1. What does this recipe mean to you?
This recipe actually comes from my late father. He always used to cook it and everyone in the family loves it. Actually, he's the only one who's good at this. Whenever my father was around in every gathering, the centrepiece of the table would always be his Pork Pata Kare-Kare. So now, whenever I make it, it always brings back memories of my father. It's also my wife's favorite, and I would really love to share this with her!
2. This is an old, traditional recipe, how important is this dish in Filipino cuisine?
It's disappearing today. Right now, there are many people who cook this dish in a simplified way - instantly, where they use ready-made peanut butter mixes, like using Mama Sita’s (Ed's note: Mama Sita's is a brand of ready mix spices). So I want to pass the traditional recipe and cooking style onto the next generation.
3. How did it feel to win The AFN Food Awards?
There are many talented Filipinos who are good in cooking different dishes - and they make it all so deliciously. I was surprised and excited and had butterflies in my stomach, and initially, mixed emotions! As for my family - they jumped with joy.
4. How would you describe yourself as a cook and foodie?
I think I'm quite an adventurous cook. Whenever I see a new dish, I will immediately want to try and cook it. Let me borrow a quote from Andrew Zimmerman that I think best describes me, “when it looks good, eat it”. So whenever I get home, I try to cook new dishes. I'll research the dish first, then get the main ingredients, and try to understand how it was first made.
5. Let's talk about Filipino food - what's a dish that everyone should know about?
It's adobo, because us Pinoys have a thousand and one ways of cooking it. Now though, the authorities are standardizing the cooking method of adobo, so more people will now know the standard way of cooking it. Honestly, adobo is the longest dish that I had spent time perfecting, because I tried many methods to balance and capture the taste of adobo.
6. And what’s your favorite Filipino food?
For me it’s still adobo because I can eat it with all kinds of carbs and of course it’s the dish that I really took effort and time to perfect, one that I spent the longest time on.
7. Beyond Filipino food, what is your favorite Asian dish?
I guess my favorite Asian dish is rendang, the process of making it is challenging, and the flavor of the coconut is there. Being a Bicolano, I love coconut mixed with the spiciness of the dish.
8. So have you tried making rendang?
I tried recreating it, but I think it's still lacking in flavor. There’s this distinguished taste and there are some ingredients that is not available here in our country to really capture the complex taste of rendang.
This interview was edited for length and clarity.