Food that makes ‘healthy’ not a bad, tasteless word


Story by Harvey I. Barkin | Photos by Robin D. Barkin

SAN FRANCISCO – Filipino food was trending to be the next big thing, said celebrity chefs Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern. But 2018 passed with hardly any indication of any new, big Pinoy food trend setter.

At this year’s Winter Fancy Food (WFF), purveyors of Pinoy food mostly offered re-packaged food that only gramma in the old country made that can now be microwaved, quickly prepared and conveniently available in mainstream stores. This has been going on since 2017.

But in 2019, purveyors of Pinoy food have really begun paying attention to the next gen Pinoys. The traditional dish is still good. But now they’re playing with their food that’s exciting and in ways that does not make “healthy” a bad, tasteless word.

Last year saw the coming of more coconut products, Philippine rock salt that should have been in the spot where Himalayan salt is, native fruit put to multi-use and hybrid rice.

There was more of the same this year. But there were some stand-outs.

New to Food Philippines booth is Oh So healthy! “fruit crisps” for “guilt-free snacking.” True to their billing, they did not jump on the band wagon like Oishi emulating Singapore’s Golden Duck salted egg yolk fish skin crisps.

Oh So Healthy! Does not fry their chips. They brought to WFF three combinations of dehydrated crunchy fruit chips: guava-purple yam- banana, purple yam-banana-coconut and jackfruit-pineapple-banana. They also brought their new kimchi crisps.

Photos by Robin D. Barkin

Oh So Healthy! Fruit crisps is available in Seafood City, Australia, Singapore and in almost 600 stores in the Philippines. The snack is the result of three years of R&D and is targeted to Millennial moms (36-37) who can’t seem to get their kids to eat their fruit. The Valenzuela City-produced crisps is also available in snack size package at many Starbucks café in China and the Philippines.

Also new is Auro Chocolates. Barely a year after launch, Auro won bronze for their 70 percent Dark Chocolate and their 32 percent Roasted White Chocolate cashew, and two stars for their 64 percent in the UK.

Photos by Robin D. Barkin

Their 68 percent Dark Chocolate Mango is the only brand that uses freeze-dried (not fried) mangoes in the Philippines. Their cacao is harvested by farmers in Davao and Calamba.

There is a rawness in Philippine cacao that is distinct from Ghirardelli and Godiva. It is no wonder that Auro makes its presence in chocolate shops in San Francisco, Japan and New Zealand.

Everything’s coconut with Pasciolco Agri Venture and Grand Asia Integrated Natural Coco (GAINCOCO).

Pasciolco lists a lot of organic coconut products. At WFF, they showed off Coco Aminos which is – if you can believe it—an alternative to soy sauce that’s said to taste like Oyster sauce.

GAINCOCO highlighted its virgin coconut oil and coconut flour. Virgin coconut oil offers a lot of health benefits and can also be used for the hair and on the skin. Coconut flour is rich in protein and fiber but low in sugar, carbs and calories.

Not to be outdone, Philippine food institution San Miguel PureFoods still got the oohs and the ahs from passers-by with their new Avocado Macchiato Gold Label ice cream. They now have sugar-free three-in-one coffee and, finally, barako.

Photos by Robin D. Barkin

Not to be left behind were local talents Ramar Foods International and Sun Tropics, both situated outside Food Philippines at WFF.

The Huntington Park, CA—based Ramar unveiled their Sweet Ham Lumpianisa (don’t worry, they come with the sauce) and Chicken Lumpianisa. Freaky like Sharknado but they’re actually new items as a result of R&D. Both are ready after frying for 15 minutes or air frying, also 15 minutes. They can usually be found in Seafood City, Lucky’s in SF and Albertson in LA. Eight bucks will get you a 16 oz. pack. They are now also in the UK, Italy, Canada and, since last year, in Mexico.

Photos by Robin D. Barkin

Sun Tropics in San Ramon has been around for eight years. They went Japanese with their Mochi Rice Bites in sea salt, Tamari soy sauce, Tokyo curry and Sriracha flavors. Then, proving that it’s not the same banana chips, they spotlighted unlikely flavors maple, salted caramel, sweet chili and sea salt. With sugar contents from 0 to 8 grams, it is thinly sliced and crispy. The saba is from Quezon and the banana chips are available in Safeway, Sprouts and Whole Foods. And if that still doesn’t shout healthy, you’ve gone bananas.

Photos by Robin D. Barkin