When In Manila, you should always try eating at restaurants that serve Filipino Cuisine. We have a mentality that Filipino cuisine should be just reserved for the home but, how about developing our own cuisine to international takes? Chef Fernando Aracama, or simply Chef Fern, takes on this challenge of developing and enhancing our own Filipino cuisine. In taking that challenge, Aracama Filipino Cuisine was born with the determination to take Filipino cuisine to international renown.
Full interview with Chef Fern Aracama at Aracama Filipino Cuisine
Chef Fern Aracama is a fellow Negrense, also hailing from Bacolod. Bacolod City is ultimate food tripping destination and no wonder such city produced a Chef Fernando Aracama. In his quest to promote and develop Filipino cuisine, he went back to his roots in Bacolod to explore the culinary wonders of the city and the province which he is set to include in his menu. He found the old recipe set written in index cards by his grandmother where he based his selections among others too.
My favorite fried rice, kalkag rice at Aracama Filipino Cuisine
Aracama Filipino Cuisine’s Adobo Fried Rice
Now that we have seen Chef Fern Aracama‘s narrative, let us check out how that turned to be. Let us start with rice, or should I say, fried rice. I grew up eating kalo-kalo or the Negrense style fried rice in the morning for breakfast and there it is, available in the menu. Its tastier equivalent, the kalkag kalo-kalo is also in the menu, a mix of the traditional kalo-kalo and the small baby shrimps or what is in Hiligaynon called as kalkag. There are also some of his innovations like the adobo fried rice where the chicken and pork adobo is tossed into the fried rice, a meal by itself even for those who even hate rice.
Malunggay Mozzarella Dip of Aracama Filipino Cuisine
Aracama Filipino Cuisine’s Salpicao de la Casa
Worth mentioning are Aracama‘s appetizers especially the Malunggay Mozzarella Dip with refillable crostinis, a healthy appetizer of blended malunggay leaves with a cheesy brulee, perfect to start your meal and it is vitamin fortified too. Salpicao de la Casa, derived from the Portuguese, has made it to the Filipino palate too. Though served also with crostinis, it also goes well with kalkag rice as some did. Beef is tender and with a smooth, flavorful taste, just like home in Aracama.
Aracama Filipino Cuisine’s Lumpia Sisig with Spiced Vinegar Dip
Fish Balls, a classic Filipino streetfood, at Aracama Filipino Cuisine
Aracama appetizers does not stop, try Lumpia Sisig, Filipino classic and Pampanga original. Chef Fern Aracama said that sisig by itself is a challenge to garnish but by putting it inside a lumpia wrap, you can eat it anytime anywhere with less hassle. Eat it like you would with fried lumpia beansprouts sold on the street by putting spiced vinegar. Appreciate as well how Chef Fern has taken street food into fine dining. When its street food, Fish Balls is a classic. Aracama has mostly fish and few flour to hold with sticks on the side like the street side ones but with three dips with can match to your liking.
Lechon Carajay at Sarsa in Aracama Filipino Cuisine
Aracama Filipino Cuisine’s deconstructed Pinakbet with Bagnet
Give way for Aracama‘s culinary derivations from Ilocos Region, Lechon Carajay at Sarsa and Pinakbet with Bagnet. I love the extra crispiness of Lechon Carajay, almost with no fat! The extra crispy skin puffs just like chicharon yet with a good amount of tender meat still left. Pinakbet with Bagnet got me at the first taste. Not your usual soggy vegetables, the dish was deconstructed with vegetables still crunchy and bagoong laden sauce on top. Bagnet and vegetables are at a balance which you would swear will make you ask for more rice while dining at Aracama but remember those calories good people.
Daing na Pritong Tilapia topped with salad at Aracama Filipino Cuisine
Aracama Filipino Cuisine’s Classic Negrense Kadyos or KBL
Already full? Make way for the Daing na Pritong Tilapia, cooked reminiscent of the karaho from Negros. Tilapia was fried extra crispy in such way that you can eat everything, topped with a salad of cilantro, green mangoes and a dressing of spiced vinegar. The taste of the salad with fish increases appetite and sure would Kadyos. Kadyos, Baboy kag Langka, or Kadyos and KBL for short, is pork stew with kadyos or pigeon peas and slices of unripe jackfruit, soured by batwan, a fruit belonging to the family of mangosteen. This is a soup dish from home I perennially miss and now available at Aracama.
Fried Suman with Mango and Ginger Ice Cream at Aracama Filipino Cuisine
Aracama Filipino Cuisine’s Bunuelos with Dulce Lata
Make room for desserts! Desserts at Aracama are improved Filipino classics. In Negros, we have a dish called ibos or what is called in Luzon as suman sa ibos which we would normally eat for breakfast with ginger tea. Inspired by his family’s practice of frying uneaten ibos for dessert, he came up with the fried suman dessert on top of tart mangoes and ginger ice cream. The flavors and temperatures play in the mouth, coolness and heat that comes from ginger ice cream, sweetness of ibos and the slight sourness or tartness of Guimaras Mangoes go well together. If that got you, check out the Bunuelos with Dulce Lata. Bunuelos is reminiscent of cream puffs, only devoid of filling but the taste has a hint of eggs which is best dipped in the caramelized condensed milk which is cooked inside the closed can, a shot back at my childhood days.
Chef Fern’s original: Chocnut Ice Cream at Aracama Filipino Cuisine
Aracama Filipino Cuisine’s Fresh Guyabano and Sugarcane Juices
The experience of dining with Chef Fern is not complete without sampling Chocnut Ice Cream which is actually his original creation that spawned many imitations from ice cream makers. Unlike famous brands, Chef Fern’s Chocnut Ice Cream is not too sweet, has an emphasis of taste on the chocnut. For those who does not know chocnut, it is a play of words between chocolate and peanut which it essentially is a good combination of. Dining at Aracama is made lighter with their selection of fresh fruit juices like the guyabano with its anti-cancer qualities and sugarcane juice that will take you to a taste of Negros.
When In Manila, patronize Filipino dishes and appreciate how famous Filipino chefs are giving back to the Philippines by dining at Aracama Filipino Cuisine. The restaurant is open 11:00am to 2:00pm for lunch and 5:00pm to 12:00mn for dinner though it extends until 2:00am for weekends. My special thanks to Chef Fern Aracama for entertaining us.
Aracama Filipino Cuisine
Unit C, The Fort Entertainment Center
5th Ave. cor. 26th St., Bonifacio Global City
Taguig, Metro Manila, Philippines
(+63 2) 519-6815, (+63 917) 861-2702