Creative culinary skills via Dulang

LAOAG CITY, Feb. 13  – This year’s Dulang (food) festival didn’t just bring back Ilocanos’ comfort food. It also reinvented beans (or bukbukel) to remind the young of their elders’ practical culinary skills.
 The food festival last week was a display of how the lowly beans from mongo, pea, peanut, soybean and sesame were transformed to creative food fusions blending ingredients from the modern and vintage era.
 The Dulang food fair is a component of the month-long Pamulinawen festival that Laoag marks annually in honor of its patron, St. William the Hermit.
 The Pamulinawen festival has become increasingly popular as among the top festivals in the country earning recognition as a runner up in the Best Cultural Festival in 2009, an award given by the Department of Tourism and the Association of Tourism Officers in the Philippines.
 The festival has been a top tourist-drawer and an event that showcases Laoag’s best cultural practices and major achievements the previous year making the city as a key growth center in the Ilocos region.
 Mary Ang, festival organizer, said they wanted to show how the old Ilocanos were practical in preparing their dishes.
 “In the olden times, people were spending hours in their farms tending to their crops. They didn’t have time to go to the market. The most convenient and easiest food to prepare were bean dishes,” she said.
 “They can stock them up, dry them or put them in bottles, sacks and cans.  Whenever they have visitors and don’t have the time to run to the market, they can take them out and prepare all kinds of viands,” she added.
 Ang said Ilocanos’ reputation as practical can be gleaned from the food they prepare.
 “In the olden times, the market was not accessible, it was a far off place and tedious to go to. Beans come in handy especially during the rainy season when there is not much vegetables. Beans are the alternative,” she said.
 Derived from the family of legumes, beans are traditional crops that are converted to dishes and have helped define Ilocano recipes from simple bean-based snacks like rice cakes to complete meals.
 Ang said the festival has become an avenue for beginning restaurateurs to introduce their original food recipes and discover young talents for their culinary skills
 “Through the festival, we recognize locals for their creative culinary ideas. It is also a testing ground for their market viability since food samples are given for free to festival-goers,” she said.
 The festival included a food competition where participants are required to prepare original dishes that are laced with beans from cakes, pastries and fruit juices. (ANL/CCA-PIA 1 Ilocos Norte)