpg Sly Samonte and Kiddo Cosio at El Union made roasted cacao horchata, from Davao Oriental cacao and tinawon brown rice. The drink took two years of experimentation. Photo by GABBY CANTERO

Tinutungan ice cream.jpg Tinutong is a native Filipino merienda, a glutinous rice porridge tasting of sweet toasted monggo, cooked in coconut milk. Miko Aspiras, Kristine Lotilla, and Peachy Juban (Le Petit Souffle, Freezerburn, and Shortcrust) serve tinutungan ice cream, made with toasted brown rice and monggo with carabao's milk. Photo by GABBY CANTERO