Friday, April 29, 2022

High Five: Celebrating Five Years of Authentic Zambasulta Cuisine from the Deep South at Palm Grill

The rich and vibrant flavors of the deep south recreated and served daily at one of the metro's culinary gems, celebrates five years of authenticity with its lavish array of specialty dishes from Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi...

Palm Grill: Authentic Cuisine from South of Mindanao recently celebrated its milestone fifth anniversary with a sumptuous lunch featuring its bestselling dishes in a festive celebration of authentic southern cuisine highlighted by their traditional Pianggang Manok, Tiyula Itum and many more including new dishes like Belachan Manok and Dulang. Read on for a closer peek at one of the country's celebrated cuisines from the deep south... 

Located along Tomas Morato, Palm Grill is one of the metro's unique culinary enclaves featuring the diverse and traditional flavors of Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi or "Zambasulta" bannered by its signature Pianggang Manok and Tiyula Itum.

With a new and expanded menu, Palm Grill unveils the full tapestry of flavors and traditions from the deep south revealing the rich diversity of Filipino cuisine. The unique geographic location of Southern Mindanao and its proximity to Malaysia and Indonesia made it a key intersection for traders, missionaries and daring adventurers throughout history resulting in a convergence of culture, religion and cuisine. The cultural fabric of the region is layered by varied influences and shared histories blending with local traditions resulting in a colorful tapestry and an equally rich culinary heritage. Since my very first visit five years ago, I've seen Palm Grill slowly emerge as one of the metro's dining hotspots for authentic Southern Mindanao cuisine.

And probably the most delicious chicken dish. The Pianggang Manok, the uniquely southern dish from the ethnic Tausug of Sulu is an experience in itself, taking you deeper into the rich culture of the deep south with every bite (for more on Palm Grill's now famous Pianggang Manok, see my earlier posts, Green Chicken and Good Vibes: Discover Mindanaoan Flavors at Palm Grill on my very first time at Palm Grill back in 2017 and It's A Green Christmas with Palm Grill's Signature Green Chicken...on their popular and best-selling chicken dish from five years back).

The spacious interiors of Palm Grill with its multi-level configuration provides multiple seating options whether its an intimate meal or a festive gathering with family and friends draped in warm hints of wood and stone hues...

...surrounded by panoramic glass walls to bring in natural light. On one side, guests and diners can shop at Palm Grill's very own pantry with its selection of popular snacks and delicacies from the south. From its bright and distinctive facade to its spacious interiors, Palm Grill is one man's dream and vision made real for a memorable dining experience. 

For Miguel Cabel Moreno, Palm Grill is an evolving passion project not only to promote and preserve Southern Mindanao traditions but also to share his family's own culinary legacy. Miguel fondly recalls growing up in Jolo and the memorable feasts prepared by his family for guests and foreign visitors in their ancestral home along Sanchez Street with traditional dishes including Tiyula Itum and Pianggang Manok along with spicy Belachan and Sambal sauces. Palm Grill continues that tradition with dishes made from heirloom family recipes served in a contemporary and casual setting. 

The coffee culture is another key component in Southern Mindanao culture, blessed with an abundance of single-origin beans. At Palm Grill, you can enjoy a cup prepared the traditional way with single origin coffee beans from Sulu... 

...poured slow and steady with each drip for a flavorful and freshly brewed cup of pure coffee bliss.  

Pair your cup of single-origin Sulu Coffee with the tempting local treats from Palm Grill's own Pantry, including Lokot-Lokot or sweet and crisp rice rolls and Bawlu or Tausug egg cakes. As more guests arrived for the special 5th anniversary of Palm Grill, single origin coffee from Sulu and traditional delicacies from the south were served to begin the Southern Mindanao experience.

Miguel Cabel Moreno was joined by DTI ASEC Rica Bueno and DOT Undersecretary Myra Paz Valderrosa-Abubakar during the festivities at Palm Grill...

...followed by cultural performances to complete the Southern Mindanao experience right at the heart of Quezon City. The mystique that shrouds the deep south are slowly unfolded and revealed in a mesmerizing performance, followed by the traditional flavors of Southern Mindanao for an immersive experience.

The rhythmic percussion and the graceful moves by the featured performers preceded a sumptuous and lavish feast of Southern Mindanao cuisine at Palm Grill...

...starting with the Dulang (P 1,199), inspired by the opulent savory trays served during traditional Tausug royal banquets and special occasions. Tasty bites of Palm Grill's signature dishes like Beef Kurma, Pianggang Manok and Tuyula Itum along with Turmeric Rice, tasty sides and pickled vegetables begin a medley of rich and vibrant flavors from the deep south.

Palm Grill's very own Pianggang Manok (P 290 Solo/P 390 Duo/P 760 League) was one of many highlights during the anniversary feast. Imagine chicken slow-braised in coconut milk, turmeric and a medley of aromatics including 7 Asian spices with creamy and smoky burnt coconut before being finished in the grill and draped with pamapa. It's a tedious dish, which is why it's commonly served only during special occasions by the Tausug from Jolo. But you can indulge in Pianggang Manok everyday at Palm Grill for a taste of Southern Mindanao culture.  

The tender and juicy chicken delivers a savory richness layered with the unctuous notes of the coconut-based pamapa with its blend of spices for a flavorful burst. Hints of ginger, onions, lemongrass and turmeric cuts through the creamy and burnt coconut for a deep, subtle and nuanced play on flavors. The juicy chicken, first stewed, braised and then grilled and draped in pamapa becomes concentrated with a variety of flavorful notes. It's one dish that defines the deep southern region, and the dish that makes Palm Grill special.

The Belachan Manok (P 260) features juicy chicken fresh from the grill and paired with a fermented shrimp paste blended with salt and spices. The delicate notes of the chicken are kicked up by the bold and mildly salty profile of the belachan for another satisfying chicken dish at Palm Grill.

The Deep-Fried Pampano in Sambal (P 680) is Palm Grill's own version for the dish representing the close ties between the Sulu archipelago with Malaysia in a dish. The textural contrasts from the deep-fried pomfret with its delicately crisp outer layer and meaty flesh gets a flavorful boost from the deep and spicy notes from the traditional sambal for that balanced finish. The freshness of the various ingredients come together delivering clean and real flavors. Other must-try seafood dishes at Palm Grill include Locon A La Zamboanga or prawns in a rich coconut sauce, Curacha and Sizzling Sambal Squid.

The Tiyula Itum (P 390) is another iconic dish from the south and one of Palm Grill's best-sellers. The black beef soup of the Tausug is prepared with a variety of aromatics including lemongrass, galangal, turmeric, garlic, onions and pepper along with burnt coconut giving the dish its distinctive color. You can say it's a southern version of the ubiquitous bulalo but with more complex layers of flavors from the coconut.

The dish is served to your table and the bone marrow receives its finishing touches with a fiery torch. The torched crust of the bone marrow brings a richer flavor the palate rounded out by just a whisper of smoky hints. The dark broth drapes the palate with sweet, savory and sharp flavors from the aromatics and burnt coconut to complement the fork-tender beef for that delicate balance and finish. 

The Turmeric Rice of Palm Grill completes your Southern Mindanao feast with its mildly sharp and gentle flavors. 

Beef Kurma, Pianggang Manok, Tiyula Itum, Belachan Manok along with tasty sides and Turmeric Rice takes your palate on a culinary journey to the deep south without leaving the metro. Many say good food triggers a memory or takes you to another place or time, and Palm Grill is your gateway to the south with its extensive menu of Southern Mindanao cuisine. 

For dessert, Palm Grill's Knickerbocker is Zamboanga's version of the popular Halo-Halo with fresh fruits, milk and ice cream. The fresh fruits like watermelon and mango sets the Knickerbocker apart from the usual halo-halo. The icy and creamy concoction is fruitier than the typical halo-halo and synonymous with Zamboanga, the Knickerbocker is faithfully recreated at Palm Grill for that perfect sweet ending. And with the scorching heat of summer, it's just what you need to beat the heat. 

You can also try the homemade Durian Ice Cream served with Lokot-Lokot for another taste of the deep south. For many, you either love or hate durian, that King of Fruits of Southeast Asia. Palm Grill reigns in the funky fruit and transforms it to a silky smooth ice cream with its sweet and nutty flavor loved by many. Add a piece of crunchy Lokot-Lokot and you're in for a special treat, Southern Mindanao style. 

Coffee break? At Palm Grill, you can pair a cup of soothing single-origin local Sulu Coffee with another delicacy from the south, the award-winning premium Empanadas of Danessa's Kitchen from Cebu. 

Savory soft dough baked with a variety of fillings including Mexican Beef, Jamaican Beef and Tuna Melt, one bite and it's easy to know why this is Cebu's best (find out more, coming up soon on a separate post). And you'll find it here at Palm Grill.

Over at the pantry, you'll find many other local delicacies like the Lokot-Lokot...

...crunchy rice rolls that's great as is or paired with coffee or ice cream. Tediously prepared and cooked by hand, Lokot-Lokot is a popular treat in Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago. Made from glutinous rice, deep-fried and hand rolled, one bite and you're hooked.

You don't have to go far or fly down south for your Lokot-Lokot fix, you'll find it at Palm Grill along with other Southern Mindanao staples... Maggi Kari Instant Noodles which you'll find all over Malaysia, Indonesia and Zamboanga and now right here in Quezon City at Palm Grill. After a hearty Southern Mindanao feast, why not bring home some local Southern Mindanao delicacies? 

The richness of our culinary heritage has been shaped and defined by various cultural influences, and this is celebrated at Palm Grill showcasing the very best of traditional Southern Mindanao flavors. And five years on, Palm Grill remains your portal to authentic cuisine from the deep south...

Palm Grill is located at 179-181 Tomas Morato Avenue corner Scout Castor, Diliman, Quezon City or call 373-1668 for inquiries and more information. You can also visit their FB Page at for more updates.

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