Written by Patrick Jay Torres, B.S. in Biology IV.
The Philippines is known to have a very diverse plant species. Some plants serve as spices, such as onion, garlic, ginger, and pepper, that enhance the natural flavor of food. Many herbs, spices and condiments are used and can complement in various dishes. The spices can add flavor and color to the food, it contributes to a more palatable food by improving its color and develop more pronounced flavors. They contain flavors specific to each of them. Each spice has it’s own distinct taste and odor combination. They are used to improve the acceptability of a certain food our body needs for survival. Spices add “spice” to boring basic essential our body require.
Each continent has many different ways in creating flavors with the use of spices. Asian have a different style of flavoring the food compare to the European. We, Filipinos, are very creative and particular in using different spices and at the same time very careful enough in terms of the right amount of spices needed to make the desired flavor of the food.
During gatherings or celebrations, there are various dishes that are served in the table. Each dishes have different flavor. This is because of the different combination or mixing of the spices that result to a certain flavor. Thus, spices must complement to one another to provide the perfect flavor for a certain dish or food.
Scientifically speaking, spices contain and are rich in vitamins that are body needs. They also have a medicinal property which is clinically proven to cure and and prevent various illnesses and diseases. In addition, they help to fight against chorionic conditions such as cancer, heart diseases, and diabetes. They also have antioxidant property. Now, most of the spices are being studied by scientist to determine the importance and any possible benefits of these spices can offer to human.
There are many common kitchen spices used to add flavor in food such as ginger, turmeric, chili pepper, onion, garlic. Only a certain spice will be focused in this study which is widely used in the country. Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is under the ginger family. Actually, turmeric is somehow similar or botanically related to a ginger but differs in their color. It is orange-yellow in color unlike ginger which is lighter than turmeric. The part of turmeric plant used as spice is the root that is dried or ground. It has a bitter taste and a warm sensation.
Valencia, Negros Oriental
Valencia is one of the municipalities in Negros Oriental Province. This municipality has a cooler climate due to its elevation which is a best place for plants to grow. Thus, there are various plant species found in this area. Some land in this area are cultivated by farmers which is one of the livelihood of the residents here. Moreover, the place has no any problem of water supply since it is a watershed of Negros Oriental. This supports the fact that the place is suitable for farming because supply of water is very essential element to make sure that the plants will grow. As a trivia, every Sunday morning there is a bisaya termed “paunay/paunayan” which means a “paninda”that is hold in the front of the plaza where the people sell vegetables that is freshly harvested from the farm. Different vegetables and fruits are sold. Also, spices are sold in a very affordable price. Among the products, turmeric is also sold in the “paunay”. The turmeric are very abundant in the area and can live anywhere even if it wasn’t cultivated.
Miag-ao is a municipality of the province of Iloilo with coastal region and hilly to mountainous area. Just like Valencia, Miag-ao is also an agricultural area but the main difference is that the water supply is limited and also they do fishing as their source of income. The climate is also favorable and suitable for farming. Rice is the primary crop of this town. The Miag-ao is known to be as the “Onion Capital of the Visayas” because it is the largest producer of the onion bulb in whole Visayas as well as Mindanao.
Dulaw is a bisaya term used by Valencianon (people of Valencia, Negros Oriental) for turmeric or luyang dilaw. The people of Valencia usually use dulaw than ginger because somehow it has a different flavor which increases appetite. The dulaw is sometimes mixed in the rice to enhance its flavor which is prefered by most of the children because it is better compare to a plain rice. This is actually practiced by the Tagalog. Some people of Valencia also practiced this style of flavoring the rice because it is better and healthier than putting pandan leaves and adding processed seasoning in the rice. As I interviewed the mother of my best friend, Mercy Anqui, who is knowledgeable about food especially spices, she mentioned about mixing the dulaw in the rice because it has a different taste than the usual plain rice and it increases appetite.
According to my grandmother, Matrona Torres, the dulaw is used by the Valencianon as a food coloring. The strong orange-yellow color of the dulaw makes the food or dish to appear color yellow. Thus, making the dish more palatable and pleasant to the eyes. This is also applied to the rice with dulaw because it gives a yellow color to the rice which makes it more attractive especially to the eyes of children perhaps it looks like a cake or a sweet food. The process is that first the dulaw root is pulverized and dried. Then, it is mixed in the rice or different dish during cooking. The turmeric is healthier and it provides a strong color to the food than the food coloring that most people used to contribute to a more palatable food.
According to Mercy Anqui, the dulaw is used to add the spiciness and hotness of the food. The flavor that this spice can produce is perfect for people who doesn’t like too much spiciness. This is why more dishes is mixed or contain turmeric because it gives a more defined flavor.
Kalawag is the term used by Miagaoanon for turmeric. As I interviewed three adult or old vendors, who are selling kalawag in the Miagao Public Market, I noticed that they are somehow knowledgeable about turmeric. However, they are focusing on the medicinal property of the plant. Aside from its health benefits, the kalawag is used in Miagao primarily as a spice. This is sold in the Miagao Public Market, some are whole roots while some are pulverized.
Mrs. Gloria Genive said that the kalawag is used to remove the odor or “lansa” of the meat. The kalawag’s juice removes the disgusting or gross smell of the meat by just marinating or rubbing it using the juice. As a result, it gives a pleasant smell to the meat and enhance the taste of it. She also added that the turmeric is better than water in terms of cleaning the meat. With water alone the smell will still remain in the meat. On the other hand, turmeric will provide a different scent to the meat as she described it as pleasant and is more eatable.
According to Mrs. Emma Ferando, the kalawag is used as food coloring in different dishes such as Valenciana or the Paella of Miagao. It can be observed the yellow color of the Valenciana is due to juice of kalawag, she said. Upon cooking, the kalawag’s juice or the powder is then mixed in the valenciana rice. When the food is served in the table, the Valenciana really looks attractive and eatable. The kalawag enhance and increase the flavor of Valenciana. With right amount of kalawag, the dish will give a satisfying feeling. She also added that when making arrozcaldo it is better to use kalawag instead of artificial food coloring. Thus, it is tastier compare of the artificial flavoring and food coloring.
Lastly, Mr. Roki Mucho, the only vendor who has the biggest suppy of kalawag in the public market, said that the turmeric is used as an appetizer. The scent and the flavor of the turmeric makes someone to increase its appetite and to salivate. He added that many people use turmeric because it has a different taste than that of ginger. It also used as salabat that gives a soothing feeling inside. The kalawag is also used as treatment for the diseases of the carabao.
Aside from the numerous health benefits turmeric that can offer to humans, the dulaw or kalawag is one of the many spices that can give a more defined and strong flavor. The people must used turmeric as food coloring and seasoning which enhance the flavor and it will provide a more palatable appearance of the food. There are many turmeric that are sold in the public market in just very affordable price. It is important to understand and appreciate the value of a certain spice because it reflects to the culture of our country and to us, Filipinos. Our creativity to make various flavors show that the Filipinos are very talented and fun of inventing different taste to satisfy the needs of our body.
Apolong, Valencia, Negros Oriental
West Balabag, Valencia, Negros Oriental
Vendor, Miagao Public Market
Vendor, Miagao Public Market
Vendor, Miagao Public Market