Symposium Ponders Future of Local Filipino Cuisine. Could It Be Vegetarian?

Categories: Events

Jun Belen
Amy Besa of Brooklyn's Purple Yam, conducting a cooking demo.
​It was a busy weekend for Filipino food enthusiasts, as the Asian Culinary Forum hosted the city's first symposium on Filipino food at the International Culinary School in Civic Center. Filipino chefs, food historians, and local foodies assembled in cooking classes, panel discussions, and tastings to exchange ideas and insights about the future of Filipino food.

Jun Belen
Mise en place for oyster kinilaw.
​The weekend-long event started with a cooking class given by Amy Besa, chef and co-owner of Brooklyn's Purple Yam and co-author (with husband Romy Dorotan) of the beautifully photographed and thoroughly researched cookbook, Memories of Philippine Kitchens (2006, Stewart, Tabori and Chang). Students learned about the different souring techniques unique to Filipino cuisine and made their own versions of adobo, sinigang, and oyster kinilaw ― oysters soured in lemon, lime, and orange and garnished with julienned green mangoes, jicama, radishes, pomelo, and mandarins. There was a Filipino food and wine pairing event hosted by master sommelier Reggie Naruto Jr. and an adobo cook-off that showcased time-honored home-style recipes and modern versions of the popular dish from Bay Area adobophiles.

Jay-Ar Isagani Pugao of Oakland's No Worries.
​But clearly, the highlight of the symposium was the inspiring discussion on the future of Filipino food by an impressive panel of renowned Filipino chefs: Brooklyn's Amy Besa, Manila's Margarita Araneta Fores, and Bay Area chefs Kelly Degala (former chef of the Presidio's defunct Pres a Vi), Jon Guazon of San Mateo's Bistro Luneta, Jay-Ar Isagani Pugao of Oakland's No Worries, and 2007 Chronicle Rising Star Chef and James Beard Rising Star Chef nominee Tim Luym of San Mateo's soon-to-open Attic.

Despite disagreements on whether Filipino food is in the mainstream or not, the panel unanimously acknowledged the need for innovation, as it strives to gain acceptance from the more discriminating non-Filipino palate. Luym talked about incorporating local ingredients like patis (fish sauce) in vinaigrettes and sauces, while Fores described how she uses balsamic vinegar instead of traditional coconut vinegar in braising lamb to make adobo.

Perhaps one of the boldest examples of such innovation presented during the symposium was a description of plans for Pugao's Filipino vegetarian restaurant, No Worries, due to launch July 9 in Oakland's Uptown District. It will be the first Filipino vegetarian restaurant in the Bay Area.

Do meatless adobo and afritada sound appetizing? For this blogger, definitely. The new generation of inventive Filipino chefs like Luym, Pugao, and Hapa SF's William Pilz is certainly paving the way for the future of Filipino food in the Bay Area.

Read more from Jun Belen at Jun-Blog. Follow us on Twitter at @SFoodie

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