The Philippines is home to a wide variety of crops and livestock, many of them disappearing from cultivation due to modernization. A handful of them are listed in the Ark of Taste, the Slow Food Movement’s catalog of endangered foods from across the globe. There are currently 65 Filipino food ingredients featured on the list. A selection of them was featured in Slow Food Philippines’ booth at the World Food Expo from August 3-6, 2022. Visitors were encouraged to touch, smell, and experience these products, which come from different regions of the country.
Agriculture Online has previously featured Ark of Taste products like asin tibuok, pili nut, and tabon-tabon. Here are four more endangered Filipino food ingredients that Slow Food advocates for.
Batwan (Garcinia binucao) belongs to the genus Garcinia, which includes the mangosteen.
The batwan tree soars up to 25 meters and grows in Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam and the Philippines, where it can usually be found on the islands of Panay and Negros. It is widespread in other parts of the country as different regions have their own name for the fruit. It is called ballok in Benguet, balikot in Ilocos, and binucao or bilukao in Tagalog provinces. Its most common name, batwan or batuan, is the name it is referred to in Visayan provinces.
Its round fruits are four to five centimeters in diameter. Batwan is green, turning yellow when ripe, with a sour but not acidic taste, which is why it is used as a souring agent in soups and broths. An example is its use in an Ilonggo dish called KBL which stands for kadyos (pigeon peas), baboy (pork), and langka (green jackfruit).
Kadyos (Pigeon pea)
Kadyos, the K of the aforementioned KBL, comes from a shrub called the pigeon pea (Cajanus cajan), which also grows on the islands of Panay and Negros. It may have originated from either Africa or India, which is currently the crop’s largest importer and producer.
The legumes of this plant are high in vitamins and minerals. They resemble black beans but have a nutty flavor. Besides KBL, it is also the prime ingredient in another Ilonggo dish called KMU, which stands for kadyos, manok (chicken), and ubod, which is the core of a banana trunk.
Outside cuisine, it is also used as livestock feed and is grown alongside other crops due to its nitrogen-fixing properties.
This heirloom variety of rice from Ifugao is also called imbu-an or tinglu tinawon, an Ilocano term from the Ifugao dialect which translates to “every year.” The specific variety featured in the Ark of Taste is called “imbuucan” from the Tawili language of Banaue and Hingyon, Ifugao. These two towns are also the main producers of this rice.
The variety thrives best when grown 700 meters above sea level in irrigated terraces. It is planted from December to February and harvested from June to August, depending on the elevation. It grows slowly as it requires six months of growth after transplantation before it is harvested. During the ripening stage of the crop, rice terraces will turn red because of the red stripe coloration on the grain.
Kiniing is a cured pork product made from the meat of Benguet’s native black pigs. To prepare kiniing, the lean parts of the pork are thinly sliced and soaked in a decoction of guava leaves and salted water. The meat is then smoked over pinewood for preservation. To enhance the taste, the meat can be hung over the suuban, the top of a clay stove, for a month or up to a year. The longer it is hung, the harder the meat will be, which means it will also take longer to cook.
This technique was originally used to preserve wild game and is practiced throughout the Cordillera region. Other means of meat preservation are sun-drying and salting.
Because of the diversity in the cultures of the Filipino people, there is also diversity in terms of the food practices found in the country. Organizations like Slow Food Philippines help document and preserve such practices so they can live on for future generations to experience.