Kamayan dining with grilled fish, fried shrimp, eggplant, grilled squid and rice | Pampanguena Cuisine

Ep. 2, Barkada: L.A.’s Exploding Filipino Food Movement

Around Los Angeles, you can find home-made longganisa sausages sitting on a bed of garlicky heirloom rice, or special Filipino-Hawaiian hybrid donuts lacquered in coconut-milk caramel. These kinds of dishes are part of a larger Filipino food movement that has exploded in popularity over the last year due to the entrance of a new generation of young and talented chefs who are telling unique stories of their heritage through their food.

They’re the first- and second-generation immigrants who have one foot in their Filipino culture and the other on American soil. These chefs are also armed with culinary degrees, a strong entrepreneurial spirit, and experience working in the most lauded restaurants around the world. And they’re coming up during a time when L.A.’s culinary landscape is changing, and diners are now more open to discovering different foods from other cultures.

In this episode, Chef Charles Olalia’s story is one of the pursuit of the American dream. Emigrating from the Philippines, Olalia climbed his way up the ladder, cooking for gastronomic destinations from the likes of French Laundry to Patina. But then he left the fine-dining world and moved on to pay homage to Filipino comfort food by opening RiceBar, a tiny 275-square-foot restaurant in Downtown L.A. that Bon Appetit recently named as one of best new restaurants in the country.

Another Filipino chef making waves is Eggslut owner Alvin Cailan, whose booming success in the L.A. food scene has led him to pay it forward with Unit 120, his culinary incubator kitchen located in a growing part of Chinatown. He provides a space for up-and-coming chefs and entrepreneurs to test out their concepts so they can one day own their own businesses.

Talented chefs are already making themselves a name through Unit 120, including brothers Chad & Chase Valencia, whose LASA pop-up, which offers an amalgam of Filipino and Californian fare, is serving to a full house every weekend. Another rising star, Filipino-American pastry chef Isa Fabro, is getting a chance to experiment at Unit 120 and explore her roots with desserts in a way that she never has before. These chefs each share a story about going against the grain, preserving their culture, and honoring the Filipino traditions of generosity, love and hospitality with their food.

 

Check out a recipe for ukoy, a Filipino fritter side dish, from Alvin Cailan here.

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