Also Filipino Is The Latest Cookbook To Help You Rediscover Filipino Food In All Its Diversity
Food writer Angelo Comsti goes beyond the usual to bring us a collection of 75 less familiar recipes from around the Philippines that, yes, are just as Filipino as adobo and kare-kare
From its title alone, this cookbook may elicit a raised eyebrow or two. What makes a dish “also Filipino”? This question constitutes the start of author Angelo Comsti’s grassroots-driven education on Filipino food beyond the dishes he was exposed to while growing up in Manila. “I knew close to nothing about regional food. Even something like laing which is very familiar in the metro now, was something alien to me growing up,” he admits.
Sub-titled 75 Regional Dishes I Never Had Growing Up, Also Filipino doesn’t pretend to be a comprehensive resource about Philippine cuisine, but rather, approaches the topic at a “friendlier” level where ordinary Filipinos, whether living here or abroad, and even foreigners can get a taste of the vast repertoire of Filipino recipes beyond lumpia, sinigang, or kaldereta.
Also Filipino is Comsti’s fifth published book, which he characterizes as a natural progression from his last two works. The Filipino Family Cookbook (Marshall Cavendish, 2014) brings together family recipes from noted Filipino chefs and food personalities, while Fuss-Free Filipino Food (Marshall Cavendish, 2015) features familiar Filipino homegrown dishes. He relates, “My previous books are about the dishes I grew up eating. (Also Filipino) kind of completes my feature on Filipino cuisine, though there still are hundreds (of dishes) I have yet to discover.”
Skilled in cooking, writing, editing, and food styling, Angelo Comsti comes qualified to lead readers on this gustatory tour of the country. He finished professional culinary studies at Le Cordon Bleu in Sydney, Australia. Back in the Philippines, he embarked on a multi-faceted career as cookbook author, food writer (currently for the Philippine Daily Inquirer), former editor of F&B Report, food stylist, food consultant, and entrepreneur, and yes, complete with a much-followed Instagram account @fooddudeph.
Thanks to his many jobs, most notably as a consultant to Chef Margarita Forés, he has traveled the world, participating in food conferences and pop-ups, and getting to meet many of the world’s top chefs. But he has also spent as much time traveling around the Philippines, and learning along the way. “I’ve been recording dishes and recipes I come across whenever I would go on provincial trips. So, when I got approached by my publisher to do a book with them, the concept proposal was easy and already at hand,” he says on the impetus for writing Also Filipino.
How did he go about researching the recipes for this book? He answers, “I just went on trips with a book and pen, an open mind, a pitless tummy, and the guts to ask for recipes from strangers.” He writes in the book’s introduction, “Some of these recipes come exactly as how they were handed to me, while some I formulated based on memory and adjusted according to my palate and process, still with respect to the original tradition and flavour…”
Comsti ended up visiting 22 provinces, from Batanes in the north to Tawi-Tawi in the south, producing 75 recipes that opened his eyes to the breadth and depth of Philippine regional cooking. He reveals, for example, “In Bicol, I discovered different kinds of laing. To begin with, laing wasn’t really served at our house. Then to discover its many varieties like the dry kind and the soupy kind, it was quite a revelation and a surprise.” Other stories behind the dishes intrigued him as well, like the Calandracas in Cavite which started in wakes, or the ways people in Bulacan sour their dinuguan.
In a way, Comsti chronicles his own personal journey of discovery through Also Filipino. He relates, “I learned a lot about our cuisine in general—from the people’s culture and lifestyle to their palates and preferences.” But in his avowed prior “ignorance” of much of Filipino food, he appreciates the journey he has taken to fall even more in love with the cuisine, and hopes that his readers do the same. “Our food is very personal and diverse, and I’ve come to appreciate that while I produced the book. I hope Also Filipino does the same to its readers. Hopefully, it won’t just provide nostalgia and more arsenal in their cooking repertoire, but also pride in local food.”
Also Filipino: 75 Regional Dishes I Never Had Growing Up is published by RPD Publications and is available for sale at http://www.thekitchenbookstore.com/