Culinary student bags top prize at East-meets-West cooking contest
It was probably the strangest culinary competition I’ve seen. All the chefs were wearing masks, as if to hide their identities. And there was hardly anybody in the audience. In fact, I was witnessing the competition through Zoom in my own house, far from the Grand Hyatt Hotel where the event was being held.
But then these are strange times, what with the coronavirus still raging and threatening to infect even more people. Wearing a face mask was therefore the correct and prudent thing to do.
Dubbed East Meets West, the culinary competition aimed to highlight “the excellent taste and quality of European pork and beef,” especially those produced in Ireland.
Indeed, Ireland prides itself in the production of “consistently tender and lean pork cuts,” which come from family farms that practice high standards in farming, animal health and welfare, as well as food safety and traceability in line with the European Union regulations.
Similarly, Irish beef is known for its excellent quality, and is the choice of some leading Michelin Star chefs.
“I want the best for my guests, and in Ireland you have the grass, you have the climate and the cattle graze outside. For me this is very interesting,” said Jean-Paul Jeunet, one of France’s leading chefs.
In the Philippines, Irish beef is available in Healthy Options and Delidrop Gourmet Grocer. A number of restaurants, such as Raging Bull and Bar in Shangri-La at the Fort and Old Manila in The Peninsula, serve Irish beef. Irish pork producers, meanwhile, supply large restaurant groups and food processing companies (including some chicharon makers), according to Jack Hogan, market specialist of Bord Bia-Irish Food Board.
Out of over 100 entries, five were selected for the finals. In line with the aim of the competition, Irish pork and beef were at the heart of their entries, which ranged from laing-stuffed pork belly to Filipino pot roast beef ribs.
And the top winner? Donie Bigcas, a Center for Culinary Arts student, who joined “to share my ideas and Filipino cuisine (with) the world.” His entry was Bisperas ng Pista (Eve of the Feast), a festive dish of pork jowl simmered in pineapple juice, herbs and spices.
As part of their prize, Bigcas and the four runners-up (Francis David Selorio, Nathaniel Deocaris, Marichu Jung and Karl Watson) will all go on a culinary tour of Ireland next year.
Here is the winning recipe of Bigcas, which I have adjusted for the home cook.
Bisperas ng Pista Pork Hamonado
For the pineapple achara:
1/3 c vinegar
¾ c water
3 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp salt
¼ c cubed radish
¼ c chopped shallots
½ c cubed pineapple
2 Tbsp minced tomatoes
1 Tbsp minced scallions
¼ finely cubed red bell pepper
2 pcs green finger chili, sliced into rings (seeds on)
1 tsp slightly crushed black peppercorns
For the sweet potato purée:
1 large sweet potato (kamote), about 200 g, unpeeled
3 c water
60 g butter, softened and cut into cubes
2 Tbsp heavy cream
Salt and pepper, to taste
For the pork hamonado
300 g pork jowl or pork liempo or kasim
Salt and pepper
¼ c cooking oil
1 large onion, minced
1 tsp sliced ginger
½ head garlic, minced
2 pieces whole star anise
3 pieces whole bay leaves
1 tsp peppercorns, slightly crushed
3 Tbsp brown sugar
2/3 c pineapple juice
¾ c pork stock or water
2 Tbsp soy sauce
Make the achara: In a nonreactive saucepan, make the pickling solution by combining the vinegar, water, sugar and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar and salt. Reduce to low heat and let simmer for three minutes.
Put the radish and shallots in a separate container, and the pineapple, tomatoes, scallions, red bell pepper and finger chili into another container. Pour some of the pickling solution into the radish and shallots, and the remaining pickling solution into the pineapple mixture. Let stand several minutes then drain.
Prepare the purée: Slice the sweet potato into quarters. In a medium-size saucepan, combine the quartered potatoes and water. Bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are fork-tender. Remove the potatoes from the pan and peel while still hot.
Mash the potatoes and press them through a fine sieve. Gradually stir in the softened butter and cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix well until the potatoes are of the desired consistency.
Cook the hamonado: Season the pork with salt and pepper. Heat the oil to high in a large cooking pot and sear the pork evenly on all sides. Remove the pork from the pan and set aside.
In the same pan, reduce the heat to medium and sauté the onion until translucent. Add the ginger, garlic, star anise, bay leaves and peppercorns. Sauté for five minutes. Turn the temperature to low and add the brown sugar. Heat until the sugar caramelizes.
Pour in the pineapple juice, pork stock or water and soy sauce. Return the pork to the pan. Bring to a boil then let simmer. Cover the pan tightly and cook for 45 minutes to one hour or until tender, flipping the pork every 15 minutes.
When the pork is tender, remove from the pot. Simmer the sauce in the pan until slightly thickened. You can adjust the consistency of the sauce by adding more water or pineapple juice.
To serve: Strain the sauce. Arrange the potato purée on a plate and layer some of the achara and the pork hamonado on top. If desired you can slice the pork hamonado into serving pieces. Drizzle some of the sauce on the side.