We are kicking off Women’s month at Mesa ni Misis with our Bahay Kubo Kitchen series with Sheryl Ocampo, featuring El Nido. Hailed as “The world’s most beautiful beach” by travel magazines, El Nido also boasts a bounty of indigenous crops that are underutilized in our daily cooking. Through Sheryl, we learned new and creative ways on how to use her three favorite crops: saba, kasoy, and cassava.
Originally from General Santos, Sheryl has frequented El Nido since 2011 when there was no electricity on the island. She has been living here for the past six years raising her children in nature’s playground with the beach and open fields for them to explore. Her restaurant, Glow, features local plant based dishes that encourage tourists to sample what true Filipino flavors and produce. Sheryl’s advocacy is to “decolonialize” our pallete—to strip back all the foreign influences on our food through the years of colonization, and to look back to our Maharlika roots for flavors in our food.
What are your favorite crops and why?
My favorite crops are cassava, cashew, and saba (plantain) because they are easily available, growing almost in every garden, cheap, tasty and very flexible. Cassava and saba are underrated so I am happy to elevate them based on traditional method they are utilize.
What do your customers love at the café?
It’s all plant-based and though we have limited menu that is changing depending on the produce every season (we call it amihan and hagabat menus), they’re all created from scratch and items like bread or cheese are made by local producers in Palawan. There are no preservatives and short cuts—it was an open kitchen so our customers can see what we are preparing for them. The menu is prepared based on our heritage so it is also an experience for clients not just merely a business of food. It is also tailored to make sure you get nutrients for your body. I was a nurse by profession and in nursing we were taught of healthy diet but most of all, prevention is better than cure.
How do you encourage eating locally in El Nido?
I encourage eating locally in El Nido by doing it and supporting other avenues who are encouraging it. For instance, there is Binhi Mindful Market that I participate cause eating locally involves supporting a lot of our grassroots, local farmers, fisherman, fellow makers. Glow was a representation of it at least for customers but it goes lot deeper into the above mentioned network. If we produce, plant, and create our own in the island, it will be much cheaper ditching third party suppliers, less carbon foot print, less plastic which are just beneficial for us and the environment. It’s doable as long as we’re mindful and become conscious of repercussions of our lifestyle.
Please share with us your favorite spots to visit in EL Nido.
The neighborhood rivers, Duli Beach, the rice field, and secret beaches yet to be explored.
Sheryl’s Top Crops of El Nido
Sheryl has chosen her favorite crops to highlight from El Nido, and we hope they can make their way to your kitchen!
Cassava is locally known as kamoteng kahoy and is a popular root crop. Cassava has many uses in culinary contexts but more recently has been used in biodegradable packaging. Its starchy nature allows for many uses including dehydrating it and turning it into a flour, chips, and wraps. It is calorie rich and is rich in vitamin C, riboflavin, and thiamine.
Palawan is famous for its kasoy or cashew nuts that grow locally. A versatile tree nut, kasoy is used in many plant based dishes as a cheese substitute owing to its creamy texture when ground down or blended. They are a good source of dietary fiber, protein, and are full of healthy fats. Other benefits include healthy hair and skin, and are a source of vitamins and minerals. It is important to remember not to over eat cashews as they can potentially become a source of unwanted weight gain. Consume it sparingly if eating daily, and use as a sauce on occasion.
Saging saba is a staple in every home. Its chalkier, less sweet texture makes it a perfect substitute for plantains in recipes. As it is lower in sugar, saba is a good option for those who are watching their weight. Saba is climate resistant as they can survive long dry spells if grown in fertile soil. Saba can be eaten cooked or raw (when ripened) and has been touted to easy stomach acidity and aid in constipation. Packed with vitamins and minerals, saba is often consumed as a snack because of its portability and calorie rich characteristics.
To see Sheryl’s recipes, log on to mesanimisis.com.