October 20, 2022
MANILA – Chicken Inasal (roast chicken) with rice and paired with ube-based drink Majin Ube, all prepared by Chef Erwin “Wing” Villarias of by Philippine Embassy and Sentro Rizal, Washington DC, won First Place – People’s Choice Award in the 2022 Embassy Chef Challenge, Oct. 13, at Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC.
In a friendly competition, 37 embassy chefs from around the world showcased the unique flavors of their countries. The Filipino dish was voted the favorite dish by attendees.
Chef Wing is a rising Filipino chef who was featured in the Washington Post, Arlington Magazine, and Washington City Paper. The native of Roxas, Palawan, inspired by his mother’s home-cooked meals, has always dreamed of opening a restaurant. In the midst of the pandemic, his Filipino pop-up Balangay DC named after the traditional Philippine seagoing vessel became a reality in September 2021.
At the Embassy Chef Challenge, Villarias wanted to bring a new and creative food experience while keeping a mostly traditional cuisine in crafting this recipe that featured chicken marinated in lemongrass, coconut milk, garlic and ginger sauce, and served with toasted garlic rice, pickled papaya, fried enoki mushroom and chili. He plated the dish with a round thin layer of rice over a fresh banana leaf and topped with chicken offering a different texture and balanced flavor.
Villarias’ success is third in a winning streak by the Philippine Embassy. Chef Claude Tayag’s Bringhe won the People’s Choice Award in 2016, while Chef Abigail Sincioco-Mateo’s Pork Sisig secured both the Judges’ and People’s Choice Awards in 2018.
“The people have spoken. It is no exaggeration to say that Filipino cuisine is coming of age in America, and the Embassy happily greets the local community’s cultural curiosity about the Philippines and our cuisine,” Ambassador Jose Manuel G. Romualdez said in a statement.
The US-Philippines Society was a supporter of the Philippine Embassy’s participation in this competition that highlighted Filipino food for the Washington audience. The winning dish is served in Balangay Restaurant located at 1341 H St NE, Washington DC, open evening hours, Tuesday through Sunday.
The culinary event attendees were entertained with performances of music, art and dance, by representatives from the Embassies of Azerbaijan, Barbados, Brazil, Indonesia, Philippines and Serbia. The Philippines featured dances that represented the three major island groups of the Philippines: Basket Weavers Dance (Luzon), Pangalay Dance (Mindanao), and Tinikling Bamboo Dance (Visayas) performed by members of the Migrant Heritage Fil-Am Dance Ensemble and Mabuhay.