Courtesy of Milkfish
By Veronica Meewes
Few types of cuisine are hard to find anymore. Mexican and Tex-Mex are readily available, Indian buffets are standard fare, sushi just seems to keep growing in popularity, and Chinese, Thai, and Vietnamese are easily accessible. And food experts claim that Peruvian and Korean cuisine are the fare du jour.
So what’s the next fad food? Andrew Zimmern, host of “Bizarre Foods” on the Travel Channel, has a theory: “I predict, two years from now, Filipino food will be what we will have been talking about for six months … I think that’s going to be the next big thing,” he told TODAY.com.
“I want to go on record — this is not something that’s hot now somewhere and will get hot everywhere else,” he said. “It’s just starting. I think it’s going to take another year and a half to get up to critical mass, but everybody loves Chinese food, Thai food, Japanese food, and it’s all been exploited. The Filipinos combined the best of all of that with Spanish technique. The Spanish were a colonial power there for 500 years, and they left behind adobo and cooking in vinegar — techniques that, applied to those tropical Asian ingredients, are miraculous.”
Andrew Zimmern, host of "Bizarre Foods."
Filipino cuisine has a variety of foreign influences. The impact of China is evidenced in their use of noodles (pancit), fried rice (sinangang) and spring rolls (lumpia), as well as the soy sauce and fish sauce found in many other dishes. Indonesian and Malaysian influence can be seen in the use of coconut milk and rice, particularly in desserts, as well as the use of chilis (though most Filipino food isn’t very spice-heavy).
The Spanish were responsible for bringing bay leaves, tomatoes and garlic, as well as the technique of sautéing with olive oil. Longanisa is a sweet pork sausage (similar to the Spanish longaniza) which can be found in Filipino dishes. Other Spanish dishes often found on Filipino menus are flan, paella, and adobo, a method of braising meat in garlic, vinegar, peppercorns, and soy sauce.
Filipino food isn’t on the radar of mainstream America, but Zimmern thinks that’s going to change. “San Diego is now a big enough ethnic population of Filipinos that chefs are going there and seeing stuff. I think it’ll creep up into Los Angeles and from there go around the rest of the country,” he foresees.
Cristina Quackenbush is the head chef and proprietor of Milkfish, a popular Filipino pop-up restaurant found inside Marie’s Bar, a Marigny neighborhood favorite in New Orleans. “I have grown up cooking Filipino food from my mother and learning homemade-from-scratch fare from my grandmother. She had 20 acres of land in which she had planted every fruit and vegetable you can think of!” she told TODAY.com.
Before relocating to New Orleans 12 years ago, Quackenbush lived briefly in San Diego, where she encountered most of the Filipino restaurants she’s seen in the States. “I also found a little one in Tennessee once,” she recalls. “I have not encountered any other than those! This is why I want to bring it to the forefront. It is such a wonderful cuisine that must be shared.”
Quackenbush’s menu at Milkfish is split into three categories: appetizers, small dishes and dinners. She also offers vegetarian twists on classic Filipino dishes, such as vegetarian mechado, which traditionally appears as a marinated beef dish. She describes her cuisine as the soul food of Southeast Asia. “I definitely think (Filipino food) is gaining popularity,” she affirms. “I have never encountered anyone that I have fed that did not like it!”
Spam started being used in Filipino cooking during World War II and remains a popular ingredient. The following recipe is a typical breakfast dish, served with an over-easy egg. Try it and you might just be pleasantly surprised (I was!).
Spam fried rice
4 cup of cooked, then cooled, rice
1 diced onion
¼ cup soy sauce (La Choy or Silver Swan is preferred)
Salt and pepper to taste
Dice Spam into 1/4-inch cubes and sauté in canola oil until crisp on outside; add onions and garlic and cook until onions are translucent. Add cooled rice and 1/8 cup of oil. Mix rice thoroughly with Spam, onions and garlic. Add 1/8 cup of soy sauce and be sure sure to distribute evenly over mixture. Flatten out rice and let brown slightly. Stir again and flatten out and fry slightly. Make a hole in middle of rice and break egg into it. Let egg cook as you gradually incorporate it into the rice. Add rest of soy sauce and oil and stir fry until egg is cooked completely. Season with salt and pepper. Add diced tomatoes over top and fry an over-easy egg for the top to finish!
Veronica Meewes is an Austin-based freelance writer who will travel for food but always comes back for breakfast tacos. Follow her on Twitter @wellfedlife and visit her blog.
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While I was thrilled to see this article, I was disappointed that the one recipe you feature is for Spam Fried Rice. REALLY???
You speak of all these influences on Filipino cuisine, Asian and Spanish, and then you post a recipe which reflects none of those influences. Ridiculous, really.
As a Filipino-American I have been waiting for Filipino cuisine to finally make it big here in the U.S. Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, Chinese--and now Korean--have become fairly common in most larger cities here, and I would love to see Filipino food hit the same level of familiarity with Americans.
Spam Fried Rice is about as lame a food example and recipe as you could do. What about the classic Filipino dishes that most people are familiar with--lumpia, pancit, adobo, bibingka? Most Filipinos I know don't even eat Spam anymore, geez! I think of Spam as more Hawai'ian than Filipino.
Next time, I'd suggest doing better research on this topic. Talk to some real Filipinos, they'll hook you up.
#1 - Tue Jun 12, 2012 2:00 PM EDT
This was not meant to be the ultimate example of what Filipino food is, but rather just one of the delicious dishes featured at Milkfish... and something unique that people could make easily at home. Thanks for reading though!
#2 - Tue Jun 12, 2012 2:37 PM EDT
ADOBO although means marinade is Spanish is pre-colonial Filipino. Spain colonized the Philippines exactly 333 years and the USA's colonization is 50 years. Pre-colonial Philippines begins with the document called Laguna Copperplate which documents Indianized Kingdoms of the Philippines in 900AD-that's 600 years before Miguel Lopez de Legazpi conquered the Philippines. So 500 years of Spanish influence is inacurate. The Philippines had 600 years of ancient civilization and 400 years of Western influence.
Thanks for this wonderful article nonetheless...and it would take a Filipino restaurant in New Orleans, Louisiana to inspire this article. It was in Louisiana that Filipino sailors built the fabled Manila Village in 1763 and introduced Dancing the Shrimp in Louisiana. Perhaps your prediction will be true and no other place deserves a starting point than the state where there are over 10 generations of Filipino Americans.
Your article will go viral...as Filipinos love their food and want it known to all the world. Happy Philippine Independence Day! (June 12)
#3 - Tue Jun 12, 2012 3:23 PM EDT
I agree with the quote comparing filipino food with soul food. As half black and half filipino, I've had the pleasure of spending Thanksgivings with both sides of my family tree. Everyone is involved in the cooking and I mean everyone. Tons of comfort food and easy-going atmosphere all around. Etiquette and formalities aren't an issue as long as everyone is having fun.
Growing up in San Fran 1990's, there were already plenty of filipino restaurants for quick filipino food, especially the desserts. But only if you couldn't get to a relative's house where there was always pancit or adobo ready to eat... and yes, spam fried rice. Admittedly, it was a running joke among the younger generation. Not that we didn't indulge. ;-)
If one can't handle the sodium content of spam, adobo is incredibly easy. Chicken, garlic (in my fam there was no such thing as too much garlic), apple cider vinegar, a couple bay leaves, and soy sauce to taste. Variations suggested by cousins: brown sugar, atsuete, onions, and ginger (sparingly)
Throw all into a pot, frying pan, or oven pan and cook. Serve with rice or veggies.
#4 - Tue Jun 12, 2012 4:30 PM EDT
#5 - Tue Jun 12, 2012 4:59 PM EDT
#6 - Tue Jun 12, 2012 5:11 PM EDT
To fellow Filipinos: Methinks foreigners would be slightly less weirded out by our "exotic" cuisine if we didn't unfailingly offer BALUT as the Pinoy must-try food. Ask them to try LECHON BABOY/BAKA instead, or CHICKEN INASAL if religious beliefs are an issue.
@Spiv07 We don't think of Filipino food highly when served as street food or in a restaurant. You ought to try it served at home or at a party, where our hospitality is at stake.
#7 - Tue Jun 12, 2012 11:13 PM EDT
#9 - Tue Jun 12, 2012 11:49 PM EDT
@tomasmoves In all countries I go I sample food on the streets and at homes, the food of the people, IN the country and that's my base as reference. A restaurant in NYC doesn't count as reference for PH food.
@jerome Of course I had homefood, but again, I was not very impressed. Though there are some great dishes, don't understand me wrong. I love kinilaw tanigue, the soups Sinigang & Tinola,...
#9.1 - Wed Jun 13, 2012 1:32 AM EDT
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