I picked up the latest copy of Saveur mainly to drool over the cover story about filet mignon, but as I was thumbing my way to page 87, I caught a glimpse of a roasted pig on a spit and immediately stopped. As I started reading, I discovered that it was part of an article called “Days of Feasting” about the Christmas season in the Philippines, more specifically in the city of Arayat in Pampanga, an area known for their outstanding regional interpretation of Filipino food.
The author, Robyn Eckhardt of Eating Asia, stayed with the family of her friend and colleague Marc Medina during her stay in Pampanga, and she was introduced to the annual gorgefest that occurs all over the Philippines during the holidays. Eckhardt’s main connection to the cuisine was the Medina’s family cook, Lucia Mallari, who prepared most of the meals during her stay. Overall, it’s a good read and I suggest that you pick it up while it’s on newsstands since the article isn’t available online.
Four recipes accompany the article, including an Adobong Manok (chicken adobo) recipe that doesn’t include soy sauce (Mallari claims her recipe is the “real” one), Pinakbet (Philippine vegetable stew), Ulang sa Gata (prawns in coconut milk), and Ensaimada (Philippine-style brioche).
Seeing these recipes in Saveur, especially with their Tagalog names listed first, was really heartwarming because Filipino food hardly ever gets any attention from the “mainstream” culinary media. I’ve always thought that Filipino food could hold its own against other Asian cuisines and have often wondered what’s holding it back. It’s even more amazing when you consider that in America, Filipinos are one of the largest Asian populations in the country (approx. 4 million), but I’m willing to bet more people have eaten Thai food in their lifetime than Filipino food and there are only around 250,000 Thai people in the U.S.
Maybe Manny Pacquiao’s newly claimed worldwide superstardom is going spill over into food, and this Saveur story is just a happy coincidence that will ride the Pac-Man wave.
Then again, Manny did eat at Nat’s Thai Food in Hollywood almost every day when he was training, which I thought was an odd aspect of his regimen, but I guess we have to give Thai food its props for helping power the Pacquiao Express.