In the original 1980 “Temptation Island,” there’s a now-iconic scene where Azenith Briones, Jennifer Cortez, Bambi Arambulo and Dina Bonnevie resigned themselves to their fate of being stuck on an island. As Giorgio Moroder’s hit song “What A Night” plays, one of them says, “Walang tubig, walang pagkain; ’di magsayaw na lang tayo.”
Designer Lesley Mobo is sort of in the same situation, though far from being stranded on an island of his hometown Panay. What do you do when you are happily living in a tropical paradise then? Among other leisurely things, cook.
Besides making voluminous printed ternos and shooting them as worn by residents of the locale, Mobo finds himself spending a lot of time in the kitchen—their “dirty” kitchen, to be exact. “Hot weather on the island practically begs for meals cooked on what we call the ‘dirty’ kitchen,” the Aklan-born designer says in Nolisoli’s Comfort Kitchen series.
Mobo’s cassava cakes are small and made from scratch: from the newly uprooted cassava to the freshly grated coconut, a convenience specific to island life. “You should be able to peel and feel everything in less than five minutes,” he says, not as a challenge but as a fact that comes with the ingredients’ closeness to its source.
Even the equipment he uses in preparation are not mass-produced but specifically handcrafted for a certain purpose like the tin shallow basin perforated to become a grater and the recycled milk cans poked with holes to allow steam to escape while cooking.
Cooking it the traditional way is also a breezy experience. With a makeshift steamer devised by covering an earthen palayok with layers of banana leaf, the mini cassava cakes are cooked by placing the filled containers on top of the hole created on the leaf to allow for steam to penetrate the punched milk can.
“What I love about cooking these mini cassava cakes is that it only takes 10 to 15 minutes to cook,” he says as he covers the mold with banana leaf held in place with a flat stone.
The first cake slides off the can seamlessly without the need for butter. And just like that, it’s merienda time. Mobo dressed in a red Hawaiian shirt calls for reinforcements: his mother, aunt and his two dogs. If Mobo could dress those furry creatures in colorful clothes, we just know he would.
Nolisoli Comfort Kitchen comes out every Monday and Thursday evening on IGTV. Follow @nolisoli.ph for updates.
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Writer: CHRISTIAN SAN JOSE