Salt Lake's The Orient is celebrating the Filpino harvest festival Pahiya this whole month
Though Kolkata offers a diverse array of Oriental cuisines originating from Indonesia, Burma, China, Japan and Philippines, very rarely do we get a real peek at their seasonal culinary specialities. Fine dining eatery, The Orient at City Centre 1, recently made sure that we checked that off our bucket lists. The Asian rooftop deli has set up a special menu to pay homage to the spirit of the Pahiyas festival, which is an annual harvest celebration observed by the people of Lucban, in the Filipino province of Quezon. It’s observed in the honour of San Isidro Labrador, the 12th-century Spanish farmworker, who was legendary for his kindness towards the weak. It is much like a farmer’s Thanksgiving, like Bengal’s Poush Parbon, and is usually observed in the middle of May.
Chef Ghanshyam Das, who curated the entire menu and has observed the traditional festivities closely in the Philippines, tells us that the festival sees the folk at Lucban feasting on a lively assortment of colourful vegetables, rice and fruits. They also honour the agricultural and handicrafts community. “The word ‘pahiyas’ means ‘special offering’ in Filipino. I attended the festival a couple of times, and it’s such a soulful affair; the people are so spirited. They celebrate it around this time of the year, for around 22 days. Some of the ingredients used are truly Filipino, like the herb calamansi, which has an amazingly strong flavour. They have two kinds of barbecue sauces as well — for the spring spread, they use chillies, garlic and tomatoes to make the sauce. We’ve used the same in our lamb and pork entrées,” Chef Das tells us, at The Orient’s chicly set-up open-air space.
The Inihaw na Manok was the first appetiser for the afternoon, which is essentially a kind of Filipino barbecued chicken. We noticed that the meat is much softer than the country grilled items, and its flavour profile, dominated by calamansi (an intense citrus hybrid spice) differs vastly from our regular Western BBQ spreads. Next up was the Sinugno, a grilled whole tilapia fish, simmered in coconut milk and chilli. We were floored by the sauce used in the fish curry, which tasted just like the familiar coconut paste dishes that our own spring-time delicacies offer. The fish is also quite filling, so make sure you pace yourself as you go. We were, of course, craving some carbs, so our plates were filled up with Pancit Bihon Guisado, which is a flavourful rice noodle, tossed with shrimp, eggs and veggies. The rice noodles were accompanied by some of the best grilled pork we’ve had in years.
The pork belly was made with a sweet Filipino barbeque sauce and garnished with some pepper and sesame, which gave it a smooth evenness, which is quite rare in curried pork dishes. The Bikol Express, a traditional lamb dish, arrived next. It is made with tender strips of meat, simmered for hours in a chilli shrimp paste and coconut milk. It was not entirely different than the cooked rack of gravy lamb you may find in authentic Japanese eateries in the city, but we never say no to some good lamb. The lamb came with a plate of Sinangag, which is a Filipino garlic fried rice, made with eggs and bell peppers. The rice is unusually peppery and pairs well with something sweet or mild. The high point, however, was the indigenous Tabang Talangka, an original Filipino fermented crab paste served with lightly sautéed small crabs. Yum!
On till June 9. Price for two Rs 2,200.