Lost in the visions of Macchu Picchu on Inca lands, the glitzy beaches and Olympic vibe of Rio, and the more popular cuisines from other parts of the world, South American cuisine may seem like just an afterthought in the increasingly global palette that has painted many Metro Manila restaurants.
But South America has one of the greatest cuisines of the world. It is the original fusion food, having absorbed influences from almost every continent over centuries and blended them with traditional dishes. Peru, for instance, is best known for ceviche, the marinated raw seafood dish, but few know about lomo saltado, a Peruvian dish originated by Chinese immigrants using ingredients with a direct link to the Incas. This marriage of flavors results in dishes with new flavors but with just enough familiar profile to prevent uninitiated diners from feeling alienated.
And this is perhaps why Brasas has become a hit among Filipinos since it opened early last year. Nataly Montoya, the Colombian native who co-owns and heads the kitchen, rued the lack of authentic Latin American restaurants in the Philippines, and her decision to fill that void has been a success; Brasas now has branches in SM Aura, SM North EDSA and SM Jazz Mall.
Aside from the aforementioned lomo saltado, Brasas’ menu is filled with other traditional fares like the patacones. These popular appetizers, also known as tostones in many Latin American countries, are deep-fried plantains and are usually served as sides or appetizers. Brasas’ version looks like mini-tacos with strips of meat and salsa placed on top.
Aside from South American dishes, Brasas’ menu includes a couple of other specialties from Central America and the Caribbean. The carne asada, a Mexican favorite in which marinated beef steak is served with yellow rice and Latin American coleslaw, makes an appearance.
There is optimism about the prospects of South American restaurants in the Philippines, and Brasas is among the pioneers. Just five years ago, South American cuisine was mostly hinged on Brazilian barbecue. But the region’s culture – not just its food – is so vast and interesting, it would be a shame if it won’t get a brighter spotlight here, especially considering our shared history. To many Filipinos, South American food is unfamiliar, but here’s hoping not for long.
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