Food weaves the 7,641 islands of the Philippines. A cuisine that is rich in taste base on our history. It is a mix of Austronesian origins (shared with Malaysian and Indonesian cuisines) to a mixed cuisine of Indian, Chinese, Spanish and American influences. Filipino cuisine is composed of the cuisines of 144 distinct ethnolinguistic groups found throughout the Philippine archipelago. Recently, The Gallery at Burjuman Arjaan by Rotana launched its Kabayan Night every Thursday to give us a taste of some of the mainstream Filipino dishes that compose the Filipino cuisine. The food they serve changes every Thursday but Chef Mark’s special dishes will be a regular every Kabayan Night.
Sinigang na Hipon– sinigang means stew. It is of Tagalog origin and the main ingredient is tamarind, stewed with tomatoes, garlic, and onions. Sinigang is cooked with different kinds of vegetables like okra, taro corms, white radish, water spinach, long beans, eggplant and meat or seafood. Chef Mark used hipon or shrimp. The taste of The Gallery’s Sinigang na Hipon has perfectly balanced sourness of the fresh tamarind with a slight sweetness from the taro corm.
Arroz Valenciana – a Spanish influenced dish mainly consists of one pound of rice, chicken, chorizo, two ounces of butter, one onion, one red bell pepper, two tomatoes, a can of tomato paste, and salt and pepper to taste. The Gallery’s version is quite simple. They used chicken sausage, bell pepper, quail egg and tomato paste. It is quite heavy so it would be best to get only a little of this if you want to try other dishes.
Beef Kare- Kare– is a famous dish from Pampanga which has a peanut base of stewed oxtail, pork hocks, calves feet, pig feet, beef stew meat, and occasionally offal or tripe. This always has vegetables with it which include eggplant, Chinese cabbage, or other greens, daikon, green beans, okra, and asparagus beans are added—usually equaling or exceeding the amount of meat. It is often eaten with bagoong guisado (spiced and sautéed shrimp paste) since Kare-kare is quite plain in tastiness. However, The Gallery’s Kare-kare is tasty by itself. It has a similar taste to satay No need to add bagoong guisado to make it tasty. The peanut sauce is thick. It is important to consider the quality of the peanuts to use since this is the main taste of the dish. Vegetables were fresh which were used as toppings. The beef is a bit tough but the overall taste is superb.
Chicken Bicol Express– another stew dish made from long chilies, coconut milk, shrimp paste, onion, and garlic. In the Philippines we usually use pork but since we are in UAE, The Gallery used bite-sized chicken breast. While this dish is expected to be spicy, The Gallery gave me a different experience on their Bicol Express. It is creamy with a rich umami flavor that will tempt you to get more rice.
Ginataang Sitaw Kalabasa– another dish cooked with coconut milk. It has long beans and pumpkin. The Gallery’s version is not as great as previous dishes. Soup is thin and the pumpkin is over cooked.
Daing na Bangus – being in the archipelago, daing na isda or dried fish is a common dish in all households. One of the most common fish used is Bangus or Milkfish. The clean butterfly fillet fish is soaked in brine then dried. Recently, the process has changed and the fish is marinated in unique recipes from Filipino moms which has vinegar, salt, pepper, garlic. The fish is marinated overnight or more, then while inside the fridge. It is then fried and served with tomato and white rice. The Gallery’s Daing na Bangus has the same taste as my mom’s recipe but it would have been better if they removed all the bones of the fish.
Chicken Embutido– a Spanish and an American influenced dish with a Filipino twist. It is meatloaf with egg, cheese, and sometimes even raisins. It is served on special occasions like Christmas, Fiesta, and birthdays with our famous banana ketchup. I find Kabayan Night’s Embutido salty, I should have dipped it in banana ketchup.
Pansit Palabok– Pancit is of Chinese influenced and we made our version of Chinese’s stir fry noodles. Palabok is a noodle dish that uses thin noodles (moong noodles) topped with boiled egg, shrimp, ground pork and chicaron (deep-fried pork skin). The Gallery served Pancit Luglug and not Palabok since they used thicker noodles. Due to the absence of pork and chicharon, the Pancit is bland to my taste.
Litson Manok – roasted chicken with not just salt and pepper. Filipino moms have their own secret recipes when cooking Litson Manok. The Gallery’s recipe is definitely unique as it is so tasty. You can even taste the marinate in the white meat part of the chicken.
Palitaw – a dessert made of glutinous rice, sugar, and grated coconut. It normally white in color but The Gallery has red, green, and purple. The palitaw is thin, not the usual thickness that we have back home.
Bilo – Bilo – is small balls of glutinous rice flour which is cooked in coconut milk and sugar. A heavy snack because of the carbohydrate overload from bilo-bilo, sweet potato, plantain. Kabayan Night serves the best Bilo-bilo in Dubai with different colored glutinous flour that is bigger than the usual sized we have back home.
Buko Pandan– a sweet salad made of shredded young coconut (buko), agar agar (gulaman), milk, pandan. Pandan leaf is our local vanilla essence in the Philippines that we use to make dishes more aromatic. It has a subtle soothing aroma with sweet scent when crushed or boiled. It is difficult to find here in UAE which is why Pandan extract is normally used for a dessert like Buko Pandan. The Gallery’s Buko Pandan is ok but nothing great.
Coffee Jelly– this is not of Philippine origin but has been famous in the Philippines because of a famous coffee shop. Filipinos served their version of it in a dessert instead of a drink. Coffee Jelly from Kabayan night is very creamy with a subtle taste of coffee and just the right amount of sweetness.
I am rating The Gallery 4/5.