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War-torn Marawi, haven of authentic dishes

By MARIA BERNADETTE R. ROMERO

WHEN people hear about Marawi City, what usually comes to mind are war, hostage-taking and terrorism. But, what people don’t know is that this city is a food haven – a hodgepodge of rich and diverse culture and traditions.

Despite having been the ground zero in the Maute Group’s recent attacks, this Islamic City in the Province of Lanao del Sur offers great variety of distinct food that cannot be found even in the most peaceful place in the world.

According to the official site of Lanao del Sur, most of Maranao’s food have yellow tint as the natives use a lot of turmeric, more commonly known in Marawi as kalawag. Kalawag is often used in every dish believing that it will help maintain good health. Sometimes kalawag tea is given to sick children because it helps treat cough and fever. It can also be used as a topical analgesic for hepatitis, ringworm, and chest pain.

Maranaos are also fond of using coconut. They use coconut milk and toasted coconut meat as spread in some of their dishes. These dishes are usually served in weddings, birthdays and kandori. Kandori is a kind of thanksgiving for graduation or passing of board examination. Some of the dishes offered in kandori are randang – a spicy carabao meat mixed with coconut milk; kyuning – yellow rice; and mamis – sweet desserts such as dudol, browa, amik, and tiateg.

Dudol is cooked glutinous rice with coconut milk and sugar, Maranao’s version of Batangas’ calamay. While browa is a close resemble of mamon which is made of flour, yeast, sugar and eggs.

A meal in the Maranao household is incomplete without the spicy and tasty palapa, an appetizer that should be prepared with love using sakurab sometimes called sibujing or white scallions, ginger and chilli. It is somehow similar to Japan’s wasabi but it is supplemented with unique and signature taste exclusive of Maranao cuisine. Palapa is served and sold in every street and alley in the city proving that its existence was intertwined with the history, culture and tradition of the Maranaos.

Meanwhile, chicken piaparan is a dish for which Marawi is most known for. Its main ingredients are chicken, palapa, kalawag (turmeric), onion leeks, and shredded coconut meat or papar. This is a special dish that is served during important and joyous events.

Today, as Maranaos migrate to different places, the dishes that were once limited to the lake city are now dispersed in other parts of the country as well. If you are curious as to what these foods would taste like, you can try them for yourself without even travelling a lot. There are several Muslim and Maranao restaurants around Metro Manila such as Moud Halal Restaurant in Quaipo and Gayyah’s Hala Restaurant in Ermita.

The diversity of the Maranao’s cuisine is as varied as its people. Because behind the taste of each dish are compelling stories of birth and creation all tangled in the prismatic antiquity of the Philippines and its islands.

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