Forget making any resolutions this year. Instead, have an adventure. Try a new cuisine in the new year! Our recommendation? Filipino food.
Dave Mellari is the chef/owner of The Sinful Kitchen, a restaurant in Portland, Maine that offers a traditional Filipino Kamayan Dinner (aka Boodle Fight) several nights a week.
You’re more than welcome to stop by and join the fun or if you’d rather experiment with the cuisine at home, he shared his recipe for a popular Filipino noodle dish called Pancit Bihon (pon-sit-bee-hone). You’ll find it at the end of this post, but first, we had a few questions for Dave.
Why cook Filipino food the way you do?
I go with the more traditional way of cooking. There are several Filipino restaurants around the country that are doing “modern” Filipino or Filipino fusion. Filipino food is already a melting pot or fusion of various cuisines. Most notably Chinese, Malaysian, Vietnamese, Spanish and Thai to name a few. Doing Filipino “fusion” is redundant and just becomes con-fusion. I feel it’s my duty to teach and let people experience the traditional dishes before swaying from that creatively.
Filipinos are the second largest Asian immigrant population in the US, yet are one of the least represented in terms of numbers of restaurants. The Sinful Kitchen is one of only two restaurants in all of New England offering Filipino food so Boodle Fight and our tapas menu are a great introduction.
Just what is a Filipino Boodle Fight?
Kamayan style dining, which is also known as a Boodle Fight, is named after the Filipino “army style” of eating. After a long day of marching, soldiers would eat off of banana leaves in the native tradition since they couldn’t carry plates and utensils with them easily. The cooks then piled the rationed rice and meat onto the leaves and the “fight” commenced when the soldiers hurried to grab and eat as much food for themselves as possible before it was gone.
What do your customers think?
The response has been fantastic! In a foodie town like Portland, you really need to offer something different and unique. Our Filipino Boodle Fight is not just a meal, but a truly unique culinary experience!
What advice would you give home cooks about cooking this kind of cuisine?
The main thing to remember is that Filipino food can be very loose with the ingredients. It’s okay to substitute so don’t not do a recipe because you can’t find one or two ingredients. The two main places I go to purchase food in Portland are Veranda Asian Market on the corner of Vannah and Forest Avenue and Hong Kong Market on Congress Street. Hong Kong Market has the best selection of Filipino food whereas Veranda has a much better exotic produce and meat selection.
Recipe for Pancit Bihon
- 1 (12-ounce) package dried rice noodles
- 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups diced cooked chicken breast meat or half a rotisserie chicken, shredded
- 2 cups small shrimp
- 3-4 Chinese sausages, chopped (optional, found at most Asian markets)
- 1 small head Napa cabbage, thinly sliced
- 4 carrots, julienned
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 2 lemons – cut into wedges, for garnish
- 1 bunch chopped scallions
- Fish sauce (optional)
- Place the rice noodles in a large bowl and cover with warm water. When soft, drain and set aside.
- Heat oil in a wok or large skillet over medium heat.
- Sautee onion and garlic until soft. Stir in chicken, Chinese sausage, cabbage, carrots, chicken stock and soy sauce.
- Cook until cabbage begins to soften. Toss in noodles, and cook until heated through, stirring constantly.
- Transfer pancit to a serving dish and garnish with quartered lemons and scallions.
- Add fish sauce if desired for a flavorful saltiness.
I am making this recipe for sure. As for the Filipino Boodle Fight — I had no idea! Most people who live in the area know The Sinful Kitchen as a fabulous brunch spot. It is, but obviously, it’s so much more. Definitely worth trying!