By Nancy T. Lu
Good nutrition nowadays gives importance to vegetable consumption. In fact, food experts encourage meat intake reduction as part of the promotion of a healthy diet.
“Bahay Kubo,” an upbeat song which Filipino children for generations have learned to sing in school, highlights through its lyrics the Philippine cornucopia of vegetables which can be easily grown in the backyard. This song very recently became the theme of a Mama Sita Foundation-sponsored veggie cooking contest at the Jose Fabella Memorial School in Mandaluyong.
The Soroptimist International of Mandaluyong, supporter of the cooking class program at the school by providing the budget for the food ingredients since a year ago as well as by donating kitchen utensils to motivate the training of the very young millennials in kitchen knowhow, was actively involved in coordinating the cooking event. The members led by Dorothy V. Cueva, the president, were very happy to see the interest in cooking among the students.
Five 10th graders aged 15 to 19 pitted talents against each other in preparing strictly or at least predominantly veggie dishes on a budget of 300 pesos. With the help and guidance of their teachers in preparing for the contest, they put their creativity and originality to work in coming up with their entry recipes.
Seventeen-year-old Jaymark R. Orbase won first prize in the contest with his colorful and appetizing dish of Mama Sita’s Stir Fry Vegetables with Fried Tofu. Sitaw, talong, kalabasa, patola, okra, kamote, kamatis, bawang, sibuyas and mane - all so familiar in the “Bahay Kubo” song - went into the pan during the on-the-spot competition under the watchful eyes of three judges, including this writer. Tofu or bean curd, a highly concentrated protein food that occupies a place in oriental cookery, likewise got added as fried ingredient. Mama Sita’s Soy Stir Sauce and Mama Sita’s Pang-Gisa Mix contributed taste and aroma to the plateful of vegetables.
Nineteen-year-old Jocelyn M. Molano placed second with her Mama Sita’s Upo a la Palabok. Steamed strips of upo (gourd) replaced the noodles in the food presentation. Chicharon, tinapa flakes, fried tofu, spring onions and boiled egg slices as garnishings completed the food picture. Mama Sita’s Oriental Gravy Mix and Mama Sita Pang-gisa Mix proved ever-reliable in the cooking.
Mama Sita’s Veggie Lumpiang Shanghai entered by 15-year-old Jeric B. Canada earned the final score which deserved third honor. Fourth in overall standing was Jazel Marie Villanueva’s Mama Sita’s Sinibuas. What seemed like sinigang soup made good use of sigarilyas and kamatis. Bagoong isda was another required ingredient. Meanwhile Christian Estores, aged 17, submitted Mama Sita’s Tortang Talong. Ground pork was used in this dish, which ended up in fifth ranking in the overall judging.
Redj Baron, a celebrity chef who used to host a cooking show on UNTV and now a cooking instructor as well as consultant, drew shrieks of delight when introduced to the high school students at the Bahay Kubo Veggie Cooking Contest last August 3. He with his millennial appeal in looks and style candidly spoke to his instant fans about his humble beginning before finding fame in the culinary world. He urged his young listeners to work hard and to go pursue their dreams.
Rosie Lardizabal, another contest judge, drew admiration from the youngsters for having an amazing mother and mentor like Teresita “Mama Sita” Reyes, famous for her love and promotion of the flavors of the Philippine Islands.
How many of these five contestants will climb their way up and one day become renowned chefs? Only time will tell.