Chicharon bulaklak (£6) for starters. I never used to eat these fried pork intestines as my mother prohibited me from doing so for ‘health reasons’.
I only started liking lechon paksiw (£6.50) in college. It’s a stew made with the leftovers of lechon (that’s roast pig for you Filo food newbs, aka Anthony Bourdain’s “best pig ever”). Granted, it is not the best I’ve had but it was good enough to satisfy a craving.
We also had lechon kawali (£8). That’s deep fried pork belly for you lot. I was slightly disappointed that the skin didn’t crackle to our liking, but… deep-fried pork belly. Come on. And you can never go wrong with lechon sauce.
To break our swine intake overload, I ordered daing na bangus (£9.50). This is something Filipinos would eat for breakfast… with garlic fried rice. It’s ‘butterflied’ milkfish marinated in vinegar and garlic, then fried. I never liked this before as I was a cereal eater as a child.
We ended up getting halo-halo (£3.50) for dessert, something else I didn’t really like growing up. For Filo food newbs, this is a shaved ice dessert similar to kacang. It wasn’t as mind-blowing as The Pen’s halo-halo, but I liked that it was not overly sweet.
Looking back at our orders that night, my tween self would have probably only eaten two dishes. Thank God my palate’s a bit more mature now and I get to enjoy all these (and a lot more) dishes I used to ignore.
From a global point of view, Filipino cuisine is really the poster child of ‘fusion’ cuisine. It’s odd, unfamiliar, and definitely different from its more popular Southeast Asian counterparts. But if you experience it yourself, you may find how it’s a reflection of Philippine history. If you dig your forks a little deeper though, I think you’d find it’s quite like the Filipino people – bold and excitable, familial and welcoming, and absolutely evolving.