We Went on a Tour of Farmer’s Market with Margarita Fores and Asia’s 14th Best Chef Hiroyasu Kawate

June 22, 2017

Chef Margarita Fores has become the unofficial tour guide for any visiting gourmand. Since the rise of four hands dinners in Manila, chefs renowned all over the world intrigued by our produce have made their way to our markets. A visit by any chef often includes a trip to the beloved Farmer’s Market in Cubao with Fores as the storyteller; she has after all, become the champion of our local food and ingredients more than any other, bridging gaps between the global culinary scene and ours. Her close relationships with the farmers and vendors at the market have been forged over years, which makes her the natural choice for unofficial cicerone.

Her latest guests included Chef Hiroyasu Kawate and his team at Japan’s Florilège, in town for a one-night-only dinner with Fores at Mireio, located in the Raffles Hotel. The young Japanese chef is also a recipient of one of Asia’s 50 Best Awards special category honors; while Fores was crowned best female chef in 2016, the Shibuya restaurant was deemed ‘one to watch’. The following year, Kawate received one of the highest new entries in the coveted list, landing at number 14. His brave cuisine is a marriage between France and Japan, with an emphasis on the seasons. Fores herself highlights the importance of ingredients in her cooking, which makes this collaboration so thrilling.

A run through the maze of the market has visitors intrigued by what we have on offer, from rare spindly green flowers of alukon, to a variety of local shellfish, whole goats, and the essential balut. Here’s a snapshot of our tour with Fores and the team behind Florilège.

Mature coconuts produce fibrous, flavorful meat which we often call niyog. When this coconut meat is extracted and shredded, it is then pressed to release coconut milk or gata, the prized liquid which serves as the foundations of several curries or stews; Younger green coconuts are harvested instead for their juice or water, and their much softer, chewier flesh. In the market, a carabao horn is used in place of a sharp knife. The vendor eases the dome of meat outside of its husk, keeping all the juice inside intact.

These lumpia wrappers are made fresh daily, with only rice flour, water, and salt, yielding a thick, viscous dough. To get sheets that are incredibly thin and gossamer like, the vendor takes a batch and spreads them onto a heated metal plate by hand.

Margarita Fores’ tour begins at the fruit section, where an array of what is in season is ripped apart in order to reveal their contrasting fleshy insides. Durian’s custardy fruit was once compared to caramelized onion, by one of Fores’ previous chef guests. There are also branches of lansones and lychee, and some local jackfruit. From the fresh produce, Kawate chose sigarilyas and tamarind flowers for his pop-up menu.

Chef Hiroyasu Kawate holds up sheets of our famous dried fish as Fores looks on; The market is known for having an abundance of seafood.

The Florilege team looks on, intrigued by the fact that Philippine crabs are sectioned off by gender: lalaki, babae, and bakla. The differences in their claws, rounded shape, and color and abundance of roe is what helps vendors make this distinction.

The tour always includes some on-the-spot kinilaw. Yesterday’s local version of ceviche included ones with alupihang dagat or mantis shrimp, and some of the roe quickly pickled in vinegar with cucumbers.

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.

1 comments in this post SHOW

One response to “We Went on a Tour of Farmer’s Market with Margarita Fores and Asia’s 14th Best Chef Hiroyasu Kawate”

  1. Volts says:

    So, something that I’ve always wondered (pardon the digression): in those Chinese live-seafood restaurants, how do they get those mantis shrimps into those mineral water bottles?

    Sorry, just curious.

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