Thanksgiving: A Big, Fat, Filipino Eating Fest

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A Filipino rendition of Thanksgiving. This isn’t even the full spread – there’s a whole turkey not pictured that’s on the other side of these dishes.

FROM THE DESK OF: Nina

Thanksgiving is that time of year when we reflect on our lives and count our blessings… which we celebrate by gorging ourselves and engaging in some good ol’ communal gluttony.

Traditional American Thanksgiving fixins include turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and usually some veggie dish that’s coated in some creamy substance that negates any health benefits said veggies might’ve contained.

Filipino-American Thanksgiving fixins (or the ones by my family, at least) include all of that, plus lechon, menudo, pancit, macaroni and cheese, oxtail soup, humba, potatoes au gratin, garlic fried chicken, rice, Filipino spaghetti, a whole lotta other dishes I could never identify but name but have definitely eaten frequently in my life, and not a whole lotta veggies.

How the heck do you tackle this beast of a Thanksgiving spread, you ask? Well, let me give you a brief overview of how it usually goes down in my family.

STEP 1: Oxtail soup. Always go for the oxtail. Lolo Joe makes this out-of-this-world soup made from oxtail, greens, and… actually, I have no idea what’s in it. But the broth and the fall-off-the-bone meat with some rice is definitely my go-to warm-up dish to get things going.

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For those unfamiliar, oxtail soup can look a bit scary at first. But trust me: this fall-off-the-bone meat, soaked in a mild broth with greens and rice, is definitely not one dish to miss at the party.

STEP 2: Filipino food plate. Usually, at this point, I’m so pumped to find Filipino food that I go for those dishes first. (I don’t have Filipino food often, so these are the times when I get my fill.) This time, a huge slab of lechon ended up on my plate, so I worked around that by adding just a few other sides like rice, Filipino spaghetti*, lumpia, more oxtail, and some grapes (for color).

*Filipino spaghetti: pasta noodles with sweet, thick red sauce, hot dogs (yes, hot dogs), cheese, and I’m sure loads of sugar somewhere in there. So wrong, it’s right.

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Lolo Joe loaded my plate with a massive slab of lechon meat and skin, so that kind of threw a curveball into my overall vision for my first plate, in terms of variety. So I kinda just added some rice, Filipino spaghetti, lumpia, and a little more oxtail and called it a day. Oh, and a few grapes for produce, since veggies aren’t really a thing with Filipino feasts.

STEP 3: Take a break from the savory and dip into the dessert station. I always need a little sweet as an intermission before I resume my usual entree plate program. A few bites of cassava cake, a taste of ube, a tad bit of flan, maybe some fruit, and then I’m good to get back to business.

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Tiny sweet bites (Hans and Harry’s fruit strudel, ube, flan, cassava, grapes, and hopia) before I get into my next plate.

STEP 4: Back to the savory plates. Maybe a little more American this time. After my sweet fix, I get back to eating another plate. This time, it’s usually to get into traditional Thanksgiving dishes and maybe more veggies. I have no photo of this because today the lechon overshadowed most of my attempts to eat American, but typically this is the time when I go for the turkey, potatoes, mac and cheese, and maybe look for some veggies or fruit somewhere.

STEP 5: Repeat the process throughout the day. Eating is not a finite activity on these days; with the food on sternos throughout the day, it’s completely normal in this setting to keep eating and nibbling on different dishes. You want gluttony? Come check this scenario out. But this is how we spend our quality time together, and I wouldn’t want to have it any other way. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll head back to my food-drunk stupor now.

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all! Hope you were able to spend it well surrounded by loved ones.

Lessons from Lola

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What Lola says, goes. Here she is telling my mom and me that my mom wants grandbabies. (My mom doesn’t actually want me to have kids at this moment, but that matters zero percent to Lola.)

FROM THE DESK OF: Nina

Do you ever encounter people in your life who give you a glimpse of your future self (or, at least, what you hope your future self will be like)? The kind of people who say or do seemingly peculiar things, and yet you know exactly why they do said things, because those actions and thoughts stem from a certain kind of idiosyncratic thought process that you recognize in yourself?

In my experience, I’m blessed to have a couple of people in my life who provide me with a glimpse of the kind of person I could become in the future. My mom is one of them; however, for this post, I’m going to talk about one figure in my life who, in particular, consistently inspires me and shows me what a lifetime of achievement could look like if I embraced my weirdness to its full potential. That figure is my Lola.

Continue reading “Lessons from Lola”

Trend Alert: Anything Filipino

From the Desk of: Aiza

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Apologies in advance. Maybe this photo is only funny to Filipinos.

Instead of trying to get all politically correct or make some kind of profound social commentary about being Filipino-American, I just want to discuss this growing trend of Filipino inspired cuisine. Yes. We know Filipinos can deejay, but get excited foodies we have some exciting culinary talents to contribute!

Current Favorite: Amboy

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Presentation Grade: A+

Repeat. I’ve mentioned Amboy before in a previous post and I’m mentioning it again. I LOVE this place. I’ve been here multiple times already. I’m slightly obsessed with the pork belly (which really is lechon kawali but sounds so hip when referred as ‘pork belly’). Only lunch is served at this restaurant’s little window located in the Far East Plaza in Chinatown. I give Amboy serious points for food presentation as well. No Filipino foods in a Styrofoam take out containers here.

Current Intrigue: LASA

Located in the same Far East Plaza space, LASA is doing some pretty interesting Filipino cuisine. LASA serves a rotating tasting menu that also includes a vegan option. So, for all those folks that can’t get down with the Filipinos love of anything pork, here you go. I had a chance to try out this place a couple weeks ago and interestingly enough, I think I may have been the only Filipino person there other than the chefs and staff. It’s exciting to see non-Filipinos trending on our food.

Current Pleasant Surprise: Café 86

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Ube cupcake with leche flan and ube truffles. Everything ube!!

I need to get out more because I didn’t know that ube desserts were even a thing. But visit this café right in Old Town Pasadena and you will find some really interesting coffees and desserts. I didn’t get to try the halo-halo bread pudding but I am going back eventually to check it out. Did I mention that I love ube ice cream and a café with ube milkshakes might just be made exactly for me?

Current Local Rotation: RiceBar

RiceBar is right down the street from my apartment. It’s a very small place but gets super packed for lunch. Here you will find simple tasty Filipino dishes incorporating various types of rice (hence the name, get it?). And I have to say, the staff plays some really good ambiance music too. All 90’s hip hop favorites. Nothing makes me happier than good music+good lunch+walking distance.