Pin Pin a Flipin': A Filipino Food Chowdown Report (Vancouver)
Filipino food has a bit of a PR problem. Like some other cuisines, Filipino cuisine centers around family gatherings and religious feasts - not restaurants. Essentially, it is "potluck" cuisine: the best food isn't prepared by chefs, but by various aunties, grandmas, grandpas, uncles, dads...all with their own specialties.
Unfortunately, Filipino restaurant cuisine in the West has not evolved beyond the all-too-common buffets ("turo-turo"). For many non-Filipinos, buffets - where the food is of dubious freshness - are their entry into Filipino food. Pin Pin is one of the rare restaurants that prepares their food fresh from the kitchen - no steam tables here. (So far, I know of three restaurants that do this here in the Vancouver area...there may be more.)
Pin Pin labels itself as a Chinese-Filipino restaurant, and the menu has a Chinese section at the back. (As a matter of interest, Pin Pin is the name of one of the streets in Manila's Chinatown - established in the 15th century, making it the world's oldest.) I prefer to order the "straight" Filipino food, however.
Myself, grayelf, miss.foodie (Calgary hound), and Ms Chow Meow (miss.foodie's local eating partner) were at Pin Pin to do a quick sampling of Filipino cuisine. The menu lists a very good survey of this highly regional cuisine with a good representations of classics from Luzon and the Visayas. Not unusually, they don't list any food from the Muslim South (Mindanao) where the cuisine is akin to Malaysian and Indonesian food.
Lumpia'ng Shanghai (deep fried spring rolls).
Kilawin na Tanigue (Kingfish ceviche). Kingfish is a catchall name for many firm fleshed white fish - the most common are a type of mackarel or tuna. The chunks of kingfish are marinated in a coconut vinegar with slices of onion and birdseye chilies.
Crispy Pata (deep fried pork shank) - their signature dish and cardiologist's nightmare. Served with a soy-vinegar-garlic dipping sauce.
BBQ Pork Skewers (a Filipino potluck classic) - sticky, sweet, salty pork chunks. Not unlike Korean Bulgogi in flavour.
Inihaw na Pusit (Grilled Squid) - great charring and smokey flavour from the grilling.
Pinakbet (a vegetable stew comprised of squash, bitter melon, green beans, eggplant - stewed with dried shrimp and pork chunks). I ordered a side of shrimp bagoong - a pungent fermented shrimp paste condiment - salty and slightly sweetened in the preparation. The bagoong is meant to be mixed into the Pinakbet as you eat.
And of course....some white rice.
With only four diners, it is difficult to formulate a more complete and representative survey of Filipino food. I should also note that Pin Pin does not seem to serve the Filipino "National Dish" of Adobo - a very common homecooked dish.
For those wanting to complete their survey and earn their Chowhound badge in Filipino Food, may I suggest:
Kare Kare (a peanutty Oxtail and Tripe stew) , Caldereta (rich liver and cheese -based stew), Sinigang (a tamarind-soured soup), Pancit Palabok (a Shrimp-based rice noodle), Sisig (Sizzling chopped pork and pigs ears), Bicol Express ( a spicy coconut-based pork stew) and Dinuguan (a Pork Blood Stew).
I can see a Chowdown part two...
More pics: http://picasaweb.google.ca/gustibus.m...
6113 Fraser St, Vancouver, BC V5W 2Z9, CA
Thanks for being (as usual, but even more so) the resident expert, fmed. My favourite items were the pork ones (ooh, there's a shock) and I was happy to gnaw away on the pata bones to ensure no crunchy, fatty goodness was left behind :-). I would likely have ordered all pork with maybe a shortrib dish for good measure! Veggies schmeggies. I hope to bring some of my family here to try out more of the menu.
If anyone else goes, be sure to try the kalamansi drink. We had the syrup based one, as they had run out of the canned version. It was very tasty and went well with the meal. Price for the above dishes and four drinks was about $70.