Leading a Food Blogger Q&A Panel + The Evolution of Filipino Cuisine in Australia
I was approached by Fiesta Malaysia about potentially joining a panel of food bloggers on stage to represent my country’s cuisine. After few emails later I finally agreed, I was then later asked to lead the panel through the discussion which made me even more nervous! I swear I was forming a wet patch. Eew! However, after some initial hesitation, I accepted this challenge after finding out I was in amongst some amazing fellow bloggers that I’ve come to know – Winston, Anh, Bryan and Kat – which definitely put me at ease. You see, we food bloggers have got each other’s back which meant that if I noticed anyone struggling on stage, my job was to make sure I jump in to keep things flowing. And flowing it did.
It also helped that we got together beforehand to rehearse, calm our nerves and to go over the agenda. Hopefully I wasn’t too bossy!
Fiesta Malaysia actually took place many moons back on March 25 but I’ve have finally had the strength to write about it after a weekend getaway away with a bunch of peeps for Sandra’s Birthday bash at Barolo Lodge in the Yarra Valley. We all spent two consecutive nights watching cheesy Eurovision (hihihi) in front of a toasty fireplace, soaked till we pruned in the jacuzzi whilst succumbing to Sarah’s out of this world baking madness which included the crowd silencing scones plus the excess amount of cheese we somehow ended with and a stopover at Punt Road Wines for some refreshing Pear Napoleone & Co Cider. Mind you, I still have two ashed goats cheese pyramids from Yarra Valley Dairy to get through. Back to reality….
Now, on with the show!
Winston (The Hungry Excavator) – Malaysia
Anh A Food Lover’s Journey – Vietnam
Bryan (Let’s Get Fat Together) – Singapore
Kat (Spatula Spoon & Saturday) – Thailand
Adrian (moi) – Philippines
Left to right: Wincee, Anh, Kat, Bryan and myself
Starting the fiyah!
Throughout our 25 minute set, we talked our butts off and wooed the crowd with our food talk. There was no need for the ‘applause now’ sign as each of us got up to speak about our respective country’s cuisine. I introduced each blogger and gave abit of spiel on their blogs and to help with the flow of things I pointed out a few of things I loved about each blogger from Anh’s Delicious Vietnam to Winston’s Steamed Egg Recipe. This was the easy part because it’s not that difficult talking about blogs I love to read. However, I was initially worried that I may not have enough to say about Filipino food, but because I’m quite passionate about it, I found that I could have actually rambled on for hours and judging by my fellow blogger’s speeches, they were in the same boat! Cramming so much information about the Philippines into 5 minutes wasn’t easy, but I did manage to go through our history, culture and what and how we eat on a daily basis.
About Filipino Food and our influences
Consider this part 1 of my take on my cusine and how it fits into Australia. What many people don’t know is that despite being geographically located in SE Asia, for nearly 400 years, the Spaniards colonised our country. Their influence has since been rooted into our culture from our customs, our religion and of course, our food like our use of peppers, picked vegetables, the use of vinegar, type of breads and cooking techniques. I mean, who doesn’t love Chicken Adobo or Ensaimada? Contrary to what many recipes (including mine!) indicate, an authentic adobo, that’s cooked in my town back home, doesn’t have soy sauce but still retains the use of vinegar. We call it Adobo Puti (white). I’ve grown up eating it with a soy sauce base which I prefer even though it’s not authentic!
Filipino BBQ Pork Skewers from a BBQ at my place a few weeks back
In addition to the Spanish influence, we are also influenced by our surrounding neighbours from our use to coconut milk , soy sauce, lemongrass, banana leaves, garlic and of course, rice, being our staple. No Filipino will eat Tocino or Longanisa without rice. It’s a sini sin sin! I also spoke about our love for pork – Lechon! Twice a year, my family and friends would gather around the might pig on a spit and enjoy it’s wondrous cracking until the wee hours of the night and then make a stew out of it the next day just to keep the celebrations rolling. Coz that’s just how we do!
Fusion In Australia and where can you get a little sumthin sumthin?
Filipino Food in Australia has quite a bit to go in terms of going mainstream. Though there was an uptake of Filipino eateries back in the late 80’s to early 90’s, many of them have since closed down leaving many Pinoy expats cooking this beautiful cuisine within the confines of their kitchens where only friends and colleagues get a taste. I seem to wonder whether it has something to do with tourism. Many people I know have either been to Vietnam or Thailand, sometimes on numerous occasions. However, apart from my ‘filo’ peeps, only once in a blue moon would I hear the words “Hey Adrian, guess what? I’m going to the Philippines…again!” And I would always react with such shock and pride as I pull out a pre-prepared eating itinerary for them to use. This may be a small factor but I would assume that with the huge tourism industry in those countries, Australians would undoubtedly come back craving that incredible pad thai or Hanoi pork they had during their amazing holiday and where to solve that craving – your local fav restaurant of course. Fun filled memories and sentiments are also tied in with the food. People tend to be more experimental with food whilst in ‘holiday mode’ trying new dishes they wouldn’t have otherwise tried before. All this helps to drive the booming Thai, Vietnamese and Malaysian restaurant industry where there have been many players in the field modernising/experimenting/elevating/you name it traditional dishes whilst increasing the price to suit with uber cool dimly lit fitouts rather than burning under flurescent lights. Think Ms G’s, Longrain, Dandelion, Red Spice Road etc.. Many may resist paying $40 for a hawker style main dish but if it’s tasty enough, the crowds will flock.
There’s huge potential and I feel we are at the verge of something wonderful but until we reach that point, I’ll continue to do what I can to represent a cuisine I’m so proud to be part of.
Thinking back to my early childhood days, I still remember driving into the city (Whitney Houston blaring in the background) with my parents to pick up some BBQ Pork Skewers and kare kare. I’d eat the skewers in the car on the way home because I was such a little piggy! A few restaurants remain, such as Lutong Pinoy, recently opened Chicken Haus which fellow blogger Lauren writes about and Dahon Gourmet Tea Lounge which takes it to the next level in terms of presentation and innovation which is exciting to see.
There is a generalisation out there when it comes to Filipinos and Filipino food at restaurants and I may be touching a few nerves here when I say – Filipinos need to stop being so critical about our food damn it. It’s true. We are known to take alot of pride in our cooking. But I’ve lost count at the amount of times I’ve heard “Oh, I could make it better at home” or “That’s not how you make it!” Of course, you probably could make it better at home or shiz, perhaps your grandma can do better BBQ Skewers but that’s not the point! I think if we truly support our once again booming restaurant community, we will in turn, help Filipino cuisine become a pivotal part of the Australian dining scene/culture.
Pandan Puto (steamed rice cakes) from a recent party ay my joint
Over the last three and abit years writing on the blog, I have often been asked what Filipino food is – either through comments, emails or twitter which was one of the main driving factors of penning my recently released cookbook aptly named “What the Heck is Filipino Food?” to help break the ice about its mystery in Australia so to speak. Plug! Something that I’m really excited about and a project I’ve been working on over the last two years. You can read about it here or buy it online here. If you’re from my hometown Melbourne, you can also grab a copy in store at Dahon Tea Lounge in South Melbourne. I hope the book will answer any questions you may have about Filipino food.
Us Bloggers with the festival organisers- SMILE!
During the closing, we all went around the table giving suggestions on restaurants that best represented our cuisine in Melbourne. This topic certainly ruffled a few feathers because as with many cuisines, authenticity in Melbourne is hard to come by. I capped things off by stating that despite our different backgrounds and the locality of our countries, we are all connected not only by our love of food, but by the very same ingredients we use, the cooking techniques and we all agreed that we indeed, have so much in common. I was so impressed how we all pulled through and how much we all learnt from each other’s cuisine. R>E>S>P>E>C>Capital T. It was so inspiring to see how much passion there was on stage. Thank you guys for making my job so easy. Thanks Ashley for inviting me to participate.
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Keep eating…LIKE CRAZAAY!