Pinoy Pop Up Dinner
Recently we were invited to dine at a media event of Filipino food to promote the Pinoy Pop Up dinner, part of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival.
It was a great initiative as we would not have known about the event otherwise, despite running annually for three years as part of MFWF prior to 2015. The Adventouriist grew up in Palawan, an island in the Philippines, and we are always excited by the idea of Filipino food becoming more prominent in Melbourne.
Featuring students and chefs who had flown in from CCA (a culinary school) in the Philippines, this was an opportunity not to be missed. The team also held a lunchtime barbecue event at the Pop Up Patch garden next to Federation Square earlier in the day. They came straight from there to Middle Fish, a Thai restaurant acting as the venue for the dinner event.
Sadly, the lunchtime BBQ was too far from my work to make it. Here’s a taste of what was on show below from the Filipino BBQ Facebook:
It would be OK, I thought, as surely I’d have some at the dinner event!
A long table decorated with menus and flowers was waiting for us, and I was proud to be able to recognise most of the Filipino food listed on the menu from lechon (suckling roast pig) to atchara/atsara (pickled vegies, usually papaya).
But it turns out this wasn’t really our menu – I think it was more for the following night for the actual event, which seemed to have a bit more of a traditional element. This led to a bit of disappointment from both The Adventouriist and another Filipino girl that we met, but we were still interested in what food the media night would bring.
I would have loved to try the chicken inasal (BBQ chicken) but it seems I should have dropped by the lunch time event for that!
Our leading chef for the night was Chef Sau del Rosario (above), who also had his new cookbook Years of Love and Cooking on display at the event. He has lived abroad from the Philippines, thus presented a degustation of Filipino dishes with twists.
The first dish was a free-range chicken galantine with organic micro-greens and mango vinaigrette. The galantine was a compact piece of deboned meat and demonstrated Sau’s influences from living in France. With its cutely decorated greens, the dish was light and healthy, and quite different to the nitty gritty and hands-on barbecue flavours that I associate Filipino food with.
Next up was a garlic prawns and “Suwam” corn soup. Suwam na Mais is a thick Filipino corn soup made with fresh kernels. Interestingly they provided bowls with bread whilst Chef Sau came over and poured in our broth individually.
It’s not a sweet but savoury soup and has a curdled texture similar to chicken and sweet corn soup. This soup is predominantly corn though and makes it perfect to pair with the dipping bread.
The baked barramundi cooked in coconut “Bicol style” with pinakbet ratatouille and arroz Valenciana provided a dish that demonstrated a combination of influences. As I sat with The Adventouriist and our new Filipino friend, it was interesting to hear about how different regions have different styles of cooking – and how they both thought the best chicken inasal comes from their respective regions.
Arroz valencia is a type of rice with chorizo, peppers and more, exhibiting the Spanish influence upon Filipino cuisine and can be served as regular or glutinous rice – in this case it was glutinous and I love sticky rice! Meanwhile pinakbet refers to mixed vegetables. Ratatouille also refers to the French dish of mixed vegetables, so the mixture on top of the fish must have had a few different influences in the cooking style.
Bicol is a region in the Philippines known for cooking with a lot of coconut flavours. Despite its plain look under the vegies, the barramundi was full of flavour and hence this dish had a nice balance of all these different elements.
Of course, a Filipino feast is no feast without lechon – suckling roast pig. The crispy skin is the best part! The sauce was not one I had had with lechon previously, as it looked like fish or sweet chilli sauce but tasted like neither.
My Filo friends preceded to tell me that different regions eat with different sauces, and they prefer the darker, liver-based sauce. It appears this sauce was served the next day at the official MFWF event. I’ve also tried this before at Hoy Pinoy and also prefer this sauce to add some extra flavour!
The finale was a dessert of citrus Leche flan, rosemary-spiced pineapple and “Buchi” stuffed with almond custard. Leche flan is basically a creme caramel, which you cannot really go wrong with! It did have a citrus-y twang but I especially enjoyed the accompanying Buchi, which my friends thought was palitaw – a sweet, rice cake. The Buchi was more like a ball and hard to cut due to its glutinous texture, but worth it for that taste and custard inside!
It was a lovely night presented by Filipino Barbie and Chef Sau. It seems the official public event had more traditional flavours and I’d definitely look at attending next year and supporting the Filipino food movement.
We also tried to put in a little word of persuasion for the group to come back for the Philippine Fiesta held every November – here’s a dessert called Halo Halo that we had from the fiesta below.
We loved meeting new people, from our new Filipino friend to the girls behind The Food Society. However, the highlight for The Adventouriist was probably the attendance of Filipino actor Marvin Augustin, an idol from her childhood.
I love learning about this cuisine and I’d love to see more restaurants bring it to the main scene of Melbourne’s foodie culture, so put a note in your calendar for next year or drop by the fiesta in November!