The day I found frozen lumpia and ube ice cream at my local Ralphs, I knew Filipino cuisine was having a moment. Add to that all the buzz “our” food and chefs are getting. Consider this: Food & Wine magazine featured two Filipino chefs, Thessa Diadem of All Day Baby in L.A. and Carlo Lamagna of Magna Kusina in Portland, Oregon, in their list of best new chefs of 2021. Then, there was New York City-based celebrity chef Jordan Andino teaching Selena Gomez how to cook adobo on TV. And let’s not forget about stand-up comedian Jo Koy telling audiences how to cook the perfect rice, Filipino-style, using the finger technique. And, of course, there are the many Filipino and Filipino-inspired restaurants popping up in the city.
I remember five years ago when I recommended ube to an ice cream shop owner; he was making those rolled ice cream cups — back when that was hot for a minute. It’s kind of like taro, I told him. And he did put ube ice cream on his menu and guess what? It was a hit! Now, ube has become ubiquitous. The sweet, purple tuber has made its way through bakeries and restaurants in the Southland. Could ube be the gateway drug to Filipino food? Or will it be the tasty, crunchy lumpia?
It’s true — if you want a non-Filipino to embrace the food at once, serve them Lumpiang Shanghai or an ube-based dessert. I’ve never met anybody who doesn’t like those things. By the way, not far behind are adobo and halo-halo. But the thing is, our Philippine cuisine is so much more than deep-fried food and sugary sweets. With multicultural influences from Spain to China and everything in between, thanks to our colonial past, Filipino food is as rich and diverse as our 7,641 islands.
In Southern California, from L.A. to Orange County and even San Diego, Filipino American chefs are having fun introducing both traditional and contemporary Philippine flavor profiles to the mainstream.
October is Filipino American History Month. To celebrate, FilAm Arts, the leading and oldest Filipino American arts and culture nonprofit organization, is presenting Tikim Fest, a month-long celebration of Filipino and Filipino-inspired cuisine, featuring top area chefs including Vallerie Archer from Yamashiro, Barb Batiste from Big Boi, Ginger Lim-Dimapasok from Cafe 86 and Ross Pangilinan from ReMix in Long Beach, as well as Mix Mix and Terrace by Mix Mix in Orange County.
Los Angeleno will feature each and every one of these chefs, and you’ll have a chance to hear their stories and learn more about the food they make, as well as Filipino food in general, in the days leading up to October. We hope you join us in celebrating their talents and legacy.