What better way to reconnect with and celebrate our heritage but through food? With Cucina Higala’s help, it’s now easier to indulge in good, savory, rich, colorful, absolutely delicious food that’s uniquely Mindanao.
You see, Cucina Higala now offers another set of Mindanao Heritage dishes, 3 years after the first set’s release in 2018. For their 2021 salvo, they have 5 new dishes – all of which I had the opportunity to try. And I must say – you simply should never miss these gastronomic delights!
Before I proceed, I would like to sincerely thank the Cucina Higala team for the warm hospitality. Thank you Sir Jan, Miss Maggie, Sir Joe Jake and Miss Donna and staff for taking good care of me, Nicole Abas-Datayan, Narz Moria and Sir Mike Banos. Daghang salamat!
Let me give you a sneak peek of the food! Here’s a quick video I made: (FOLLOW ME ON TIKTOK)
Now we’re off to the races…
Bamboo rice – This is Cucina Higala CDO’s tribute to Lumad bamboo cookery (nilotlot). This one’s composed of aromatic rice, seafood, chicken, bamboo shoots with woodsy hints and accents of caramel and soy. This is a dish in itself! You will notice that the rice is a bit sticky so every spoonful is packed with flavor.
Chicken piyaparan – inspired by the traditional Maranao dish, Cucina Higala’s version is tossed in roasted coconut and then topped with mild green chilies. You can also smell the aroma from sakorab. The meat is very tender and the chilies tickle your taste buds. Great for sharing!
Nangka randang – One of my favorites! Jackfruit or nangka prepared as randang, a version of the iconic Indonesian rendang. This is a staple during celebrations in Lanao. For me, this can already be your main viand but it’s also perfect as a “side dish.” A great choice for vegetarians or for those who just want to steer clear of meats. The nangka is simmered in coconut milk, lime leaves and other spices. Very flavorful, trust me! This dish reminded me of my many memorable travels to Malaysia, where they also serve rendang and where I have dear friends including former Malaysian Ambassador to the Philippines Tan Sri Ibrahim Saad and his lovely wife, Puan Sri Zainab Kader. They always serve rendang in their palatial home!
Dinilutan A Seda – I’m sure you’ll agree with me when I say that this dish is the most eye-catching of the lot! Crispy fried mudfish (dalag) served on lime flavored coconut milk dressing with chilies, green mango and roasted coconut. YUM! Dinilutan is a flavorsome facet of Maguindanaoan cuisine. There’s a little “ritual” before you partake of this dish. We were shown how you should combine the ingredients below the fish first before you cut the fish meat into bite-sized pieces and then mix them together. Ask your Cucina Higala server to either do that for you or give you instructions on how best to enjoy this dish so you can experience it yourself.
Tiyulah itum – I purposely placed this last because…tadaahhh…it’s my most favorite dish! I mean, how can you not love this when this is grilled Bukidnon wagyu beef served with coconut milk, enriched burnt coconut flavored broth with lemongrass, galangal and lime accents? The tender, flavorful wagyu beef alone is pure joy. THIS IS A MUST TRY.
Let me emphasize that even if Cucina Higala put their own spin on these Mindanao heritage dishes, they did not veer away from what is basic and crucial. Ergo, we’re served with food that truly celebrates our amazing and diverse culture.
All of Cucina Higala’s Mindanao heritage dishes are available for dine-in and takeout beginning March 13, 2021. Call 0917 794 6118 or visit them at 222 Gen. N. Capistrano St., Cagayan de Oro City. If you use Waze or Google Maps, just key in Cucina Higala. Also, let me know if you’ve tried any (or all!) of the dishes and tell me which one/s is/are your faves!