While Chinese, Thai and Indian restaurants are commonplace around New York City, Filipino restaurants have faced an uphill battle, Asian Journal reports in a new “Filipino Foodie guide to Metro New York.” But the tide may be turning.
Though some Filipino establishments have failed to draw customers and closed down, the cuisine is gaining fans and even some high profile chefs such as Chef King Phojanakong, the owner of Kuma Inn and Brooklyn’s Umi Nom. And there are some new restaurants on the scene:
Sa Aming Nayon opened its doors this year without much fanfare. Located in the East Village, the restaurant has been serving traditional Filipino dishes. It’s a family-run restaurant with no-frills decor.
Dining there actually gives you the feeling of dining in a relative’s place.
Another East Village Filipino restaurant has been a work in progress:
From being a pop-up concept, Maharlika has evolved and found a brick-and-mortar home on First Avenue. Its previous incarnation was as a reservations- and weekends-only place that took over the French restaurant Leon in the East Village and, for a short time, 5 Ninth in the Meatpacking District.
Benjamin David, the owner of the restaurant Philly-Pinoy, “a small restaurant cum grocery store in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn,” offers a taste of the Philippines, even though he’s actually Indian American. His fate met, and meets, him on the high seas.
Philly-Pinoy is not open every day. In fact, they do not have regular days that they are open. Their schedule is dependent on the arrival of cruise ships at the Brooklyn Pier. It could be one or two days a week, sometimes three. Sometimes it’s every other week. Why so? The store/restaurant’s main clientele are Filipino cruise ship workers, who according to unofficial data, comprise at least 50 percent of the workers.
“We are able to provide them a taste of home,” said Benjamin David, an Indian-American. Benjamin and his brother worked in a cruise ship before. His brother met Rowena, a Filipina who was also working with them, got married and moved to King of Prussia, Philadelphia, where they opened the first Philly-Pinoy.
Filipinos who crave the spit-roasted pig known as Lechon are in luck. Even though Filipino restaurants in New York mostly prepare the dish using an oven, traditional spit-roasted lechon is available at Legar Beans. There, Mimi Escudero prepares her lechon the way she remembers it from her home in the province of Cebu in the Philippines:
When you eat Cebu lechon, forget about the liver sauce. The moist meat and the crispy skin are flavorful enough to stand on their own, no condiments needed. Others opt to dip it in garlic-infused vinegar while others eat the lechon as it is. With Mimi, she prefers it eaten with her home-made achara, which is pickled green papaya
“We put in a lot of lemongrass, scallions, herbs and spices inside the pig’s cavity and we sew the stomach properly to make sure that the juices don’t drip once the roasting starts. You can’t also rush the cooking, it has to be evenly slow-roasted,” Mimi said.
“It took me about 20 pigs before I perfected my formula and it was done through a trial-and-error method. I don’t want to serve lechon that I will not eat and I didn’t want to start selling lechon without me knowing the entire process,” she added.