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Filipino food, Thai food: What drives the ethnic restaurant market?

I like to think that ethnic communities create their own markets for restaurants, and tend to judge authenticity by how many Chinese dine at a Chinese restaurant, Mexicans at a given Mexican restaurant, etc. Sometimes, however, there seems to be a huge dichotomy between the size of an ethnic community and the number of restaurants it produces. Filipinos and Thais seem to represent extreme examples of this phenomenon.

The San Francisco Bay Area has an enormous Filipino community, more that 323,000 identified in the Year 2000 Census, yet there appears to be only a tiny handful of identifiable Filipino restaurants; menupix.com and menupages.com only bring up a single Filipino Restaurant for San Francisco proper (though I know there are a few more in SF and the South and East Bays). On the other hand, a tiny Thai community (less than 6,000 in 2000) generates many times more ethnic restaurants. Menupix and menupages each list more that 100 Thai restuarants in San Francisco alone, with many more elsewhere in the Bay Area.

I can understand that the enormous popularity of Thai food in the community at large, as well as the relative unfamiliarity with, and lack of appreciation for, Filipino food are large factors, but I would think that the size Filipino community (which, if a City, would be the tenth largest in California) would generate a much larger number of Filipino Restaurants than appears to be the case. Do Filipinos choose to eat at home? When they dine out, do they choose a different ethnic cuisine? Do they not sufficiently respect their own food to really elevate it to a "cuisine?"

It's like to hear any thoughts, as well as other examples. Japanese comes to mind as an over-represented cuisine generally, and in New York, Ecuadorean (80,000 Ecuadoreans in Queens alone) would appear to be an under-represented cuisine

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  1. Interesting thread! I can try to speak from a Filipino American point of view- growing up in the sizable metro DC area, there were at any given time maybe only 2 Filipino restaurants open for business. We'd try them once and they'd go out of business before we could return. Why did they go out of business so consistently? Maybe the small number of restos, combined with the very many styles of Filipino cooking... If the geography of the Philippine Islands has resulted in 170+ languages in one country, imagine how that impacts the cuisine. I bet if my family had found a restaurant with a chef from Pampangas, where my mom's family is from, we'd be there every week, and tell all our friends. Instead, it wasn't a priority and we just ate at home when we wanted Filipino food, and when we wanted to eat out, went for Thai, or Japanese.

    I think Filipino restaurants haven't caught on with Americans as much because of the tendency for Flip restaurants to adopt the "turo-turo" (sp??) model, literally "point point", where there is pre-prepared food in chafing dishes rather than table service. I hear there are a few notable exceptions though - I just received "The Filipino-American Kitchen", a cookbook by a successful Filipina restauranteur from Chicago, and I can't wait to try some of her recipes.

    I hope others chime in with a native Filipino perspective, because it is interesting, especially given that when I mention my heritage, 75% of the time people respond, oh my ______-in law/co-worker/neighbor is Filipino and you guys have the best food! I love adobo!

    1. I lived in the Philippines for 14 years, but worked all over S and SE Asia.

      Filipino food (and my reference point is filipino food in the Philippines) is relatively simple to prepare; and filipinos say that they could do better at home. Much of filipino food does not fit in with North American tastes--lots of salt, few spices or chili, can be greasy, often served at room temperature, few vegetables. Plating and/or presentation is not given much importance. Although adobo is liked by many non-filipinos, dinugu-an may not be as widely acceptable. If I had filipino restaraunt, I'd serve fish sinigang, bulalo, sisig, fresh lumpia, different pancit, embutido and so on--but would not be surprised if a large cusomer base didn't develop.

      Thai food is more complex, more difficult to prepare well, and fits with current North American tastes--spicy, can be light, lots of vegetables, mostly not greasy nor salty, complex flavor combinations, served hot or cold depending on the dish (rather than all at near room temperature). Plating and/or presentation is important.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

        Gotta agree, for the most part. My Chinese wife is from the Philippines, and we have a Filipina nanny. The nanny cooks adobo and calderete at home (love 'em!), as well as a variety of noodles and lumpia. She also makes dinagu-an and sinigang soup; not my faves. But, even though there are at least four or five Filipino restaurants in the Toronto area, we never go out to eat at them, ever. We do patronize Filipino stores to get specific ingredients, like macupuno for halo-halo or Magnolia cheese ice cream, but never the restos.

        It might be because none of them are conveniently located, but we've made specific trips to go to Chinese or Japanese spots. It also might be because dishes like adobo and calderete taste better on day 2 (and 3 and 4 and..) than they do when freshly made.

        And, we always order a baby pig for major holidays or visits from family, which wife and nanny fuss over for a few hours before delivering a crispy lechon to the table, but we never go out to eat it.

      2. I think part of the equation comes from the restaurant's willingness to adapt to the palate of the country they're in. For example, Chinese food is very popular in the States -- but there are more people eating things like chicken and broccoli as opposed to congee. Most Thai restaurants in the States don't make their spicy food as spicy as they serve it in Thailand.

        And I do think there are some cuisines/dishes that translate better to the American (or whatever country you're in) than others.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Miss Needle

          You are in New York, I believe. There is an noted upscale Filipino or Filipino-fusion resto in Soho, Cendrillon(?). How "Filipino" is the food, anyway? Does it have enough Filipino cuisine characteristics to educate the novice's palate and draw him or her to real Filipino food?

          Another theory of mine is that there is a latent market for most unfamiliar (to Anericans) cusines that needs to be developed. As much as I dislike "fusion" (I call it the "F" word) fusion-y restaurants can take on an important role in this process.

          1. re: Xiao Yang

            I haven't been to Cendrillon but one of my friends has. She loves it, and she is not a fan of heavy food. Looking at the menu, it does seem like there are a lot of influences outside of the Phillipines.

            That said, my experience with Filipino food comes from home (family used to make lumpia and pancit), a limited number of restaurant experiences (can count on one hand) and eating the foods of several Filipino friends. I wish I could say I liked it more, but I just don't think it's really my thing.

        2. Filipinos love to be ambassadors for their native cuisine. It's small wonder that so many Americans who are even vaguely acquainted with a Filipino through church, work or a social organization have been treated to lumpia, adobo or pancit. In my case, I have capitalized on the popularity of all things fatty and porky in NYC to host numerous fiestas introducing friends to lechon kawali, binagoongan, rellenong manok and, less successfully, dinuguan. I am not alone in this habit. The ex-pat community is largely a nation of cooks. And discerning ones, at that. Too often Filipinos will go to a restaurant only to somberly proclaim, "Eh, I make this better at home." Restaurants open to acclaim in the Filipino papers and die within a year of un-met expectations. It is hard for any restaurateur to please the palates of Ilocano, Tagalog, Kampampangan, Visayan and myriad other diners all at the same time. And though it might not be PC to say so, Filipinos are a thrifty people, not prone to spending their money on eating what they can make at home. The only reason I go to Filipino restaurants now is because my housemates are frightened (literally) of the long beans, shrimp paste and fish I would otherwise keep to cook. I have taken much in the way of backhanded complimenting.

          Which reminds me, Filipinos are also painfully aware of criticism of their cuisine, especially as compared to other Southeast Asian cuisines. It is said that the lack of vegetables in modern cookery stems from the criticism of native foodways by American GIs who called Filipinos grass-eaters. The prospective restaurateur has to juggle the competing interests of appealing to a broad range of American preferences and respecting the traditional cooking that attracts Filipino clientele. The task is almost impossible.

          Cendrillon, the Filipino restaurant in Manhattan you mention, is one example of a successful upscale Filipino restaurant. The chef has responded to some modern preferences, but by-and-large, cooks traditionally Filipino dishes...but for Filipinos like myself (Tagalog/Pangasinense), the food seems fusiony and inauthentic. For Chef Romy Dorotan, however, at least from what his wife, a champion of Filipino cuisine, told me, the recipes are largely traditional to Romy's childhood with an occasional nod to influences from Southeast Asia. But what is native to Romy is foreign for me and while Americans and many Filipinos do indeed love Cendrillon, I am rarely there for anything other than merienda.

          But if all these variables could be managed, I still don't see Filipino taking America by storm. I can see it having limited success, but traditional, homestyle cooking is often greasy, mild and stewy. But Filipinos are the ultimate adapters. My style of cooking blends in the Spanish and Indian flavors I also grew up with to develop the layered flavors I know lie dormant within the cuisine (to which end an Indian-Filipino restaurant has recently opened in NYC's Greenwich Village and a Filipino-Latin restaurant once existed in Chicago to much acclaim). My hope lies in the American-born generation, born with Filipino hospitality in their veins, craving the comforting tastes they know from home, but worldly enough to adapt it to their cosmopolitan palates.

          7 Replies
          1. re: JungMann

            Talagang talaga! Ganda ang mga salita mo! I'll be one of your customers if you open a pinoy restaurant!

            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

              On the rare occasion that I cook for Filipinos outside my family, the reaction is usually surprise and revelation. Whereas Cendrillon pushes the envelope with chutneys or a tomatoey kare-kare, my recipes are small "evolutions" in technique or flavor. A cleaner-tasting, less greasy mechado made with brisket instead of larded beef. Binagoongan livened with the addition of sambal oelek and a not excessive amount of corn and olive oils. The sweetness and tartness of dinuguan teased out with piquillo peppers and perhaps a splash of sherry vinegar. And vegetables! Sitao at talong tossed with bagoong guisado and ample garlic in the sofrito. Espinacas a la Catalana with raisins, olive oil and roasted pili (hey, if Arroz a la Valenciana is Filipino...). Lily buds, banana hearts, kangkong (in paksiw, kare-kare and sinigang respectively).

              I am a big believer that Filipino food is inherently flavorful and soulful, but those traits have been obscured by a loss of traditional techniques, excessive use of oil and pre-packaged mixes and an emphasis on quick and easy. Our recipes were developed by generations of personal cooks and wives who spent hours melding flavors in a carajay. Now we try to get dinner done after work and end up with watery sauces and sloppily salty food.

              And so two of my better off friends decided we should open a restaurant. Inspired by San Miguel, we layed out our plans. But our restaurant never opened. Why? Not to trade in stereotypes, but Filipinos are not known for their business acumen. Even in the Philippines, it's the Chinese-Filipinos who are famous for their entrepreneurial spirit, not the everyday Filipinos. Perhaps there is a lack of good business education; perhaps it is a legacy of colonialism; but I would not be surprised if poor business decision-making plays a large role in the number of restaurants that open (or close) within the community.

              1. re: JungMann

                Sounds lie you cook filipino dishes much like I do--lightened up, more flavors, more vegetables, quicker cooking times.

                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                  Everything applies except the quicker cooking times. I "lighten" without purposefully trying to make food healthy. I layer flavors, without trying to mask. That's not a departure from tradition, but a more accurate interpretation of our heritage cuisine. But a simple dinner of chicken and pork adobo will take at least an hour of browning, braising and then additional caramelizing. And if there's goat or beef on the menu...well let's just say I tend to take "slow food" literally.

                  1. re: JungMann

                    You're right about the kambing. My chicken adobo, however, gets a long marinade but a fairly short cooking time.

                    I also time and serve the hot dishes hot, and do pay attention to plating and/or presentation.

                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                      I was also taught that presentation was important. Chicken legs had to be "frenched" before giving to Tita for adobo. Mostarza or banana leaf beneath fish or embutido. Pancit was a painstaking ordeal of organizing hard-boiled eggs, fish, sauce, kalamansi and crushed chicharron just so. And there are dishes prized for their visual appeal as much as for their flavor such as rellenong manok or sapin-sapin.

                      Christmastime for me is just another holiday during which I get nagged about how I'm not saucing and decorating my plates right...and why don't I become a nurse or accountant?

            2. re: JungMann

              "Eh, I make this better at home." That is EXACTLY what my pilipina Ama would say. Well, actually we wouldn't even get that far. She would not take us to eat in Filipino restaurant because "why we go there when I can make it at home myself". Now that we are all grown, and she lives with my auntie in L.A. "Historic Philippine Town" I believe it's called, she will pick up a turo-turo meal here or there. My theory is that the food is also so diverse- every province has its own type of food. My mom is Pampagena (sp?) so we ate a lot of fish, vegetables, clear broth, simple provincial stuff. But I love Manila style food pancit lug lug, pancit canton, the hearty meat dishes, that I have enjoyed in Filipino restaurants. When my mom cooks for my non-filipino friends, I think they are expecting to eat more hearty food than she is accustomed to preparing.

            3. I'm just thinking out loud, but I think that immigration patterns are important factors to consider here. I don't know enough about Thai immigration, but I do know that Filipinos first arrived in the US either as scholars or migrant laborers. But the real explosion of the Filipino population happened after the 1965 Immigration Act, with, I believe, a majority of those immigrants coming over as middle-class professionals (many in the healthcare industry) with their families in tact. This is important because with the families in tact, there was almost always a homemaker in the family unit, providing food for the family. Additionally, with their Catholic background (and I hope I'm not stereotyping here) Filipino families tend to be larger than the average family, creating a larger pool of home cooks. Considering this, it seems that the average Filipino immigrant had plenty of access to their native cuisine without ever having to enter a restaurant. One of my close relatives married a Filipina and I know that any one of 16 "aunties" would be cooking up a storm for a gathering on any given weekend. Another consideration is that because Filipinos are usually already fluent in English and share a Christian background, they tend to have a high rate of outmarriage. This would mean that any ethnic businesses from the previous generations will probably not be passed down. This is the typical assimilation story.

              To venture a guess with the Thai community, restaurants provide obvious and instant employment for recent immigrants, who, it seems, come to the US in the more classic pattern of immigration. I'm not sure if the Thai community has used revolving credit from community credit unions to provide funding for new businesses as the Japanese and Koreans had. The temples and other community institutions may provide some economic function here as well. I'm not sure if there are other economic niches that Thais have found, but with the American fancy for Thai food, it seems that the restaurant is obvious moneymaker.

              1. Gary, using Menupix and Menupages is hardly a barometer of a local cuisinee.

                As you know, the majority of the Filipino population is in the East Bay and Peninsula which the two sites you mention don't cover. Looking at those sites it could also be said that there are no Portuguese restaurants in this area. The thing is that these populations do not live in SF for the most part ... or in sections of SF that border where the real communities live ... like Daly City. As you move up Mission toward Daly City, bakeries and restaurants increase.

                While it hardly matches the 100 Thai restaurants you mention, doing a Chow search currently lists 23 ... and I've only hit SOME of the East Bay and few of the Peninsula restaurants.

                21 Replies
                1. re: rworange

                  Krys, I was illustrating a point, not crunching numbers. There are roughly 50 times as many Filipinos as Thais in the greater Bay Area (Census MSA) but indisputably only a fraction of the restaurant totals. Sure, there are Filipino restaurants scattered throughout the Bay Area, but the same true for Thai restaurants, which probably amount to multiple hundreds.

                  1. re: Xiao Yang

                    Gary, it seems that all you are doing is crunching numbers ... restaurants to population.

                    That being said, having eaten at most of those Filipino restaurants I linked to and having Filipino friends, it is not an easy cuisine to like. There is not the cross-over appeal that Thai has ... though that cuisine in the Bay Area doesn't ring my personal chow bells either.

                    People are intimidated by different cuisines. Even at those Thai restaurants the thing most people order is the stoplight dishes ... red, yellow, green curry. I posted a while back on this and it got a lot of hostility from even long-time chowhounds. We LOVE xxx, why should we order anything else?

                    I don't think it has to do with a lack of pride in the cuisine. My neighbor downstairs and the nurses at my mom's rest home were always pushing some wonderful things at me.

                    Come to thing of it ... that might explain some of this. Some cultures open restaurants and others dont. Most of the Filipino people I know came here to do nursing ... which was true of the friends of the downstairs neighbors.

                    The one thing I do love about Filipino cuisine is the bakeries. Great bread and bilbinka is up there with one of the best things I've ever eaten.

                    1. re: rworange

                      Krys, I'm trying to ask the broader question about what drives the market for ethnic restaurants -- how much of it is demand from within the ethnic community and how much from without. I didn't intend this to be a forum on Filipino cuisine

                      For example, it's fairly evident that if nobody outside of Thai people like Thai food, Thai restaurants would be scarcer that hens' teeth, there being a market of less that 6,000 in the whole bay area. It's obvious that there's a wide audience among non-Thais for Thai food, tough I'll agree with you that the appreciation seems to be a mile wide and an inch deep.

                      With Filipino food, even if no non-Filipino liked Filipino food (though I know that's not the case) I would expect more restaurants than there appear to be to serve 325,000 people. Why is the market so small? Is it economics? Lack of a restaurant-going culture? What factors would contribute to growing this market?

                      1. re: Xiao Yang

                        I guess I'm confused here, Gary.

                        If that is the case ... which I understand and have addressed if you re-read my posts ... of the about a dozen responses in this thread, besides myself, only miss needle initially answered the broader question you say you are asking and then you brought her back to the topic of Filipino food.

                        IMO, Jungman and sam have hit on a good reason that I also opined on ... and applies to all under-represented cuisines, including my own, Polish. The group doesn't have a business-driven culture. As Jungman wrote "Even in the Philippines, it's the Chinese-Filipinos who are famous for their entrepreneurial spirit, not the everyday Filipinos"

                        E Eto wrote "I'm not sure if the Thai community has used revolving credit from community credit unions to provide funding for new businesses as the Japanese and Koreans had."

                        Also these restaurants and food businesses are low profile as others have mentioned. Even with the few upscale restaurants that have recently opened in the Bay Area, they don't get press ... though I might have missed the main stream reviews ... I don't think there have been any.

                        From my limited time on Chowhound ... with even this food-focused group ... I don't believe there is "a latent market for most unfamiliar (to Anericans) cusines"

                        Not without getting the press onboard bigtime or having some personable celebrity chef bursting on the scene.

                        I remember a post by Melanie about a Chinese banquest thrown by Oliva Wu at the Chronicle for food writers ... and the majority of that group didn't want to eat the food or expand their ... or their readers ... horizons.

                        People want the familiar ... and they jump on board for the newest thing in limited ways ... the trend o'the day.

                        And that going back to what others have said may be one of the problems specifically to Filipino cuisine ... it is too diverse ... there may be a large population ... but if that people is segmented into small groups with diverse cooking styles ,... then someone from Pampagena is not going to a restaurant serving food from Manila.

                        And one cannot dismiss cross-over appeal. If the American melting pot don't like it and throw some money at it, it won't succeed.Look at the Jollibee chain which has for the most part tanked in this country.

                        On of the things I like about the Chow (not Chowhound) part of the site is that they do try to put out recipes that are lesser known. Yeah, they Americanized them a bit to make them look appealing, but if you can move people slowly toward trying new things ... that's big. There's even a Filipino recipe

                        1. re: rworange

                          Jollibee in the US? Wow. Filipinos were always proud of Jollibee because it had "ang lasang pinoy" (Filipino flavor or taste)--achieved by mixing sugar into the ground beef.

                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                            I can't speak for the rest of the chain (and I don't know how it is doing in the US) but the outlet that failed in San Francisco proper was located by a Filipino senior citizens residential area, and nowhere near younger generations of Filipinos.

                            1. re: Xiao Yang

                              It was located across the street from the Metreon center with a major theatre that features 9-10 movies. The Metreon itself is very youth-oriented. There was a merry-go-round across the street.

                            2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                              I actually like Jollibee. The one in SOMA/Union Square closed really quickly. Really didn't do much for mainstream Americans who were ordering the sorry hamburgers instead of the Filipino dishes. I'm not sure if the Daly City (large Filipino population) is still open. The one in Vallejo tanked despite the huge Filipino population there.

                              Didn't know about the sugar. That might explain the burgers. I'll have to check to see if Daly CIty is open and give it another try given that. I liked the garlic rice and breakfast a lot.

                            3. re: rworange

                              Interesting thread. I think Jungmann, Sam and rworange may have their fingers on the pulse of this one. Having lived in Asia for ten years (China, Hongkong and Taiwan) I don't ever recall seeing a Filipino restaurant. Plenty of other cuisines though. In the first wave of Chinese immigrants to California were entrepreneurs - there were 3 Chinese restaurants operating in San Francisco in 1849!

                            4. re: Xiao Yang

                              Some factors that might be different with immigration from the Phillipines.

                              Many Phillipine immigrants gained entry either through relations to Armed services personnel, or because they had skills that were declared to be needed (nursing). So they had no need to use the restaurant as a pathway to immigration.

                              An extended family arrives fairly quickly who can take over home cooking chores.

                              Popularity of potlucks at parties and churches, for a taste of home cooking.

                              Familiarity with American food at home.

                              And I'll reiterate what I said before... the food served at the majority of Filipino restaurants in the US is not appealing when you compare it to the other choices that are available in a large metropolitan area.

                              1. re: mlgb

                                I'm seeing things pretty much along the lines of E Eto and mlgb in that it may not be a matter of whether the food catches on here, but the types of immigrants that come from the Philippines to the US. Most that come do so under H1B-type work visas. Most are highly trained but can find no work in the Philippines (at least for a reasonable salary). In order to support their families, the no-brainer is to head over to the US and make megabucks compared to what they would back home. Nurses, architects, and some electronics-related specialists are probably representative of many of these immigrants ( at least that has been my experience). These folks have no reason to open a restaurant. They work long hours already, oftentimes six days a week minimum, and send money back to home to support their families. Opening a restaurant for this category of immigrant would be a drain on their time, money and energy.

                                The Philippines has to be one of the largest outsourcers of its country's work talent. Filipino laborers can be seen working side by side with other immigrant labor from India and Bangladesh in places like the Middle East. Families of upper middle class and above incomes across most of Asia's mini-dragons have one or more maids whose national origins are mostly from the Philippines, with Indonesia being second. My bro-in-law in Singapore has a live-in maid from the Philippines who takes care of him, his wife and three kids. She works all but two Sundays a month and makes the equivalent of about US$250 a month. Ironically, she has a university degree in education that she earned in the Philippines, but as I mentioned earlier, the job market in the Philippines is poor, even for those with extensive education or training.

                                I can only assume that the Philippines' economy is such because of a vicious cycle that is perpetuated by this outsourcing phenomenon. Because unemployment is so high in the Philippines, one is relegated to making very hard choices: live on or below the line of poverty, or go to where your skills are more marketable. Since so many families are caught in this dilemma, they are receiving financial support of various levels (sometimes from more than one overseas provider). This financial support is then pumped into the local consumer economy. Because this creates a consumer economy with no productivity or infrastructure behind it, little demand is created for other services and products that would support say, factories, offices, warehouses, etc, that should exist in a normal "healthy" economy. This scenario is very similar to what one can observe closer to home in countries like Mexico, particuarly in the rural areas.

                                At least one or more posters have mentioned that it could have something to do with cultural aspects that may go back to the days of European and American colonialism. There may be some truth to that, as my father who works on occasion in the Philippines, tells me that all of his business contacts are ethnic Chinese. Maybe this speaks as well for Chinese society, where the entrepreneurial spirit lies deep in the marrow of this culture. Combine this with the strong cultural and language bonds within this society and the average Filipino has been shut out. Only bureaucrats will gain as graft is supposedly rampant in this country - again, another example of a huge drawback to a successful economy.

                                1. re: bulavinaka

                                  There were a lot of filipinos in California from the 50s on. I still think the reason for few filipino restaraunts and many Thai is the differences between the foods and because the relatively simple filipino cuisine can almost always be better prepared at home. I've lived in California, the Philippines, and elsewhere; and have worked extensively in Thailand. The skills involved in cooking, more vegetables, lightness and combinations of flavors, presentation and timing--all favor Thai (and Lao and much of Vietnamese) over filipino (and Cambodian, some of Indonesian).

                                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                    I think most Filipinos, even from the 50s, spoke English far better than alot of other Asian immigrants. This gave them other options than to instantly fall back on selling food. Also, quite a number of Filipinos assimilated into the Catholic community - many of them with Latinos (these last two considerations are according to an Asian Studies professor from UCLA) - which further reduced the number of viable candidates for spreading the cuisine commercially. Another consideration which I don't know the answer to is, like other Asian communities, did/does the Filipino community have any "credit unions" or other informal savings societies?

                                    1. re: bulavinaka

                                      Halos lahat ng mga pilipino dumating sa 50s taga sa mga provinsya doon sa hindi mag-inglish sila, kasay hindi mag-tagalog rin!

                                      Most of those coming then didn't speak English because they were from the provinces and didn't speak tagalog, let alone English.

                                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                        We had two Filipino families in our neighborhood that had migrated to LA after The War. Both families' parents spoke English - not even close to perfect - but they did speak it. I believe the fathers served in The War - they always wore baseball-type caps with military insignias/jargon on them... just my personal experience...

                                        1. re: bulavinaka

                                          Sam the Man, you might find these two hits I found via Yahoo's search engine interesting. The first is short and sweet, the second a little more detailed...



                                  2. re: bulavinaka

                                    A college degree from the Philippines isnt worth much here in America. Through my wife who is from Manilla, I know of many college graduates with: degrees in medicine who are nurses here, with degrees in engineering who work in a warehouse here, etc.

                                    1. re: swsidejim

                                      But the point is, what would their alternative be if they stayed? As I mentioned, my bro-in-law's housekeeper/nanny has a colllege degree in Education. Is it worth anything in the Philippines or Singapore? Obviously not. But to my bro-in-law's family, she is a bargain. And this is her best option relative to what she has found back home.

                                      And many of the Filipinos I come across use their educations in their fields of specialty. One is a nurse three days a week, who then works as a lab technician on two to three of her off days. She has a degree in chemistry. Her income is substantial even by middle class standards over here. Another is an architect but is working as a renderer with a high-end interior design firm. I don't know what he makes, but if his car is any indication, he is doing well too. Another whose background is computers owns a small computer consulting and sales operation. He came to own this business by first starting out as a glorified clerk, showed his skills, saved his money, and bought the company when the owner decided to move on. I know of at least four architects who are from the Philippines. What training they received once the got here, I don't know. But they are practicing.

                                      I think that if Filipinos are to try a parallel move into what they were trained for in the Philippines, sure it's not going to happen. But many do come with the practical skills needed to succeed here and many seem to find their way into very good positions.

                                      1. re: bulavinaka

                                        I agree, no alternative, that is why we offer to sponsor any of her relatives that want to come over to the U.S., and give them a chance at the good life. My wife tells me that back in the Philippines you need a college degree to work as a store clerk.

                                        We are looking for a nanny from the Philippines, one of my wifes relatives, but it has just not panned out yet.

                                        With the above said the Philippines are a deifinite option as a place we are considering retiring when the time comes. It is one place the U.S. dollar is still strong. It would just take me a while to get used to the food over there.

                                        1. re: swsidejim

                                          I wish your wife's relative the best. If she is half as good as my bro-in-law's nanny, your kids will be so lucky to have two mothers!

                                          As you probably already know, you'll be able to live like a prince there upon retiring. My dad has been a handful of times and can't believe how low the cost of living is relative to the USD. He feels guilty when he goes. He says the poverty drives him close to tears. And the affordability of domestic labor borders on silly. Not that I want to see your buying power eroded but I just hope that if and when you retire there, that things will be much better for all.

                                      2. re: swsidejim

                                        swsj, you are probably about 50% right. Many qualified filipinos I know have immigrated and done really well as professionals in the US--especially in areas like physical therapy, architecture, and information technology.

                          2. Many of the Filipino restaurants in Chicago have fairly low profiles and are not picked up by many of the restaurant listing sites. Menupages classifies seven restaurants as Filipino while metromix.com shows six with only three listed on both. Without straining I can think of six in the Lincoln Square and Albany Park neighborhoods that are in neither directory. I wouldn't infer too much about restaurant supply by cuisine by looking at directory sites as most eastern European groups have similarly poor coverage.

                            A place calling itself oriental in Chicago is probably Filipino.

                            1. I live near Carson, which does maintain a few Filipino restaurants and bakeries. I think those who identified the food as greasy, salty, porky and stewy (and not very spicy) are on the right track as to why it doesn't enjoy a wider audience.

                              I've been treated to a number of potluck festivites catered by Filipino coworkers, and used to go to a turo turo (now closed) restaurant near my work.

                              I'd much rather go to a Thai, Indian, Mexican or Korean restaurant because the flavors are more distinctive, I like spicy food, and also like to have some veggies with my meal (although I do remember a nice eggplant dish that I once had).

                              If I'm dining with someone who can't do spicy, I'd rather go to Vietnamese or Japanese which is less greasy and fresher.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: mlgb

                                It is sad that Filipino Cuisine and Restaurants do not even come close to the popularity of its asian counterparts. Filipino food is so varied in its influences from all of Asia, Spain and trickles of American canned flavors creating a delicous mix of flavors. But on the whole Filipino Food is quite simple. It does not claim to be complex. It simply uses fresh everything, if it is prepared well --- just how my grandmother prepared food. She even made her own rice flour. Fish had to be fresh. Vegetables had to be fresh and cleaned to perfection before it went into the pan. There were occasional pig roast. However, we lived close to the sea.. so fish and vegetables were the staple and not necessarily rice.

                                Look at these very simple dishes:

                                Milkfish, Salmon or comparable locally available fish poached in a broth of cane vinegar in a bed of ginger, garlic and onion, jalopeno and freshly picked vegetables.

                                Grilled Fish on a bed of freshly picked vegetables sautéed in pate de crevettes resollee(baguung alamang), onions, garlic, and ginger.

                                Sticking to the simple flavors of home may help in changing the often perceived notion that Filipino food is fatty and heavy. It might also convince, a Filipino like myself to eating at a Filipino Restaurant more often because grilling fish and sauteeing fresh vegetables when I get home from work can be a task.

                              2. Not Filipino, but a friend and I were dining in an Ethiopian restaurant which was void of Ethiopian patrons while a place across the street was packed. Then we came to a theory that the owner was from the Orthodox Christian community (based on evidence from text on the menu itself describing the restaurant and how it came to be) and maybe that was shaping preferences, rather than the food (which was quite good).

                                So cultural associations can be as strong as regional cuisine associations, I think.

                                1. We have Jollibee in Dubai. Chowking, too. There are so many Filipinos here, too. Despite the masses of Filipinos, there are not very many pinoy restaurants. There are some, but not in comparison with Thai and certainly not Chinese. Even though the Thai population is insignificant, and the Chinese population is comparatively tiny when put against the Filipino community. The Thai and Chinese restaurants (that are more "authentic Chinese" and not Indian or beef/broccoli type Chinese) are also packed with Filipinos. I think it has to do with the familiarity of the general population with Filipino food. Thai is widely known and trendy. Much more so for Chinese, obviously. Filipino food is an unknown world to most non-Filipinos. It is too much of a business risk to open a Filipino restaurant unless you plan to depend on a solely Filipino clientele...can be done in some neighborhoods in Dubai, perhaps California and Hawaii, but in every other place, it has to be Thai or Chinese. I have noticed that some Thai restaurants here with Filipino chefs and employees and a heavily Filipino clientele keep Filipino desserts on the menu. It must be that because how can the same phenomenon be in the US and in the Arabian Gulf except that Thai is more well known, somehow "trendier," and so attracts a broader clientele, Filipino would limit the owners to the kabayan crowd and perhaps only a few adventurous others on occasion.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: luckyfatima

                                    lucky, again, I disagree. The two cuisines differ greatly.

                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                      Sam I did not say Thai and Filipino foods are alike. I said Thai food is more widely known to non-Filipinos, so is a better business venture for a restaurant ownder. That was my point.

                                    2. re: luckyfatima

                                      There are unique and significant stumbling blocks to opening a Filipino restaurant in the UAE that don't exist in the US: 1) the ubiquity of pork products in Filipino cuisine, 2) the spicing preferences of inhabitants of the Gulf states, 3) issues of class. I would venture to say there are more Filipino restaurants in the U.S. where Filipinos are looked upon as middle-class professionals than in countries like UAE, Greece or Italy where they form a significant underclass. Even if Juan Delacruz were able to save the money to open a turo-turo, he would be hard-pressed to achieve wide commercial success and not solely because of Filipino cooking techniques. For all the popularity of Mexican food in the U.S., you don't see most Americans eating at the same taquerias as their maids.

                                      1. re: JungMann

                                        Jungmann actually that's not true, there ARE neighborhoods such as Karama and Satwa that have multiple Filipino restaurants. It is just a fact that outside of those neighborhoods, there are dozens and dozens of Thai and Chinese but the Thai community here is tiny (there are more Chinese though). But there are sooo many Filipinos here. The Filipino restaurants attract a Filipino clientele, but the Thai and Chinese have a broader clientele...including a strong Filipino patronization. Filipinos obviously have an strong "eat out" culture. Also, the eating habits of the native UAE population is not much of a business consideration to opening a restaurant. Most restaurants cater to various types of expats. UAE nationals do eat out and I see them next to me in sushi bars, and Indian chat shops, and Thai places, and at Tex-Mex places and all. The Emiratis of Dubai have a very worldly palate and are cosmopolitan people. (oddly, there are actually NO Emirati sit-down restaurants, only local "matbakh" or catering kitchens). and The UAE Filipino population is not just maids, actually there are many Filipino professionals here, their degrees ARE useful here (unlike the US) and they work in all kinds of sectors, IT and nursing would be two, also for some reason there are loads of Filipino dentists here, for example. And the lower income Filipinos wouldn't mostly be maids (although there are a lot of Filipino maids as well), it would be people in the customer service industry like in stores, restaurants, salons, etc. Filipinos here love to eat out and you see them at all restaurants from American Chili's to the Thai and Chinese, to wherever, despite the no-pork thing. (there are so many restaurants here that serve national cuisines that are heavily porked based, that doesn't stop anyone, we have Tony Roma's, and a handful of other US chains, Mexican, sooo many regional Chinese restaurants including great dim sum places with no-pork adaptations) There are far more Filipino night clubs (that serve alcohol) here than restaurants, though. It is just a funny thing, but oddly the same thing in the US, I mean about the amount of the restaurants compared to the high population, not about the night clubs.

                                        I recall in the 80s and early 90s in the US, you would never see a Vietnamese restaurant except for in Viet-towns in California, or a few other cities with Viet-towns like Houston. despite the huge numbers of VN people. Then, you started to see Chinese-Vietnamese restaurants...American-Chinese restaurants owned by Vietnamese families who expanded their menus to include a handful of VN dishes. I see this past VN restaurant history as the same thing as what you see now with Filipino restaurants: to attract a broader clientele and make more money, you could not serve VN food because non-VN people did not know about it. Then VN food became popular and more widely known and now there are VN restaurants all over the place and you will see them full of a very mixed clientele, not just VN patrons. Filipino food is just too unknown in the US and in the UAE. It would not be a good business investment to open a place that is too different. I see the same thing with Pakistani restaurants in the US. There are some, mostly in larger cities w/ high PK populations, however, so many Pakistanis own and operate generic Indian restaurants. Why? To the broader population. PK food is unknown. Generic Indian restaurant food is more popular (not so much with authentic regional Indian food, same like the Filipino food), so you see those kind of generic Indian restaurants that attract everyone.

                                        I think the dollar is the bottom line here.

                                    3. Hmmm, I think a people's food culture plays into the absence or presence of restaurants. And I expect there are wide variances around the world in terms of types of food eaten outside the home. Fine dining may be reserved for only very special occasions. Perhaps snack counters and roadside stands are more popular for "fill-me-ups" between home cooked meals in some cultures. Of course personal economics would also be a considerable factor.

                                      1. Being a Filipino American, I absolutely love this thread and will have to read through it all.

                                        Has anyone in the Philly/Jersey area been to Manila Bay? I hear there is another Filipino restaurant in Tom's River, called Something Delight....I forget the exact name. Manila Bay on the other hand has great, authentic food, and it's like eating in m mom's kitchen. And they always have a good crowd....and you always need to get an order of lumpia to go, to eat in the car, no matter just how full you are! <grin> -mJ