I’ll be the first to admit I know next to nothing about Filipino cuisine. My experiences include a less than traditional adobo from Jay at Eats of Asia, plus a portion of whole deep fried fish and a taste of leche flan one time when I picked my son up from his friend’s birthday party. One thing I do know for sure (here’s my Oprah moment) is that Filipino people really like to eat and they like to share what they are eating with friends and most importantly, family.
Filipino food culture is hugely under represented here in Calgary and even across the country. Despite the massive Filipino community here in Calgary, there are really not many places to try authentic Filipino cuisine. Even though I’m quite ignorant of this demographic’s representation in our food community, I do remember seeing two places that serve primarily Filipino cuisine. There was (is?) a small Filipino food kiosk in the Pacific Place Mall and another small cafeteria style place in nearby Midnapore. I peeked in one time, lured by the smells of cooking curries, but everything was so unfamiliar to me that I left without ordering anything. I may have been a bit more adventurous if there hadn’t been a language barrier, call me crazy but I do like to know what I am eating.
Last night I had my Filipino food education. It came courtesy of the chefs of Sarap YYC; a collaboration of chefs working together to to bring Filipino cuisine to the forefront through pop-up, supper clubs, and guerilla events. Several young Calgary chefs, including Jay del Corro (Eats of Asia), John Nidua and Saturino Ong. Jr. ( both from Oohmami Pares House and Noodle Bar), Jeffrey Lazaro Carlos (Bro’Kin Yolk), joined together with Winnipeg chef Allan Pineda (from Baon Manila Nights and Baon Craft Lumpia) to celebrate contemporary Filipino food with a ten course dinner at Bro’Kin Yolk.
If you are wondering if I was a bit freaked out that the dinner had ten courses, I will let you know I was a bit intimidated. Then I remembered way back to that kid’s birthday party, when we went to pick up our son (after having dinner out), when we stayed to visit and ended up being force fed another dinner. Everyone who says that Italian nonnas are famous for making you ‘Eat! Eat!’, have never been to a Filipino family gathering. Actually, come to think of it, that is what last night really felt like: a family gathering.
Our first course was a very simple deconstructed Ukoy from Jeff (Bro’Kin Yolk). The original is more like a prawn or seafood omelet, but John wanted to serve this comfort food classic with a whole marinated prawn, sweet potato fritters and an unbelievable calamansi gastrique. The gastrique was so good, this dish was one of my top dishes for the night.
The next dish was very difficult to take a photo of as the Pancit (noodles) were all along the bottom of the container. Allan, the visiting chef from Winnipeg, added a bit of a cross cuisine twist with the jerk chicken. The dish was just the right kind of spice for me and I loved the crispy textures that the fried lotus root and chicken chicharon added to the dish.
Chef Jay was next and he brought his Gulay A-game with the perfectly roasted and caramelized Brussels sprouts, coconut caramel and patis (fish sauce) dish that he sometimes serves on his food truck.
I had no idea that steak tartare was a popular Filipino dish, but this Bistek made from AAA Alberta beef had a bit of a more contemporary feel to it. The pickled red onions really cut the richness of the meat. As always though, there’s never enough toast!!
Well. It’s true…I didn’t know ‘Pilipino’ Fried Chicken (Manok), but now I know…it’s damn good! We had three different styles of fried chicken in that tiny bucket and they were all amazing. This was also the first time I had collard greens (with coconut cream) and bibingka corn bread. This ‘southern’ trio was served in a whole new way by the chefs at Oohmami, entirely Filipino style!
Bro’Kin Yolk’s chef Jeff served us a version of Itlog (salted egg) in breakfast form! The Ube (purple yam) waffle with adobo duck confit was topped with a poached egg and salty beet chip. Let’s not forget that black garlic hollandaise! There are some rumours going around that Bro’Kin Yolk might open a second location in the deep south and I’m crossing my fingers that the rumours are true.
When the next course arrived, it was right about the time I was thinking that I would really welcome a palate cleanser. Kinilaw is a type of Filipino ceviche made with raw fish, in this case salmon and tuna. The fresh fish was ‘cooked’ with coconut vinegar instead of citrus juice like the latin American version. It was still light and fresh, the perfect palate cleanser that I needed to continue.
The airy steamed Tosino (pork) bao from Jay (Eats of Asia) were very familiar to me because I’ve eaten them on several occasions. They are a typical Taiwanese street food but when they contain 16 hour sous vide pork belly and pickled daikon, no one complained. In fact, the crowd let out a huge cheer when Jay declared it time for the pork belly to be served.
At the very end, it was finally time to eat rice. This Kanin course was quite spectacular with the rice cooked in butter, Parmesan, and crab fat. Did you know crabs had fat? They don’t. It’s a sneaky, better sounding term for the liver and pancreas bits of the crab. Somehow I knew there would be some nasty bits thrown into this dinner, but I will admit this ‘crab fat’ was pretty damn tasty.
Unfortunately I couldn’t really eat the dessert as I’m allergic to undercooked squash. It looked wonderful though and I did try a bit of the pandan Leche Flan, the ube crumble, and the gastrique.
So now, thanks to Sarap YYC, I do know a little bit about Filipino cuisine and maybe next time I get the chance to order Filipino food from a vendor I won’t be so intimidated.