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March 31, 2017

DINING WITH OUR FISHERFOLK

They say that when it becomes mainstream, you have already done your job—that of converting people to eat healthier food, save the environment, and live a sustainable lifestyle. And I am so happy to know there now is more consciousness to eat better fish, better meats, and naturally-grown or organically-grown vegetables.

When we opened our ECHOstore eight years ago, people thought we were nuts. Now we see organic vegetables in supermarkets and healthier “farm to table” menus in almost every fine restaurant.

I was invited to the culminating dinner of Sustainable Seafood Week and the dishes prepared by the chefs of major hotels (who all came to The Peninsula Manila to cook their featured dish) were simply amazing. They used line-caught fish, local sidings, and everything served was yes, you guessed it—sustainable. 

The dinner started with cocktails of various seafood (see photo of menu) served with very good white wine. Our host and Sustainable Seafood champion Christian Schmidradner sat with our group to tell us the good news that more hotels are jumping onboard—and it’s not just here but all over the region, too. Yes, starting with hotels was the best way. They are able to afford the higher cost (for now) of sustainable seafood and are able to prepare them in many different ways that would make one convert to a seafood diet. Then there are the restaurateurs (like Chele Gonzalez of Gallery Vask and Chef Philip Golding of DDE/Le Club) who, in their own ways, support the movement to use good fish.

Christian Schmidradner (right)

The week indeed ended on a high note with Christian acknowledging all the supporting organizations and retailers, our humble little store included. We are surely in good company. Our Slow Food Manila movement is also in the group with our promotion on Slow Fish.

James Mata and I

Even our dried fish sold in ECHOstore like Balangay’s best is sourced sustainably. I was lucky to sit with a fisherman, James Mata, who Dhang Tecson (founder of Balangay’s Best) brought to the dinner. He was amazed by how fish was “dressed to the nines” and how each dish was a party in our mouths. Dhang relates “he was surprised and happy that the fish he regularly catches can be prepared creatively and deliciously,” as he tried the appetizers that evening. James is from Bantayan Island, where the first site of Dhang’s group gets their fish.

Since it is Lent, we turn our attention to meatless Fridays. For some people, it is meatless season (all the 40 days of Lent). This is when we check what fish is available in the market. We try other fish and not just the usual suspects—tilapia, bangus, and (oh no) Cream Dory (not my favorite fish).

Try other species. Get your Omega 3 and 6 from deep sea fish. Caged or freshwater fish are not able to produce Omega 3 and 6 because they can hardly move and flap their fins to produce those vitamins.

Yes there is much to know about seafood. I just saw an episode of Margarita Fores’ new show called Harvest where she featured Capiz fisherfolk who harvest mussels and oysters sustainably. They harvest them when there are sure buyers. Luckily, they have been able to send their children to school with the meager income from seafood while ensuring they do not deplete resources.

Even when Lent is over, think about the fish you eat or do not eat. Get to know more fish and seafood in general—mussels, clams, oysters, prawns, and more.

The next event to look forward to is Madrid Fusion (April 6-8) where Slow Food Manila will again conduct talks on food waste, the dwindling wild fish stock, and the plight of small farmers and fisherfolk. Let’s eat sustainably!

 

 

Photos by Chit Juan

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