Filipino food

Five Amazing Things to Look Forward to at Summit 2015: Recognize


by Mark Libatique Conferences are what our older cousins went to, a thing of the past. This is Summit 2015: Recognize. Here are some of the most exciting things to expect at this year’s edition of UniPro’s premier event.


You’ll Find Your Career Launchpad.

Seriously. Whether you’re in the early stages of finding your footing in your industry of choice, knee-deep in its trenches or simply looking for guidance, you’ll meet who you’ll need to at Summit: Recognize. Experts and authorities in media, community organizing, policy, food, and tech will be in attendance. You’ll want to be there too.

Filipino Kitchen

Filipino Kitchen's Maja Blanca Pancakes and Longanisa Scotch Eggs

Food. Pagkain. Sarap-ness.

Never a bad place to inject the best of Pilipino culture. Summit: Recognize will feature the up-and-coming best of America’s new favorite cuisine. Famed Filipino Kitchen will be hosting a workshop, and you’ll get a chance to get a cup full of your favorite Baonanas flavors.

Summit 2015 Raffle

Free Ticket to the Philippines. Yeah.

Thanks to Philippine Airlines, one delegate will win a free round-trip ticket to the Philippines. Registrants to Summit: Recognize will automatically be entered to win, and you can up your chances by purchasing more raffle tickets at Summit.

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Not Your Ordinary Minority Panel.

With Summit: Recognize, we’ll shift our focus as Filipinos to our role within the greater community of color that makes up minority America. There’s never been a more important time in our history to do so, and you’ll be at the forefront of it. Take a look at our amazing panel speakers.

Summit 2014 Delegates

Our delegates at Summit 2014

You’ll Probably Meet Someone Who Needs You.

We come from all fields and industries, and we’re quickly realizing that in order to be recognized, we must recognize each other. The technical term for it is “networking,” but we do it differently. These relationships last, and can produce life-changing personal results for you that will continue for years. Trust us. You might change someone’s life at Summit, too.

*To register for Summit, go to *TODAY ONLY, 5/27: Graduation Flash Sale - $15 Off Summit Tickets



by Paolo Espanola & Sarahlynn Pablo

In this two-part look back of the first #FKEDUP live collaboration in Boston this past February, Paolo Espanola and Sarahlynn Pablo reflect on the team’s brunch pop-up and participation in a regional conference for Asian-American college students.


It takes a certain kind of muted masochism to pull off a pop-up: embracing the uncertainty, unfamiliarity, and heightened stress that comes with these one-off engagements that lack the full commitment of owning your own space. In our case, masochism took the form of a crew that’s never met in person, a venue smack dab in the middle of Winterfellian Boston, and a cuisine that hasn’t quite broken into the local populace’s psyche quite yet. Now, I don’t want to make it sound like we were in the throes of despair as we peeled over 60 lobster tails during prep night... but we definitely preferred the raucous music playing on the kitchen speakers to what must have been bubbling anxiety underneath; courageous denial, so to speak.

The menu - a far cry from Filipino dishes of long ago - seemed more fitting for a sun-soaked Californian patio, not the gloomy slush that covered the streets: Longganisa Scotch Eggs? Chicken Inasal and Atsara na Mangga? No one asked whether the steady snowfall would mean we soft-boiled too many eggs. No one asked whether the unsuspecting populace would “accept” our version of Filipino food. And when a tita - the venerable judge of Filipino food - called and said she would rather eat in Chinatown where it’s cheaper since we weren’t offering some sort of “show” along with brunch service, we hardly had the time to panic.

And so we waited breathlessly during those first few hours; waiting for signs that they’ll like our food.  That’s the paradox of how we were cooking Filipino food: reckless abandon by a people so concerned about what “they” will think of our food. “Baka ‘di magustuhan ng mga Kano!” [“Maybe the Americans won’t like it!”] The feeling that perhaps our cuisine isn’t good enough... not refined enough... not pretty enough to warrant a proper brunch service; food that belongs in the dimly lit turo-turos and not the airy pub-cum-brunch hall we found ourselves in.


It comes with cooking in a transplanted kitchen: having to justify the “Filipino-ness” of our dishes. The Maja Blanca pancakes that we served - fluffy silver dollars topped with a coco-condensada syrup, corn kernels, and berries - were a far cry from the original pudding that utilized latik (burned coconut cream), agar, and was served sans maiz.  The “Lobsilog,” a sexified sous vide lobster tail served with pickled strawberries, was only similar in construct - rice, egg, protein - to its kin, the Long-, Tap-, and Toc-ilogs (Sausage, Cured Beef, and Bacon respectively) of the Motherland. And seeing as those dishes were Spanish (and most probably, Arabic) in origin, were we cooking Filipino enough?

Even our crew, a mishmash of Filipino-Americans and neophytes - some of who’ve never even had Filipino food before - could hardly recite the Panatang Makabayan. Instead of Parokya ni Edgar and intense discussions of whose regional adobo was better, dancehall pumped through the speakers as a fellow cook tasted homemade Longganisa for the first time. And yet our menu had the requisite Filipino sun ray logo, the ever-present calamansi cocktail, the overt jeepney graphic. Could we get any more Filipino? And yet... was it really Filipino enough?

Weeks prior, as the culinary minds put forth the beginnings of the menu, it was evident that our offerings skewed gastropub-Soul rather than kalinderya. My own contribution, “The OFW,” was a Filipino twist on the British (née Indian) Kedgeree: a melange of mushrooms on aromatic rice and a plumcot chutney; hardly recognizable as a -silog in itself.  But just like its namesake, the transplanted Filipino toiling away in foreign lands, isn’t “Filipino food” a cuisine that defies easy definition? One that makes its home in the deserts of Saudi Arabia just as well as the beaches of the West Coast? With all this talk of Filipino Food: what it is, who gets to make it, what it should taste like... perhaps we’ve been asking the wrong question. Better yet, perhaps there was no question to begin with.  Perhaps we cook not to draw boundaries but instead to shout and be heard.

Critics, ourselves included, will pontificate on what constitutes a proper Filipino Sinigang, yet won’t dare question the European “Spanish-ness” of Paella despite the dish’s strong Moorish influences. Therein lies the problem: sometimes the person who’s critiquing our own food and journey the most isn’t the overly skeptical tita who wants to see a group of girls in tutus performing some Mariah Carey song while she chows on her idea of a Pinoy brunch… it’s us. When the person in the mirror is the one asking: “Are you enough?”, it gets tough; masochism born out of centuries of being told we’re only allowed certain paths in life, not others. Perhaps, like ourselves, Filipino food “just is.” One of my restaurateur idols went as far as to defiantly state: “I don’t give a rat’s ass what the mainstream wants to call it, I’m cooking it and calling it what I want to.”



Towards the end of the service, one of the line cooks turned dishwasher stepped out to take a smoke break.  In the space of five minutes, the pile of dishes in the back bred and multiplied and when he returned, he stared up at the unsightly stack of fat-drenched plates and sticky syrup. He swore loudly, threw his hands, and complained loudly to no one in particular. And then a curious thing happened. A smile crept over his face as Rupee’s “Tempted to Touch” began playing, he glanced over in my direction, shrugged and said, “Guess it’s gotta be done!” Masochism? Perhaps not. Perhaps like him, we too should accept our obligation -- not with this knot of constant fear...of relentless whisperings of inadequacy -- but with cheerful resignation. That at the end of the day, there is no such thing as getting Filipino Food “right”... it’s just gotta be done.


It takes a certain kind of courage to teach. Those of us who have had the privilege of learning from a great teacher know it’s a noble profession because teaching shares ways to higher knowledge. Teaching is tough. Teachers are expected to do their homework before everyone else and master the subject. Teaching involves a good deal of public speaking and engaging with your audience. A great teacher can motivate students to explore material they have no particular interest in.

There we were: Harvard University at the East Coast Asian American Students Union (ECAASU) annual conference, facilitating a workshop with the #FKEDUP crew and old friends, Brandon Glova AKA DJ Bonics and his sister, photographer Judy Glova. Ok, so we weren't exactly teaching, but approximating it for an hour. By sharing something of our personal journeys, we wanted to give back to the young people we saw so much of ourselves in, just fifteen years ago. Filipino Kitchen is proud to be Filipino American and Asian American, and spaces like ECAASU helped this pride take root.

Our workshop tackled identity. Not exactly light stuff. Though the conference maintains a safe space to express opinion among Asian-American peers -- it’s hard to bare your twenty-year old soul to a room full of strangers. Kinda like group therapy, honestly. And I mean that fondly, and with a degree of sentimentality. ECAASU is fertile environment for young Asian Americans can think about and give names to our experiences ourselves.


Our young people spoke up and told us how they were experiencing the 'not enough' phenomenon themselves. College was a new proving ground, where for some, unlike diverse spaces of childhood, their identities were challenged and provoked from the outside. Multiracial Asian Americans shared pains that ran deep. Feeling ‘not enough’ was the status quo. They felt tired of justifying self, explaining self, and more so, angry at that imposed responsibility.

Before the conference we asked our friends on social media to share the 'not Asian enough' moments they had:

“Oh, you don’t speak Tagalog? You’re not reeeeeally Filipino.”

“Yes, my family would go to debuts and pageants and spectacles like that, which made me wonder where I belonged, do I fit in, what criteria do I need to hit some sort of Filipino-legitimacy threshold.”

“I guess the Filipinos thought adapting to the American lifestyle caused me to lose my Filipino self.”

“My cousins used to tell me, ‘you couldn’t understand, you’re just half-Filipino.’”

In the workshop, we questioned the questions of being "Asian enough." We wanted to expose that there was no test for being Filipino or Chinese or Taiwanese or Laotian or Indian or Korean or any of the heritage origins with which we Asian Americans identify. There was no "Asian enough" test at all.



None of the students spoke of overt racism or prejudice (or wanted to volunteer that information), though we acknowledged them as part of our reality. Instead we spoke of the subtleties of ‘othering.’

The young people said that some non-Asian Americans students didn't understand their need to create spaces for themselves on their college campuses, misinterpreting forming student groups like Filipino Students Associations as exclusionary tactics. A few spoke of the oft-muddled identities and nuances brought on by mixed nationalities and cultural birthrights.

Before the conference, our friends on social media shared their 'not American enough' moments, too:

“What country are you from?”

“Your English is amazing.”

“I remember going to school with a Tupperware of dinuguan and longanisa and the look on my teacher’s face when I asked her to heat it up for me. I wanted Lunchables!”

The conversation about defining American (as famously coined by undocumented Filipino American activist and Pulitzer prize winning journalist, Jose Antonio Vargas, and the 40 million immigrants in this country, lawmakers, pundits and the many others in the immigration debate) is hotly contested.


While that was plenty of ground to cover, we didn't get to touch on how divisive 'not enough' is. How the personal offenses and attacks keep us from building community and prevent us from questioning systems like imperialism, capitalism and patriarchy. Sixty minutes is not a lot of time to dive deep into the subject, and we considered it a success that many of the workshop participants stayed afterwards to talk with us.

We ended the workshop with a shout. Paolo asked if maybe it's just time we start being comfortable with the uncomfortable? Maybe there's identities we can try on, even if we're not "supposed" to? What's a Filipina "supposed to" be? What's an American "supposed to" be? What about someone who grew up in three distinct cultures? Where is home? Can we shout our names at the top of our lungs in a Harvard classroom? Maybe that's when our work really started.



Thank you to our friends at The Vault Restaurant in Boston -- Kate, Corey, Mallory, Liz, Val, Andrew and Vinny -- for a wonderful service together. Thank you to the patrons of the RICE & SHINE Boston brunch pop-up.

Thank you to the East Coast Asian American Students Union for inviting Filipino Kitchen and DJ Bonics to speak at this year’s conference. Thank you to the young people who attended our workshop, and the Filipino Kitchen Facebook community for sharing your 'not enough' moments.

And always, thank you to our entire #FKEDUP Boston crew for your hard work and incredible talents -- Noel Aglubat, AC Boral, Stephanie Chrispin, Brandon and Judy Glova (especially your dj'ing and photography, respectively), and Natalia Roxas.


Lobster-Silog? Tender, sweet lobster, with a side of sinangag or garlic fried rice and an egg cooked to order sounds like a localized, Filipino-fantastic way to start a Sunday in Boston, a city well known for its crustacean bounty.

Even as the enterprising collective of Filipino Kitchen, Errant Diner and UniPro -- or #FKEDUP as we playfully refer to ourselves on social media -- will travel to Boston for the annual East Coast Asian American Students Union (ECAASU) conference at Harvard University next weekend, we never intended to throw a pop-up dinner (or brunch, as it were) so early in our collaboration. We never ruled it out, either.

UniPro executive board vice-president Noel Aglubat told me, “Although we are not even at the midpoint of the collaboration, we have gone beyond cross-blog content and posts. We are right in the thick of planning our Boston brunch pop-up, and it’s super exciting.”

Added our own Chef AC Boral, “It is a unique and powerful thing to see Filipinos united together to advance the discussion about our identities and who we are, as well as showcasing pride for it.”


An oft-cited criticism of Philippine society is crab mentality: crabs trying to escape from a bucket pull each other down. It's regarded as a selfish, self-hatred that results in personal failure and mediocrity across the board. Writes Antonio Contreras on the GMA News Opinion blog last year, "Pinoy elites and the fallacy of the crab mentality":

One of the elitist ways by which we dismiss and demean the ordinary and the lowly classes is to accuse the non-elites who rant against the elites as guilty of crab mentality.  Having an “isip talangka” is a derisive and critical commentary on how ordinary Pinoys behave in relation to upward mobility. In the world of the “talangka,” the crabs that dwell below would pull down those at the top, the upwardly mobile and those who have the ability to climb up the social ladder—that is, the elites and the rising neo-elites.


For the past eight weeks, we’ve been building a partnership from a group of seven individuals, across four states and three time zones with a single mission: expand the conversation about Filipino food, and by extension, Filipino culture. We planned, wrote, co-edited, and cross-posted articles centering on Filipino cuisine and culture: our memorable dishes from last year, our un-trendy predictions for the year-to-come and a pun-derful piece about bangus, “My Milkfish Brings all the Girls to the Yard.”

“I love this blog-based collaboration,” said Aglubat. “It’s something I’ve never done before and to my knowledge, it’s something UniPro has never done before. The latter is a bit shocking since collaboration is the essence of UniPro.”

UniPro, shorthand for Pilipino American Unity for Progress, is a New York City-based, national nonprofit organization whose end goal is a unified and engaged Pilipino America. Though UniPro chapters share the unity mission, how that looks means different things in different cities and regions of the country. Aglubat explained that local community leaders and organizations are consulted on whether a new UniPro local chapter would be a useful and welcome resource. When need and purpose are established, local UniPro chapter members have the freedom to build the organization to address local and specific issues.

In early November, we met several of the UniPro members when they were passing through Chicago for the annual Filipino Americans Coming Together (FACT) conference at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. A brief meeting in a loud beercade devoted to 80s and 90s glory days was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. “When I first approached Sarah and Natalia with the idea of collaboration I did it with three goals in mind; reinvigorating UniPro's blog, pushing forward the Filipino food movement and strengthening our ties to the Fil-Am community in the Midwest,” noted Aglubat. (See postscript on a potential Chicago UniPro.) Even as the blog collaboration stretches UniPro in a new way, so too, does the pop-up restaurant. “We've never done a pop-up restaurant before,” Stephanie Chrispin, UniPro’s director of fundraising, said. “The majority of our collaborations fall under our education or advocacy missions -- related to policy, e.g. the DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] workshops we did with FALDEF [Filipino American Legal Defense & Education Fund] to help sign up undocumented Pinoys and help them determine their eligibility.” “I would say this [effort] is an educational one in that it seeks to expand Filipino cuisine to nontraditional audiences,” continued Chrispin.


  In late November, while on his last tour stop in Chicago with Wiz Khalifa, my longtime friend and fellow Pitt alumni, Brandon Glova, better known as DJ Bonicsto you hip hop aficionados, asked me if I wanted to try and speak together at the ECAASU conference. It was never a question, however, because my answer was always yes.  

Pitt ASA forever @djbonics it's awesome to build w you brother & witness you & @wizkhalifa doin it #Chicago #friends #MIA A photo posted by Sarahlynn Pablo (@sarahlynneats) on


The Blacc Hollywood Tour continues as we finish a 2 nights at Webster Hall in NYC. On the second night Busta Rhymes affiliated rapper O.T. Genasis turn it out with his performance of "COCO." At the end of the video you see Busta get a little emotional on stage with Wiz!

After all, in my undergraduate days, the ECAASU conference was where I learned to say and give names to what I long felt as an Asian American. I remember sitting in an auditorium with probably a thousand kids like me. I’d never seen so many me’s in one place. I remember my tears when Chicago-based Asian American spoken word quartet, I Was Born With Two Tongues (yes, that's a MySpace page), reflected our experience with visceral art. I remember going to the conference with my betters at Pitt, led by upperclassmen ates (older sister) and kuyas (older brother), and then in short time, becoming that ate to a group of young bloods. That conference was one of many beginnings that lead me to Filipino Kitchen.

To think of the possibility of giving back at ECAASU felt like coming home. A right idea at the right time.

Our workshop, “Not Enough,” looks at what can often feel like the conflicted space that Asian Americans exist in -- one that is not American enough to peers and greater society, and one that is not Asian enough for family elders or relatives in the motherland. Just as much, if not more, than twenty years ago, Asian Americans need to own our histories and to understand our identities as a source of power, not exile.

“What we are doing [in Boston] is bigger than we are. It is very refreshing to realize that we are part of something bigger than what Filipino Kitchen is,” said photographer Natalia Roxas-Alvarez of Filipino Kitchen. “It's beyond the blog, it's beyond the pop-ups. It's really embracing being cultural ambassadors.”

“Boston will be a great stepping stone,” said Boral. “It's our way of showing people that we mean business, and we're going to do business by talking about who we are, as well as feeding you amazing, delicious food.”

“We hope to inspire a whole new batch of kids,” added Roxas-Alvarez of the college ‘kid’ participants of the conference. “It is a different feeling from when I used to [present at conferences] six and seven years ago. And plus… THIS IS HARVARD.”


After Saturday's feeding of the mind at ECAASU comes Sunday's feeding of the body and soul. Chef AC Boral will cook alongside Paolo Espanola from The Errant Diner.

Espanola’s diverse, diasporic range of experience with food and places isn’t atypical for Filipinos: a childhood in Saudi Arabia, teen years in a seminary in rural Wisconsin, his collegiate tribulations in Minnesota, and now in the concrete jungle of New York City. In his own right, a self-described pop-up dinner n00b, caterer and blogger, Espanola told me about his motivations in participating in this venture.

Evening Meditation. #theErrantDiner #sandosundays

A photo posted by Paolo Espanola (@errant_diner) on

“For me I wanted to show that food can and should be cooked by everybody and anybody because it’s what tells our stories, keeps us together,” said Espanola, who is also on the UniPro staff. “It’s one of the few languages that doesn't need to be spoken. I swear we could solve a ton of our world problems if we just found the time and courage to share a meal.”

As for the menu itself, the brunch will be a Boston reprise of the wildly popular, not-your-Nanay’s Filipino American breakfast franchise, Rice & Shine. “This Rice & Shine menu takes a kind of back to basics approach to what Filipino food can be,” said Boral. “It will be focused on the staple breakfast food group, "silogs," meaning [a breakfast meat] served with garlic fried rice and fried egg. Our silogs will still stray a bit from tradition as we bring some Boston-inspired components to our dishes.”

“There will still be some Rice & Shine favorites but I'm excited to have curated a new menu for Boston along with our partners in the #FKEDUP collaboration,” added Boral.

Natalia and I will be joined by Aglubat and Chrispin of UniPro to serve our Boston guests a dose of Filipino American culture and history with the delicious brunches.

Aglubat added, “The big takeaway I want our audiences to see from this collaboration is how collaboration and working together can increase the visibility of the Filipino American. Oh, and of course, how delicious, diverse and dope Filipino Food is.”

POSTSCRIPT: Exploratory talks have begun among a few young professional Pinoy organizers to start a UniPro chapter in Chicago. That prospect is in the very beginning stages.

The 2015 ECAASU Conference will be held at Harvard University on February 20 and 21, and is open to college students. Interested participants may late register for $85 or $90 on-site. Currently 1,100 participants are registered. The "Not Enough" workshop will be on Saturday, February 21, at 1:15 PM.

On Sunday, February 22, the #FKEDUP Rice & Shine Boston popup brunchwill be held at The Vault, 105 Water Street in Boston, from 11 AM to 4 PM. A full, a la carte menu of fun Filipino twists on American brunch classics is available, and reservations are recommended via Eventbrite though walk-ins are accepted, too. ECAASU participants get a 10% discount with badge.





With this collaboration Pilipino American Unity for Progress (UniPro) aims to push forward the Filipino Food Movement. Engaging Filipino Americans in not only dialogue, creation but also consumption of some of their favorite and least favorite dishes will explore where Filipino Cuisine stands and where Filipino Cuisine is heading.

Throughout Paolo Espanola's childhood years in Saudi Arabia, his teen years in a seminary in rural Wisconsin, his collegiate tribulations in Minnesota, and finally in the concrete jungle of New York, food has always been a large part of his life. Paolo has dabbled in blogging, catering, and throwing pop-up dinners as The Errant Diner.  Check out his blog for all things food, from philosophical rants, culinary techniques, event reviews, and the occasional recipe.

Through our cuisine, Filipino Kitchen connects Filipinos everywhere with our cultural heritage and the possibilities of our shared future. Filipino Kitchen documents with photography, interviews, stories and recipes, the makers and appreciators of Filipino cuisine and its continuing evolution. Currently based in Chicago and Southern California, we cook our delicious cuisine and share it with our communities at pop-up brunches, dinners and other food events. Through connecting across the diaspora with our shared love and pride of our food, we hope to lead a long-coming renaissance. The masterminds and masterhearts behind Filipino Kitchen are three Filipino Americans: writer Sarahlynn Pablo, photographer Natalia Roxas-Alvarez and chef AC Boral of so good & delicious. Filipino Kitchen is online at and on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

The Errant Diner: Twitter/Instagram: @errant_diner 

Filipino Kitchen Twitter/Instagram: @filipinokitchen

UniPro Twitter/Instagram: @unipronow

It comes, it goes, it stays #FKEDUP


We started off the year with Filipino.Kitchen's list of best Filipino eats of last year.

The second collaboration post with #FKEDUP featuring The Errant Diner is here! Let's explore what "Filipino Food Trends" really means. Most trends seem to be one-hit wonders where others are just too DAMN good that they stick around for a while. There is a reason why some trends are trends and why some dishes remain classics not only within a native culture, but in the mainstream food realm.

We'd love to hear your thoughts on Paolo Espanola's 5 biggest (Un)-Trends in Filipino food for this year. Which ones definitely belong on this list? Which Filipino food "trends" should have made it instead?


The 5 Biggest (Un)-Trends in Filipino Food for 2015


Every year, a group of tastemakers and trenderati pontificate on what they believe are going to be the top food trends for this year.  Whether or not these trends are actually just self-fulfilling prophecies is beyond us.  However, one particular “trend” that’s consistently made it in recent years, from Andrew Zimmern proclaiming it the “next big thing” in 2012 all the way up to this year’s list, is “Filipino Food."  It’s supposedly going to gain a huge following, an increased appreciation outside of the iconic adobos and halo-halos, and ever more restaurants pushing our heady flavors to the hungry masses.

But what exactly does saying Pinoy food is a 2015 trend mean?  Filipino cuisine is such a rich topic, full of historical context and ripe with stories that to say it’s a “trend” this year is quite an oversimplification and implies we’re being given a limited time on the proverbial stage to strut our stuff!  What does “trendiness” look like?  Prolific to the point of cheap Pinoy takeout via Seamless?  A Filipino Michelin-starred restaurant on Park Avenue?  Whatever your opinion is, we’re just as excited as you for the opportunities Filipino cuisine faces this year!

Elected by a not-as-secret sect of foodies (us….duhhh), we’ve tasked ourself on compiling the next stages in the evolution of the Filipino cuisine and why we believe this is one “trend” that’s going to be around for a while.


Any respectable restaurant attempting to bring Filipino cuisine to the masses has at some point offered their version of Adobo, the dish that’s become as synonymous to Pinoy cuisine as General Tso’s Chicken is to Chinese-American eateries.  It’s been covered by the New York Times and with Americans falling in love with that soy sauce-vinegar elixir of life that the choice meat is braised in, the market is hankering for more.

 Dishes as daring as Dinuguan (offal stewed in pig’s blood) and as loved as Lumpia (various egg & spring rolls) are being incorporated into a wider range of menus.  Perhaps we’ll begin to see restaurants specializing in regional cuisines, such as that of the predominantly Muslim areas of Mindanao that eschew pork but use the more abundant coconut milk of its surroundings, or introducing dishes not as well-known outside the motherland.



Filipino food, even among us seasoned Sinigang-slurpers, has never enjoyed the reputation of being healthy (or at least is usually known as being very meat-centric) outside of the Philippines, what with our rich stews and belt-busting desserts.  While food trends for 2015 make our dishes more popular as people begin to fall in love with flavorful, fatty foods again, there’s also a good amount of support for healthier options that have been around for a while.

Chefs such as Richgail Enriquez of Astig Vegan and Jay-Ar Pugao of No Worries Cuisine prepare vegetarian/vegan versions of traditionally meat-heavy dishes likebagoong (fermented seafood paste) and bistek (sauteed beef and onions).  Perhaps this will also bring more vegetable- and seafood-based cuisines such as that of the Visayas region to the forefront.


Astig Vegan's Kare-Kare made with Banana Blossoms and Snow Fungus.  And the Bagoong you ask?...'s made with fermented black soybeans instead of the usual shrimp!



2014 was the year of the ramen, from the obligatory stop at Ippudo from visiting friends to modernist takes by ramen scientists like Yuji Haraguchi of YUJI Ramen to even far more outlandish inventions like Keizo Shimamoto’s ramen burger.  The noodle craze is still going strong and there’s nothing stopping us from joining the party with our own plethora of noodles.

From the basic Pansit Bihon to the regional variations of Molo, Miki, Canton, Luglug, and Palabok, we’ve got enough to open our own noodle houses complete with OPM songs playing in the background, colorful plastic chairs, and bottles of ice cold Royal Tru Orange soda.


Batchoy (Miki noodles in a pork broth topped with pork organs, leeks, chicharon, and an egg) courtesy of the original Ted's La Paz Batchoy in Iloilo.



The Cronut, strange cupcake flavors, and savory ice creams (Maharlika and Morgenstern Ice Cream’s Ube with Latik collab anyone?).  Desserts defied logic this past year but we gobbled them up all the same.  Of course, our now famous Halo-halo (once described by Anthony Bourdain as not making any sense) has gained some traction but we have a whole spread of desserts that aren’t the typical sweet pastry.

 Imagine new takes on the puto bumbong (steamed heirloom sticky rice topped with shredded coconut), Maja Blanca (coconut pudding with corn kernels), Keso Ice Cream (yup…the controversial cheese-flavored ice cream) and while we’re at it, might as well mention that creamy fruit salad with *gasp* macaroni your Tita Girlie brings to every gathering!




There was a time when every Pinoy recipe included the step: “add 1 packet Sinigang (or one of the innumerable other seasonings) mix to the pot”.  Mystery powders no more!  More and more Filipinos are waxing poetic about their ingredients, providing a level of education that transcends the usual “it’s my lola’s secret recipe”.

Milkfish in New Orleans makes their own cocktail bitters featuring ampalaya (bittermelon) and sampalok (tamarind), Amy Besa of Purple Yam drops the knowledge on our various rices, plants, regional dishes, and other culinary gems on her Instagram (@amycbesa…I swear you’ll learn more from her feed than anywhere else), and gypsy chef Yana Gilbuena of SALO has been highlighting the various farms and purveyors she’s partnered with (Bison Tapa in Montana! Mmmmm….).  We’ve only begun to showcase just how much of our identities lie in the ingredients and techniques we’ve used for years, and from the looks of it, things are looking tasty!


The Gypsy Chef...

...and the Lady Scholar.


At the end of the day, there aren’t so much trends as they are our wishes; our interpretation of recent events that give us hope for the evolution of the Filipino Food Movement.  There’s a reason critics have been calling us “the next big trend” for several years in a row now and we believe it’s precisely because we aren’t a trend in the traditional sense of the word.  A trend by definition after all, is a fleeting thing, and we believe Filipino Cuisine is here to stay.


With this collaboration Pilipino American Unity for Progress (UniPro) aims to push forward the Filipino Food Movement. Engaging Filipino Americans in not only dialogue, creation but also consumption of some of their favorite and least favorite dishes will explore where Filipino Cuisine stands and where Filipino Cuisine is heading.

Throughout Paolo Espanola's childhood years in Saudi Arabia, his teen years in a seminary in rural Wisconsin, his collegiate tribulations in Minnesota, and finally in the concrete jungle of New York, food has always been a large part of his life. Paolo has dabbled in blogging, catering, and throwing pop-up dinners as The Errant Diner.  Check out his blog for all things food, from philosophical rants, culinary techniques, event reviews, and the occasional recipe.

Through our cuisine, Filipino Kitchen connects Filipinos everywhere with our cultural heritage and the possibilities of our shared future. Filipino Kitchen documents with photography, interviews, stories and recipes, the makers and appreciators of Filipino cuisine and its continuing evolution. Currently based in Chicago and Southern California, we cook our delicious cuisine and share it with our communities at pop-up brunches, dinners and other food events. Through connecting across the diaspora with our shared love and pride of our food, we hope to lead a long-coming renaissance. The masterminds and masterhearts behind Filipino Kitchen are three Filipino Americans: writer Sarahlynn Pablo, photographer Natalia Roxas-Alvarez and chef AC Boral of so good & delicious. Filipino Kitchen is online at and on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

The Errant Diner: Twitter/Instagram: @errant_diner 

Filipino Kitchen Twitter/Instagram: @filipinokitchen

UniPro Twitter/Instagram: @unipronow

SPAM: A Story of Love and Hate


A Hormel advertisement from the 1940's showing Americans how many different meals they can make with SPAM. For many Pilipinos, there’s nothing like the sound of sizzling SPAM on a hot frying pan just before brunch. When I was in college, a taste of home was never far away as I always made sure that a little rectangular can of SPAM was gleefully sitting in my kitchen cabinet. On lazy Sunday mornings I would throw it over a bed of white rice and enjoy the savory smell of spiced ham wafting in the air.

My (non-Pilipino) roommates, however, did not share the same sentiments as I did. Any mention of eating SPAM was met with a grimace and a resounding: “Ew! Why?”

One of them was so disgusted at the mere presence of SPAM that she wanted to forbid me from cooking it in the apartment while she was home. Sure, I understood that SPAM had a bad rep for being artificial mystery meat, but I was still offended. To me, SPAM was more than just processed meat in a can. It was part of my family and my culture. It was a part of who I was.

My grossed out friends did make one valid point, however: Why? Why did the Pilipino side of me identify so strongly with an American brand of canned pork shoulder and ham? And why was it so despised in its own country of origin?

During World War II, SPAM became the ideal candidate for food rations because it was a cheap and nonperishable good source of protein, and masses of it were sent overseas to American troops. After the Japanese invaded the Philippines, the American soldiers stationed there were able to give their surplus food rations to fleeing Filipinos who were forced to abandon their homes, and thus the SPAM sensation began.

Back in the United States, getting one’s hands on fresh meat during wartime was not easy. For the same economical reasons SPAM spammed its way onto everybody’s plates and eventually became so ubiquitous that everybody grew sick of it. According to Ty Matejowsky, “it was and will always remain an unappetizing reminder of the widespread deprivation brought on by the Great Depression and World War II."


But while SPAM became associated with poverty and unrefinement in the U.S., the very fact that it was an American product ironically elevated SPAM to a foreign delicacy in the Philippines, gratifying happy consumers spanning the working class to the wealthy. Today, SPAM has become so riotously popular among Pilipinos around the world that it is now considered a staple in Pilipino cuisine and inseparable from Pilipino identity. Pilipino obsession with SPAM has reached such a level a fanaticism that there is a restaurant in Manila entirely dedicated to it called the SPAMJAM Café (featuring SPAM Burgers, SPAM Spaghetti, SPAM nuggets, and oh so much more). Maharlika, the hot modern Pilipino restaurant in New York City, flaunts preparing SPAM with a sophisticated flare, including menu choices like beer-battered SPAM fries wittily described as “fresh from the can.”

Beer-battered SPAM fries are a popular appetizer at Maharlika in New York City.

Its history has evolved SPAM into a complex cultural symbol for both Pilipinos and Americans. SPAM is a symbol of love and hate, rich and poor. It’s a symbol of America’s colonial expansion into Asia and the Pacific and also a reflection of the Pilipino colonial mentality. For many Fil-Ams like myself, eating American SPAM is strangely an expression of my Pilipino identity that clashes against my American one. And although it can sometimes represent shame, SPAM has also become a symbol of pride, rallying Pilipino communities together with gelatinous cohesion.

In all essence, SPAM is the past and the future all globbed together in one little rectangular can. And gosh darn it, it tastes great too. I love SPAM. There, I said it.


Photo credits:,,,