Hidden Flavors of the Philippine Kitchen

Presented by Restaurateurs Amy Besa and Chef Romy Dorotan,
of Purple Yam, Brooklyn, NY & Manila, Philippines

There are many indigenous ingredients in the Philippines which need to be recognized as the foundation of Philippine food traditions. These indigenous ingredients represent Filipino flavor profiles which should be categorized as FOOD THAT WAS ALWAYS OURS opposed to Food that was borrowed and made our own. This is a major premise discussed in two chapters of Amy Besa and Chef Romy Dorotan’s book, Memories of Philippine Kitchens.

Separating indigenous from non-indigenous ingredients, Besa feels is the best way to look at Philippine cuisine and helps people identify and organize the significance of each and every flavor encountered. These non-indigenous plants and ingredients arrived via Galleon trade between Manila and Acapulco from 1565-1815 or after.

These indigenous ingredients highlighted by Purple Yam Malate represent edible products from culinary plants grown in the Philippines which are (1) unknown; (2) ignored and (3) undervalued. These are artisanal products produced in small quantities and not available to the mass market. They represent flavors that come directly from Philippine soil, water and air. To sample Filipino food made with these ingredients will be a rare opportunity. Many commercially produced dishes in both the home country and abroad do not offer these rare and endangered flavor profiles. A renewed interest will prevent their disappearing and hopefully, their recognition and resurgence may lead to people using them and thereby preserving them.

Amy Besa and her husband, Chef Romy Dorotan, have been in the restaurant business in New York City for the past 22 years. They opened Cendrillon, a Filipino pan-Asian restaurant in SoHo in Manhattan in 1995 and closed it after 13 ½ years and re-opened Purple Yam in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn in November 2009. Purple Yam Malate, their first branch in the Philippines, opened on July 4, 2014 in Amy’s childhood home in one of the oldest historical districts of Manila. A kiosk at Estancia Mall in Pasig was set up in December 2015 as another venue to share homemade ice creams using local fruits, coffee and dairy products along with other Filipino delicacies such as buko pies and bibingka made with heirloom rice from the Cordillera rice terraces.

Amy and Chef Romy are co-authors of the award winning cookbook, Memories of Philippine Kitchens (2006, Stewart, Tabori and Chang, NYC). The book received the Jane Grigson Award for distinguished scholarship and research and the quality of its writing by the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) in Chicago in 2007. A second edition of the book was released May 2012 with the last chapter revised to reflect the move from Cendrillon to Purple Yam and the authors’ purpose of showcasing Asian culinary values and re-discovering the Filipino palate.

Amy is the founder of the Ang Sariling Atin Culinary Heritage Institute (ASA) in the Philippines. The ASA has three primary goals: (1) to produce and publish a book on the Philippine palate based on scientific studies of the flavor regions of the Philippines; (2) build community kitchens to make healthy, nutritious and hygienic food available and accessible to poor communities in the Philippines and (3) to create livelihoods, impart skills and develop markets for artisanal products for the purpose of preserving our culinary heritage.

Recent activities:
The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) sponsored Food Tour of North America, September & October 2017
Amy & Romy will lead a team of Purple Yam chefs from both Malate and Brooklyn to visit 5 cities in the fall of 2017: New York City, Seattle, Chicago, Toronto and Philadelphia to promote Filipino food. The theme of the food tour will be to showcase the use of indigenous and sometimes rare ingredients from the Philippines to create meals that truly reflect the flavors of the soil, water and air of the home country.

Tuesday, September 26th, 2017 at 7 PM
Kendall College, School of Culinary Arts
900 N. North Branch Street, Chicago
(West of Halsted Street, North of Chicago Avenue)
Free Parking in the student lot across the street, not in front, please!
Cost: $3. Free to Kendall students and faculty with ID.

This program is hosted by the Chicago Foodways Roundtable. To reserve, please e-mail: culinaryhistorians@gmail.com