In light of the Independence Day celebration, the newly opened branch of Vikings at SM Megamall came up with their home grown concept showcasing local cuisine but with a twist. Vikings, as contrary to popular belief, originated here in the Philippines. Yes, it is “proudly Pinoy.” Thus, all the dishes included in their Independence Day theme are popular local dishes infused with the chefs’ different culinary background and experience including that of Western and European. So, let’s start the gastronomic adventure, shall we?
Escargot. Ever heard of the name? I am sure you have. If you haven’t, allow me to introduce to you “kuhol,” the local term for escargot. Kuhol Cassoulet in Vol Au Vent is how Chef Bendo would call this dish. It originated from “ginataang kuhol,” a recipe in Gandara, Samar which Chef Bendo’s lola would usually prepare for him back when he was a kid. He then incorporated this dish with the French cuisine.
A croissant, topped with escargot in creamy sauce, sprinkled with chopped parsley, this dish is a must-try. I have thought of one pairing similar to this dish – that of caviar and unsalted cracker/bread except that Kuhol Cassoulet in Vol Au Vent is more attuned to the Pinoy palate because of the escargot twist.
Next dish they have on the Independence Day menu is the Lumpiang Ubod by Chef Mike. So where did the inspiration come from? According to Chef Mike, he would usually accompany his uncle saw coconuts, which at that time he didn’t understand what for. It was only when his aunt used the core of the coconut in cooking and preparing the “lumpiang ubod” did he understand where it is used for. It became his favorite since then and been cooking the dish often.
What I particularly liked about this dish are the perfect blend of its sauce which is not too sweet, not too thick consistency and the crunchy garlic. The “ubod” inside the wrapper was cooked perfectly well and this dish never fails to satisfy the Pinoys when it comes to “merienda” classics. An all-time favorite of many so to speak and that includes me.
What we have next on the menu list is the Cream of Pumpkin Blossom. This is the first time that I have tried a pumpkin soup – what more a pumpkin blossom soup. Yes, a very interesting dish it is. Let me guess, it is now teasing your palate too, isn’t it? Without any further adieu, let me give you the particulars of this dish – creamy but not thick, buttery but not salty. Just the right creamy goodness.
Moving on to the list, we have on the spotlight one popularly craved food nowadays – “sisig.” But wait, it wouldn’t be your regular “sisig” on a sizzling plate but on a dough. Let’s all welcome, the Sisig Pizza. Never had an idea that “sisig” can be a pizza topping as it is more commonly served as a viand partnered with rice.
According to Chef Allan who created this one-of-a-kind dish, aside from being popular, “sisig” is also one of the dishes that he first learned to prepare and cook. A typical Pinoy recipe, he decided to give it a twist by infusing it with Italian cooking, his line of cuisine. I have always loved thin crust pizzas and being a “sisig” and pizza lover, this dish is just a 2-in-1 combo that satisfied my cravings for both.
Now this next dish is already familiar to me being a native of Bicol – Ginataang Pagi or Cannelloni. We usually call this dish “kinunot” in my home town in Bulan, Sorsogon. It is stingray cooked in coconut milk, “malunggay” leaves and chili – where Bicol is known for. Chef Anthony chose this dish as part of the Independence Day menu because of its complex flavors.
If I am to find the twist in this dish, it would be the interesting idea that Chef Anthony cooked it ala cannelloni style using a cylindrical pasta and the “ginataang pagi” as the filling. To all chili haters, non chili lovers out there, there’s no need to worry about flaming tongues after eating this dish as the chili taste is just mild enough to tickle your taste buds but not strong enough to make you not eat some more.
And more Bicolano dishes are to follow in the menu list. Pinangat by Chef Anthony is next. He was inspired to include this dish in this year’s Independence Day theme being his wife’s favorite and also her family’s. He researched and perfected this dish the way that her wife would have it done.
This has been one of my family’s favorite Bicolano dishes as well. But what totally got me hooked with Chef Anthony’s version is the filling between the taro leaves. It consisted of coconut meat cut into thin strips with creamy coconut milk sauce that is a bit spicy.
And of course, Bicol is popularly known for this dish: Bicol Express. Chef Rey perfected this dish since his parents loved it so much. He intended to share this recipe with Vikings being his second family now.
It is surprisingly not too hot, contrary to what I expected. Which is good as not all Bicol express lovers like it served extremely spicy. Some versions of Bicol express included coconut milk but I prefer this version as it totally highlighted the spicy taste of the red chili.
Callos Manilena by Chef Ian is reflective of the Spanish influence on our cuisine especially for those living here in Manila. His family would always prepare this dish during special occasions and celebrations thus can be considered as one of the popular native dishes. The tripe and the sausage were perfectly cooked and the sauce is very similar to our “menudo.”
Of course, any menu wouldn’t be complete without the desserts. For the dessert corner, we have the Guinumis by Chef Mike. He has been making this recipe when he got his first job as a chef as it is his childhood favorite and found out that the “palamig” that his mom would make for him and his siblings way back then is called “guinumis.”
It is not the regular “palamig” because of its assorted ingredients similar to that of halo-halo. I particularly loved the rice crispies and how it stayed crunchy for quite a long time given that it’s a cold drink.
Next dessert would be Sayongsong by Chef Adam. According to him, it is a native dish from Surigao that is one of his favorite desserts since he’s a kid. It is sticky rice colored in light purple and wrapped in a cone-shaped banana leaf which is similar to that of “calamay,” Bohol’s sweet delicacy. The caramel is just the perfect partner for this dessert.
Second to the last in the dessert corner would be the Buchi con Yema by Chef Jogat. Infusing the Chinese and Filipino cuisine would best describe this new recipe as he has been making buchi when he started working as a chef. Yema is one classic Filipino dessert that is a popular favorite. It is the crunch of the buchi that actually made this dish extra special.
Last but not the least would be the Choco Pili Tart by Chef Paolo. The inspiration for this recipe came from his love for sweets especially with nuts. His mom would buy him a sweet delicacy every time he is feeling down way back his childhood days and it has been his favorite since then. He added a twist to the pili tarts by combining it with chocolate. What I loved about this recipe is the way the chocolate has been prepared which serves as a cup for the pili tart, topped with cherry and white chocolate. It is delectably good.
Innovations are where Filipinos are good at invading even that sanctuary of baking pans and cooking pots – the kitchen. We never go out of style and out of sync. Ingenuity in the kitchen is a warrior always seeking for places to conquer and explore – just like a Viking. 🙂
For reservations, you may contact Vikings SM Megamall in these numbers: 656-3888, 656-4888, 656-5888. They are open from Monday to Sunday between 10:00am to 2:30pm and 5:30pm – 10:00pm. They are located at the 4th Floor, Mega Fashion Hall, Bldg. D of SM Megamall in Mandaluyong City.
They also have promos for birthday celebrations and you can check them out in their website: http://vikings.ph/.
Have nothing to do on June 12? I say, have a buffet and #eatlikeaviking. Help spread the word with the hashtag #vikingspinoyako when you post your awesome
Vikings photos on IG, Twitter and Fb.
Bon appetit! 😉
(Special thanks to Vikings SM Megamall Marketing Head Mr. Charles Lee and Assistant Marketing Head Ms. Raquel Bartolome for the warm welcome.)