Kamayan at Kabayan!

Instagram Post 8/11/2018

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Kamayan is a traditional Filipino style of serving a meal that combines delicious food with exuberant fun. The food is laid out on a banana leaf and is happily consumed with bare hands, no utensils necessary. There’s always a wide variety of classics along with abundant rice but to me, the most important component is the act of sharing the bounty with good friends. A recent visit to Kabayan, 49-12 Queens Blvd in Woodside, brought together great people and great food as far as the eye could see. Gather a group and experience the spirit of kamayan for yourself!
 
 

Lahi

There’s excellent Filipino food waiting for you at Lahi, 51-24 Van Loon Street in Elmhurst, Queens. I initially encountered them as vendors at the Queens International Night Market in 2017 and I’m happy to report that their brick and mortar establishment is top notch. Folks who know me are aware that I’m totally hung on this cuisine and since it’s my mission as ethnojunkie to get others hooked on amazing, delicious ethnic food, I’m posting a series of photos (in no particular order) to pique your interest from various lunches and dinners we enjoyed there.

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Sizzling Sisig. Baboy is Tagalog for pork, and these folks know how to do baboy, baby; look closely and you can see the sizzle and steam. Crispy chopped pork belly with onions served on a sizzling cast iron platter. Sisig originated in Pampanga, a province in the Philippines northwest of Manila, where it’s made with pork offal: pig’s ear, jowl, shoulder, and often topped with a fried egg. The chef at Lahi prefers fried pork belly for its flavor and texture. One of my very favorite Filipino dishes and a must-have.


It’s easy to think of sisig solely as delicious sizzling crispy pork parts, but this mouthwatering dish comes in a many varieties. Here’s Sisig Bangus, chopped crispy milkfish with onions floating on a sizzling hot plate. I’m especially partial to their presentation; it leaves no doubt as to what you’re about to dive into!


Kare-kare (a cognate of the word kari, i.e., curry) is a classic Filipino stew: oxtail, tripe, and veggies in a savory, creamy peanut sauce. Pass the rice, please!


Here’s Lahi’s version of another Filipino classic, and one of my favorites, Bicol Express. Crispy pork belly stewed in coconut milk infused with shrimp paste and laden with green chilies. Named for the Bicol Express, a passenger train that ran from Manila to the Bicol region in the Philippines, I guess you could think of this dish that’s both creamy and spicy as running from one terminus on the flavor route to another.


Chami, a cognate of chow mein. Yellow miki noodles (fresh thick egg noodles) stir fried with shrimp and veggies in a sweet and mildly spicy sauce. You don’t see this one everywhere.

Two delicious vegetable (but not vegetarian) dishes:
Pinakbet. Sautéed veggies with pork and shrimp in shrimp paste, and…

…Ginataang Sitaw at Kalabasa. Ginataang means it’s cooked in coconut milk, sitaw are the beans, and kalabasa is the type of squash used here. Factor in some sweet red pepper and shrimp and that’s the dish. Both are delicious, but I have to admit that I’m cuckoo for coconut!


Lumpia are spring rolls, sprung originally from China. A savory appetizer or snack filled with chopped vegetables and sometimes meats, they’re deep fried and crispilicious.


Chicken Adobo, from the Spanish word adobar, to marinate. The protein can be almost anything – chicken, pork, seafood, even vegetables – but finessing the adobo is the critical part; the marinade consists of four key ingredients, soy sauce, vinegar, garlic and black pepper. Some folks say that adobo is the Philippines’ national dish – but there are so many unique dishes to choose from! Suffice it to say, it’s a great cuisine.


Lechon Kawali. Lechon is roast suckling pig and kawali refers to the way in which it’s prepared, deep fried in a wok (kawali). It’s sliced into delicious chunks and served with a sauce usually made from (but not really tasting like) liver. Crispy skin, meltingly tender pork belly – I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t love this dish!


Like I said about the folks at Lahi: they know how to do pork! In this context, the Tagalog word pata, as in Spanish, means an animal’s leg, and Crispy Pata is one of my absolute favorite Filipino dishes. It’s a pig knuckle/trotter/hock, deep fried until the skin is crispy and the meat is meltingly tender, accompanied by a soy-vinegar dip. Here, it comes to the table topped with crunchy fried noodles, a garnish I’ve not seen elsewhere which perhaps gilds the lily a bit, but I’m not complaining. One day, I’ll eat a whole one of these by myself, even if somebody’s watching! (Although they might want some too. 😉)


Inihaw na Bangus. Inihaw means grilled, broiled, roasted or barbecued (in other words, using direct high heat) and bangus is Tagalog for milkfish, the Philippines’ versatile national fish. Stuffed with chopped onions and tomatoes, this straightforward simply grilled dish provided a delicious contrast to some of the richer fare.


Kalderetang Kambing. Kambing is the word for goat (in Indonesian and Malay languages as well) and a kalderetang, from the Spanish caldereta, is a stew. Succulent goat meat in a tomato based sauce with potatoes, carrots, olives and a little spicy kick.


Dinuguan. A rich stew made of pork offal in a luscious gravy. Yes, the gravy contains pork blood, but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it! One of the diners at the table described it as chocolate pork – and everybody loved it. You will, too!


Tortang Talong. Eggplant omelette with onions and tomatoes.


Turon: crispy fried banana roll, served here with coconut milk syrup.


Halo-halo, Tagalog for “mixed”. Over-the-top, famed Filipino shaved ice dessert with something for everyone: sweetened beans, agar jellies, fruits, ube ice cream, and leche flan, sprinkled with crunchy pinipig (pounded toasted rice).
 
 
Lahi is located at 51-24 Van Loon Street in Elmhurst, Queens.

The World’s Fare – Bangad & Bougie

Instagram Post 5/12/2018

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In the Ilocano language of the Philippines, bangad means “bad” in the sense of a show of courage and Bangad & Bougie’s modern Filipino fare lived up to the name. In addition to their chapulines (grasshoppers), gusanos (mezcal worms) and durian challenges, B&B offered some fine, less daunting food at April’s World’s Fare in Queens.
🇵🇭
1) Here’s a trio of treats, each served up on a chunk of chicharrón: Tocino Spam al Pastor, Pork Belly Sisig, and Black Cod Sisig – and each one was wonderful.
2) Perhaps it was a little tricky to tease out which dish was which in the trio tasting, but I have no complaints; it enabled me to try a little of everything!
 
 

Mama Fina’s House of Filipino Sisig

Instagram Post 4/5/2018

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To paraphrase Clara Peller, “Where’s the squid?” I mean, I liked the dish – after all, anything that’s that crispy and crunchy gets extra stars in my book – but it was difficult to tease out much squiddy flavor lurking within. We considered sending our Pusit Sisig back for one of the five other varieties they offer, sort of a squid pro quo if you will, but we were assured that our order was right and that’s how they did it there. My theory is that they use deep fried squid tentacles (yum) and chop them so fine as to be beyond recognition. So it was tasty, just not what we were anticipating. A side of garlic rice could have used more garlic, but that’s true of almost anything. We also got an order of Laing, taro leaves cooked in coconut milk with shrimp, which I liked but my dining buddy thought was too sweet.

So went our brief adventure at Mama Fina’s House of Filipino Sisig, 167 Avenue A, Manhattan. Being a major booster and fan of 🇵🇭 Filipino food, I wanted to love it; perhaps I was misled by my expectations, perhaps it’s a slightly different style of Filipino cooking than I’m accustomed to. And if I were walking past, yes, I’d give it another chance.

#clarapeller #goAheadLookHerUp #iCanWait #iKnowImDatingMyself
 
 

Kabayan

My Instagram posts are usually brief takes on restaurants accompanied by a photo or two. (You can see my feed right here, updated almost daily, by selecting the “Instagram” category from my home page – no signup required.) But folks sometimes ask for fuller reviews and more photos, so in response, here’s a more comprehensive report on one of my favorites.


Lately, I’ve been craving Filipino food (one of my favorite cuisines) and one restaurant that excels at its execution is Kabayan. Woodside, Queens is home to two Kabayan outposts along with numerous other Filipino eateries; it’s a veritable Little Manila. At these establishments, you’ll typically find a steam table laden with delicious (and often unidentified) offerings; diners queue up alongside and request portions of whatever strikes their fancy. If you know the names of the dishes, you can simply ask for what you want; if you don’t, just point and ask questions. As a matter of fact, there’s even a name for this procedure, turo-turo, which means “point-point” in Tagalog, the national language of the Philippines. Of course, you can always order from the menu as we did on this visit.

Here are a few favorites.

(Click photos to enlarge.)

Kilawin Tanigue

Spanish mackerel ceviche, a perfect way to begin a Filipino feast.

Laing

Laing looks like creamed spinach, but the flavor is completely different: it’s made from taro leaves and coconut milk. Gotta get your greens, right?

Garlic Rice

Binagoongan Rice

Two kinds of rice accompany our repast, Garlic Rice and Binagoongan Rice (made with shrimp paste, mango and scallions). I can’t decide which I like better – that’s why I always get them both!

Ginataang Langka

Ginataang Langka is unripened jackfruit with pork and coconut milk, because even a vegetable side dish needs pork!

Pancit Bam-I

Filipino cuisine has a number of noodle dishes, some with rice noodles, some with egg noodles; this one offers the best of both worlds with the addition of shrimp, chicken, and vegetables.

Palabok

Kabayan offers an assortment of the aforementioned noodle dishes; this one is Palabok, steamed rice noodles lurking under a cover of shrimp sauce, garnished with hard-boiled egg, crumbled crispy pork rinds (of course!) and scallions.

Sizzling Sisig

This sizzling pork dish is made from pig’s ear, jowl, ear, shoulder, and ear (did I mention ear?) and is one of the best renditions I’ve had of this Filipino favorite. Kabayan also does other sizzling sensations such as squid, seafood, pork chop, steak, shrimp, and bangus, milkfish that pops up everywhere in Filipino cuisine.

Inihaw na Pusit

Inihaw means grilled and pusit means squid. This beauty is stuffed with fresh vegetables and served with a vinegar-based dipping sauce.

BBQ Chicken

It may sound prosaic, but Filipino BBQ is famous and justifiably so. Sometimes, you’ll find meats on skewers; here, we enjoyed delectable chunks of dark meat chicken. A popular favorite.

Ginataang Manok

Chicken with ginger in coconut milk.

Adobong Kambing

Stewed goat with chick peas and peppers.

Dinuguan

A rich stew made of pork offal in a luscious gravy. Yes, the gravy contains pork blood, but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it! One of the diners at the table described it as chocolate pork – and everybody loved it. You will, too!

Bicol Express

Another classic Filipino dish. Vegetables simmered in slightly spicy coconut milk.

Lechon Kawali

I saved the best for last: the undisputed king of crispy deep-fried porky goodness, Lechon Kawali, fried pork belly with a vinegar garlic dipping sauce. A must-have.

Kabayan is located at 69-12 Roosevelt Avenue and at 49-12 Queens Boulevard in Woodside, Queens. Both are easily accessible by subway.

 

Filipino Polvorón

Ever tasted polvorón? The correct response is, “Which kind?”

If you’ve ever wandered the streets of a Mexican neighborhood, you may have passed a panaderia that featured polvorónes, a soft, crumbly cookie that is essentially the Spanish version of shortbread and akin to the goody known as Mexican wedding cookies; the texture is almost like a Chinese almond cookie. One bite and you’ll know what I mean by crumbly – polvo means powder, after all. (Photo on the left.)

In the Philippines, polvorónes are made of powdered milk and toasted flour and are even more crumbly (if that’s possible) and to my taste, they’re more like a candy than a cookie. (Photo on the right.)
Mexican PolvoronFilipino polvorón

Typically wrapped in brightly colored cellophane twisted on the ends, Filipino polvorónes barely hold their shape and instantly crumble into sweet delicious dust when bitten into. They’re available in flavors like cashew, peanut, ube and pinipig (crisped rice).
Cellophane WrappedBox

I thought I had sampled every available version of this treat. Until now, that is. Chocolate coated polvorónes. Chocolatey goodness on the outside surrounding polvorón in flavors like cookies & cream on the inside. Surely a case of lily-gilding, but what’s to not like? I was certain that no further embellishment was conceivable.
Chocolate CoatedChocolate Coated 2

Wrong again. Because I had stumbled upon ChocoVron’s Rite Snack Polvorón Sticks. They’re similar to the cylindrical crispy wafer cookies called Pirouettes but covered in chocolate and filled with polverón, in this case ube. (Ube is purple yam — or purple yum if we’re to believe the package labeling.) Their slogan “One Bite is not Enough” is tauntingly accurate. Beware: these are addictive. (Actually, anything that goes crunch is addictive, but that merely serves to prove the point.) Buko Pandan (coconut pandan) and Classic flavors invite a return visit.
Polvoron Sticks 360x500Inside Polvoron 360x500

 
Found at Sariling Atin Grill and Filipino Grocery
89-12 Queens Blvd.
Elmhurst, NY
718-397-1200