Monday, October 2, 2017

Anna and her next adventure

As Anna started packing her stuff in earnest, with help from Richelle and Kuya Junjun, Semisonic's song "Closing Time" started playing in my head... maybe because of this line: "Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end". It was an apt song, I think, because Anna's moving to the USA to be with the rest of the family and to establish new roots there.

This is her first long-haul flight and her first trip to California, which is one reason why everyone's excited for her, even Lola Bats. It must be difficult to pack your life into two balikbayan boxes but she was able to do it.

Mommy, Daddy, Biboy, and Barbara (who took the photo below) were at the San Francisco International Airport to pick her up. They actually went to the meeting area at the arrivals section... complete with balloons! 

(And my mom, crying, as usual)

Well, I was also there, in spirit... as you can see in the box, my penmanship's there. Physically, though, I'm holding the fort and getting the house ready for Biboy and Barbara's visit in a few weeks.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Happy birthday, Anna!!

Anna celebrated her nth birthday in Sta Cruz, Laguna with our family a few days before flying to the USA. We went to Pagsanjan for dinner but ate the cake in Tita Mely's house. Our nephews and nieces did a great job in designing the cake with Anna's Facebook photos. Ate Madie made a good call in choosing the restaurant. I forgot the name of the place but the food was reasonably priced and was delicious.

Everyone was excited about her trip because it's her first time to travel to the USA and our relatives there lead good lives. They're all hopeful that she'll enjoy her stay there and that she'll get a good job... great wishes on a birthday that marks the end of one stage in her life and the beginning of the next.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Colors of Rice

The Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) held its third quarter seminar series earlier today and I was one of the speakers invited to attend, as per recommendation by Tita Nollie (thank you!). I was asked to talk about cooking specialty rice and kakanins. Since Tita Nollie intended to give an overview of the Heirloom Rice Project, I opted to talk about a paper I co-wrote this year entitled "Developing a framework of gastronomic systems research to unravel drivers of food choice" (, focusing on the rice delicacies. 

Also, upon Tita Nollie's suggestion, I featured the desserts found in IRRI's 2016 calendar. These desserts were made by three chefs we've befriended through the journey into the nuances of flavours of heirloom rice: Sharwin Tee, Jessie Sincioco, and Margarita Fores. The challenge, of course, was that it's difficult to get decent photos of the food from the calendar itself because of the calendar lay-out. So I had to get screen grabs of the food photos from the YouTube video introducing the calendar. 

First up was Sharwin's chocolate heirloom rice pudding, aka champorado, in which he used Kalinga Jekot. For his recipe, he used cocoa powder and Choc-Nut. The Choc-Nut gave a more nutty flavour to his version of the Filipino classic breakfast... but wait, he threw another curve ball when he added garbanzos and banana fritters into the mix. This was definitely not regular champorado. 

Filipino cuisine is known for counterpoints; for Sharwin's champorado, this concept was illustrated by the smoked bacon topping the champorado. Sweet and salty, a good combination. Typically, champorado is paired with tuyo for everyday consumption; but the combination of ingredients suggests that this champorado version is meant to be eaten during special occasions.

Next, I talked briefly about Gaita's recipe for black rice sticky pudding with amaretti and chestnut cream. For this dish, she used Balatinaw (from the Mountain Province). Amaretti cookies were crushed and added to the Balatinaw pudding mix; the amaretti's almond taste was complementary to the sweetness of the pudding and to slightly bitter taste of the Balatinaw. The chestnuts, on the other hand, lent a nutty and sweet potato taste to the dish.

Bittersweet... a classic counterpoint in flavours as well. The decadence of the ingredients, once again, indicated the target audience of the recipe. It's not for our everyday consumption; rather, we eat something like this for special occasions.

Lastly, I talked about Jessie's Ominio mochi balls. Inside these balls was a paste that contains sweet potato. So my impression is that Jessie and Gaita were exploring similar aspects of food flavours. However, the sesame seeds and the coconut gratings provided contrasts in textures for the mochi balls, rather than in flavours (although the roasted flavour in them probably provided flavour contrasts too). This dish probably packs a lot of crunch to it.

Again, another dish designed for special occasions.

Which brings me back to the paper that I co-wrote. See, in that paper, we featured a study about Filipino consumption patterns viewed from a gastronomic systems research framework. In this way, we see that the socioeconomic and cultural contexts of consumers (in this study, middle- to high-income Filipinos eating premium quality rice) dictate the eating occasions, which are then associated with dishes, which are then linked with ingredients. Our goal was to find intervention entry points to increase the market share of heirloom rice, which (at the moment) are sold at very high prices (three times that of regular rice). Expert elicitation showed that there are five categories of eating occasions and rice cakes and rice delicacies such as those prepared by the chefs are typically eaten during special occasions (e.g., fiesta, wedding receptions), during Christmas and New Year (separated from the other special occasions), and during snack time. For each of these three categories of occasions, heirloom rice was seen, by the experts, to be fit for substitution for the typical rice used half of the time; which means that the potential market share of heirloom rice for kakanins is less than 6%. 

Not such a big market. This indicates that we shouldn't limit our use of specialty rice (in this case, heirloom rice) for kakanins. We should find more wiggle room for its adoption. How about expanding the promotion of heirloom rice to lunch and dinner occasions? Heirloom rice has a potential market share of 36% if these get expanded use during lunch and dinner.

A thought that needs to be put out there. A paradigm that needs to be disrupted. Hopefully, my presentation earlier has opened more ideas at PhilRice. and we'll be able to develop more collaborative work with them into this field.