“Create. Innovate. Execute,” shares Chef Jam Melchor
I had the opportunity to collaborate with this passionate and prolific chef some years past for a client’s series of cooking demos. And I would say that his food-savvy and cooking techniques are truly excellent. He didn’t stop learning and continues to create, innovate, and execute his plans.
Through his perseverance, Chef Jam Melchor was able to develop two virtual food businesses – Yesplate Delivery, a pioneering healthy food delivery service making calorie-counted meals; and Gastro Grocer, a specialty grocery store offering Kapampangan dishes – which succeeded during the pandemic.
“My food delivery business @yesplate is a product of courage and persistence,” Chef Jam shared in his IG post @chefjamme. “It took a lot of courage for me to take that first step in transitioning my restaurant business to what it is now. Persistence made me learn things – to make that dream of having my own brand a reality. I’m just thankful for the opportunity to help people feel good about themselves through healthy food every day, even at the height of this pandemic.”
Sharing his insights and tips on some Kapampangan food:
- Bringhe or paella – The best part of an old-school Kapampangan bringhe or any paella in my opinion is what’s called “socarrat” or the dry crust on the bottom. After the rice is tender, transfer to a wide pan lined with banana leaves. Cover with banana leaves, and cook on medium heat until the bottom forms a crust.
- Buro, Balao, or Tag-ilo in Pampanga – It is fermented rice along with another ingredient, like fish or shrimp. The fresh fish or shrimp that is salted, layered with cooked rice, which is also salted, then placed in one container and not touched until ten days. This allows some fermentation time and the salt preserves it all. After ten days, it is being sauteed in ginger and onions, others prefer to add tomatoes, too.
- Humba – Like adobo, humba was made due to the need for the meat to last longer. Humba lasts for several days without spoiling due to the vinegar present and especially if it is immersed in oil. Surprisingly enough, it even tastes better the longer it’s stored.
There are some versions of why this dish is called such, some would say that it is from the phrase “humot nga baboy,” with the first two letters of the first and the last words joined together. Humot is a word in the Bisayan dialect that could be roughly translated to mean “sweet-smelling,” “fragrant” or “with a delicious smell.” Baboy, on the other hand, is Filipino for pork or for a pig. Some argue that it really means “Humok nga Baboy,” since the meat, due to the way it is cooked, becomes very soft and tender. Humok means “soft” or “tender.”
- Tamales – Pampanga Tamales is also called “bobotu.” It is a native rice cake that is popular in Pampanga, especially in Cabalantian in the town of Bacolor, where the best tamales they say come from. It’s an offshoot of the Mexican tamal (tamales is the plural form), which are packets of corn dough with a savory or sweet filling and typically wrapped in a corn husk.
We not only feel hungry and crave our native food, but we also learned a lot from the insights shared by Chef Jam. He succinctly put it this way, “We may wander around the world, settle in a different country, embrace a different culture and grow fond of other people’s food. But Filipinos as we are, we would always long for home and crave for the foods that we grew up with.”
Follow Chef Jam Melchor @ chefjamme – https://www.instagram.com/chefjamme/
By Ruby Asoy-Lebajo
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