book love, food, Philippines

Philippine Cookery: From Heart to Platter

To me, Philippine Cookery From Heart to Platter is a cross between a humble coffee table book and an elevated cookbook. The book begins with telling us chef and author Tatung Sarthou’s personal experience and views on food. There is a page that outlines his 5 laws of cooking. Despite the typical nature of rules, these five laws felt more encouraging rather than prescriptive. The contents and recipes that follow are organized not by ingredients but by cooking method. Historical and cultural notes are found in between recipes and instructions.

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Tatung also draws the spotlight on other cuisines in the Philippines not typically highlighted in many Filipino cookbooks which usually focus on fiesta food and Spanish influenced dishes. He includes Mindanao Muslim cooking, adding information on our use of coconut and curries. As it’s organized by cooking method, we see favourite recipes from Visayas and Mindanao (like the kinilaw) interspersed with more popular Northern ones.

“Cooking and eating food that makes sense to our culture, economy, and gastronomic sensibility can lead us to recognize our roots, find our true selves, and thus grow to greater heights.”

I like that he does not repeat what I often hear that Pinoy food is gaya-gaya or unimaginative derivatives of the Chinese, Spanish and American culinary traditions. Somehow the way this one is written shows that we have had our ways of cooking, culinary culture and concept of food. It also shines the light on the oftenly ignored part of our identity as Southeast Asian. This is of course my opinion and one of the reasons why I found this a satisfying book.

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I enjoyed and still continue to enjoy Philippine Cookery. I did not read it from cover to cover as one does a typical book but I refer to it for recipes like I would refer to a cookbook. I appreciate his cultural commentary on the ingredients and techniques in Philippine cuisine. If you are looking for a cookbook in the usual sense, this isn’t it. It’s more of an ethnographic cookbook and it’s this aspect of ethnography that I love about it.

So while I’m mostly lazy about meal prep and planning, I might pick this thing up and attempt a kitchen adventure once in a while.

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