All-seafood feast

After watching chef Gordon Ramsay decry the use of frozen food on television so many times, I came to a conclusion that frozen food is bad, especially frozen meat. But not after cooking premium frozen seafood that I realized that it’s not bad at all.

While it is true that fresh is still the best thing to use, frozen is a good alternative nonetheless. That is if the brand you’re buying has done the process right.

The right process means that the meat is frozen immediately after slaughtering or harvesting the animal. Freezing the meat at its freshest is the best way to do it. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, freezing “does not destroy the nutrients,” the meat actually retains it in the freezing process. Also, the packaging helps, too, in maintaining quality.

SB King crab with hollandaise sauce on a crunchy brioche bread
King crab flakes with hollandaise sauce on a cr

Recently, Mida Food, one of the country’s top distributors of frozen premium seafood celebrated its 20th anniversary in a delicious fashion. It held an all-seafood lunch for a select group of guests at Gallery Vask, which is also a client.

Mida Food started as a trading company but eventually delved into frozen seafood distribution, starting with tuna off cuts like tuna jaw and tail. Today, the ISO-certified company, has more than 300 store keeping units (SKUs) in its line from fresh Norwegian salmon to pre-cooked New Zealand mussels to frozen Indonesian soft shell crab.

SB Aromatic tuna tartare with avocado and cilantro
Aromatic tuna tartare with avocado and cilantro

According to Mida Food president and CEO Enrique Valles, they have 1,000 base customers and delivers to 150 clients daily, moving eight to 10 tons of products every day. Their clients range from hotels to high end restaurants to fast food chains. Some of its customers include Tokyo Tokyo, Shakley’s, North Park, andWendy’s, just to name a few.

During the luncheon, chef Chele Gonzalez prepared a five-course meal using Mida’s products.

Before the lunch started, two types canapes were passed around. First was the simple pan seared hamachi on bread. The second one was king crab flakes with hollandaise sauce on a crunchy brioche bread. These were accompanied by Spanish Cava and sparkling rosé wine.

SB Grilled tiger prawns with starberry and watermelon gazpacho
Grilled tiger prawns with strawberry and watermelon gazpacho

Beginning the lunch proper is a small bowl of aromatic tuna tartare with avocado and cilantro. The tuna was finely diced and mixed with onions and cilantro topped with a dollop of creamy mashed avocado.

The next course was the beautiful plate of grilled tiger prawns with strawberry and watermelon gazpacho. The refreshing cold soup was complemented by different textures of chicharon-like crumbs and crispy iberico ham chips.

This was followed by the pan fried halibut with pork ragout and crispy iberico ham. The fish was flaky and melt-in-your-mouth tender.

SB Pan fried halibut with pork ragout and crispy iberico ham chips
Pan fried halibut with pork ragout and crispy Iberico ham

Then the last main course was my favorite. It was a seafood risotto with squid ink topped with lobster meat, seared scallops, Parmesan cheese tuiles, and asparagus ribbons (top photo). A spoonful with all components was a play on texture and flavors—the creamy and buttery risotto, tender seafood meat, and salty cheese tuiles.

Another favorite was the dessert and the only non-seafood dish (duh). The “different textures of calamansi” was the perfect ending to the seafood lunch. Different calamansi flavored desserts in a messy but beautiful pile—mousse, crumbled cake, cookie crumbs, and creamy ice cream.

Mida has attributed its success to the growing food industry, with the numerous restaurants opening shop and with Filipinos looking for more seafood options. Enrique said that they plan to put up their own retail store in the future but meanwhile, its retail brand Pacific Bay frozen seafood is available at supermarkets and its salmon bar is open at Markeplace by Rustan’s.

SB Different textures of calamansi
Different textures of calamansi

“Pacific Bay is a very important part of Mida Food, which is our retail brand available at all supermarkets. At some point we want to explore a brick and mortar retail store sort of like Santi’s but for seafood, like a high end fishmonger,” Enrique said.

www.midafood.com

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Food trip

I haven’t posted in a while, been busy lately but will post more recipes and stories soon. This one is about my trip last April in Southern Philippines. It was my first time in General Santos City, known as the Tuna Capital of the Philippines. Located in the island of Mindanao, which unfortunately has a bad reputation to tourists because of certain conflict areas, but generally speaking, most of the island is safe. In fact, in Region XII alone, the Department of Tourism recorded 3.1 million tourist arrivals in the region.

Greenleaf Hotel's tuna sashimi
Tuna sashimi by Greenleaf Hotel, General Santos City

General Santos is considered one of the business hubs of Mindanao. It is the southernmost city in the Philippines and is famous for tuna—its top export product. Its access to the waters of Sarangani Bay and Celebes Sea makes it a prime spot for its still growing seafood business.

The city is part of Region XII or what is also known as Soccsksargen or SOX, which is also composed of South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, and Sarangani. What the region is famous for is the food, raw export produce like pineapple, banana, and of course, tuna. Major importers of tuna is Japan and the US, while pineapple products are shipped across the globe.

Pineapple is one of Region 12's top exports because of the huge plantations of Dole Philippines
Pineapple is one of Region 12’s top exports because of the huge plantations of Dole Philippines

“We are no. 1 in Mindanao for rice production, no. 5 in the country; for corn, no. 1 in Mindanao, no. 2 in the country; for coffee, no. 1 in the Philippines. We also export meat like “pork in box,” which is exported to United Arab Emirates (UAE). Then, there’s organic rice, which is exported to UAE, Hong Kong, United States, Netherlands, and Switzerland. But two of our top exports are canned tuna and canned pineapple,” said DOT Region XII regional director Nelly Nita Dillera.

Dillera saw the potential of the food industry as a major player in the tourism sector. After the recently concluded Flavors of SOX, the region showcased several tour packages of the region that highlighted the eats instead of the usual sights. The Flavors of SOX celebration last April was the last leg of the Flavors of the Philippines, a program of DOT as part of its Philippine Food Month campaign.

Sarangani Highlands Garden tuna lechon
Tuna lechon of Sarangani Highlands Garden

The special packages include: the Gensan Tuna Food Tour, which explores the best product of the city through different offerings of several restaurants and hotels; Blaan Traditional Food Tour, a tour that immerses guests in the tradition and food of the Blaan Tribe; South Valley Food Tour, the tour that is all about the fresh fruits, which includes the abundant pineapple, that grows in the foothills of Mt. Matutum that covers Gensan and Koronadal City; Lake Sebu Culinary Experience, a territory of the T’boli tribe which is famous for its tilapia cuisine; T’boli Food Adventure highlights the traditional cuisine of the tribe; Halal Goodness that is all about the halal delicacies of Cotabato City and nearby areas; and the Gensan Agri Tour, which explores the bounty of the country’s southernmost city.

Although I was not able to experience all the tour packages, I was able to sample some of the eats and sights the region is known for.

T'boli heklafak and rice wrapped by a native leaf
T’boli’s heklafak or roasted native chicken

South Cotabato is known for its tribal roots and two tribes have opened their doors to the public so people can experience what life is like in a tribal community. Probably the most famous indigenous group in the province is the T’boli. Scattered around the province one of the tribe’s famous homes is Lake Sebu. Because of the place’s natural beauty and rich cultural heritage, it has become a prime tourist spot. The destination is famous for its natural sights but also because of the food. Several resorts and restaurants in the area offer different tilapia dishes. The fish is farmed in the lake as one of the community’s main source of livelihood.

The Blaan Traditional Food Tour, on the other hand, lets tourists experience the culture of the Blaan Tribe. Lamlifew (lam-lee-fao) Village, located in Malungon, Sarangani province, welcomes guests to its community of more than 150 households. A producer of corn, organic rice, and cavendish, the tribe is proud of its rich heritage and food. One traditional dish is the llolot anok, a tinola-like chicken dish that cooks native chicken with local herbs inside a bamboo. What’s unique about this dish is the herbs the tribe uses, which are the sangig, a mint-like herb and Blaan sibuyas, a type of chive. Both herbs grow in the mountains and the community just cultivate it in their own backyard.

Blaan's Llolot Anok, native chicken cooked inside a bamboo with special native herbs
Blaan’s llolot anok, native chicken cooked inside a bamboo with special native herbs

“What we want is Soccksargen to be part of the Philippine tourism map. What the national government promotes are the established destinations. I mean these areas can stand on their own already. If they can graduate these areas and identify the emerging destinations. If this happens a lot of the stakeholders will benefit from it. It’s not just the sights, but the food and resources we are proud of. We have so much,” Dillera ends.

Inquire: tourism@dot12.org

Recipe: Tuna Kinilaw

Kinilaw or kilawin is a Filipino dish that is similar to the Latin American ceviche. It’s basically fresh seafood soaked in an acidic liquid mixture that “cooks” the protein. Ceviche uses mainly citrus but the Filipino kinilaw uses a mixture of vinegar and citrus. This Filipino dish also requires less ingredients but I added a few ingredients in this recipe to add more texture. This dish is best served as an appetizer but here in the Philippines, it is a very common pulutan food or bar chow. A nice cold beer is its best partner.

Ingredients

500 grams (1 lb) fresh tuna
1 ¼ cup white vinegar
¼ cup calamansi juice
1 red onion
2 tbsp. ginger, diced
1 cucumber
2 pcs. finger chili pepper
Salt and pepper

Procedure

1. Cut tuna into small bite-size cubes. In a bowl, mix tuna, vinegar, calamansi juice, and ginger. Stir well and let sit for 10 minutes and let meat soak up liquid. You will notice that the meat will turn into pale pink from bright red. After the time, drain excess liquid and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, slice onion into thin pieces as well as finger chili. For the cucumber, remove seeds and slice thinly as well.
3. Add onions, chili, and cucumber into tuna. Season with salt and pepper and mix well. Cover bowl and let sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Serves 6

Recipe: Easy Tuna Pasta

There are times when unexpected guests appear in front of your door. What to do and what to serve them? The easiest thing to serve is pasta. So when this happened to us last weekend, I raided the cupboards and whipped up a quick pasta dish. I would have used basil in this recipe but I had none at the time (sadness). Anyway, it still turned out good even without the herb. Also, I have other easy pasta recipes that I can’t wait to share with you guys soon.

Ingredients

500 grams of pasta noodles (any kind you prefer)
2 180g cans of tuna in vegetable oil
3 large tomatoes (I used 6 small local tomatoes), chopped
1 red onion, sliced to half rings
6 garlic cloves, minced
4 tbsp. olive oil
Juice of half a lemon
Salt and pepper

Procedure

1. Cook pasta noodles according to package instructions. Cook the batch al dente and set aside.
2. Drain tuna. Do not discard the oil.
3. In a pan, heat olive oil. Then saute onion, garlic, and tomatoes for a couple of minutes. Add tuna and try to break them into smaller chunks. Mix well and cook for another couple of minutes. Pour in oil from the cans. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Turn off heat and add pasta to the tuna sauce. Mix well. Drizzle lemon juice over and stir again. Season with salt and pepper if necessary.
5. Serve and enjoy!

Serves 6