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Dish That Defined Your Career: Amy Besa of Purple Yam

October 30, 2018
We ask acclaimed local chefs to create for us what they think is the Dish That Defined Their Career.

Amy Besa has long been acclaimed for having helped propel Filipino food to the world. Along with husband Romy Dorotan, Besa ran Cendrillon in New York from 1995 to 2009—an dining establishment intended not as a Filipino restaurant per se (obtaining Philippine ingredients abroad was a challenge at the time), but as an avenue for Dorotan to express his culinary creativity. Cendrillon garnered praise, most notably from the New York Times (which accorded them a two-star or “very good” rating), and brought attention to the then-unheard of cuisine of the Philippine islands. The two furthered their Filipino cooking pursuits with the establishment of Purple Yam in Brooklyn (and more recently, here in Manila), putting the spotlight on oft-forgotten heirloom ingredients endemic to the Philippine soil.

Besa’s enthusiasm for the Philippines—its food, as well as its people—continues to shine, as she proudly declares it “the coolest thing on the earth”. Still at the pinnacle of her mission, Besa heralds the Black Rice Paella as the dish that defines her career. Created by Dorotan as part of Cendrillon’s menu, the claypot dish is heralded by Besa as a “stroke of genius” for the way it combines familiar elements—black rice, coconut milk, lemongrass, pandan, seafood, shiitake mushrooms, and vegetables—into a completely novel, delicious sum.

Pamela Cortez Pamela Cortez

Pamela Cortez writes about food full-time, and has honed her craft while writing for publications such as Rogue, Town and Country, and The Philippine Star. She once rode on a mule for a mile just to eat mint tea and lamb in Morocco, and has eaten a block of Quickmelt in one sitting. Her attempt at food photography can be viewed online @meyarrr.

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