Eat on the wild side

A chef’s guide to foraging, whether in the forest or in your backyard

By Don Baldosano

Foraging plays a huge role in our food culture in many provinces in the Philippines.

MAN EATS WILD The author gathering kulitisleft: The author gathering kulitis, a spinach cultivated as pig feed or
ingredient to Filipino recipes like laswa;

Some Filipinos rely on the bountiful produce that nature provides to create dishes for their daily meals. There are a lot of interesting and delicious local dishes that rely a lot on foraging particular ingredients to make the dishes complex and authentic. Think of lupo that are gathered in the rice fields of Iloilo for monggo or ant eggs that are collected in Ilocos to make ginisang abuos and even alibangbang or kalibanbang leaves that are sought for sinigang by our expert foragers in the north, the Aetas.

Foraging for wild edibles doesn’t even exclude our beloved national heroes in their times. Starving and desperate for nourishment, Andres Bonifacio turned to foraging for wild leaves to survive after the fall of KKK. As a result, the leaves that did sustain him have since been named after him. As it happened, with Jose Rizal having been linked with one too many mystical coincidences, the leaf also had a bit role in the hero’s personal history. Rizal’s version of tinola, his tinolang manok, had among its prime ingredients kalabasa, which was good for the eyes, and the leaf that would later be named Bonifacio. 

In cooking, we always seek for the best quality of produce, which is why you always come across the question “Where does this ingredient come from?” 

That question has piqued my interest and inspired me to gather and grow some of our ingredients for the restaurant Linamnam. 

By no means am I an expert in foraging, but I am a Filipino cook who enjoys the act of gathering and discovering my own produce for cooking. I think foraging your own produce would be easy and possible for any Filipino as long as you are ready to get down and dirty with the land. 

These are some of the things you can keep in mind if you have yourself an opportunity to have a quick adventure and forage your own ingredients.

It sounds fun to just randomly head out to a forest to look for previously unknown edibles, but it doesn’t mean you can bring home anything you can cook with. Best thing to go about it is to first study up on some basics. Learning about the terroir of the place you’ll be foraging in would be ideal. It would give you an idea which plants and ingredients are readily available for you to gather around the area.

Think of lupo that are gathered in the rice fields of Iloilo for monggo or ant eggs that are collected in Ilocos to make ginisang abuos and even alibangbang or kalibanbang leaves that are sought for sinigang by our expert foragers in the north, the Aetas.

One of the best ways to do this is to talk to the locals. After all, they know the land better than anyone else. Learning the ingredients from our traditional dishes from different provinces would also expand your knowledge on which ingredients you would possibly find in each region.

Reading a few books on plants wouldn’t hurt either. The most important thing is to be open-minded and curious yet cautious about everything that you taste, as there could be new ingredients to discover.

In our restaurant, we try to work with foraged ingredients whenever we can. Some of the things we work with are kulitis that we turn into a green ginataan sauce or cogon grass that we infuse in carabao milk from Bulacan then turn into ice cream with mulberries and puffed rice from Isabela.

NATURAL FOOD REINVENTED Don’s Luposilog, the classic Filipino staple is given a twist by using the edible weed lupo

One dish that we like to serve at Linamnam heavily features foraging right here in our area in Parañaque. It is our “LupoSilog.” A dish that takes inspiration from our classic breakfast fares of silogs, it is made of vegetables rather than your usual cured meats with your runny yolk and garlicky rice. 

To serve as your sinangag, we start with an eighth of a cup of “inuma” pink rice that we get from Sadanga in Mt. Province. We then cook it with a cup and a half of garlic broth in a small saucepan over low heat until dry, then finish it with local butter and slowly fried garlic slivers.

For the “itlog,” we use duck egg yolks from Buena Fresca Farms in Cuenca, Batangas that we poach in a pan with a cup of rendered aged pork fat from our pigs in the backyard with a spoonful of fresh atsuete seeds for about 30 minutes at 68 degrees Celsius.

For the “lupo” portion, we use half a cup of picked young lupo that we sauté in a wok with two spoons of burnt butter, then season with a teaspoon of soy sauce, a smidgen of raw minced garlic, and black pepper to taste.

To plate up the dish we place the sinangag at the bottom of the plate to hold the fat poached egg in place and surround the egg with the cooked lupo. To finish it off, we add raw lupo, pickled kulitis flowers, purslane, and cosmos, then season with langgaw vinegar and finish with puffed rice and crispy garlic.

The author, a weekend forager, is the chef-owner at private dining restaurant Linamnam, nestled in a leafy neighborhood at 31 Greenvale 2, Marcelo Green Village, Parañaque. Reservation required: 09175730246 | Linamnam_mnl on Instagram