Crabs simmered humba style, skewered squid cubes turned golden brown on a clay grill, and native chicken cooked in fermented coconut juice as five towns in midwestern Cebu prepared their entries for the Eats Meets West culinary competition held in Tabuelan.
It was a flurry of mincing and slicing, grilling and frying, and food arrangements on long tables turned makeshift kitchens and set up in the open grounds of the Durhans White Beach Resort last November 13.
Eats Meets West is one component of the community-based ecotourism workshops organized for Midwest Cebu towns by Boboi Costas of Grassroots Travel. Costas initiated the culinary competition, with the support of Smart Communications, in the third leg of the workshops as a way of teaching business planning and operations.
“Food is an important component in travel and an integral part of local tourism initiatives. When the food is good, the vacation is good,“ he said.
According to Costas, another objective of the activity is to discover, develop, and enhance local cuisine. One criteria of the food competition was for Alegria, Aloguinsan, Balamban, Asturias, and the host town of Tabuelan to put a new twist to local dishes.
New twist to local food
There were some excellent turnouts but Tabuelan outdid itself and swept all contended dish categories except for Best Dessert, which went to Aloguinsan.
Tabuelan’s alimangong humba or crabs cooked in the manner of the popular Cebuano braised pork dish was picked Best Main Course, Talema Juice named after the main ingredients tanglad (lemongrass), lemonsito concentrate, and mango was Best Welcome Drink, Korntik Cookies made out of finely ground corn came out as Best Food Pasalubong, with Best Packaging thrown in for good measure.
Other noteworthy submissions were grilled dishes: skewered squid cubes by Aloguinsan and Balamban’s deboned chicken pieces accompanied by sauce made out of basil and pesto.
Another Tabuelan recipe called the Tubisnok, though not an entry, was well received by the judges. The Tubisnok is native chicken cooked in fermented coconut juice locally known as tuba.
Drinks and desserts
From Alegria’s moringa bibingka and Balamban’s kamote krispies to Tabuelan’s budbud cassava with choco, there were exceptional entries for desserts as well.
Aloguinsan ruled this category, however, with its taro balls served in thick syrup of coconut milk and sugar. The taro balls are made from an abundant town plant known as gabing tuod.
Showing a lot of promise are the welcome drinks by Balamban and Aloguinsan. The Westy Minty Lemonade of Balamban is a refreshing all-organic drink of kalamansi puree, mint leaves, ginger extract and lemon blended together.
Aloguinsan extracted juice from kamote leaves boiled for 10 minutes and flavored this with kalamansi and sugar for its Kamote Juice. Alegria used the same process on a local medicinal flower to come up with the Butterfly Pea Drink.
Cebu ecotourism initiative
Aloguinsan also garnered the non-food awards, including Best Table Setting with its dining implements made from a native vine as well as Best Welcome and Take Home Souvenirs.
Atty. Maria Jane Paredes, Smart Communications, Inc. public affairs senior manager, said the competition was timely because companies are looking for local products as Christmas giveaways.
For souvenirs, the towns presented handcrafted home accessories, necklaces, and bracelets made out of local wood, shell, or plant fiber.
She lauded the initial output of the ecotourism initiative in the food and souvenir products that came out of the Eats Meets West culinary event.
Costas said the activity seeks to discover signature food and drinks and local products that the towns can showcase when they collaborate to come up with tour circuits next year. The goal is to offer two-night, three-day tour packages that showcase the best of Midwest Cebu towns and begin these in March 2016.