Filipino flavors break through

by Keith Nunes
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Adobo is most recognizable Filipino dish.

ROCKVILLE, Md. — Filipino flavors and foods have been on the food and beverage industry’s radar for some time, said Kara Nielsen, a trendologist, and 2017 may be the year the cuisine breaks through in the United States.

Kara Nielsen, trendologist

“What has really kept Filipino from breaking out is it’s a very homey type of cuisine, very comforting,” Nielsen said during a webinar hosted by the market research firm Packaged Facts in January. “It’s not cooked in a sort of fine dining way with these others. It fits much better in the street food space, and that is where we’ve seen it come out with street food trucks and festivals.”

She compared the rise of Filipino cuisine to Peruvian cuisine, noting the similarities between the cultures, which, through their histories, have been influenced by a variety of Asian and European cultures.

“It (Filipino cuisine) is very multi-faceted,” she said. “It’s a cuisine that is very hard to define, but it is around this flavor profile of salty, sweet and sour … There is a lot of pork, there is a lot of vinegar, and there is a lot of interesting tropical ingredients that all kind of come together in a very new way that food lovers are seeking.” 

 Pork Belly
The Pig & Khao in New York city offers pork belly adobo.

Adobo is the most recognizable Filipino dish and may be prepared in a variety of ways, Nielsen said. It may feature a pork or chicken base and be cooked in vinegar. Other ingredients that may be added include soy sauce, garlic, peppercorn and bay leaf.

Menu items she presented as examples of the different ways adobo is being used included adobo peanuts from the restaurant Lasa in Los Angeles that feature black vinegar, tamari and fried garlic. From the Pig & Khao in New York City comes pork belly adobo, which includes soy sauce, vinegar, Sichuan peppercorns, crispy garlic and slow-poached egg, and chicken adobo from the restaurant Onefold in Denver features chicken legs in Red Boat fish sauce, garlic, vinegar, bay leaf with pickled jalapeños.

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Restaurants are using bagoong, fermented shrimp, like a dipping sauce.

“Some of the things that belong in a Filipino pantry are not that different from other Asian pantries, but there are some very specific brands and very specific ways of putting these things together,” Nielsen said. “There are lots of different soy sauces, vinegars, and banana ketchup is something we may be able to see on fries going forward.

“Some of the funkiness of Filipino food comes from an ingredient brought over from Malaysia, which is a fermented shrimp called bagoong. And if you look at some restaurants, we are starting to see bagoong being used in a lot of different things like dipping sauce or something else that is taking it out of its context. It’s a good indication it’s going to keep going and become more accessible.”

She also pointed to ube, another focal point of Filipino cuisine, as a potential up and coming ingredient.

Ube, another focal point of Filipino cuisine, is a sweet yam with a purple color.

“This is a sweet yam with just a crazy violet color, and it is already found in a lot of ice cream parlors and shops,” she said.

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