Good Food month has kicked off with a bang at the Shangri La with their Flavours of the Philippines buffet.

You can imagine my intense excitement when I discovered that a Filipino buffet was coming to the Shangri La in October! I absolutely love Filipino food but it is rather difficult to come by in Sydney. Filipino restaurants are far and few between in Sydney and I’ve found it hard to find Filipino food as authentic as the stuff my Aunties make for me back in the Phils.

Finally, October 1 finally came around and I headed to the Shangri La with Mum excitedly anticipating which favourite Filipino dishes would be available for us to sample.


Manila mocktails (Drinks not included in the buffet).
These were a great accompanying drink to cut through the rich flavours of the food we sampled. It was very similar to a virgin pina colada with refreshing pineapple and coconut flavours.


Smoked fish
I’ve never seen a whole smoked fish like this before and really loved this style of presentation!


Bulalo (beef shank soup)
This soup was beautifully rich and flavoursome. The beef shank pieces were slowly cooked until it they melted in your mouth!


Kang kong with chilli.
This is one of my Mum’s favourite Filipino dishes. She is normally a very picky eater but she loved this dish’s fresh flavours.


Okra
Mum was very excited to see this dish and she mentioned that the okra was cooked well – not overcooked so they were mushy, but still retained good texture.


Green mango salad



Various salads
Mum looks happy!


Estofadong Dila (Slow cooked ox tongue in tomato sauce)


Suwam na Tahong (Steamed Mussel in Ginger Broth)


Kare-Kare (Stewed Ox Tail in Peanut Sauce)
Kare-kare was not one of my favourite dishes growing up but I must admit that I enjoyed how tender this was. The meat fell off the bone at just a touch and was very rich! Definitely one to eat with rice to balance it out.


Pata Humba (Pork Knuckle cooked in Sweet Soy Sauce)


Sinigang sa Miso na Lapu-Lapu (Grouper Sour Broth with Miso)
This is one of my favourite sour soups (made from a base of tamarind) and goes wonderfully with seafood.


Sisig (Stir Fried Crispy Pork)
Traditionally, this Filipino dish is made using flesh from the pig’s head, but chef Gene tried something different by using pork belly meat instead for a bit of a twist. There was an attendant frying up fresh sisig for those who wanted it and the strong smell of garlic hit the air every time he fired up the pan. It smelled incredible!


Ihaw-Ihaw (Lamb rump), Inihaw na Pork Belly (Roast Pork Belly), Inihaw na inasal na manok (Roasted inasal chicken)
The chicken and lamb were both roasted to perfection and really reminded me of meats you could buy from tiny stands by the side of the road in the Philippines.


Pork belly


Steamed fish with coriander
This was definitely one of my fave savoury dishes of the evening – When I cut into the steamed fish flesh with the provided tongs, beautiful flavoursome juices just gushed out. It was unbelievably moist and tender – cooked to perfection!


Pancit palabok (Rice noodle with smoked fish and shrimp sauce)
This is usually made with different noodles in different provinces in the Phils. I personally prefer the thin vermicelli noodles, but it was interesting to see a different twist on this classic dish.


Duck Calderata (Duck stew in mildly spiced tomato sauce)
I must admit I am usually used to beef caldereta, but this looked like an interesting fancier version of the original dish.


Pusit Bicol Express (Squid with chilli and coconut milk)


Callos (Ox Trip & Ox feet menudo)


Roast pork


Leche Flan (Caramel custard)
I was very happy to see this dessert! Unfortunately I didn’t try any of this one but I did have some leche flan topping in my halo halo (I only have so much stomach space, haha!) as surprise surprise, it’s another one of my favourites! Who can resist a caramel flavoured rich custard?


Ube Halaya (Purple yam pudding)
Another lovely Filipino classic dessert – this is also available to top your halo halo with.


Dila Dila (Sticky rice with sugar and sesame seeds)
This dish is also called ‘palitaw’ and is what I would call a Filipino version of Japanese mochi (sweet cakes made from glutinous rice flour), which is dipped in sugary coconut and sesame seeds. Mum and I will be serving these treats as canapes for the wedding coming up in about two weeks and I hope our guests enjoy them!


Brazo de Mercedes (Meringue roulade filled with vanilla custard)


Caramelised sweet potato



Sticky Rice desserts


Fruit Salad (Mixed fruits with cream and condensed milk)


Buko Pandan (Young coconut with screw pine -aka pandan- jelly)


The fruit salad and buko pandan I have to say were probably my favourite dishes of the evening. This is normally served at Filipino house parties from big bowls and it’s been a long time since I’ve had any! Just a bowlful of this really took me back to my childhood and I savoured every mouthful. It’s funny how much as a child you don’t realise how obsessed you are with a dessert until it’s incredibly hard to find!


Bread Pudding

You can’t talk about Filipino desserts without halo halo, (the ultimate Filipino “sundae”!) getting a mention. Crushed ice, sweet beans, South East Asian fruits plus carnation milk and ube ice-cream make for one killer dessert. Its hard to describe this dessert to those who haven’t really dabbled in South East Asian desserts, but if you have to try any Filipino dessert, I would recommend this one. It has a little bit of everything in it and is a good starter sampler for those trying Filipino desserts for the first time.

Halo Halo hut


My favourite topping, leche flan! The only thing missing was a sprinkle of pinipig for a bit of crrunch.


Carnation milk to pour over toppings


I was particularly happy to see ube ice-cream being served with the halo halo, which is a must but again very difficult to find in Australia. I had a chat with one of the chefs and he mentioned that he had the ube ice-cream for the halo halo hut prepared specially with imported ingredients with one of his gelato contacts, who had never made ube ice-cream before. My Mum had a taste and was happy to approve it as ‘99% authentic’ (she can be very hard to please!) I too really enjoyed the ube ice-cream which is another one of my favourites (I always buy a big carton of this when visiting Phils!). For those who have never tried ube before, I would say that it’s very similar to taro, but has a deeper flavour (and colour!)


Perfection!

Ginataang mais (Glutinous rice cooked in coconut milk with sweet corn)
This was like a Filipino rice pudding cooked with coconut milk and sweet corn. Nice, with mild flavours. Gosh, so many desserts to choose from!!



Maja Blanca (coconut pudding with sweet corn)
I was incredibly excited to see maja blanca – one of my absolute favourite Filipino dishes which I have not ever found in Sydney (can you tell I have a sweet tooth?!). My Auntie Rose makes me a big batch whenever I go back to the Philippines and since I haven’t been back for awhile, it’s been some years since I’ve been able to indulge! It is an incredibly simple dish to make – you simply sweeten coconut milk and thicken it with corn flour over heat until it is very thick and custard-like. Add sweet corn and set in a greased dish. Cut into squares when completely cooled.

The Shangri La chefs chose to serve it in a Chinese tea cup, which I thought was the perfect serving size (especially since I’m trying to fit in so many desserts!). But it is so good, my Mum and I go back for a second cup – it is irresistably creamy, not too sweet and left us wanting more!

Me and Mum with chef Gene Del Prado (lovely guy!)
I absolutely loved my (freakin enormous!) dinner at the Flavours of the Philippines and highly recommend it to Fillos looking for some fancified Filipino cuisine and also to Aussies who have never tried it before as it gives you a good opportunity to try different kinds of awesome Filipino dishes all at once!

My fave dishes of the evening were definitely the maja blanca (coconut pudding with sweet corn), fruit salad (mixed fruit with jelly, cream and condensed milk), buko pandan. Notable savoury dishes included the bulalo (beef shank soup) with it’s meltingly tender pieces of beef in a rich, flavoursome broth and the succulent chicken inasal, redolant with Filipino spices.

The Flavours of the Philippines buffet is available from 1-15 October at the Shangri La and is open for lunch ($48) 12-2.30pm Mondays to Fridays, 12.30-2.30pm on weekends. Dinner ($75) is open from 6.00-10.30pm. Bookings are best made by calling 9250 6206
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Thank you to Jessica Somers-Haggie for inviting me along to this event. Cooking Crusade dined as a guest of the Shangri La, but the opinions in this post are my own.

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