What is Maranao Palapa?
Palapa in a Maranao Spicy Prawn Cuisine
Filipino Exotic and Unique Delicacy
The Maranaos are minority inhabitants of Marawi City, Lanao del Sur, Philippines. They are known in the country for their rich cultural heritage. Their folk dances are graceful, dynamic and colorful. Their feasts called “piging” are truly festive and sumptuous. They are originally known as the graceful people of the lake living on the northern edge of Lake Lanao. Now, Maranaos are spread over the country and has become part of the mainstream Filipino community. They form the largest Muslim community in the country. Knowledge of their culture has widely spread throughout the country and along with it; their dishes and cuisines became famous and sought after.
Palapa is a very unique dish because of its two-fold purpose and nature. It is the main ingredient in all Maranao cuisines; at the same time, it is also an appetizer for all season. No native Maranao dish is perfect sans palapa and nomeal is that satisfying without it. This two-fold characteristic of a dish is exemplified only by the Maranao palapa and with this; they take pride in founding this one of a kind ingredient-appetizer. “Palapa defines my taste buds. That’s how I love it. It is part of me,” raves a native of Marawi City who is a law degree holder.
The main composition of palapa is ginger, native chili called “sili”, and native scallions called “sakurab”. It can be eaten raw after its ingredients are crushed finely, mixed and blended all together using mortar and pestle. As soon as the components are well-blended, palapa is ready to be served as appetizer in its raw form. How the Maranaos relish this basic concoction because of its spicy, tangy and exotic taste. Smoke will be coming out of your ears and nostrils.
Most of the time, the ingredients are mixed with bits of chicken meat, fish or beef. This is the cooked form of palapa which also comes with desiccated coconut meat. The following are the ingredients:
2 teaspoons of oil
¼ k garlic finely chopped
¼ k medium onions finely chopped
¼ k ginger peeled and finely chopped
¼ k native scallions cleaned and finely chopped
¼ k chicken meat/fish meat/beef cubed into small bits
½ k grated coconut meat totally squeezed of its juice
5 pieces red native sili
1 teaspoon kuning (yellow Maranao food coloring) powder
The following are the steps in making palapa:
1. Ginger, scallion, and sili are mixed all together and pounded in a large mortar and pestle until the three ingredients are no longer distinguishable. Set aside.
2. Oil is heated in a pan with garlic and onions.
3. The meat is sautéed with the spices until cooked.
4. The coconut meat is poured in and stirred until it is cooked.
5. The ginger-scallion-sili mixture is then put in the pan and stirred until completely mixed and ingredients are no longer distinguishable.
6. The kuning is sprinkled and mixed well into the mixture to give it a yellowish color.
7. Remove mixture from the pan and set aside until it is cooled.
8. Palapa is now ready to be served.
It is advisable that the person cooking have a mask on because the aroma wafting from the mixture could sting and hurt the nostrils. The palapa is now ready to be served as appetizer. It could last for a month with proper storage and sealing. It should be stored in a container that is be properly sealed or capped. It should be stored in warm and airy spaces in the kitchen, and kept away from moist to avoid early contamination.
If desired, it can be used as an ingredient to season Maranao cuisines such as spicy prawn, beef randang or bodi (caviar). These cuisines are served on large silver platters during pagana Maranao or Maranao feast when celebrating weddings, enthronements of royal leaders and other special occasions.
Society is dynamic and soon its movement will sure hit this Maranao dish in the future. This means that a lot of palapa variations may be discovered or invented. Who knows it might also become a dessert in the future so that its two-fold nature will become three namely, ingredient-appetizer-dessert!