The day I found lumpia and ube ice cream at my local Ralphs, I knew Filipino cuisine had a moment. Add to that all the buzz that “our” cuisine and our chefs are arousing. Consider this: Food and wine magazine featured two Filipino chefs, Thessa Diadem of All Day Baby in LA and Carlo Lamagna of Magna Kusina in Portland, Oregon, in their list of the best new chefs of 2021. Then there was celebrity New York chef Jordan Andino who taught Selena Gomez how to cook adobo on TV. And let’s not forget the comedian Jo Koy who explains to the audience 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 up ice cream cups – back in the days when it was hot for a minute. It’s a bit like taro, I told him. And he 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 into Southland bakeries and restaurants. Could Ube be the gateway drug to Filipino food? Or will it be the tasty and crunchy lumpia?
That’s right – if you want a non-Filipino to embrace food immediately, serve them Lumpiang Shanghai or ube dessert. I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t like these things. By the way, not far behind are the adobo and the halo-halo. But the point is, our Filipino cuisine is more than fried food and sweet candy. With multicultural influences from Spain to China and everything in between, thanks to our colonial past, Filipino cuisine is as rich and diverse as our 7,641 islands.
In Southern California, Los Angeles to Orange County and even San Diego, Filipino American chefs have fun presenting traditional and contemporary Filipino flavor profiles to the general public.
October is Filipino American History Month. To celebrate, FilAm Arts, the leading and longest-running nonprofit for the American Filipino arts and culture, presents Tikim Fest, a month-long celebration of Filipino-inspired cuisine, featuring the top chefs in the region, 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 from Mix Mix in Orange County.
Los Angeleno will feature each of these chefs, and you’ll have the opportunity to hear their stories and learn about the food they cook, as well as Filipino cuisine in general, in the days leading up to October. We hope you will join us in celebrating their talents and legacy.