By Mike Baños
In keeping with its tradition and mission as the Home of Mindanao’s Heritage Dishes, Cucina Higala will launch a new addition to its menu on November 28, 2022 as it celebrates its 6th Anniversary.
Believed to have been originally brought by 13th Century Arab spice traders to the islands of Sulu as the traditional curry dish Korma originating in northern India and Pakistan, it eventually evolved into the Tausugs Beef Kulma, once an exclusive dish for royalty, which still features prominently at Muslim weddings and festivals like Eid’l Adha.
“We only have two lamb dishes in our current menu,” said Jan Uy, president and CEO of the TFC Group which owns and manages Cucina Higala. “We chose lamb for this dish because it’s interesting, and we wanted to add another Tausug heritage dish to our menu.”
However, in keeping with its innovative approach of introducing fresh twists to Mindanao’s Heritage Dishes, Cucina Higala’s version also pays homage to traditional korma recipes generally accepted to have been influenced by Turkish, Persian and Indian Cuisine.
Thus, unlike the Tausugs Beef Kulma (and all Mindanao Heritage Dishes in its menu which they’ve been featuring since 2018), Cucina Higala’s latest version features the same meticulous research, experimentation and enhancing the heritage of Mindanao’s indigenous peoples without desecrating their traditional taste and preparation.
“So even if you’re familiar with the traditional Tausug Beef Kulma, our version offers an experience that’s unique to Cucina Higala,” Jan notes. “And although it’s not halal, we cook it in a different cooking station away from where we prepare the other dishes made from pork, beef and other ingredients.”
Thus, Cucina Higala’s Sizzling Lamb Kulma harkens back to the Indian tradition where it is more popularly made with chicken or lamb, but now made with coconut milk instead of yogurt.
According to Alnajir Malli Kadil, Chief Marketing Officer of the Light Nusantara Group LNG-Indonesia who’s been based in London for the past 19 years, and founder of the TauBrit (Tausug-British) community group of Tausug in the United Kingdom mainly coming from Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, Kulma has regional variations even in Sulu alone.
“Just like Tiyula itum, you’ll find different variations. In some parts of Sulu they want it really hot, in some areas they add a few ingredients, but the core or main ingredients are the same. There might be regional variances as people would add something as their trademark without losing the original taste of the Kulma. It’s like the Adobo, but it’s staple dish served mainly in special occasions. Cucina Higala has done a great job in featuring authentic dishes from the South.”
Of course, Cucina Higala’s version is a tad different, made with braised lamb stew tenderized to perfection, and infused in coconut milk, curry, peanut butter, tomato sauce, lemon grass, and some chili.
So, with this latest addition to Cucina Higala’s Mindanao Heritage Dishes, guests can now expand their time travel across Mindanao in one sitting from Jolo, Sulu, to Maguindanao (formerly a part of Cotabato), to Lanao del Sur, then up to the mountain fastness of the island in Central Mindanao where indigenous peoples still prepare dishes the traditional way.
Visitors who have visited Cucina Higala have ranked it as No. 1 of 189 restaurants listed in Cagayan de Oro by Tripadvisor for 2019 & 2020, and recently cited it as the Traveler’s Choice for 2022. It has been similarly recognized by Restaurant Guru as a Top 10 Best Restaurant in Cagayan de Oro with the Best Service in Cagayan de Oro.
Cucina Higala’s Sizzling Lamb Kulma is available for dine-in, take-out, beginning November 28, 2022. For more inquiries call Cucina Higala at 0917-794-6118 or (088) 881-1570, Capistrano-Mabini Streets, Cagayan de Oro City.