Mar 12, 2018
Manila is one of the most exciting and free-spirited capitals in South-east Asia with a common national obsession: food. As the dining scene rapidly expands to cater to global taste buds, food lovers flock to enjoy the finest in gourmet dining right down to the juiciest of street eats. City chefs and local foodies guide us through these buzzing alleys of flavour and discuss why their thriving capital is the dining superstar of the future.
Why do foodies come to Manila?
Filipino cuisine is rich and diverse, just like its history. Centuries of Spanish colonisation have resulted in an acquired passion for saucy meat dishes such as adobo (stewed in vinegar; above), menudo (beef stomach in a red chilli-enhanced broth) and kaldereta (primarily a goat meat stew). Furthermore, influences also come from a long history of trading with the Chinese, and more recently from the West, Korea and Japan. These, infused with traditional Filipino heritage cuisine and popular local ingredients such as ube (purple yam), paco (local fern) and pandan leaf mean a cocktail of unique experiences that hungry globetrotters are eager to discover.
“The taste of Filipinos for food has always been adventurous, but in recent years, the food scene has exploded, with young entrepreneurs opening up new restaurants, experimenting and unafraid to try out bold new ideas. This is reflected in what we offer in hotels and it’s really quite exciting,” says Mark Heywood, general manager of the five-star AG New World Manila Bay Hotel, which is currently home to two of Manila’s most popular award-winning restaurants, Li Li and The Fireplace.
The Fireplace sous chef Ilan Bacher moved back to Manila after decades in Las Vegas’ premier steakhouses. He explains that the time was right to return. “I came back in 2013 because the food scene was starting to really take off in Manila, plus it’s my home. Similarly to Vegas, the city is today a melting pot of cultures and this has hugely influenced dining culture throughout. You’ll find some of the best international meat dishes, right here.”