A couple of months ago I was fortunate enough to have gotten invited to attend a theatrical performance called A Taste of Empire. A Taste of Empire is a solo performance by Jovanni Sy (actor/writer/amateur chef), where he told stories of conquests, imperialistic desires and colonialism while preparing a Filipino dish in real time. It was a very interesting and unique concept for a play that was both captivating and entertaining.
This performance took place at The Market Kitchen inside the historic St. Lawrence Market, located at the heart of downtown Toronto. The venue was perfect for this performance as The Market Kitchen is designed to be a cooking school equipped with state-of-the-art appliances.
When I first walked in, I was greeted with complimentary appetizers of tempura vegetables and dumplings. The appetizers were fine but I was most impressed with the freshly brewed espresso that was robust and rich in flavour.
Soon after the show started, Jovanni began telling stores of imperialism and colonialism in the Philippines, while he prepares a Filipino dish called Rellenong Bangus. Rellenong Bangus is essentially Milkfish stuffed with sautéed tomatoes, onions, garlic, green pepper and fish.
It’s a very labour intensive dish where you have to remove the flesh from the fish with the skin intact, de-bone the fish after the steaming it separately on banana leaves, stuffed the fish meat along with the rest of the ingredients back into the fish, lightly bread the stuffed fish in Japanese bread crumbs, then pan fried until golden brown.
The dish was served after the performance with complimentary sushi and fruit salad. The dish itself was quite interesting with the skin being the best part. The crispy skin was very flavorful and made a nice textural contrast to the soft interior.
A Taste of Empire is a very creative and interesting performance. Not only did the Jovanni told the story of imperialism and colonialism told through the use of food, but he also entertained and dazzled the audience with his culinary flare.