Rediscover Philippine Ingredients with Amy Besa

On today’s show

Why does Amy Besa go to great lengths to find a vanishing fruit, turn it into jam, then serve it to diners who come to her restaurant in search of a truly Filipino meal? That answer is in Amy and Chef Romy Dorotan’s philosophy to cooking at Purple Yam – the restaurants they own in Malate, Manila and Brooklyn, New York City.

What prompted this episode?

Filipino chefs are drawn to Amy’s quest for sourcing the best Philippine ingredients available like bees are drawn to nectar for making honey – they know it takes work to get the good stuff. Her stories are perfect for scrapbooking; they’re snapshots of rural life in the Philippines, where indigenous varieties of fruit and vegetables grow, of how those ingredients become our personal travel guides to tasting food from different regions and micro-climates on a plate.

I wanted to know where those beautiful ingredients that Amy posts on her Instagram feed come from. What do they taste like and what did it take to get them to the restaurant? How can we use food to better understand Filipinos in general?

One thing I’ve learned from Amy is that “discovery” is a lifelong process. The idea of exploring relatively undocumented Philippine ingredients across professional and home kitchens is incredibly exciting.

Show notes

04:35 “It’s so easy to win Filipinos over”
06:20 Sineguelas fruit at Madrid Fusion Manila
07:20 Doing what it takes to get the best ingredients into the restaurant
09:15 Sourcing from small farms
09:45 Benguet cherries
10:50 Their philosophy at Purple Yam
11:35 “Nature is not a factory!”
12:15 Purple Yam’s kitchen mindset
13:35 On flavours embedded in our DNA
14:25 A profound concept
16:00 Community supported agriculture (CSAs) in the Philippines
17:30 Working with Philippine ingredients
18:40 New techniques
20:20 The importance of storytelling
21:50 “Back of house” stories
22:20 Kitchen is like a lab
23:00 Developing a relationship with ingredients
23:20 Training at Purple Yam
23:55 On sawsawan (dipping sauces)

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