A hint: It’s soft, creamy, and comes in a bottle.
“Deep Dips, eh? It sounds naughty,” I say to Arnold as I smear another baguette round with the bottled tinapa. I meet Arnold Bernardo through Chef Ed Bugia at the Thanksgiving dinner he hosted, the site of my disastrous pumpkin pie.
Arnold, like other chefs I know, wears many toques. A former nurse (yes, really), he’s the “1st Ultimate Chef Warrior” of this year’s Kitchen Battles, a local reality TV cooking show aired on QTV 11; the Executive Chef of Wheatberry Bakery and Café; a chef-instructor at Mapúa Institute of Technology’s Makati campus; and the owner of a line of bottled gourmet products. To the party, he’s brought along a mere three bottles of his coveted Spicy Tinapa in Tomato Sauce. (After one taste, it’s only my good girl manners that prevent me from stealing an entire bottle). Marketed under the name Deep Dips, it’s a play on the phrase, “dip, dip,” which is what it is. It’s also exceptional on pasta, eaten with rice, or as I do during the Thanksgiving dinner, smudged on salad greens. It’s so good that I imagine it’s equally luscious licked off skin… but I digress.
Arnold and I get along famously that evening, we gravitate towards each other like magnets moving in tandem, the common attraction being food; looking back, I realize we didn’t talk about anything else that night. Even days after that party, I can’t get the Spicy Tinapa out of my mind. So I order an entire box from him to give away for Christmas because I know that my foodie friends will love it too.
Unlike the more ubiquitous bottled tuyo, the Spicy Tinapa is smoked galunggong, a truly lowly, bony-as-hell fish. Arnold tells me that he’s developed a way of deboning it, after which it’s smoked (“tinapa”) and then processed. Gazing at a bottle of the Spicy Tinapa, I’m amazed to see three distinct layers – indistinguishable in terms of identity, but three layers nevertheless. The tomato sauce is the anchor at the bottom, tethered by the spices flowing through it. Atop that are the tinapa flakes topped by tufts of cheese. It’s a captivating, altogether exotic combination tinctured with corn oil made orange by the ingredients.
In my kitchen, I spread some of the smoked tinapa on toasted bread rounds. I take a bite, chew, and really listen to the flavors announcing themselves. As my thoughts empty, flavors fill my mind and mouth. First, an authority of smokiness rings throughout, like a pealing of bells. It heralds the rather exhilarating assault of spices – more pepper than popping pungency, really. Then a rush of tomato, ever so brief. Coursing through it all are bitey bits of the tinapa running free in a runnel of orange oil. It’s soft, creamy, and entirely addicting.
I’ve also taken to creating somewhat quirky combinations with this dip, just because I adore it so. My favorite combination is a riff on salty-sour-sweet-creamy. Onto a baguette round goes the smoked tinapa layered with slivers of brie (a sharp cheddar is nice too), torched just ‘til toasty; in between bites, I nibble on a whole sugared calamansi stuffed with a single nata de coco. It’s a curtain-raiser of a combination that leaves the palate gaping and begging for more.
- some of the stuff I eat with the smoked tinapa: sugared calamansi with nata de coco and a spicy fig compote
Which is exactly what my foodie friends who have already received this year’s Christmas gift are doing. It breaks my heart (but not too much) to tell them that they’re not getting another bottle from me, because I’ve decided to keep the rest of the bottles for myself.
Joke. (I think).
Deep Dips Foodstuff (Gourmet Products in Bottles) by Chef Arnold Bernardo
Spicy Tinapa in Tomato Sauce – P200
Dulong in Olive Oil – P200
Tomato Eggplant Pate – P200
Tuna Puttanesca Topper – P200
Gourmet Tuyo in Olive Oil – P180
Gourmet Tuyo in Corn Oil – P160
Gourmet Tuyo in Tomato Sauce Oil – P160
Smoked Dilis – P150
*Volume discounts for bulk orders
For the sugared calamansi:
Look for Cynthia’s booth at:
Eastwood Mall Gourmet Bazaar
Karl Edwards Bazaar
Mercato Centrale Weekend Market