CAGAYAN de Oro’s signature Halal restaurant serving Moro cuisine has now expanded its menu to Southeast Asia. And what more auspicious date to launch the new dishes than the holiest of Islamic holidays celebrated worldwide?
Babu Kwan chose August 11 to launch five new “Asian Plates” it being Eid al-Adha or the "Festival of the Sacrifice". The festival honors the willingness of Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his son as an act of obedience to God's command.
However, before Abraham could sacrifice his son, an angel intervened and God gave Abraham a lamb to sacrifice instead. In commemoration of this intervention, an animal is sacrificed ritually and divided into three parts. One share is given to the poor and needy, another is kept for home, and the third is given to relatives.
In the Islamic Lunar Calendar, Eid al-Adha falls on the 10th day of Dhu-al-Hijjah . This year, Eid al-Adha in Philippines began in the evening of Sunday 11 August and ended in the evening of Monday 12 August.
However, we were fortunate to be invited by BK for food sampling of their new Asian Plates a day earlier on August 10, along with some friends. As explained by our host for the day, Babu Cecile Mambuay, former Faculty Regent of MSU-Marawi she was pitching in for daughter Khal and son-in-law Abde Campong who were delayed by weather in Basilan.
Babu Cecile is doing a research paper on Halal Tourism that schools and accrediting agencies can use as a guide to develop the Halal foods market in the Philippines.
“Being in the food service business is an infinite love affair with different cuisines in the PH as well as other countries,” she said. “One should have an insatiable quest for knowledge about food and culture. And there’s the necessity to provide for a growing Muslim market for halal food.”
“Halal is for everyone. Halal in Arabic means something allowed or permissible. It is clean, good for our body and soul, and acceptable to everyone. Total Halal concept covers Halal Food, Halal Finance, Halal Pharmaceuticals, Halal Garments, Halal Tourism, Halal Restaurants, Halal Transport and Halal Housing.”
“We want to promote Moro Cuisine as characteristic of a particular people, mix and match to present to you something palatable, very attractive and very halal. Food culture is the last to be forgotten that’s why we always long for something homey, we want BK to be the home of Maranaos who have lost their homes and are now in Cagayan de Oro,” Babu Cecile stressed.
“We serve Maranao food, we also serve other dishes but our best sellers are Beef Randang, which is also very common to ASEAN countries and is our link to the region. This is our link to Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, and Malaysia because when we go to these countries we find dishes they have in common with us.”
“Now we are introducing five Asian plates as a gesture of oneness with the Cagayan de Oro Hotel and Restaurant Association (COHARA)’s signature KUMBIRA (the longest running and biggest culinary event outside Metro Manila) whose theme for this year is The Food Baskets of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines (BIMP) which aims to promote the cuisines of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the flavors and regional recipes of Mindanao.”
“We are already on our 23rd year with Kumbira and we’d like to level up, we have to connect with other countries, especially our neighboring ASEAN community,” said COHARA Past President Nelia Lee. “Our Department of Tourism would also like to promote Halal, because there are already a lot of Muslim markets, but we don’t have many certified Halal outlets here.”
Currently, there are only six private Filipino-owned halal certifiers in the Philippines: Islamic Dawa Council of the Philippines, Halal Development Institute of the Philippines, Mindanao Halal Authority, Muslim Mindanao Halal Certification Board, Halal International Chamber of Commerce, and Prime. However, these certifiers are only recognized in the Philippines and not by other countries.
To introduce the Asian Plates, BK Chef Hasanah Sani Macapaar, an outstanding graduate of Monster Kitchen Academy (MKA) and who now teaches in MKA, explains why BK chose to introduce Asian Plates.
Chef Has won the Bronze Medal with team mate Chef Vahnja Babia-Flores in the prestigious Chef Wars at the 10th National Food Showdown held October 2016 in Baguio City. She won the right to represent the city in the national competition when she and team mates Ivy Ann P. Duldulao and Jade Charmaine P. Mangao won Silver, the highest award in the Chef Wars, during the 20th Kumbira, in August 2016.
“We have been planning to introduce Asian Plates for some time now,” Chef Has explained. “For our first Asian Plate, we would like to introduce you to Nasi Kerabu, a Malaysian dish, which comes with rice cooked with coconut milk (gata). And we used Tilapia which is a very common ingredient of Maranao dishes. For sambal we make our own with local ingredients. We also make our BK peanuts with dilis and secret sauce also with local ingredients. These ingredients are common in similar recipes in Indonesia and Malaysia but we use locally sourced ingredients.”
Actually BK’s five Asian Plates Nasi Lemak, Nasi Kerabu, Nasi Kyuning, Black Nasi Lemak and Nasi Tomato are five variations of what is essentially the same dish, Nasi Lemak, considered the national dish of Malaysia although it is also common with various twists in other ASEAN countries.
BK’s Asian Plates share the same common ingredients in that all have fresh cucumber and tomato slices with sambal, your choice of boiled or fried eggs, keropok (Kropek) and BK’s spicy-sweet peanuts and anchovies.
Sambal is a chili sauce/paste typically made from a variety of chili peppers with secondary ingredients such as shrimp paste, garlic, ginger, shallot, scallion, palm sugar, and lime juice. Various recipes of sambals usually are served as hot and spicy condiments for dishes, and there are no less than 212 variants of sambal in Indonesia, mostly coming from Java.
While the dish in itself is already savory, everyone agreed the BK spicy-sweet peanuts is a winner and would go well with cold beer. Alas no beer in a halal restaurant!
Not to worry. We may be seeing bottled BK peanuts very soon which you can bring home to savor in the comfort of your den while enjoying your favorite shows on cable TV.
Nasi Kerabu is served with blue colored rice as a result of the blue ternate flower (commonly known as butterfly pea or Balog-Balog in Bisaya) reputed to be a natural memory booster, antioxidant, anti-glycation, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, prevents fatigue, analgesic, anti-asthmatic, reduces stress and anxiety, good for the skin and hair and anti-ulcer.
The healthy blue rice is paired with fried wild-caught tilapia. Tilapia is good for the bones, brain, thyroid gland, skin and heart. It has antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins C and E which can fight skin aging (you’re welcome), and it has more protein and less carbs which can help in weight loss!
So the major variations for BK’s five Asian Plates are its main ingredients: NASI TOMATO (Shrimps) is served with rice sautéed in spices and tomato paste and BK Shrimps.
BLACK NASI LEMAK is packed with health benefits from the black rice (whole-grain rice that’s rich in anthocyanins, antioxidant pigments that give the rice its black color) to the grilled squid (rich in protein, high in antioxidants too, chock full of vitamins and minerals to fight anemia).
NASI KYUNING (Beef) has BK’s flagship Beef Randang (its most popular item in the menu) with premium rice cooked in turmeric giving it the characteristic yellow color usually served in households in Marawi City and Lanao del Sur called Kyuning.
NASI LEMAK (chicken) is renowned as the National Dish of Malaysia. BK's twist has fragrant white rice cooked in coconut milk (gata) and served with fried chicken, which Babu Cecile explained is a concession to kids who usually look for fried chicken wherever they dine outside their homes.
Babu Kwan is found on the ground floor of G/F Vines Pension House Building, Yacapin Ext. corner Aguinaldo St., Brgy 32 (1.13 km), 9000 Cagayan de Oro, Philippines. It is open Monday to Saturday 11am-2pm for lunch, then 5-9pm for dinner. For inquiries please call mobile # 945 135 5270 or visit their website at www.babukwan.com or Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/babukwanrestaurant/