Filipino food

How Tsinoy and Tausug cuisines came together for one ‘Hibla’ charity dinner

Steph Arnaldo

This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

How Tsinoy and Tausug cuisines came together for one ‘Hibla’ charity dinner
Here's a tale of two cultures in one night, showcased by Chef Miguel of Mindanao restaurant Palm Grill and Filipino-Chinese Chef Sharwin Tee

MANILA, Philippines – The idea of melding Tsinoy dishes and Tausug cuisine for one meal would never have crossed my mind, until two local chefs decided to pursue this unique, multi-cultural collab in support of indigeneous communities around the Philippines.

Filipino-Chinese chef, cookbook author, and TV host Sharwin Tee and Mindanaon chef Miguel Moreno held a four-hands charity dinner called “Hibla” last April 20, with its proceeds going to the tuition of four Aeta students from Aeta Ako, Filipino Ako Inc., who are all taking up Education.

CHEF COLLAB. Chef Miguel Moreno of Palm Grill and Chef Sharwin Ty work together for “Hibla.” Steph Arnaldo/Rappler

“The more Chef Miguel and I talked about our culture and cuisine, it became obvious that there was so much shared history between our cultures, and so the idea of a “common thread or fiber,” entered our minds. Hence the name Hibla,” Sharwin told Rappler.

PALM GRILL. Located in Gateway 2’s Filipino-centric Palenque food court, Palm Grill is the only authentic Mindanaon restaurant in Luzon. Steph Arnaldo/Rappler

The intimate, reservations-only dinner was held in Palm Grill, located at Gateway 2’s Palenque food court. Palm Grill is the only authentic Southern Mindanaon restaurant in Luzon, headed by Chef Miguel, a purveyor of the regional cuisine. The restaurant’s design is colorful and tropical, representing the islands of Zamboanga, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, and Basilan, Chef Miguel said. His cuisine mostly represents the southern tail of Mindanao.

A tale of two cultures

“How would we be able to connect China and the Sultanate of Sulu?” both chefs asked.

As they both traded stories about their respective cuisines, they said that it “just made so much sense to celebrate two pre-colonial Filipino cuisines,” especially after Chef Miguel discovered how Chinese and Sulu traders were early partners hundreds of years ago. 

“During the 13th century, there was a peaceful trading between the Ming dynasty with Sultanates of Sulu. There were harmonious intermarriages and exchanges of spices, textiles, and cultural aspects. It was a beautiful time. We kept our own religions and cultures, but we shared many other things,” Chef Miguel said.

DINNER SERVICE. Chef Sharwin prepares his 3 Tsinoy dishes for the dinner. Steph Arnaldo/Rappler

For the dinner of seven courses, they decided to represent “Hibla” by serving guests through the “dulang”,  a set of food traditionally served on a circular tray for celebrations in Sulu and neighboring islands – similar to the Chinese lauriat and the quintessential lazy susan dining table, which also represents the shared communal experience of food.

DULANG. The dulang tray is the traditional way of serving various viands during celebrations in Sulu. Steph Arnaldo/Rappler

The menu consisted of three Tsinoy dishes, three Tausug delicacies, and one Tsinoy-Tausug creation.

Another similarity between both cuisines is the “use of dried fish to insert strong flavors quickly,” Sharwin said, which is present in his Salted Fish Fried Rice and Miguel’s Turmeric Chicken in Bubuk (a Tausug condiment).

“For both, it is natural to preserve fish by drying and it makes sense both cuisines rely on it for flavor,” he said.

CHEF MIGUEL. Chef Miguel and his Palm Grill team work on serving some of his resto’s top dishes. Steph Arnaldo/Rappler

Both cuisines also rely on the creation of flavorful pastes. The pamapa paste, made with burnt coconut (a Tausug exclusive) is meant to add deep flavors like in the Tiyula Itum (black beef soup) and the Piyanngang Manok (grilled blackened chicken).

“It reminds me so much of our XO sauce, another complicated flavoring agent made with dried scallops and shrimp used by the Chinese,” Sharwin said. This is why for their collab dish, they decided to make Piyanngang Dumplings with XO sauce – boiled dumplings like those served in Ongpin are stuffed with the flavorful shredded chicken, and then topped with an umami-forward XO sauce that has just the right amount of heat.

PIYANGGANG DUMPLINGS WITH XO SAUCE. This dish was the Tsinoy-Tausug brainchild of Chef Sharwin and Chef Miguel. Steph Arnaldo/Rappler

Chef Sharwin usually makes his XO sauce with smoked pork from Benguet, but this time, he used mushrooms for the dish to be Halal-friendly.

Looking for a bit more sauce for the chicken inside, we were happy to receive a special side of Piyanggang’s sauce to dip our dumplings in, which is what the chicken is typically served in (at first taste, it slightly reminded me of Bicol’s laing).

PIYANGGANG STEW. Using the sauce of the chicken dish made the dumplings 10x better. Steph Arnaldo/Rappler

It was a deliciously rich, creamy, aromatic, and spice-forward stew made with burnt coconut and seven simple spices: lemongrass, turmeric, ginger, garlic, onion, salt, and pepper.

A culinary learning experience

Trying Tausug cuisine for the first time, I enjoyed the deep, smoky, and spice-ful profiles of the dishes. Chef Miguel served a traditional Piassak – beef liver and beef sirloin stewed in coconut milk, spices, and burnt coconut, a key ingredient in Tausug cuisine.

PIASSAK. Beef liver and beef sirloin cubes are coated in a rich coconut milk sauce with spices. Steph Arnaldo/Rappler

Chef Miguel said that the Tausug tribe is the only people who can expertly produce the burnt coconut. A special grill on the island is used to burn the coconut for exactly 1 hour and 30 minutes until golden brown, and until a thin film in between the meat and skin can be carved out and used. It is a very precise method – if burned too quickly, it can become rancid, and if burned too long, it will become bitter.

TURMERIC CHICKEN. The strips were covered in bubok, Sulu’s native condiment. Steph Arnaldo/Rappler

The Grilled Turmeric Chicken with Bubok was bold in its turmeric flavor, mixed in with the bubuk which adds a grainy texture. It is a native condiment of Sulu and commonly found in the markets, made from roasted grated coconut, chili, garlic, lemongrass, and other spices.

TIYULA ITEM. Called black beef soup, this was a blackened but clear soup with soft and chewy chunks of beef. Steph Arnaldo/Rappler

My favorite was Tiyula Itum, the tribe’s famous black beef soup (similar to a hearty bulalo), made dark in color from the burnt coconut. It was warm, savory, rich in beefy flavor, and comforting – a soup I can find myself craving for from now on!

DESSERT COMES FIRST. Sulu’s traditional kakanin covered in dessicated coconut started the meal. Steph Arnaldo/Rappler

It was also interesting to be served black assam tea and Putli Mandi as our first course – putli mandi is a Filipino steamed rice cake originating from the Tausug and Yakan people of Sulu, made from glutinous rice dough balls stuffed with sweetened coconut. Apparently, it is a typical practice to start your meal with a drink and something sweet, as to slightly “prime your stomach” to not overeat.

LAPU-LAPU IN MILKY BROTH. Adding to the experience was the crispy fried skin of the fish, fried with the scales to add a pop of texture. Steph Arnaldo/Rappler

Chef Sharwin’s Tsinoy dishes included a soft Lapu-Lapu in Milky Broth, his grandmother’s collagen-rich ginger soup; Smacked Cucumbers with Sichuan Oil, doused in mild chili garlic and an addictive soy-black vinegar dressing; and a tasty Salted Besugo Fried Rice I could enjoy on its own, making use of the common Filipino dried fish instead of the typical anchovy.

REFRESHING SIDE DISH. The fresh but salty and spicy cucumbers were a nice accompaniment to the rich and meaty dishes of the night. Steph Arnaldo/Rappler
BESUGO FRIED RICE. No meal is complete without flavorful fried rice. Steph Arnaldo/Rappler

Chef Sharwin and Chef Miguel are hosting a second run of “Hibla” on Saturday, April 27, 6 pm, at Palenque Food Court in Gateway 2 Mall, Cubao, Quezon City. To reserve a spot and for more information, you can email –

Add a comment

Sort by

There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.

Summarize this article with AI

How does this make you feel?

Download the Rappler App!
Avatar photo


Steph Arnaldo

If she’s not writing about food, she’s probably thinking about it. From advertising copywriter to freelance feature writer, Steph Arnaldo finally turned her part-time passion into a full-time career. She’s written about food, lifestyle, and wellness for Rappler since 2018.