Monday, September 7, 2020

Dining in the Next Normal: Nostalgic and Authentic Capampangan Flavors Comes To Your Home Dining Table with Culinarya Pampanga

Bulanglang, Begukan, Kilayin, Tamales, just some of the delicacies from the country's culinary capital masterfully recreated by noted Capampangan chefs. As restrictions are slowly lifted, you still don't have to go far for authentic Capampangan cuisine. Let Pampanga come directly to your dining table at home...with Culinarya Pampanga.

Long known for its rich culinary heritage, Pampanga boasts of a long and proud gastronomic tradition that continues to grow stronger with even more innovations through the years. Chef Sau del Rosario leads an all-star cast of noted Capampangan chefs to bring the authentic flavors of Pampanga directly to your home with Culinarya Pampanga, a dedicated assembly of friends banding together with the mission of preserving the heritage of Capampangan cuisine and promoting it as one of the country's culinary treasures. Culinarya Pampanga shares the region's flavorful stories through food, one authentic dish at a time. With the food delivery culture now part of the new normal, Culinarya Pampanga adds even more tasty options conveniently delivered to you for a memorable dining experience at home... 

The new normal forced every industry to rethink their business model not only to survive but to remain relevant. With stringent health and safety protocols guiding our every move, dining in the new normal meant dining at home. There was a need to satisfy the cravings of Capampangans in the metro missing the comforting and familiar flavors of home without driving up north and with a food delivery culture now in place, all that was needed was a dream team of culinary professionals with their own repertoire of specialty dishes to make it all happen. This is Culinarya Pampanga, where the province's best and brightest culinary stars converge to transform your home dining experience.   

The idea for Culinarya Pampanga began back in 2015 when these same chefs worked together during the APEC Summit in Clark followed by the 2019 SEA Games, both highly successful and memorable projects. Getting together was an idea that seemed right then, and more so now in these challenging times when comforting and familiar flavors go a long way in brightening one's spirit in the new normal. Formally launched at the height of the nationwide lockdown last July 28, the timing was almost serendipitous as dining at home became the rule rather than exception. With Culinarya Pampanga, you can now enjoy authentic and traditional flavors from Pampanga conveniently delivered to your doorstep so you don't have to leave the safety of your home. 

Culinarya Pampanga brings together the province's very best culinary talents, each one a successful chef, restaurateur and caterer with (left to right) Howard Dizon of Howard Dizon's Catering, Vince Garcia of Rainforest Kitchene, Judy Uson of Cafe Noelle, Cherry Pasion-Tan of Apag Marangle, Den Lim of DenLim's Kitchen, Nico Bailon of Downtown Cafe and Bale Dutung and Sau del Rosario of Cafe Fleur and 25 Seeds. As all the chefs are based in Pampanga, all the dishes are prepared in each of the chef's respective restaurant kitchens and brought chilled or frozen to Culinarya Pampanga's central commissary/delivery hub in New Manila, Quezon City. To ensure freshness, each dish is prepared, fired up and finished before being securely packed following health and safety protocols every step of the way so you can enjoy it as if straight from the kitchens of the eight all-star chefs. Here's a quick look at Culinarya Pampanga's mouth-watering offerings (more on Culinarya Pampanga's specialty offerings on my post, Dining in the Next Normal: Tidtad, Kilayin, Sampelut and Other Nostalgic Flavors Delivered by Culinarya Pampanga)...

Both history and geography shaped Pampanga's culinary heritage with the Pampanga River serving as the main trading route for a bustling barter trade with Indonesian and Chinese merchants offering a variety of fresh ingredients and spices. The Spanish colonial experience weaved its own savory and indulgent richness to Pampanga's melting pot of flavors followed by enduring American influences. It's a well-known fact that the iconic pork sisig evolved from unwanted pig parts sourced from American military bases and is now regarded as one of Pampanga's well-loved culinary offerings to the country's diverse mosaic of flavors. 

The menu selection reflects this diversity of influences and flavors, dishes that have defined Pampanga's stature as the country's culinary center from Tidtad and Hornong Pistu by Chef Froi Cruz to Humba by Chef Cherry Tan. The growing menu also includes other specialty and hard-to-find dishes like traditional Pindang Damulag by Chef Vince Garcia, Pastel de Lengua by Chef Judy Uson and Asadong Dila by Chef Howard Dizon as well as another another icon in the Pampanga food scene, the Tocino BBQ by Aling Mila (for more on the popular offerings of Mila Gomez, see my previous posts, Flavors of Pampanga: A Pork Fest at Mila's Tokwa't Baboy and  Flavors of Pampanga: Coming Home to a Culinary Classic at Mila's Tokwa't Baboy). 

Traditional favorites are also well represented like Begukan, Kilayin and Callos prepared in the classic Capampangan style by Chef Den Lim. Chef Nico Bailon shares his inventive take on Peking Duck with his Aromatic Duck and Batsui, the Capampangan version of batchoy. Chef Sau del Rosario, a long-time advocate of Capampangan cuisine adds his creative modern spin on traditional dishes with his Truffled Crispy Pork Belly Macadamia Kare-Kare with Malagos Tsokolate Bagoong, the Sisig Paella with thrice-cooked pork and chicken liver in SoyMansi and the Lamb Shank Sinigang sa Bayabas, Chef's Sau's elegant reinterpretation of the Capampangan bulanglang...

...and this is probably the best bulanglang I've had yet. Just like his Truffled Crispy Pork Belly Macadamia Kare-Kare and Sisig Paella, Chef Sau transforms and elevates the familiar into something truly extraordinary with the Lamb Shank Sinigang sa Bayabas (P 890 Medium good for 2-3/P 1,750 Large good for 4-5). 

The sheer richness and indulgence of the dish is a Chef Sau trademark, and it's just what you'd expect from a chef who changed the way I see and experience banana bread with his sinfully decadent Vananah Walnut Tsokolateh Vread (more on that decadent baked creation on my post, Dining in the Next Normal: Move Over Banana Bread and Make Way for Chef Sau del Rosario's Indulgent Vananah Walnut Tsokolateh Vread).  

The traditional bulanglang is similar to sinigang but uses guava as a souring ingredient instead of sampaloc or kamias which gives it a pronounced tartness followed by an almost fruity and subtle sweetness binding all the ingredients together in thick broth. Simmered for hours, the fork-tender lamb shank just falls-off-the-bone infusing its savory richness to the already flavorful broth. Slices of eggplant, guava and string beans tied in intricate knots complete the dish. Each bite is a nostalgic step back in time, taking you back to countless childhood summers. I remember the pork bulanglang they used to serve in my grandfather's house, but this Lamb Shank Sinigang sa Bayabas by Chef Sau is in a class of its own. Savory, sour and sweet with hints of fruity notes, it's both nostalgic and refreshingly new and different that can only come from Chef Sau's kitchen. 

The complex and contrasting notes weave savory flavors draping the palate with an unctuous richness. As with all Filipino dishes, you'll need a condiment to complete the experience. Chef Sau includes his special Extra Virgin Spicy Patis with fish sauce, chilies, ginger and shallots as the condiment that not only complements the dish but tempers the richness for balanced flavors. It's dishes like this that used to make loyal diners and customers drive all the way to 25 Seeds and Cafe Fleur in Pampanga, but now Pampanga comes to your doorstep and dining table at home with Culinarya Pampanga (for more on Chef Sau's 25 Seeds and Cafe Fleur, see my previous posts, Flavors of Pampanga: Farm-to-Table Dining at Chef Sau del Rosario's 25 Seeds on their specialty dishes and Flavors of Pampanga: Samsaman, A Capampangan Boodle Fight with Chef Sau del Rosario at 25 Seeds on their special seasonal offers for group dining packages). Chef Sau's Sisig Paella, the specialty dish that was celebrated in the prestigious Madrid Fusion Manila is also included in Culinarya Pampanga's extensive menu. 

It's said that every Capampangan family has their own secret lechon paksiw recipe, but Chef Judy Uson is so spot on with her Lechon Paksiw (P 450 Medium for 2-3/P 880 Large for 4-5) for yet another tasty and nostalgic option from Culinarya Pampanga. Tender chunks of pork lechon, including melt-in-your-mouth lechon skin is slowly simmered in the sweet homemade liver sauce and cooked low and slow for intense savory notes. 

The multiple layers of savory notes from the different pork components combine for an indulgent experience setting it apart from the usual lechon paksiw, kicked up by the familiar sweetness of the liver sauce. It's rich, just the way it's supposed to be yet there are delicate nuances in the way each distinct note from the different ingredients come together in a masterful and seamless blend. It's a dish that calls for extra rice. 

I fondly recall my aunt's lechon paksiw as a childhood favorite, and Chef Judy Uson just brought me back to those simpler times with her own lavish version. I remember our own homemade lechon paksiw made with whatever is left from the whole roasted pig enjoyed day before, with mixed results. Often stewed with too little or too much liver sauce, it was a hit or miss kind of thing most of the time. But not this Lechon Paksiw by Chef Judy Uson. The slabs of pork are so tender, it's like biting through butter. There may be countless ways to prepare this comforting dish, but this version by Chef Judy Uson ranks high on my list. It's yet another dish from Culinarya Pampanga that warms both the palate and body with real and honest flavors. 

Chef Den Lim adds his touch to the flavorful mix of Culinarya Pampanga with his Begukan (P 410 Medium good for 2-3/P810 Large good for 4-5), the Capampangan version of pork binagoongan with eggplant, green chilies and garlic. Large chunks of fork-tender pork simmered for hours and draped in rich shrimp paste combine for bold savory notes with each bite. It's another perfect combination with the delicate pork complemented by the sharpness of shrimp paste for vibrant flavors. Have your extra rice ready by your side with this dish.

The shrimp paste adds depth to the dish without overwhelming the other ingredients for perfectly balanced flavors. Don't forget to drizzle some of the sauce on your freshly steamed white rice, adding even more flavor with each spoonful. Slice up the green chili for some heat for another flavorful layer to complement the pork and shrimp paste. It's just the kind of dish that makes dining at home so much more special. You can also try Chef Den Lim's signature Callos from the menu of Culinarya Pampanga.

Diners can also experience new and flavorful creations with Culinarya Pampanga. Chef Nico Bailon offers his own innovative style with the Aromatic Duck (P 990 for 1/2 Duck), a "native" spin on Peking Duck infused with eleven spices and served with Chinese pancakes, fresh cucumbers, mango salsa and hoisin sauce. The half portion of duck is tender and juicy with a lightly crisp outer layer adding texture with each bite. 

The menu offerings of Culinarya Pampanga reflect a mix of traditional as well as modern and creative new dishes made with Capampangan flair. Packed separately with all the components you need, the fun really begins when you start assembling your own wrap with the Chinese pancakes.  

Chef Nico Bailon is a talented young up and coming Capampangan chef, the son of Claude and Mary Grace Tayag of Bale Dutung and Downtown Cafe (for more on Downtown Cafe, see my previous post from six years ago here at Flavors of Pampanga: Good Times at Claude Tayag's Downtown Cafe). Now in charge of Bale Dutung and Downtown Cafe's kitchens, Chef Nico brings both tradition and playful inventiveness to familiar Capampangan flavors with his novel and innovative Aromatic Duck.  

Heat up the soft Chinese pancakes on a pan before creating your tasty wrap. Simply shred or slice a few strips of duck and lay a generous heaping mound on the Chinese pancake topped with fresh cucumbers and sweet mango salsa drizzled with hoisin and prepare for a flavorful pop. Chef Nico plays with contrasting flavors and textures, with deep savory notes finished with hints of sweetness. The duck's flavorful richness is complemented by the secret blend of eleven spices, sweet mango salsa, fresh cucumbers and hoisin and you get to enjoy all these flavors with each bite. Then, prepare another wrap...

...and repeat. From modern and creative reinterpretations to hard-to-find authentic Capampangan dishes, Culinarya Pampanga brings the wide range of Pampanga's cuisine and culinary heritage to your home. The Aromatic Duck by Chef Nico Bailon is just one of many sumptuous dishes in Culinarya Pampanga's offerings. Other must-try dishes by Chef Nico Bailon include his Adobong Pusit and Batsui, the Capampangan version of batchoy from the south.

There's tamales and then there's the Tamales from Cabalantian in Bacolor, Pampanga. Larger and heavier than the usual tamales, the much sought after silky soft and smooth Capampangan delicacy brings a taste of home for Capampangans in the metro. Wrapped in banana leaves, the firm and dense texture of Cabalantian tamales delivers comforting flavors followed by hints of pepper and just a whisper of sweetness rounded out by tender strips of chicken and a slice of hard-boiled egg. It's one of the enduring legacies of the Spanish colonial experience, said to be inspired by the Mexican tamales made from corn masa and wrapped in a corn husk from the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade. Also called Bobotu by Capampangans, these tamales are made from ground and toasted rice drizzled with annato oil and steamed giving it a distinctive shape and orange color. Ideal for breakfast or an afternoon snack, this traditional savory rice cake captures the province's agrarian roots, fertile plains and bountiful rice harvests all neatly wrapped in a banana leaf. It's one more unique layer woven in Pampanga's colorful tapestry of flavors.      

From the texture to the flavor, this is the tamales I remember. Culinarya Pampanga makes it easy for you to order hard-to-find authentic delicacies like Tamales with just one quick phone call. Call in to check availability, prices and scheduled deliveries of the prized tamales and reserve your batch. Just an insider tip, the batches of weekly deliveries are snapped up fast with pre-booked orders so make sure to reserve early. 

Culinarya Pampanga is a virtual page out of a voluminous book on Capampangan cuisine, and each chef is committed to the mission of preserving the province's heritage as the country's culinary capital with their specialty dishes. Culinarya Pampanga, after all, brings Pampanga's best and most talented chefs together so you don't have to go far to experience these nostalgic flavors. Simply give Culinarya Pampanga a call at 0917 324 2768 and your favorite Capampangan dishes will be on its way packed in a native bayong.  

Chef Sau also offers a modern deconstructed take on tamales at 25 Seeds (see my posts here at From Page to Plate: Chef Sau del Rosario's 20 Years of Love + Cooking on the launch of his book five years ago, Celebrate the Flavors of the Season at Novotel Manila Araneta Center's The Food Exchange featuring Chef Sau's specialty dishes, Local Flavors Shine at Diamond Hotel's Filipino Culinary Pride from two years ago and Flavors of Pampanga: The Kanyaman Food Festival by Chef Sau del Rosario at Novotel Manila's Food Exchange from 2017), elevating and reinventing the traditional delicacy with a modern yet elegant spin. 

Spot your nostalgic favorite? With so many tempting options, dining at home can be a memorable experience with Culinarya Pampanga's authentic dishes prepared by noted Capampangan chefs. And the menu continues to grow with more dishes and chefs joining Culinarya Pampanga. 

The state of Pampanga's culinary heritage and continuously evolving cuisine, deeply rooted in tradition while infusing modern and progressive touches are in good hands with Culinarya Pampanga. Formed at the height of the quarantine and constantly pushing the envelope while firmly preserving the province's gastronomic heritage, Culinarya Pampanga is one more bright spot in the new normal.  

For more on Culinarya Pampanga and their specialty menu offerings, simply call 0917 324 2768 for orders, inquiries and more information. You can also order via PM on their Facebook Page at and DM on Instagram at for more updates. You can also opt to pick-up your orders at Culinarya Pampanga's commissary/delivery hub located at 62 Victoria Avenue, New Manila, Quezon City right across St. Luke's Hospital. 

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