Filipino Food Revisited

In my previous post Filipino Food in Oklahoma City I asked a question that had been discussed on the Chowhound web site: “Why are there so few Filipino restaurants in the United States” (and at the time there were none in Oklahoma City).

The Chowhound site I referenced asked whether Filipino food was embarrassing (in other words, Filipino people might be more interested in blending into American culture and eating other people’s foods than in opening restaurants serving their own food). The article rightly asserted that Filipino food is very good, and that there should be more Filipino restaurants in the cities that have a large Filipino ethnic population (which are most cities in the U.S.).

I recently saw a program on Create TV that I believe provides some answers. An episode of Lucky Chow focusing on “Filipino Entrepreneurs” included an interview with P.J. Quesada, founder of the Filipino Food Movement. He agreed that Filipino food has not been as popular in the United States as one would think, and suggested the following as possible reasons:

  1. Filipinos came to the U.S. already speaking English, so they were able to assimilate more easily than other ethnic groups.
  2. Filipinos did not promote their food properly. One aspect of this is that there are a number of regional food styles in the Philippines. Immigrants from one region came to the U.S. and cooked their own style of food, but were not big promoters of  other styles of Filipino food.
  3. Americans are poorly educated about Filipino food. Much of it has to do with Filipino food having Spanish terms that mean something different than in other cuisines. In general it is hard for Americans to understand what the Filipino dishes are.

The first point is actually similar to the theory postulated in the Chowhound article on Filipino restaurants. Filipino immigrants quickly became Americanized, and did not go through the kind of adjustment that other groups had to do.

One of these adjustments might be the ethnic restaurants that serve as meeting places and social gatherings for immigrant groups as much as a place where these people like the food. I am speculating about this, but I will say that the points that Mr. Quesada made sound as plausible as anything I have heard about why there are not more Filipino restaurants.

At the same time, though, some people are trying to change things. The Lucky Chow program visited two restaurants in the Bay Area that prove that Filipino food can be successful in the United States.  One in San Mateo, California called Jeepney serves traditional Filipino food, and like most similar restaurants has customers making a special effort to go there in order to enjoy this type of food.

A second restaurant in San Mateo called Attic has its mission as serving a type of Filipino fusion that would be popular with Americans. It has modernized the food and makes it with local ingredients. The local ingredients in California are different than in the Philippines, but the experience is the same since the Filipino way of cooking uses locally sourced products as much as possible.

I am especially interested in ethnic cuisine, and I think it helps to understand the food when I visit a restaurant. I definitely feel that this episode of Lucky Chow provides some good insight into Filipino food in the U.S.

I believe that the “Filipino Food Movement” is gaining momentum, and will become more and more apparent in areas other than just the San Francisco Bay Area.


Oklahoma City Filipino Food Updates:

Chibugan Filipino Cuisine opened in April 2016, and is the first of what looks like a new trend in Filipino food in the Oklahoma City area.  The address is 4728 S.E. 29th St., Del City, OK. (Open Tue-Sat and lunch on Sunday).

Filipino Fusion food truck started operating in August 2016. The truck goes to various locations in Oklahoma City and Edmond, and may add more locations later.