Photos and Words by Rochelle Li
For many, Filipino food is not typically the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of Asian food. Despite the fact that Filipino food is slightly underrated in comparison to other Asian cuisines, I have to say that it is absolutely one of the best things about this colorful culture.
Growing up with in a Filipino-Chinese household, I learned at a very early age that this cuisine is all about bold flavors and good ol’ home cooking. Filipino food is essentially Asian soul food. It rarely looks pretty on a plate, but it sure does taste amazing– every single time. My grandparents, Lolo and Lola, would always know how to combine the key ingredients of garlic, soy sauce and lime juice with pork, chicken or fish to create perfect result of Filipino comfort food.
I had the great opportunity to try an interesting take on a Filipino food by an organization called Filipino Kitchen. This organization aims to help Filipinos connect to their cultural roots through the medium of food. They share recipes, reviews and host events that feature traditional dishes from the Philippines in a contemporary light.
Last month, I had the honor of attending one of Filipino Kitchen’s pop-up brunches. The event was called Rice & Shine and it was hosted at The Vault, located in Boston’s Downtown Financial District. Here are my favorite dishes from that morning:
A blend of calamansi citrus blend and champagne
If you crossed a lemon and orange, you’d get a calamansi. It's a citrus fruit that typically grows in tropical environments like Florida and the Philippines and resembles a tiny orange. A standard mimosa is made with orange juice and champagne, but the calamansi gives the drink a more subtle, light citrusy flavor (and it tastes so much better!).
Grilled chicken thigh marinated with soy sauce and garlic served with a pickled mango slaw and spicy soy vinegar sauce. This was probably my favorite dish from that morning. The chicken was sweet and savory and had a nice char on the skin, and the meat tasted great with the spicy vinegar sauce that served alongside. The chicken tasted like something my Lola (grandma) would make when I was younger. I’m also a sucker for pickled things so if they didn’t get me at the grilled chicken, the pickled mango slaw would have won me over for sure!
Sous-vide lobster tail dressed in a coconut and lobster sauce and served with a pickled strawberry and onion salsa. Lobster isn’t typically served in traditional Filipino dishes, but I suppose the chefs wanted to take advantage of the wonderfully tasty crustaceans we have here in New England. This dish, although not traditional, was completely successful in terms of flavor, texture and presentation.
Saffron fried rice served with a mushroom mélange and egg ribbons. OFW stands for “Overseas Filipino Workers” and this was Filipino Kitchen’s tribute dish to those Filipino families that work so diligently abroad to help support their families in the Philippines. This rice was so good we had to order a second plate of it!
A special thanks to Filipino Kitchen for organizing this unique pop-up brunch and showcasing to the city of Boston some of the best takes on traditional Filipino dishes that I have ever encountered. Whether it was starting off the day with a refreshing calamansi mimosa or ordering a second round of chicken Mansilog and the OFW rice, I truly know that this was one of the best brunches I have ever had!