Every year my daughter and I take a Mother’s day bonding trip. She used to complain that I would drag her everywhere against her will. Now she looks forward to the adventure while I try to hang on to what little is left of her childhood. I have always wanted to learn about Philippine Muslim cuisine so our destination this time was Davao.
Davao is one big melting pot. I was surprised to find out that it is a very peaceful and safe place. Here different cultures live harmoniously with each other. Our food trip adventure was penetrating the heart of the Muslim center in Davao city….an area where others dare not go but you know me! The Muslims were in fact very hospitable and enthusiastic in explaining their dishes.
There are many southern tribes and here I was introduced to Maranao food in a carinderia called ARJ restaurant located in front of the Boulevard Mosque. While eating we could hear Azan or the call to prayer in the background. I also came prepared with a scarf in case we needed to wear a veil or head dress but they told us it was not necessary. Secretly I wanted to wear the veil but my daughter wouldn’t let me.
Miss Aleja Salik educated me on Muslim Maranao food. For Muslims eating with the hands is part of their culture. They believe blessing come with the use of the hands. They lick their open palm towards the end of a meal believing it has natural antibodies. Muslim food should be Halal or permitted. Eating pork is prohibited in their diet.
I noticed that Maranao food is predominately yellow but it is not strongly flavored. It lacks the spices and the heat of the curries found in the food of our Asian neighbors Indonesia or Malaysia. The yellow color comes from the use of turmeric in almost all of their dishes. They call it “kalawag” and believe it has medicinal properties that help keep them healthy. Most of their recipes are grilled, poached, or simmered in coconut milk. Another observation is they consume very little fried food.
The flavoring and aromatics of their food come from a plant bulb called sibujing. It comes from the onion family. From sibujing comes palapa a pounded paste used the way we northerners use bagoong (shrimp paste) as a condiment to enhance flavor.
Palapa – Sibujing pounded with sili and salt. It is used in sauteing their dishes.
Lamas – is their version of mirepoix. This is palapa with bombay (onions), tomaotes, atsal (bell pepper)
Papar or Sapal – unpressed grated coconut meat, naturally sweet in flavor
Here are some of the dishes we got to try:
Sinapalan Manok – grilled native chicken sauteed with palapa and sapal, simmered in coconut milk, with chili, spring onion, and turmeric
Udang – poached shrimp sauteed with palapa and sapal, simmered in coconut milk, with chili, spring onion, and turmeric
Pesuwanan karabao – Carabao meat sauteed with lamas and stewed in coconut milk
Boiled green langka(jackfruit) with turmeric
Smoked tuna poached with palapa and ginataang Tilapia