What Pinoys and Peruvians have in common

Filipino 20something chefs Don Baldosano and Kevin Uy explore the connections made between Asia and Latin America through the 1565-1815 Manila galleons

Food serves as a route to cultural and personal enrichment. Eating is an expedition that deepens our appreciation of where we come from, fostering a greater sense of belonging and pride in our cultural heritage. 

Chefs Kevin Uy and Don Baldosano

This is the resounding message of the recent collaboration “Crossing Waters” between Don Baldosano and Kevin Uy, two of the youngest, most promising names in the Philippine dining scene. The pair welcomed April with a satisfying 11-course dinner that explores the influences of Latin America on Philippine cuisine.

With Don Baldosano, recognized as Tatler Dining’s Rising Star for 2024, joining forces with Kevin Uy, who has honed his skills in the prestigious kitchen of Central, one of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, expectations were high for the one-night teamup. But such expectations were easily exceeded with a captivating and enlightening Galleon menu that showcased the fusion of Latin American and Filipino culinary excellence.

During his brief yet fruitful return to the Philippines, the Lima-based Filipino chef Kevin initiated this exclusive partnership with Don, whom he had only met in November last year following a memorable dining experience at Linamnam.

“When I ate at Don’s restaurant, my mind was blown away. I immediately messaged him wanting to do something with him because I genuinely believe he embodies the best the Philippine [food scene] has to offer,” Kevin enthuses.
The banquet, beyond being a cultural lesson and a sensory indulgence for select diners, was more of a medium for the duo to express their creativity, expertise, and love for the craft.

Instead of traditional wine pairings, the chefs chose creative nonalcoholic drinks that matched each dish well. These included combinations, from Filipino nut milk with black oregano to Cedron (lemon Beebrush) herbal tea, and lively juices inspired by burong mangga with chili, elevating the degustation with rich flavor combinations.
For pre-appetizer, a dragon fruit sourdough, baked by pastry chef Monica Baldosano, was served with two dips, carabao butter smoked in cogon and sprinkled with coffee and sea salt and an uchututa (Andean chili paste) thickened with kesong puti (white cheese), corn, and Philippine herbs.
“ This [ bread course] is what I am most proud of as it represents both our cooking styles while effectively showing off ingredients native to both Peru and the Philippines,” explains Don.

The dinner proper began with a triage of snacks, which made it, from the get-go, a deep dive into the connections made between Peru and the Philippines as a result of the so-called Manila galleons, which crossed the Pacific between South America through Acapulco and Asia through Manila between 1565 to 1815.
First was the Squid and Grains, mi-cuit (partially cooked) thinlysliced squid sourced from Quezon with toyomansi cream, patani, and puffed Camoroso rice from Iloilo. It was paired with a silky mix of Filipino nuts milk and huacatay  (black mint sauce) using black oregano from the Andes.

Blue butterfly  pea cracker

The next appetizer was Kevin’s take on an arepa, ground maize dough with stuffing. His version had aged flounder with a cream of  aji Mochero  (heirloom Peruvian chili) and uray (baby spinach) sandwiched in a corn patty normally found in Venezuela.
The last of the three appetizers was a blue butterfly pea cracker with nori mayo and textures of different kinds of seaweed, namely pickled lato, sautéed popoklo, and fresh guzo. This was Kevin’s tribute to his workplace, Central, which is known for using a lot of crackers in its dishes.

Duck breast kinuday

Among the highlights of the dinner was Don’s version of arroz con pato, a duck breast kinuday (dried over coal) with adlai, pumpkin, beer, cilantro purée, in a ceviche caliente consommé of concentrated duck stock with vegetables and spices, finished with  aji amarillo  (yellow chili pepper). Duck from Batangas was cured with salt and sugar, then smoked with cogon grass and coconut husk, making it more earthy and musky. Delicately gamey and tender, the meat is at once tamed and enhanced by the flavors of the clear soup.

Maya-maya ceviche

An ode to Peru was Kevin’s maya maya (red snapper) ceviche on top of a sweet potato laced with octopus, dressed with onion ash, sea salt, popped kiwicha or amaranth dyed in beetroot juice, and drenched in leche de tigre  (tiger’s milk). The acidity from the souring agent, libas leaves, gave an exquisite balance to the brininess of the fish.

For an umami-rich vegetable dish, Don prepared charcoal-grilled patola (silk squash) sparsely glazed in tucupi (Amazonian sauce) of fermented cassava brought in from Peru. It was seasoned with fermented garlic, sinangag-style quinoa and dressed with reduced soy sauce, tamarillo oil, and tucupi. A dayap (lime) verbena tea proved a perfect match to it.

Shrimp mi-cuit and lain

Another noteworthy dish was a shrimp mi-cuit on a new breed of laing (taro leaves) with lightly-cooked Batangas uray (native spinach), crowned with mongo chips from both Batangas and Visayas, as well as a special  chuño (natural freeze-dried potatoes from the mountains).

Following the laing course was a four-day-old labahita (surgeon fish) moderately grilled so that the other side remained raw. Featured in this dish were two special kinds of pumpkin grown from Batangas—one braised in pork fat and the other ginataan (cooked in coconut milk). The sauce was a reduction of fish heads and burnt coconut.

Among the mains, the finale was an antichuchera short rib or slowcooked short-rib dressed in panko, dried chili from the Peruvian Amazonia. Thrown into the dish was a variety of corn, from purple to white Japanese and Ilocos corns, which were sautéed in butter, salt, and muscovado sugar, and topped with ube chips

For dessert, a granita (Italianstyle ice cream) made from cacao mucilage fermented for four months was served alongside a pastry cream infused with Andean mint and yacón (Peruvian ground apple).

Flan of Palawan honey and macapuno with tuile of local nuts

A flan featuring Palawan honey and macapuno, accompanied by a tuile crafted from local nuts, provided a delightful conclusion to the meal.

Asked about the plans of these emerging talents, Kevin responds, “Honestly, I am just excited to see what the future holds for me. As I am still under contract with Central, it is still unclear when I’ll be able to return to Manila. One thing I can say is that I will surely be back. I hope to feed more Manileños one day.”

On the other hand, Don is preparing to launch a new Filipino restaurant at Ayala Triangle Garden, alongside the renowned cook, restaurateur, and food expert Angelo Comsti. In his role as a consultant chef for Bombvinos, a Manila-based purveyor of natural wines, Don is also unveiling a new menu that represents Pinoy bistronomy. Linamnam, of course, for which he was given the distinction as Rising Star by Tatler Dining remains to be his personal signature.