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Jan 20, 2002 08:12 PM

Good Filipino adobo, pancit, lumpia

  • t

Is there anywhere a gal can get a good Filipino adobo stew around here? Good Filipino food in general? Say, pancit and lumpia too?

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  1. It's with hesitation that I post about this place Bahay Kubo Bake Shop. It's in Woodside, 60-21 39th Ave. They have adobo, pancit, and lumpia and much more. I've passed by this place many times, but have only stopped just the other day to pick up some food. I'm not familiar enough with Filipino food to know what to order. I Got the Laing(sauteed spicy taro leaves) and some Krispy Pata. While I was waiting, someone came to pick up the whole roasted pig they'd ordered (Lechon), but the oven was not working properly, and they were told to come back in half and hour..

    Anyway, the food tasted home-made, which is good, but I'm not sure it was of the freshest quality. This place is like someone's living room. In fact, there's a Karaoke machine/TV there. I really want to like their food, and will probably go back again to give it another try. In fact, I'd love if you could tell me more about Filipino cuisine...

    By the way, I think there are a few other places in Woodside if other Chowhounds could chime in...

    4 Replies
    1. re: HLing
      T-Bone Sanchez

      I love talking about food, so if you ask me to, I will. I'm only familiar with the Filipino food my family makes, and since I'm only half Filipino, I too feel less familiar with Filipino food than I could be. Sometimes talking to other Filipinos, they start talking about the food, and I never recognize the names of it, but once they talk about what's in it, I say, bingo! That's it. I've only had Filipino food in a restaurant once -- Manila Garden on 14th St. -- and was not wowed.

      Like many cuisines of Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands, divorced from its region, the food is never quite the same, since it depends so much upon local ingredients prepared simply and eaten immediately. When I visited the Philippines many years ago, we ate mangoes straight off the tree, deep orange, resiny, sweet, bursting with juice. My aunt Nellie showed me how to eat the ripe fruit by slicing hemispheres of fruit away from the flat stone, then cutting a criss-cross pattern through the flesh and nearly to the peel. Then by pushing into the fruit and flipping the hemisphere inside out, diced yet still-attached sections of mango would stand out from the skin like a kind of strange porcupine's quills.

      The food they eat there is often eaten so fresh and undressed you could scarcely call it a cuisine. Giant prawns from local waters, the size of small lobsters, are boiled and eaten with a bit of salt or baga-ong, a purplish salty shrimp paste. Rice goes with everything. My old grandmother, decades after she moved to the United States, would eat everything with rice, including such things as bananas, pancakes, and ice cream. My father enjoys everything dipped in a bit of white vinegar mixed with fresh ground black pepper and fresh green chili peppers.

      But of course there's the Spanish influence and the Asian influence, so there's yeast bread and cakes on one hand, spring rolls (lumpia) on the other. Filipinos also eat a lot of pork. For family get-togethers, my aunt Noemi's family used to raise pigs, and one victim would be roasted whole over a spit for dinner. We also eat a lot of coconut and sweets, and when they like sweets, they like them very, very sweet. There's little of the subtle flavor-play you get in Thai cuisine. Rather, when something is salty, it's pretty darn salty, and when it's sweet, it's pure sugar. In fact, my favorite treat when I was over there was a piece of raw sugarcane. They'd cut down a stalk, slice me a foot-long chunk, peel off the bark, and leave me to chew it for half an hour. I was content.

      When adobo is done right, though, the stew does become a wonderful complex of flavors. The meat is falling-off-the-bone tender, the vinegar tartness brings the whole savory thing into relief, and the ginger and black peppercorns create a beautiful aroma. The sauce itself over rice nourished me throughout my whole childhood.

      I have a recipe for it that is still a work in progress. My mother does it better than anyone, but whenever you ask her for a recipe, she always says something like, "Oh, just put in some soy sauce, some vinegar, some sugar, some ginger. Pepper. You know." Quantities -- even proportions -- are for the weak, I suppose.

      As for lumpia, I mostly prefer Vietnamese spring rolls, when it comes to the pantheon of Asian fried rolls, but I suspect I have never had really good Filipino lumpia. I've always been given lumpia full of weird vegetables -- green beans, carrots -- that strike me as strange.

      One weird thing I used to eat buckets of until I found out what it was: pork blood stew. A black, savory, thick gruel, it's poured over rice. My little sister told me what it was one day, and I haven't had it since, although I'm getting braver.

      All in all, Filipino food is not haute cuisine. It's homey, hearty, Spanish-influenced Island cooking, lots of meat and rice and sticky sweet desserts. The Filipinos, when they encounter it, love Spam, to give you an idea of the Filipino palate. They love Jimmy Dean breakfast sausages. We are pork-loving people. We are garlicky people. We like salt, and pungent flavors, and fat, with something sour to make the mouth water.

      But if the food is not freshly prepared with the best ingredients -- and you can say this with almost any cuisine -- you will not see it at its best. I'm looking forward to trying the places everyone has listed. Thanks for your help! And my description of Filipino food may be too personal to be of any use to anyone, but I hope it was worth something to you. :)

      1. re: T-Bone Sanchez

        T-Bone, I really really enjoy your post. I have a few comments to make about the places on Roosevelt Ave and put them on the outer borough board, follow the link below if you are interested.



        1. re: T-Bone Sanchez

          Thanks so much for your warm hearted post about Filipino food! It will be very helpful when I go exploring because now it seem quite approachable, and in some way similar to Taiwanese food. I find it interesting that "lumpia" is almost the same pronunciation in Taiwanese for the same thing: the very fresh, real spring roll skin that's made on the spot on the hot cast iron grill. My favorite way as a child, which probably isn't the right way, is to just wrap some ground peanut/sugar mixture, and cilantro.(it's not fried, just plain wrapper, and GOOD!)

          I also grew up with ripe, juicy mango, and chewed on sugarcane pieces. You can get fresh sugarcane juice here in Chinatown(in Vietnamese grocery stores), although the flavor is weak. It only makes one miss the original so much more....

          Good luck with your quest for Filipino food. Please keep us posted with your finds.

          1. re: HLing

            I came upon your site while searching for "Taiwanese Lumpia". I too grew up with the fresh spring roll. We used it to wrap ground peanuts, sugar, cilantro, cucumbers, cooked tofu mix and sprounts. Do you know if there is an actual recipe for it?

      2. d
        david sprague

        roosevelt avenue in woodside--between roughly 65th and 70th streets--has a handful of filipino places, most of which are good, if uneven. the best, in my estimation, is ihawan (which is on 70th st, just steps off roosevelt). its emphasis is more on barbecue than on stews, but the variety, freshness and flavors have always impressed me.

        krystal's (corner of 69th/roosevelt) can be good, but their stews and sauces can be a little too gloppy and overly sweet.the shrimp and squash dish is usually nice, though. the other place i went to regularly for a while (good lunch buffet), tropical island, seems to be 'closed for renovations.'

        if treveling in, take the 7 train to 69th/roosevelt or the E/F/R/V to 74th/roosevelt.

        1 Reply
        1. re: david sprague

          Up the block from Krystal's is Renee's Kitchenette. Tropical Island only has buffet, lunch and dinner. Between Krystal's and Renee's I would have to say that I like Krystal's pancit better and Renee's adobo. I haven't been to the place that HLing mentions, I will check it out later this week and report back. Although I still haven't walked up the stairs to go to Ihawan.