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Catfish Cuisine

There’s more to preparing hito than just grilling it.

Did you know that we have “hito capital” in the city? Yes, we do. You must have passed the area, if Tugbok District is on your daily route, and caught sight of aquariums with live hitos and grilling stations of eateries by the roadside.

That is Barangay Los Amigos, and because of its multi-million production of catfish or locally called “hito” or “pantat,” the barangay earned the title of the “hito capital of Davao City.”

The catfish industry boomed in 2005 and that’s when the barangay first held its Panatatan Festival, which showcased the hito in its various dining preparations—grilled, deep-fried, adobo style and simmered in coconut milk.

Partners in Food Tourism – DOT & Barangay Los Amigos represented by Eden David & Bgy. Capt. Angelico Santander, Jr.

However, on the 9th year of the Pantatan Festival, for the first time, the hito dishes have evolved to something more exciting to the eyes and palate. With the partnership with the DSWD and DOT to jumpstart the district’s One-Step project and improve the area’s livelihood via “Food Tourism”, a culinary contest was held. Local restaurants were paired with culinary school students to form teams for a cook off and come up with the best tasting and most innovative dishes using pantat as the primary ingredient within 120 minutes.

Go! 120 minute contest starts. Culinary student preps the main ingredient.
Expect a flavorful pantat dish to emerge with these ingredients on hand.
Tried & tested traditional recipes from these great cooks of Barangay Los Amigos.

Forming the teams were Santander Ihaw-ihaw/Philippine College of Technology, Golden Egg Ihaw-ihaw/Joji Ilagan Career Center Foundation Inc., Polares Quiño Ihaw-ihaw/CAISA, Marju Hito-an/Philippine Womens College, Redzki Ihaw-ihaw/STI College of Davao, Bryan Ihaw-ihaw/Brokenshire College of Davao and Barlyn’s Ihaw-ihaw/University of Mindanao.

 Future chefs from the city’s culinary schools
The best cooks in the district aiming for the title.

While the Los Amigos local restaurants stuck to their recipes of popular, best-selling dishes of cooking pantat adobo-style and with coconut milk, the cooks put a twist on this competition. Their respective teammates, however, pushed their culinary skills and came up with inventive dishes that got everyone wanting to try the plated dish.

With culinary contest judges & organizers- Marilyn Roque of MinTimes, DOT-XI’s Eden David, Veronica Domingo of USAID, Susabel Reta, City Tourism Officer Lisette Marquez & Sally San Jose of Chippens.
Though the participants were cooking as a team, each dish prepared will be judged separately. The best from both the local restaurants and culinary schools will emerge as the winners.

After the panel of judges tasted all the 14 flavorful and novel pantat preparations, the winning dishes were named. The champion dishes were Bryan Ihaw–Ihaw’s Adobong Hito with Sesame Seeds and PWC’s Butterflied Crispy Hito served with Durian Curry Sauce. 

The winning dish by Bryan Ihaw–Ihaw restaurant the Adobong Hito with Sesame Seeds
PWC’s winning dish— the Butterflied Crispy Hito served with Durian Curry Sauce.

The first runners-up were to Marjul Hito-an’s Ginataang Hito and STI’s Filipino Pantat Casserole. 

Golden Egg Ihaw-Ihaw’s Adobong Hito with Pineapple Twist and Brokenshire College of Davao’s Pan Fried Hito in Oriental Sauce placed second runners-up.

The ONE STEP program of DOT-DSWD convergence identified Barangay Los Amigos of Tugbok District for Agri-Tourism on Catfish (Hito) Production with emphasis on Cuisine or Food Tourism. The project “ Los Amigos Catfish Production for Tourism Livelihood: A 4Ps DSWD-DOT One Step project” condenses the goal of the national government to provide livelihood opportunities to the grassroots as an approach to economic upliftment in the countrysides using tourism as a vehicle. The project likewise seeks to integrate communities – including but not limited to the DSWD beneficiaries – in the tourism value chain.

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For more lifestyle and travel stories, visit http://apples-and-lemons.blogspot.com/ and http://jeepneyjinggoy.blogspot.com/.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on November 16, 2014.

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