In his new book, food historian Ige Ramos recounts Cavite’s culinary history
The celebrated author reintroduces the history only present in the Land of the Brave's dishes
We know Cavite as the land of heroes. Browse through historical and written records about Cavite and you’ll find that most of them feature historic sites and landmarks, museums and golf courses, and anything in reference to the Philippine Revolution. Aside from these, there isn’t much to say about the place and the people. But in Ige Ramos’ Republic of Taste: The Untold Stories of Cavite Cuisine, the province is thoroughly studied through its history and cuisine, its inhabitants, the geography, and current developments among the more popular culinary heritage locations in the country. Below are some of the most interesting excerpts we learned in the book:
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EMILIO AGUINALDO’S SECOND WIFE BROUGHT BATANGAS’ ADOBONG DILAW TO THE PROVINCE
A thorough study of the province isn’t complete without mentioning General Emilio Aguinaldo. After the death of his first wife, Hilaria del Rosario, he married Maria Agoncillo who brought with her an entourage from Taal, Batangas as well as the recipe for the dish. What made it different from the traditional adobong dilaw in Batangas is the use of patis alamang to add to the linamnam factor to the meat and neutralize the acidity of the vinegar. As for the former president’s contribution to Cavite cuisine, he propagated the production of tanglad (lemongrass), langkawas (galangal), alugbati (Malabar spinach), and batuan in Cavite. These are popular spices and condiments in Negros and Iloilo where most of his household staff came from.
CAVITE CUISINE WAS GREATLY SHAPED BY THE GALLEON TRADE
“Within 1565 and 1815, commercial activity in colonial Cavite was one of the most cosmopolitan in the world. Galleons from Acapulco would weigh anchor in Cavite—near Cañacao Bay—before consigning cargoes to the aduana.” Chinese merchants would also dock near the bay to trade rice, silk, ballast, pottery, and cheap labor in exchange for precious Mexican silver. Salt beds were also introduced in Cavite, which became of use during the Galleon Trade. Meso-American traded goods such as peanut, chili pepper, cacao, camote, potato, calabaza, guyabano, achuete, anonas, corn, and pineapple have been made available in the markets of the province whenever in season. It is believed that quesillo (kesong puti) was also brought into Cavite by the Mexicans thanks to the Galleon Trade.
Cavite cuisine is unique in the sense that dishes are always paired with one another to produce a complex taste profile. They are complemented further by different salsa, sawsawan, ensaladas, and buro; and other condiments that make for an abundant table. For instance, the nutty kare-kare is paired with the sour and savory taste of adobong baboy at manok sa achuete. Sinigang na bangus is paired with ukoy, while sinigang sa bayabas is paired with binagoongang baboy. “As long as each dish pairing becomes more flavorful and malinamnam for Caviteños, it will always be enjoyed with a good cup of hot rice.”
CROPS OF OPPRESSION
The Spanish regime brought about the forced planting of crops by Filipino farmers in order to pay colonial masters’ taxes. Coconut, rice, and sugar were collectively called crops of oppression, but these became the basic ingredients of today’s variety of kakanin, which is abundant in Cavite. Bibingkoy is a classic snack where patties of palitaw are prepared and filled with sweetened red mongo paste. “The kakanin, whether, bibingkoy, biko, or halaya, is always served with a thick soup made from gata (coconut milk). Cassava is known as balinghay or kamoteng kahoy in Cavite and has variations like Lihim ni Lola, while pichi-pichi (which means to flatten) is made from grated cassava, steamed and dredged with freshly grated coconut and shaped into oblong patties.”
MANGROVE FORESTS PLAY AN IMPORTANT ROLE IN DEVELOPING THE CUISINE
“Today, locals of Cavite are no longer aware of the nutritional and ecological value of dampalit, a wild weed commonly found in the area. Because of natural and political boundaries, parochialism, and sheer distance, the dampalit almost lost its place as one of the most important sources of food.” It was an essential ingredient into making salads or atchara as well as medicine to heal fever and wounds. Fortunately, rehabilitation and reforestation programs in the mangroves are bringing back balance in the ecosystem.
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