Three Filipino food brands set to conquer the world

When I was asked to write an article for Philippine Panorama about Filipino food brands that excel abroad, it got me thinking about our brands. Right off the bat, I could only think of two brands that have global reach—San Miguel and Jollibee.

San Miguel Beer is quite popular in neighboring Asian countries like Singapore and Hong Kong. It is actually the preferred beer brand in Hong Kong. Refer to this map by Vine Pair. Jollibee, on the other hand, is getting a lot of international recognition (aside from purchasing global fast food brands) especially after celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain ate at one of its branches in the US, which was showcased in his show. BuzzFeed is also responsible for a lot of taste test videos that includes the Filipinos’ favorite fast food restaurant.

In recent years, however, more local brands are putting the Philippines in the world map as a source of premium products. Local companies are producing high quality products that can compete against the best in the world.

“You see, the international market stereotypes the Philippines as a supplier of ‘raw’ materials instead of ‘premium finished goods.’ So when we go out and sell to them our jams, there’s always that price shock because international buyers expect our products to be unreasonably cheap, having had the habit of buying raw, unprocessed food,” explains Maria Rivera-Kapfer owner of Island Gems fruit preserves and jams.

island gems mango jam
Island Gems mango jam

Island Gems produces high quality jams and preserves, using only the best fruit produce of the Philippines and using no preservatives. Established in 2012 by Maria and husband Chris, it won the Katha Food Awards in 2015 and was picked as a SIAL Innovation Selection (ASEAN) in the same year. Its jam flavors include: mango, mango-calamansi, calamansi, strawberry, bignay berries, ube (purple yam), and pineapple-coconut. It also bottles Filipino favorite laing or taro leaves cooked in coconut milk, shrimp paste, and chilies. Its mango jam proved to be popular in South Korea and with hope, Maria says, that if the plan pushes through, it will be available in every major supermarket in the East Asian country. (

don papa rum
Don Papa Rum

The province of Negros Occidental is the “Sugar Capital of the Philippines.” A lot of its land is dedicated to sugar cane plantations. And one of the products that come from sugar cane is rum. Rum is made from sugar cane byproducts like molasses. Negros is where Don Papa Rum is made. Owned by the Bleeding Heart Company, Don Papa has been getting recognition worldwide, thanks to its founder, Stephen Carroll a former executive of Remy Cointreau. Don Papa is available in 16 countries and is especially popular in France and Germany. Also, the rum is produced by Ginebra San Miguel, the maker of the world’s best-selling gin. (

malagos chocolate 03
Malagos Chocolate’s premium chocolate

The Philippines is fortunate enough to be one of the best places on Earth to grow cacao trees. This means that the Philippines can produce its own chocolates. Like what I wrote in a previous post, the cacao industry here in the Philippines has a lot of potential, thus, more local companies have been producing high quality chocolate products. One of them is Malagos Chocolate of Davao. Its 65% Dark Chocolate received a silver medal in the 2015 World Drinking Chocolate Competition organized by the International Chocolate Awards. In the same year, Malagos 100% Unsweetened Chocolate was awarded a bronze medal by Britain’s Academy of Chocolate. Owner Rex Puentespina is hoping to market the company’s chocolate soon on a global scale. (

Read my full Philippine Panorama article here.


Recipe: Basic Mashed Potatoes

This American staple already has multiple variations, from using cheese to bacon to different spices. This is the basic version that uses only three ingredients—potato, milk, and butter. This side dish is best served along side fried chicken, roast chicken, steak, or any beef dish. Because potatoes and beef is a match made in culinary heaven.


750 grams (1.6 lbs.) potato (any variety you prefer)
¾ cup full cream milk
3 tbsp. unsalted butter
Salt and pepper


1. Peel and cut potatoes into quarters. Make sure that pieces are roughly the same size so they cook at the same time.
2. Put potatoes in a pot with enough water to cover the pieces. Let boil and cook until tender. This will take around 15 minutes. Use a fork to check potatoes’ tenderness. It should be tender yet firm. When the potatoes are done, drain from the pot.
4. Pour potatoes in a bowl and start mashing, using a masher or a fork. I mash it enough that it’s not too fine and still has small bits of potatoes.
5. Add in milk and butter. Combine well. Then season with salt and pepper.
6. Serve with gravy and enjoy!

Serves 4

Recipe: Creamy Beef with Mushrooms

Beef and mushrooms go well together. A plate sauteed mushrooms is a perfect side dish for a crusty and juicy steak. This recipe combines the two in one dish. It’s like the Russian stroganoff but instead of egg noodles this one’s served over a bed of creamy mashed potato or steaming white rice (we Filipinos, eat everything with rice).


750 grams (1.65 lbs) of beef sirloin
1 can button mushrooms (1 cup if using fresh)
1 can cream of mushroom soup
2 cups beef broth
1 medium yellow onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup whole milk
4 tbsp. soy sauce
Salt and pepper


1. Slice beef into thin bite size pieces. You can let the butcher do this. Then in a bowl, put in beef with soy sauce and minced garlic. Let marinate for at least 30 minutes.
2. In a pan, sear beef pieces over high heat. Set aside.
3. In the same pan saute onions for about two minutes. Then add seared beef with remaining marinade and garlic. Stir well. Pour in beef broth and simmer beef until tender. This will take about an hour to an hour and a half. The liquid will reduce, add water if necessary.
4. When the beef is tender, add in cream of mushroom soup and mushrooms. Then season with salt and pepper. Mix well. The soup will thicken sauce. Then add milk.
5. Let simmer for about five minutes.
6. Serve and enjoy!

Serves 4

Where’s Marcel? coffee shop opens in Manila

If you think there’s no space for another coffee shop in Metro Manila (or any city in the world, for that matter), well, think again. Yup, there’s a new brewer in town. Australian coffee company Where’s Marcel? will soon open its first shop in the country.

This shop, however, is unlike the big chain coffee shops we are used to. Where’s Marcel? is mainly a wholesale company that supplies artisan coffee beans to other coffee shops and retailers. But most importantly, this brand has more heart than most—conscience for good coffee and fair trade.

Coffee from Where’s Marcel? promises the best quality.

Craft coffee is in its early stages here in the country. In Melbourne, however, it’s already a lifestyle. The Melbourne coffee scene has been getting a lot of attention because of the many artisan brewers popping up in the Australian city. No, this is not another hipster trend because specialty coffee is not just about fancy brewing methods but also about sustainability and fair trade.

Melbourne-based Where’s Marcel? is all about fair trade. It operates based on direct trade, which means it gets its beans straight from the farmer, cutting off the middleman. This also means that the farmer gets the best price for his/her crops. It likewise educates farmers about good industry practices.

But its business is not just about fair trade because it also wants consumers to taste the true flavors of coffee. Darker roast beans, like our very own barako, tend to be bitter and harsh. Tween favorite frappuccinos are saturated with sugar and cream, which buries any semblance of coffee flavor. Instant coffee is well, instant.

Marcel Ruggieri
Marcel Ruggieri

During the recent launch of the brand, we were able to taste a clean and crisp coffee, no bitter aftertaste, just the true flavor of the coffee. Di Bella Coffee barista Melissa Hamilton used a different method of brewing: siphoning. Di Bella Coffee roasts the beans for Where’s Marcel? specialty coffee shop. Melissa points out that no matter what brewing method you use, the taste still depends on the coffee beans.

“It doesn’t matter what brewing process because if the rest of it isn’t done well (coffee production), it’s not going to be good,” she says.

In Where’s Marcel?, don’t expect commercial brews, although it offers cappuccino and latte, you should try its batch brew, hot or with ice. No frappucino here. Its food menu consists of international and local flavors. Australian staple muesli is an amazing breakfast and brunch dish. It is a mixture of raw oats and other grains, as well as different kinds of nuts. It is usually soaked in apple juice overnight then eaten with a generous helping of yogurt and fresh fruits. I love this so much.

Fresh and healthy, muesli

Also try the chorizo carbonara and pork-chicken and kesong puti adobo sandwich. The desserts are a must-try, too, like the coffee muffins and the variety of cookie shards—thin chewy cookies.

Ultimately, Where’s Marcel? wants to educate not only consumers but its clients as well, spreading awareness about coffee brewing methods and good industry practices.

“In terms of our wholesale operations, we are focused on educating and building our clients’ businesses. When we supply coffee, we’re not just supplying bags of beans but we also work with their team, we work with their staff to prove their knowledge with coffee but also delivering that experience to their clientele,” Where’s Marcel? director Marcel Ruggieri ends.

Read my Manila Bulletin article here.

Where’s Marcel is set to open on March 30 at the ground floor f Pearl Place, Pearl Drive Ave. Ortigas, Pasig City (beside University of Asia and the Pacific). Facebook/wheresmarcelph; Instagram/@wheresmarcelph

Recipe: Onion Rings with Tartar Sauce

If I don’t have chips or popcorn, I would always try to find something to cook. One of the go-to snacks I love is onion rings. It’s easy and super good. I usually have this with mayonnaise and ketchup but this time, I try tartar sauce, which is both creamy and tart, and has the kick of garlic.


4 pcs. yellow onion (the local variety is smaller, use two if the bigger variety is available)
1 egg
3 tbsp. all-purpose flour
Salt and pepper
Oil for deep frying.

Tartar sauce
4 tbsp. mayonnaise
2 garlic cloves
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. scallions


1. Over low heat, heat oil.
2. Slice onions into rings and put in a bowl. Beat egg slightly and pour in with the rings, mix well to coat every ring. Then add flour, one tablespoon at a time, then season with salt and pepper.
3. Fry onion rings per batch. This will take only a few minutes. Wait until rings become golden brown. Let drain on paper towel.
4. Make the sauce. Mince garlic. Put mayonnaise in a small bowl, add lemon juice and minced garlic. Combine well.
5. Serve together and enjoy!

Serves 2

Summer salad

Summer treats are not limited to halo-halo, ice cream, and fruit shakes because Summer is also the season of grilled meat, seafood, and of course, salad! Aside from being healthy, salads are very refreshing and light. Since vegetables contain a lot of water, salads are good hydrating food. In this heat, it helps to always keep hydrated.

I eat a lot of vegetables, even when I was younger. As I grew older, my love for vegetables grew bigger as well. The only vegetable I don’t eat, however, is okra. I just can’t get over its sliminess. Good thing is, most salads don’t contain okra.

saladstop 04
FRESH BOWLS Clockwise from top: Go Geisha, Cobb Salad, and Oh Crab Lah

Salad is one of those versatile dishes you can make. You can make a salad as light as possible or as heavy and filling as you want. One misconception of salad is that it’s too light and not filling at all. That’s not true because you can put anything in your salad to make it more filling but still keeping it healthy, like nuts or grilled chicken breast/seafood or fruits or noodles. Anything goes, really.

One genius way of making salads filling is wrapping them in tortilla. Singapore-based lifestyle food brand SaladStop! makes this amazing mutant of a dish. It’s like a burrito but instead of meat, rice, and beans, the restaurant’s wraps are filled with amazingly fresh vegetables. Not just ordinary vegetables but classic salad dishes from Cobb to Greek to Caesar.

SaladStop! which recently opened in the country, is a fast food restaurant concept but instead of offering greasy and unhealthy burgers, it offers fresh and healthy salads. As more and more people are becoming health conscious, the concept has never been so relevant today.

saladstop 03
The salad wraps are very filling

“It’s supposed to be a concept that is very casual, very, fast food, but in a fast casual space. It is more of a lifestyle brand rather than a fast food brand,” says SaladStop! co-founder Adrien Desbaillets. “We knew that there was a market and we knew that Filipinos are generally open to new concepts, so we knew that that’s going to help us. This hunger for new brands, new lifestyle brands, new movement toward healthier food. I mean the local food is not healthy in the Philippines.”

Brought in by SSI Group Inc., SaladStop! offers a variety of salads from the classic to original tosses like the Oh Crab Lah, the salad version of Singapore’s signature dish—chili crab. Customers can also create their own salads through the restaurant’s salad bar. It also offer healthy drinks, snacks like kale chips as well as pastries.

SaladStop! also follows its philosophy “Eat, Wide, Awake” which means that the food it serves are healthy, wholesome, and does not impact the environment. It uses no processed or artificial ingredients and it is working to be 100% GMO and preservative free.

Lower Ground Floor, 5th Avenue cor. 30th Street, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig
Nos.: +63 958 5534; +63 917 8046921

R3 Level Power Plant Mall, Rockwell Center, Makati City
Nos.: +63 833 4753 to 54; +63 917 523 2887

Ground Floor of OPL Building 100 C. Palanca St., Legaspi Village, Makati City
Nos.: +63 808 7556 or 808 7569; +63 917 675 2745

Or visit SaladStop! on the web here.


Recipe: Asian Shrimp Skewers

I love shrimp. I can’t say that enough. Shrimps can be cooked in any way you want—boiled, steamed, fried, or grilled. It can be eaten by itself, but it is so versatile it can be used in various dishes from pasta to fried rice to chow mien to Spanish paella. This recipe combines my love for this crustacean and my favorite method of cooking—grilling.


¾ kg (1.6 lbs) shrimps
2 pcs. lemons
2 pcs. red onions (small)
2 pcs. bell peppers (red and green)
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. oyster sauce
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. pepper
Bamboo barbecue skewers
Chinese parsley for garnish


1. Butterfly shrimps without removing head and shell. Retaining the head and shells makes it look rustic and better for presentation, although you can remove the shell and head if you want.
2. Cut one lemon, onions, and bell peppers to bite size pieces.
3. Skewer shrimp and vegetable alternately. I used this sequence: shrimp-bell pepper-shrimp-onion-shrimp-lemon. This will make around 14 shrimp skewers.
4. Heat charcoal for grilling. While waiting, mix together juice of one lemon, soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, sugar, and pepper. This is the basting sauce.
5. Grill skewers and baste constantly. You know it’s cooked when it’s bright orange. Each skewer will cook around 2 to 3 minutes.
6. Serve on a platter, sprinkle with chopped Chinese parsley leaves and lemon wedges. Serve with white rice. Enjoy!

Serves 6

A different kind of Japanese dining experience

To say that Japanese food is a Filipino favorite is an understatement. Japanese food is already a staple here that there are now restaurants specializing on specific dishes, from tempura to ramen to sushi to katsu. People will line up for a hot bowl of rich ramen or a crunchy katsu meal.

ichiba platter
An assortment Japanese eats served during the restaurant’s grand launch.

Japanese food is love.

I, too, love Japanese food. When I was younger, my dad was sent by his company to work in Japan for six months and his love for Japanese food was transferred to us, mostly me, actually. He was the one who taught me how to use chopsticks. And because of the country’s rich culture and amazing food, Japan is on top of my list of countries to visit.

Another Japanese concept opened recently that made me think, are Filipinos slowly transporting Japan here? I mean, if that’s the case, can they they transport the weather, too?

Kidding aside, I love how more and more Japanese things are becoming available here. I wrote about Hattendo last time and now this concept. I heard that there are more Japanese brands and concepts opening in the country soon.

ichiba live seafood
Live seafood

iFoods Group, the company behind other Japanese restaurant concepts Tokyo Cafe and Wafu, recently opened Ichiba: Japanese Market, a restaurant that was inspired by the bustling markets of Japan. Imagine Tsukiji Fish Market, Kuromon Ichiba Market, Kyushu Market, and Hokkaido Market, cramped into one restaurant. Upon entering the restaurant, it’s like getting transported to busy street market complete with traditional Japanese market stall facades.

The eatery, located at the Newport Mall, Resorts World Manila, is like a Japanese version of the Filipino “dampa” dining style. Diners can pick from the many live seafood at the restaurant. The restaurant’s live seafood section can hold up to 600 kg of live seafood, from shrimps to lobsters to crabs to various kinds of shellfish. Most of the seafood are sourced directly from Japan while some are from different parts of the Philippines. Customers can ask Ichiba’s highly trained kitchen staff to prepare the seafood to whatever Japanese dish they want.

ichiba takoyaki boys
Cooking octopus takoyaki balls

Ichiba has a ready menu as well, offering classic dishes like sushi, tempura, ramen, and donburi. At the center of the restaurant is yatai stall where busy cooks prepare favorite Japanese street food like takoyaki, yakitori (chicken fillet, chicken gizzard, salmon, pork belly, etc.), among others. You have to try the gyukushi or beef yakitori. These melt-in-your-mouth wagyu beef barbecue dish is really good and at less P130, it’s a total steal. The restaurant also has a Asahi Bar for happy hours.

Location: Second floor, Newport Mall, Resorts World Manila, Pasay City
Contact: +63917 732-2176