Try This: Trimona Healthy Dining Wants Fresh, Organic Food to be Accessible to ManySeptember 18, 2017
The name might catch your attention for its similarity to that of a nearby mall—but a closer look reveals a place that couldn’t be further from a commercial establishment, with a store front lined with wind chimes and hand-woven bags and trinkets. Inside you’ll find more paintings on the walls, the diners—one you’ll immediately sense to be familiar with each other—abuzz with chatter with each other on topics both mundane (“Nagpagupit ka yata!”) and socially, environmentally, or spiritually relevant. On some days you might witness them holding workshops on topics that range from the tenets of human rights to sound healing; on other nights you’ll hear the beat of the drums or the strumming of the guitar playing songs of themes that pertain to social realities. It is a hub that engages not only the physical senses, but the heart and the mind, only heightened once you get a sniff of the aromatics being sautéed in the kitchen.
Trimona Healthy Dining is first and foremost a cooperative—a jointly-owned venture where members contribute their own talents and skills (some of which include the said artwork on display, or the artisanal food products Trimona helps them sell), and in exchange receiving, in this case, access to the restaurant’s own edible specialties. Already ten years old and consisting of individuals from various civil society organizations, each of which work toward different goals (including environmental, faith-based, and feminist causes), Trimona takes the core essence of these organizations’ principles—the attainment of an equitable, sustainable world for everybody—and translates it into a restaurant advocating the slow food movement, by way of using real, fresh food farmed sustainably and sourced locally and prepared such that it retains its original, traditional taste.
Gusto namin ibalik ‘yung taste ng real food (‘We want to bring back the taste of real food’).”
On the menu you’ll find dishes with meat, poultry, and seafood, all farmed or raised ethically. More noteworthy is the special emphasis they give on vegetables—with soups, salads, and other dishes that put them front and center. Don’t run away even if you think you hate veggies (an understandable position, given the often-overcooked, flavorless treatment that the food group is given elsewhere), because the produce Trimona uses is topnotch. Fresh and organically grown, these vegetables take on vibrant colors, with their inherent sweetness and earthiness naturally heightened that they don’t need much embellishment. Sourced in partnership with small, local farmers, Trimona helps create demand for the fruits of their labor, thus helping them make a living.
The dishes, for the most part, feature Filipino comfort classics: adobo, bicol express, sinigang, and the like. Unlike many modern Filipino eateries however, Trimona rejects pre-packaged mixes from commercialized brands and anything artificial—you’ll only find real, pronounceable ingredients that you can trace back to the very soil you step on. Trimona makes their dish components from scratch with ingredients naturally abundant in the country, relying on fresh herbs and spices over excess salt or MSG for flavor. Brown rice takes the place of the less nutritionally-packed white rice as their staple carb; local honey and muscovado replaces refined sugar for their beverages.
“Ang pinaka-[objective] namin talaga (Our primary objective) is to make healthy, nutritious food available,” shares general manager Pangging Santos, who helped co-found the cooperative along with activist and musician Gary Granada and other friends. Though she acknowledges that healthy food is not always accessible to all at this point (it ought to be subsidized by the government, she explains), she hopes to break the perception that good food and good health is only for the elite few. By supporting local farmers who make the effort to incorporate sustainability principles, spreading awareness on what can be found in our local landscape, and offering their dishes at affordable prices, Trimona is helping the world—or the small neighborhood community of Sikatuna, at least—to move forward in reaching that goal.
Here are some of our favorites:
Vegetable Kare-kare with Vegetarian Bagoong
With its thick, flavorful sauce, classic kare-kare makes a great gateway food for non-veggie lovers to get their daily dose of greens—but too many versions feature vegetables that are soggy and overcooked. Not this one though: fresh, organic vegetables shine here, retaining their natural sweetness and textural integrity amidst their lighter (but equally hearty) homemade peanut sauce. It’s plenty flavorful as it is, but for a pungent contrast, you’re free to dollop on spoonfuls of their vegetarian bagoong. Made with fermented black beans in place of the traditional shrimp and with chopped kangkong stalks in the mix, you get a different sort of umami (and a chunkier texture) that goes great with the natural sweetness of the peanut sauce.
The Minanggang Manok takes after adobo sa mangga, a Bulakeño dish said to be the family specialty of Trimona’s operations manager and cook, Liza de la Paz. Unripe mangoes, when stewed low and slow with free-range chicken (raised sans being fed any growth hormones or synthetic antibiotics), melt into a most addictively tangy sauce that uplifts the bird’s natural juices. Amazingly the chicken stays tender—a noteworthy quality given free-range poultry’s tendency to easily dry out. There is a slight sweetness before the sourness takes over to make you pucker, but the dish finishes on the savory note that will make you go back for seconds. Extra helpings of (brown) rice is a given; its nuttiness is an especially great compliment to this decidedly flavor-packed dish.
Trimona Healthy Dining
A cooperative of individuals working toward a better, more sustainable world, in the form of a restaurant advocating the slow food philosophy and serving healthy, organic food.