Kidapawan-based chef celebrates Japan-PH ties in a dish

Published August 1, 2021, 5:25 PM

by Roy Mabasa

The close and blooming ties between the Philippines and Japan were foremost in the mind of Ana Liezl Quibrantar when she decided to join the Food and Friendship: The Japan-Philippines 65th Anniversary Online Cooking Contest launched by the Embassy of Japan in Manila early this year.

Ana Liezl Quibrantar (ALQ)

Last week, the Japanese Embassy announced that the 28-year-old Quibrantar of Kidapawan City won the top prize in the cooking competition with her special dish, “Shirashi in Tempura Taco Nori”.

“The Japanese culture has been heavily embedded in my life since I was a child. Scenes from my favorite Manga series— Chūka Ichiban— have amplified my desire to learn culinary,” said Quibrantar who took B.S. Hotel and Restaurant Management at the University of Southern Mindanao where she graduated cum laude.

Shirashi in Tempura Taco Nor

Japanese Chef Suzuki Daisuke who led in selecting the winners commended the creativity of the entries in combining elements of Japanese and Filipino cuisine and the interpretation of classic recipes. He noted, in particular, that the winning dish stood out because of what he described as “unique preparation technique and artful presentation”.

Quibrantar, in an interview with the Manila Bulletin, said the idea behind the Shirashi in Tempura Taco Nori topped with Filipino classic kinilaw is to “show the two countries iconic dish into one.”

“It resembles the Japanese and Filipino friendship that works so well for so many decades. And making the dish is also my own little way of showing some great ingredients in Mindanao such as tuna from GenSan (General Santos), sweet mango from my hometown, and a fresh and crunchy cucumber from Arakan to name a few,” she said.

Shirashi in Tempura Taco Nori is derived from the classic Japanese dish shirashi. Quibrantar’s entry dish is served in a deep-fried nori shell with sushi rice topped with mayo and wasabi tobiko.

During her college days, Quibrantar was able to travel extensively abroad through internships that exposed her to a vast array of cuisines and hotel management techniques.

“You would think having been exposed to a broader culinary culture would fade my love for Japanese dishes but instead, it even piqued my interest that after graduating from college, I worked in a five-star hotel in Dubai where I had the opportunity to meet Japanese natives who painstakingly taught me tips and tricks in Japanese food preparation and sake (Japanese wine),” Quibrantar said.

During her free time, Quibrantar admitted that she continues to deepen her knowledge of the Japanese culture by watching videos of Peter Barakan on “Japanology” about the origin, culture, and interventions of anything about Japan.

Her adoration of the Japanese culinary culture led her to leave her day job and instead establish a small modern Japanese robata (grilled) restaurant in Kidapawan together with her partner in December 2019 that offers a modern izakaya, a traditional Japanese place to drink and eat.

“It wasn’t easy to introduce such restaurant concept for a city that still loves their sugba (grill) and tends to have a sweeter palate. But instead of backing out, we pushed ourselves by marrying different flavor profiles and creating innovative Japanese dishes that will suit our market’s palate. It’s a place that you purposely go to when you’ve got hankering for a blend of Japanese-Filipino fusion style food,” Quibrantar said.

The Japanese Embassy-backed cooking contest is part of the yearlong celebration of the 65th Anniversary of the normalization of bilateral ties between Japan and the Philippines.