Spiral at Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila
As the first Filipina chef to helm a 5-star hotel’s kitchens, chef Bettina Arguelles quickly turned heads in the country upon her return from Singapore. She had been the executive chef of Intercontinental Singapore Robertson Quay where she was recognised as Chef of the Year 2019 by the World Gourmet Awards. Before coming back to the Philippines, she refined furthermore her culinary talents at the Fullerton Hotel, Resortsworld Sentosa, Wayne Nish’s Privé and Daniel Boulud’s db Bistro Moderne in Marina Bay Sands and New York.
Despite this great deal of global experience, her answer to how she felt about becoming Sofitel Philippine Plaza Hotel’s executive chef was not expected: “Petrified! Terrified. It took me deep introspection and a period of discernment to accept the job. I didn’t want to commit career suicide by biting off more than I can chew and failing miserably in such an illustrious property, well-known and beloved to many Filipinos.”
Her style effortlessly melds flavours of the West with that of home and Asia. With a background in formal, classical French training and experience with Southeast Asian cuisine, she truly is primed to impress with her mastery of flavours. At recent four-hands fine-dining dinners, this chef proved just how artfully she could create spectacular dishes showing off local produce in an international manner.
At Sofitel, she oversees every dining outlet—from the bustling Spiral buffet to in-room dining, ensuring nothing short of excellence for travellers from around the globe and locally-based clients of the iconic hotel.
Despite her time overseas, she was thrilled to make her way home and bring her gourmet perspective to fellow Filipinos. From her life experiences, we wanted to know what meal speaks volumes and evokes smile-evoking memories. For chef Bettina, it is Beef Rendang! She elaborates:
“This has become one of my ultimate favourites since moving to Singapore in 2006. It is a traditional Malay dish originating from West Sumatra, Indonesia; we see its adapted versions in Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and even among the Maranao in the Philippines. I grew to love it when we moved to Singapore which is a culinary mecca for me. It is a melting pot of cultures and cuisines where one is really spoilt for choice! Beef Rendang for me is such a comforting dish, bursting with flavour and aroma and, regrettably, perfect with a big mound of rice! I remember going around the street bazaars in Geylang Serai and after some serious shopping, falling in love with this dish instantly.
“I am truly fortunate to have learnt authentic Southeast Asian cuisine in culinary school. This
recipe is my own tweaked version of the Malaysian one that I’m accustomed to, as my family and I like ours not too dry and with a bit of gravy for the rice. I love cooking this on a quiet day off, when everyone’s home, and cooking is the highlight of the day. It’s a slow food that needs time to develop its complex flavours. Here’s a super good recipe, truly a labour of love! You can do as I do and make a big batch of the rempah [spice paste] to freeze! Enjoy!”
BEEF RENDANG Ingredients
1 kg beef shank, or brisket
1 cinnamon stick
3 pcs cardamom
2 pcs star anise
100 g coconut (desiccated or grated)
20 red chilli peppers (fresh) or mixed with dried chilli (steeped in hot water)
6 lemongrass stalks, (white part only), crushed
4 cm galangal
4 cm ginger
4 pcs shallot
8 garlic clove
Vegetable oil (for blending)
6 tbsp cooking oil
300 ml coconut milk
400 ml water
Salt to taste
6 kaffir lime leaves
Palm sugar to taste (optional)
In a dry and clean pan, toast desiccated or grated coconut over medium heat until golden brown. Remove from pan. Pound grated coconut until oil is released. If using desiccated coconut, it should be pounded finely. Blend dried chillies, galangal, garlic, shallots and lemongrass stalks finely. Heat up a pan with oil over medium to high heat and cook the blended ingredients until fragrant. Add the beef and some water. Simmer till tender. Add toasted desiccated coconut. Mix evenly. Add coconut milk. For more gravy, add some water or more coconut milk. Add salt to taste. Cook until gravy thickens. Shortly before dishing out, add kaffir lime leaves. Mix well and serve hot.