Despite being estimated as the fifth largest Asian American group in Massachusetts, Filipino cuisine has been sorely underrepresented in Boston. In fact, with few exceptions (Quincy’s long-running JnJ Turo Turo and the relatively recent introduction of Tanám to Bow Market Square), Pinoy food is virtually non-existent, which is a tragedy. Much like both the islands and Boston itself, Filipino cuisine is a melting pot of influences; owing as much to Spanish colonization and traditional Chinese flavors as to successive waves of immigrants and merchants from India and Malaysia, all filtered through a distinct and unmistakably Pinoy hue—one which adapts itself easily to even the most tentative Western palate.
But maybe I’m being biased. I lived with a native cook from Quezon for almost two years. And while he’s since moved on to more accommodating climes in Long Beach (and still owes me $40, Ephrem), rarely does a day go by where my mouth doesn’t water at the thought of homemade lumpia or fried pata—dishes which I’ve attempted to make with predictably catastrophic results. While Filipino food is far from delicate, there’s a subtlety and balance in both technique and ingredients which seem impervious to Western hands. It’s a bit like listening to your semi-illiterate, alcoholic uncle prattle on about Herman Melville during Thanksgiving dinner. Amusing at first, but eventually sad and pathetic after five minutes.
Francis Ang probably won’t be quoting from Bartleby the Scrivener when he comes to David Barzigan’s Bambara in August for a weekend guest tasting. Perhaps you’d prefer him not to. But the Zagat “30 Under 30” nominee (and winner of the 2012 Food & Wine “Best New Pastry Chef” award) will be transporting his acclaimed Pinoy Heritage pop-up menu from San Francisco to the East Coast for three nights in what will hopefully be a more permanent import.
The event, dubbed the “West Meets East Dinner”, promises plentiful samples of two of the chief staples of Pinoy cuisine: pork and seafood. The preliminary menu will include grilled longaniza (a breakfast sausage similar to linguiça), Maine lobster lumpia and perhaps the trademark dish of the Philippines—roast lechon, or suckling pig.
It will also be a reunion for Ang and Barzigan, who worked together at San Francisco’s Dirty Habit in the earlier part of this decade.
“We’re excited to be cooking alongside Chef Baz once again,” Ang told Boston magazine earlier this week. “He’s my longtime mentor… Coming back from a devastating typhoon in the Philippines, chef Baz encouraged us to organize a fundraiser for those impacted by the typhoon. We created an all Filipino menu that turned into a huge success. It opened our eyes about the possibility of cooking our own food. Here we are in year three, and hoping to open a restaurant soon.”
Francis, we’d prefer you to. So long as it’s on the East Coast.
The “West Meets East” Dinner will be held at Bambara Kitchen and Bar, located in the Kimpton Marlowe Hotel at 25 Edwin H Land Blvd in Cambridge, on August 16th and 17th from 7:00 pm - 10:30 pm. Tickets are $60 per person and are available from Eventbrite.