A few weeks ago, Rey sent us an email introducing himself to us as an advocate for the Filipino community. Rey works with a Filipino foundation (the Ugnayan Foundation) whose goal is in promoting the Filipino culture through raising awareness and Filipino related content on the internet. Filipino Culture includes, among others, Filipino Cuisine!
Suanne and I jumped onto Rey’s invite especially when we know so little about Filipino Cuisine and Cultures.
Rey wanted to introduce to us Filipino Cuisine gradually, starting from the normal Filipino cuisine before graduating to what he calls the Fear-Factor food. His plan is to start off introducing Chinese Filipino food, followed by Spanish Filipino food and end up with Filipino-Filipino food.
For the Chinese Filipino food, Rey brought us to the only one Filipino restaurant in Richmond, Little Ongpin. Little Ongpin is located at the strip mall of the intersection of Cambie and No 5 Road. It seems like it is out of the way for many people but I somehow think that it’s strategically placed next to a major Catholic church.
Little Ongpin is named after the Chinatown district in Manila. It has a very neighborhood cafe restaurant feel to it — you know, the kind of places where one brings the whole family for a time out. It was busy and packed when we were there. I wished we could take the insides of the restaurant but we only managed to take a quick shot (above) when the tables were vacated.
Little Ongpin has a very friendly feel to it. I was quite amazed when two tables (one in front and one behind us) actually passed us their dishes to have a closer look when they overheard that Rey was telling us about Filipino cultures and cuisines. I was quite taken by surprised actually and really felt the homeliness of this place.
Filipino Chinese makes up about only 2% of the population of the Philippines. However, the Chinese in the Philippines had over the centuries inter-married and if this is taken into account, Chinese Filipinos makes up a sizable 30% of the population.
Many people does not realize this but the Filipino community is the third largest visible minority group (after Chinese and East Indians) in the Metro Vancouver with 120,000 people in all. However, you will notice that there is no “Filipino-town” here or for that matter anywhere else in the world. This is because Filipinos tries to assimilate to the local population.
The food served in Little Ongpin is a mix of indigenous Filipino, Spanish and Chinese cuisine.
We started off with a drink called Gulaman Sago. The main ingredient is Palm Sugar which is very similar to the popular Gula Melaka of Malaysia. This sweet concoction is served in shaved ice and is perfect especially in hot weather. The sweetness here is lighter than the common sugar and has a caramel taste to it.
Rey knew that Arkensen and Nanzaro loves fried rice. He ordered a common Filipino version of the fried rice — the Bagoong (pronounced as Bah-go-ong) Fried Rice for the boys to try. The main flavour is imparted by Bagoong which is shrimp paste and is common to the Malay Belacan. The smell of shrimp paste, as you might imagine, is pungent and some people might find it overwhelming. Not to us at all. The Bagoong is what give the rice the pinkish color.
The serving is huge … three times bigger than the normal fried rice we get in Chinese restaurant. This is because Filipinos food are normally share family-style. Generally single serving food is not common. I like that.
The Bagoong Fried Rice is served with toppings of eggs, chicken, green onions and mango. It was the first time I had rice with mango and it really blends well, just like pineapple would. I later learned that Mango is the national fruit of the Philippines.
So what was the verdict from the boys? Nanzaro, the family fried rice expert, said that “Hmmm … good. Better than Salted Fish and Chicken Fried Rice”!
Fried Lumpia is the Filipino version of the fried spring rolls. It was awesome. The best part of this is the sweetish and sourish dipping sauce. We asked Rose (the owner) about this sauce and was told that this had been with the family recipe for 50-60 years. And … shhh … it’s a secret! LOL!
Since I asked about Lumpia which I had heard about so much, Rey also ordered the fresh version of Lumpia. The skin of this is made of egg crepe. I prefer the crunchy fried version.
Lumpia is a Chinese Filipino food.
Here are the ingredients of the Fresh Lumpia. Sorry, I can’t quite make out what they are but I think they are primarily turnip. I can’t help by contrasting this to the Malaysian Popiah … the main difference is the crepe skin and the sauce it is served in.
Oh, one thing I noticed is the absence of chili. I would have thought that hot chili will figure a lot in Filipino cuisine since it is a chili growing region. Rey told us that Filipinos does not stand hot food.
Then came the main course — the Little Ongpin Assorted Chargrilled. This is a huge platter of seafood and meat which very much delighted all of us on the table. I never knew that the Filipinos were so big on BBQ but they sure know how to BBQ!
In the Philippines, BBQ are usually done over an open charcoal pit.
Malaysians are proud of their satays but they could learn a thing or two from the Filipinos. 🙂 This is called Chicken Skewer and is much more larger and juicier than the ones we are accustom to. The boys absolutely dig this and told us this is the favourite of everything we had that day.
Now, this is nice and you will never-ever get this in Malaysia. This is the Pork version. Like the chicken, it is extremely moist and unbelievably tender.
The large squid had a springy texture. We absolutely loved the charred sides.
And then there are the mussels too. By itself, it is kind of dry …
… but it is perfect when dipped in the sauce. The dipping sauce is meant for the seafood. It is made from palm tree and has a stronger than vinegar taste.
The dipping sauce is also great with the white promfret. Pomfret is a very common south Asian fish.
Central to the Assorted Chargrilled is this condiment (can’t remember the name). I used this primary as a topping for the meat and is an excellent accompanying condiment. I’ll try to concoct something like this for my own BBQ next time.
The BBQ Pork were kind of dry and tough to us. We used the condiment above to go with this. This give its a better balance to the pure meatiness of the pork.
Rey told us how pork figures so prominently as the primary meat in Filipino Cuisine. Does anyone know why?
We ended up with Buco Pandan. Oh wow … this is one of the best dessert we ever had. It is rich and very fragrant. The greenish color came from Pandan leaves and in this are young coconut flesh, jello and palm seed. Give this a try … I think you will also like this.
Suanne and I had a great time learning about Filipino cuisine. This is what we enjoyed most about blogging these days … not just eating but learning about the history and story behind the food we eat.
The above is called Pancit which is a very popular Filipino dish. We did not order this but Rose was kind enough to show us the dish since we asked about it.
Rose also showed us the Crispy Pata. Oh man … this is my kind of meat! It is not just any pork hock. Making this takes hours of work. It is first steamed and the boiled for several hours before it is then deep fried. This process gives it a very distinctive texture of a crispy outside with moist tender meat on the inside.
We did not order this but we’re coming back for this next time!