If you’ve ever wondered where top restaurants like Gallery Vask get their seafood, look no further than Mida Food, the Philippines’ leading seafood distributor.
“The business started 20 years ago in the parking lot of Lourdes ‘Chingling’ Tanco’s ancestral house on Singalong,” says Enrique Valles, Mida Food’s president and CEO.
Tanco’s sister company Mida Trade, which has offices in Indonesia, acted as a buying agent for principals in the US, sourcing items like tuna for companies like Chicken of the Sea.
“In the States all they want are the prime cuts, so they would chop off the head, the bellies and the tails and they’d just be sitting in the warehouse frozen, so they’d give it to us for practically nothing,” Valles explains. “We tried to find somebody in the Philippines to distribute it for us but couldn’t find anybody, so we said we’ll just do it ourselves.”
Mida’s first customers were ihaw-ihaw restaurants and beer gardens, which popularized dishes like tuna panga, belly and tails. That was how Mida Food started, until Tanco, Valles and his mother Chona realized there was a much bigger market out there they could cater to, so they tapped suppliers of salmon and sea bass and started bringing in items they themselves wanted to eat.
“At the time a lot of new hotels were being built, new foreign chefs were coming in and assuming the role of executive chefs,” recalls Valles, “so they were really happy that someone was supplying Norwegian salmon, Chilean sea bass, and the business grew from there.”
Mida has the widest range of seafood available, with over 300 SKUs. Their biggest item in terms of volume is cream dory, “because that is in every restaurant in the Philippines,” notes Valles. “But our biggest item in terms of peso value is salmon, because it’s the most premium fish you can put on a menu that is affordable for the restaurant.”
Mida Food also specializes in all kinds of shrimp, from Vannamei (suahe) to the increasingly rare black tiger shrimp.
Enrique Valles, president and CEO of Mida Food; chef Chele Gonzalez of Gallery Vask; Lourdes “Chingling” Tanco, managing director of Mida Food; and Chona Valles, operations director of Mida Food
A 20-year journey through food
The company celebrated 20 years in the industry with a gourmet lunch of Mida seafood prepared by one of their clients, chef Chele Gonzalez of Gallery Vask.
“Before we opened Vask I worked together with Enrique; you become friends with suppliers and that is something chefs these days value,” Gonzalez said. “I like to make a menu with seafood because, where I come from in northern Spain, they give so much respect to seafood.”
That respect was evident in Gonzalez’s first course, an aromatic tuna tartar that he served raw to emphasize the fish’s freshness. Flavored with infused oil and a dollop of guacamole, the success of this dish was an apt parallel for Mida’s beginnings 20 years ago.
“The five courses are like the journey of Mida, from the products we started with to the high-end products we have today,” Tanco said.
The second course, grilled tiger prawns with strawberry gazpacho, used black tiger shrimp, which Tanco says are getting rare because fewer countries are cultivating it. “Shrimp is a very key product to us because, prior to setting up Mida Food, Mida Trade had been the largest buyers of shrimp in Asia.”
To make his shrimp dish more contemporary, Chele sprinkled toasted jamon Iberico chips, breadcrumbs and pickled strawberries over his pan-fried tiger prawns, before pouring a strawberry and watermelon gazpacho around the shrimp. The balance between the umami of the jamon and the refreshing tartness of the gazpacho was struck perfectly.
Next came pan-fried halibut with pork ragout and crispy Iberico.
“I don’t like to cook the fish too much,” said Chele, who heated it for less than five minutes in the pan before showering it with kangkong powder.
Halibut entered Mida’s history at around the 10-year mark. “We started bringing in high-volume items like salmon, sea bass and halibut, which increased the line further,” Valles says.
Chele told me he used Ifugao Tinawon heirloom rice for the last seafood course, a squid-ink risotto with crab claws, scallops and prawns.
“These are the current-day Mida foods,” Valles says. “We offer chemical-free fish — we’re very good at looking at what’s trending in other markets and what our customers want. Through Mida Food and our retail brand, Pacific Bay, we want to bring new and outrageous things for people to try.”
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For the home cook, Pacific Bay offers peeled and deveined shrimp, tuna belly and steaks, scallops, salmon steaks, whole clams, mussels, crabsticks, cream dory fillets, Atlantic cod, bacalao loins, Chilean sea bass, soft-shell crabs, gindara steaks, halibut fillets and steaks. Pacific Bay is available at leading supermarkets nationwide.
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