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Exploring Laguna: Peculiar Flavors And Food Pairings That Work

Shrimp with ampalaya? Banana blossoms with rice cakes? Burnt coconut and dried fish? You wouldn’t normally see this food pairings anywhere. But in Laguna, these traditional flavors and technique have been handed down generations to create a cuisine and heritage that will leave a distinct taste and memory.

Chef Claude Tayag explores Laguna for Chasing Flavors and he discovers these peculiar flavors and cooking techniques that gave Laguna cuisine its unique kick.


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Sinukmani with banana blossoms

Sinukmani or rice cake is a popular dish all over the Philippines. But what is the best way to tame the sweetness of this delicacy? Eat a mouthful of sinukmani with an equal amount of sautéed banana blossoms and you’ll get a sweet, salty, and sour delicacy.

It’s simple, yet flavorful—and easy to cook or buy, too!


Hipon Tagunton

Laguna’s Hipon Tagunton is more easily understood as Freshwater Shrimp in Coconut Milk. Unlike farmed shrimp, Laguna’s shrimps come naturally from freshwater so there are no artificial flavors that can mess with the subtle and delicate taste of the shrimp.

For a more interesting take on Hipon Tagunton, visit Alice Food Haus in Laguna, where the owner makes their Hipon Tagunton with ampalaya or bitter melon. The ampalaya adds complexity to the already flavorful dish, making it a symphony of sweet, sour, and salty.


Kesong puti with puto

In many parts of the Philippines, puto is usually enjoyed with dinuguan, cheese, or salted egg. That’s why eating it with kesong puti is not something too peculiar to not try! In Laguna, many people grew up eating soft and fluffy puto with the creamy and soft kesong puti. It’s a tradition passed down the generations and a delicacy that many of the people in Laguna continues to enjoy until now.


Sinugno na relyenong kulawong talong na may kesong puti

It may sound like a tongue twister, but this special dish created by Chef Claude to culminate his gastronomic experience in Laguna is simply Grilled Eggplant stuffed with Carabao’s Milk White Cheese, simmered in Burnt Coconut.

The real star of this dish is the burnt coconut, which is prepared by toasting the coconut first before the cream is extracted. This kind of cooking technique is typical in the southern part of Laguna, tracing back to their pre-Hispanic roots, but it has since been forgotten in many parts of the province. This technique produces not just a regular gata; it’s a smokier version because of the toasting.

Similar to the Greek moussaka, you can serve this dish with pasta or bread. For a more Laguna taste profile, serve with pritong biya or fried tank goby.


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Watch Chef Claude’s gastronomic journey in Laguna on Chasing Flavors on Metro Channel, channel 52 on Sky Cable and channel 174 on HD. Catch replays throughout the week. Catch replays of this episode on February 20, 8 a.m.; and February 22, 2 a.m. and 7 a.m.