I swung by IFEX Philippines over the weekend and had the biggest foodie blast! I was a little pressed for time so I didn’t even get to take every single thing in but I still got to encounter some really fantastic local gastronomic gems. In the interest of appearing like an organized person who has it together, I am dividing my finds into savory and sweet categories. So check eeet.
Deep Dips Roasted Eggplant Antipasto
There was a ton of brands with gourmet tuyo (a Filipino delicacy of dried fish preserved further in oil and spices) and the like but Deep Dips stood out to me because they were the only ones doing the sampling with rice. It was so proper!
Owner chef Arnold Bernardo took me through every product he had on display by spooning bits of it into my cup of rice and in the end, I chose this:
This is a roasted eggplant dip (roasted eggplant + olives + sun dried tomatoes + capers + roasted bell peppers + garlic in EVOO) that can go on top of crostini, pasta, pizza, pretty much any vehicle to ultimately make it to the inside of your mouth.
And this kind of deliciousness needs to be in your mouth like, yesterday.
Bagoong (Filipino shrimp paste) seemed to be another big thing at the IFEX this year and I thought this was the most innovative of the lot.
Because guys, this is bagoong you can friggin’ sprinkle.
Apparently, this one’s nicknamed ‘The Philippine Umami’. I want that as my stripper name! Jokes aside, how neat is this?? I feel very strongly that every table in a Filipino restaurant needs to have this in a shaker. The best thing about Magic Bagoong producers Himaya-an Deli is that they hire mothers in Himamaylan, Negros Occidental who want to earn extra income for their families. We need to make it rain Magic Bagoong. For inquiries, you can call Butch Gensaya at 0948 643 9241 or call (034) 3883 504.
The owner is a friend I went to high school with but I mean it with zero bias when I say Island Gems products are my favorite pasalubong items when I’m visiting family and friends abroad. Because two things: it’s delicious good quality stuff and the packaging is beautiful.
One of my observations at the IFEX was that there are a lot of great local products out there but many fail to entice consumers on the aesthetic level and the truth is how the product is presented is really important. And when I’m buying something to give away as gifts, I need it to impress. I mean, take a look at the inside of this jar of laing (taro leaves in coconut cream):
I appreciate little details like this very much. My Island Gems finds were also the only ones whose lids came off easily. The other ones I had to wrestle and pry off with a knife. I appreciate details like this, too! Most importantly, the laing tastes absolutely delicious. It’s no surprise that this picked up the Katha Award for best and healthiest processed food this year, nominated by no less than chef Gaita Fores. SEE I TOLD YOU.
Kusina Klassics Kalamansi Hot Sauce
Hot sauce is my hands down, game over, absolute favorite condiment ever in the history of ever and I travel with the stuff. I have publicly professed my love for Mama Sita’s labuyo sauce many times and it will always be my number 1 but there are some exciting newbies you need to know about. Like this calamansi-habanero sauce from Kusina Klassics.
I personally find this extremely exciting for the reasons stated above and also because there are dishes out there that could just really benefit from a citrus and (serious) heat combo – for example, the sampling for this sauce was done with pork siomai. So. Good. This is a pantry essential!
Hot Moro Chili Powder
If you’d like to step up the heat even more, this ought to do it for you. Hot Moro Chili Powder is a mix of salt and ground chilies from Tawi-Tawi. It’s like the Japanese togarashi only it delivers actual heat and I mean potent heat. It’s pretty dynamite stuff.
I tried some of this mixed into the Kalamansi Hot Sauce while having cheese sticks yesterday and it had me breathing fire. I would love for you guys to experience that same pain but I totally forgot to ask where one can order this and it doesn’t seem to have much of a presence online. My bad. Don’t pass up when you find it!
On my next post, I’ll be introducing you to my sweet finds of local jams, jellies, cakes, and chocolate. Brace your sweet tooth! For now, my thoughts are with the local farmers and manufacturers of all the wonderful products I saw at IFEX – I hope they get what they deserve for their work and support from government to boot because, while some are already there, others need a little help in the packaging and marketing departments to be world class.
But truly, thank you for the goodness on my table. Thank you for what you do.