Credit: Image from The New York Times by Dina Litovsky
Filipinos know this, and it's about time the whole world does too... Filipino food is damn good! The New York Times article by Ligaya Mishan brought excitement and feelings of victory for so many Filipinos. Happiness is when you see a non-Filipino so well versed in ube and halo halo, but it is extreme joy and pride when you see a non-Filipino chow down on kare kare and bagoong and dinuguan. When you see these "challenging" dishes being featured in blogs and Instagram and appearing on restaurants' menus, you can't help but feel that we are penetrating the American mainstream... and we've only just begun.
Here are some excerpts from Ligaya's NY Times article:
"Other Asian cuisines have been part of the American landscape for decades. But only in recent years have Filipino dishes started gaining recognition outside immigrant communities, at restaurants like Maharlika in New York; Bad Saint in Washington, D.C.; and Lasa in Los Angeles."
"Bagoong — ranging from muddy brown to plumeria pink in color, commonly made of tiny krill, anchovies or bonnetmouths — brings to soups and stews a depth of flavor that evokes cheese interred in caves and aged steak, with an extra dimension of ocean floor."
"It also may be eaten straight, daubed on rice or anointing slices of green mango. Along with its byproduct, patis (fish sauce), it’s an essential seasoning that claims a place on the table next to suka (vinegar) and banana ketchup (bananas cooked down in vinegar and tomato paste), as much a condiment as an ingredient."
"If bagoong is the salt, suka is the sour lifeblood of the cuisine."
"Lumpia, cousins to Chinese spring rolls, are dunked in sawsawan (dipping sauce), which may be as straightforward as vinegar with a stutter of raw garlic."
"Vinegar is the undertow, too, in adobo, perhaps the best known of Filipino dishes."
"There are nearly as many manifestations of adobo as there are Filipinos."
"But is adobo the dish that speaks most directly to the Filipino soul? Ms. Fernandez argued otherwise, in favor of sinigang, a soup she described as 'the dish most representative of Filipino taste,' in part because it’s adaptable “to all classes and budgets.” Recipes differ, but the goal is the same: a sourness so profound that the first sip should make you shudder."
"Still, no one dish can sum up the Filipino palate. 'A feast of different flavors is optimal,' said Nicole Ponseca, who runs Maharlika and Jeepney in New York."
"Kare-kare, a nutty-sweet stew of oxtail, bok choy, string beans and eggplant, traditionally simmered with ground peanuts and achuete oil; peanut butter, a modern substitute, lends voluptuousness."
"Kare-kare, sinigang and adobo are likely to appear on most Filipino menus in the United States, from turo-turo (point-point) steam-table joints to sophisticated restaurants. So, too, is dinuguan, a pork-blood stew that can pose a challenge even for Filipinos."
"The opaque stew, classically loaded with offal, is often passed off by Filipino immigrant parents as “chocolate meat” to their suspicious children."
"It’s considered particularly lucky to eat pancit (noodles) on birthdays, their uncut strands promising long life."
"Like their Chinese antecedents, they come in different shapes and textures: miki (made with egg), bihon (rice), sotanghon (mung bean) and canton (wheat). Recipes might include sluices of soy sauce and calamansi and toppings of shrimp heads, quail eggs, shucked oysters or chicharron."
"For the highest occasion, there can be only one centerpiece: lechon, whole roasted pig, its shining, lacquer-thin skin primed to shatter."
"The backdrop to these dishes is always rice."