Vietnamese-Australian chef and restaurateur Luke Nguyen has a better understanding of Philippine cuisine after embarking on a food crawl around the capital of Manila.
Resto-hopping around Intramuros and Malate in a personalized pimp jeepney, he savored the varied flavors of sinigang na bangus sa bayabas, kare-kare, crispy pata, dinuguan, sampaguita ice cream, and the ever-challenging experience of eating balut.
“I have a better understanding of Filipino cuisine, but there’s so much more I don’t know yet,” the celebrity chef from Down Under admitted at a round table following his adventure, “so I’m interested to explore more about the regionality and diversity of the Filipino cuisine.”
To do so, Nguyen says he needs to go all around the country and explore the Philippines’ islands and villages. He was in the country to do research for a much a bigger project—to change the perception of Asian cuisine around the world where it is thought that there are merely two specialties per country in the continent.
“I love to show the diversity of cuisine and share to the world that it’s not just about bahn mi in Vietnam and adobo in the Philippines. There’s so much more to it,” he enthused.
“Traveling around Asia and to the West, I’ve seen the rise of Korean restaurants. I think the next one will be Vietnamese cuisine. I see younger chefs working around the world and doing innovative and modern Vietnamese cooking and bringing a twist to old recipes.”
For his four-day visit to Manila, Nguyen included live cooking demos for cable network TLC, which held a day-long festival at Bonifacio High Street on Novemer 4. He shared the spotlight with TLC’s popular hosts Buddy Valastro of “Cake Boss,” and Patty Lee and Sharon Huang of “Fun Taiwan,” and local celebrities like Troy Montero from “Worst Vacation Ever,” and Ramon Bautista, RA Rivera, Jun Sabayton, Lourd de Veyra and Angel Rivero from Discovery Channel’s “You Have Been Warned Asia.”
Nguyen, who had a program on “Luke Nguyen’s Street Food Asia” on TLC, said he plans to come back to Manila to do an episode on street food like adidas (chicken feet) and helmet (chicken head).
“I did that for Saigon, Ho Chi Min City, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta so I want to come back here, tour and explore more of your cuisine because I believe there is so much more to savor in the Philippines.”