Adrian Briones is the author of the international bestselling book, What the Heck is Filipino Food? which won a Gourmand World Cookbook Award and publisher of the long running and one of Melbourne’s most popular food blogs, Food Rehab, which has brought Filipino food to our collective consciousness. He has written for publications including Broadsheet, SBS Food, contributed to several cookbooks, a regular speaker at various organisations, works in digital advertising and marketing currently as the the Head of Ad Operations at Carsales.com Ltd, a speaker and tutor at the Melbourne Writers Festival, Emerging Writers Festival and holds self-publishing workshops independently and for Writers Victoria teaching others how to publish and market their awesome books – on their own terms. Featured in The Age, SBS, Herald Sun and on ABC 702, he has combined his writing and corporate leadership careers with work in the community sector including heading up a training program for the disadvantaged. Most recently he was a key speaker at Voices of Young Leaders at RMIT University providing mentorship to our nation’s youth.
Food Rehab began in 2009. Over the years, this blog has evolved with more of an emphasis on Filipino food, reflective pieces on being a food blogger and his thoughts on blogging in general like How I turned into the EATER I am today, the crazy Cafe Hopping series where he runs around Melbourne devouring as many brunches as possible within a 48 hour period (kinda like the Amazing race but with food), the CHAT series involving a mixture of interviews with culinary greats and charity driven entrepreneurs changing the landscape from Shane Pereira – who creates 5000 meals a month for the hungry to The Reading Room Cafe who not only serves the best French Toast in town but also gives back to the community and with the now famed Candied Bakery. You can also read about wanderlust adventures around the world from eating sushi alive (eep!) in Japan, Fried Chicken hunts in the US to unofficial Filipino Food tours across California.
About my cookbook – ‘What the heck is Filipino food?’
Ok, enough about me in the third person! The inspiration for the book was definitely my mum. She raised two rowdy boys on her own yet managed cook us the most amazing meals that had us running back home for ‘Merienda aka snacks’ after school. Unlike most kids, we skipped the milk bar most days, yet none of her recipes were written down. Mum ruled the kitchen. I offered to put them up on my blog as a tribute to her recipes and for her friends to read but Mum was a little skeptical “BLOG?… Can you show my friends how to use a blog?”
After a lengthy conversation, penning a book was a much wiser choice, though, I never intended to make it available to the public until I delved deeper into the project.
There were so many memories behind each dish that I relived when putting this project together from eating Kamote Kue (candied sweet potatoes) that I used to devour whilst playing the Nintendo (though now I eat this when blogging!) to now having a deeper appreciation for pig’s trotters when cooking up a family treasure, Estofado. There are also chapters on how I grew up, how other children’s lunchboxes were different to mine, Filipino food in Australia, about my country, our humour, how food relates to comics, culture, our love for all things pork and much much more.
I want people who aren’t really interested in cooking or food for that matter to pick up the book and take some interest in Filipino food which is still a mystery in Australia. Why? Because it simply rocks and have made it my mission to help spread the word. Judging from the reactions I have gotten so far from so many amazing people who have purchased the book (thank you!), I am happy to say I have converted more than few!
My thoughts on the food-obsessed culture in Australia?
I’m all for it. The trend towards healthy but tasty and unprocessed food is good to see, especially on popular cooking shows and documentaries. The love of good food is so ingrained into our culture – there’s so much more to taste and discover. Personally, it can be anything from hunting for the best ramen in Melbourne to within my workplace, where I recently hosted an International Platter Feast, where everyone made a dish from their own heritage. The event brought everyone together and provided an opportunity to learn about each other’s cultures.
The many multicultural festivals and hubs in Melbourne. On Sydney Road, you can find the some of the best baklava. On the other side of town in Footscray, you can find comfort in a bowl of pho, crusty banh mi rolls, hot jam doughnuts, and make use of your hands at the cutlery-free African eateries where you scoop up tasty stews with injera flat bread.
That’s what Melbourne’s about – you can experience the best food our city has to offer without having to spend the big bucks. I think what truly makes the Melbourne food scene so unique is that you really do have to rely on your inner circle for solid suggestions, due to the fact that some of the amazing places to eat at are hidden in some random laneway in the CBD with no obvious signage, not to mention our awesome rooftop bars and restaurants. Alternatively, there are some great mobile apps and blogs that can lead you to the latest talk of the town.
What are the top three Filipino dishes one must try?
Chicken adobo is an addictive native dish made with soy, garlic, vinegar, onion and bay leaves. The base should be quite soupy so you can douse it over hot steamed rice. The chicken skin must be left intact – don’t be a chicken skin stripper! If made right, it should be salty, slightly sweet and sticky in texture. You know it’s good when you find yourself licking your lips.
Chicken tinola is a Filipino version of chicken soup and the ultimate comfort meal during winter. A sure fire dish to lift the mood.
Lechon is whole roasted pig. You know you’ve arrived at a Filipino party when there is lechon. Usually the life of the party, you will often see swarms of people gathering around it yelling “Get the skin, get the skin!”.
What are the essential ingredients needed to cook Filipino food?
The must-have ingredients are garlic, soy sauce, tamarind, onions and ginger.
Greatest dining experience
Breakfast at Sushi Dai in the Tsukiji Fish Market, Japan. You need to arrive mighty early; otherwise, you’ll be faced with an average three-hour wait. The sushi and sashimi are so fresh they taste like the ocean, and they’re all prepared in front of you. A few of the items, like the clam sushi, were still alive! I will never forget the sensation of it moving in my mouth and my friend’s face turning blue which makes this meal so memorable. Not for the faint hearted.