New Zealand there is still very little awareness of Filipino cuisine.
Tastes that are everyday comfort food to the average Pinoy are exotic,
adventurous, even challenging, to the average Foreigner.
("Foreigner" is used ironically, here, by the way. In some Filipinos'
vernacular, anybody who isn't Pinoy is a foreigner. Even in New
Philippine Café in Auckland, locals - European, Maori, Pacific
Islander, Indian and Asian - ponder the menu posted on the
window. Some cautiously venture inside to peer at the puto and biko,
but then, quietly, turn and leave without buying.
What’s at risk?
risk is spending the price of a meal on something they don't like, but
feel embarrassed to just walk away from. It's a real fear.
And with a cuisine that’s as new to them as Filipino, they consider
that a big risk – especially when the
ingredients and textures aren’t what they’re accustomed to.
Dinuguan is the most obvious
intestines of a pig, sliced up and cooked in a stew of pig’s
The horror! Never mind that those ingredients regularly
show up in Kiwi favourites like mince pies and sausages; to the average
non-Filipino it’s the stuff of Fear Factor.
But there are other, more subtle challenges.
enjoy the fat. Pork belly barbecue
or beef bulalo wouldn’t be the same with just lean meat. But Kiwis have
a different view.
Similarly, chicken bones and
gristle, and even skin, typically dumped
at the side of a Kiwi’s plate, are tasty treasures in a Filipino’s
Despite their reservations,
Kiwis do want to discover something new –
and at Turo-Turo there’s always a new face coming in to try the food.
A first-timer will usually order
something that resembles food they’ve
eaten before from other cultures, a familiarity they can handle:
lumpiang shanghai (pork spring rolls) with chilli sauce for dipping.
Caldereta is popular. Bistek Tagalog, too.
ginataang manok is a favourite - although hard to say. (It's
"ginna-ta-ung ma-knock.") Chicken thigh and nibbles (there's the
bone, again!) cooked with ginger and chilli in coconut milk. Divine.
Chop suey, chicken or pork and crisply stir-fried vegetables with rice,
is another popular beginner's choice. Low risk. Although the presence
of tasty additions like chorizo sausage, shrimp, and fish balls -
essential flavour-enhancers to the Filipino palate - can be thoroughly
confusing to a Kiwi expecting a "chicken dish" to only contain chicken!
Then, of course, there are the silogs.
another starting-point dish for first-time eaters of
Filipino food. With the sweet flavours of the longanisa sausage mixed
in with the garlic rice and fried egg, it is both unique, and familiar.
delivers a whole new subtlety to the flavour of fish, with
its earthy freshwater taste.
Sisig always gets attention.
Sisig encapsulates the
fear some Kiwis have of foreign cuisine – spicy-hot, and made from the
pig's head, including the snout and brain!
But sisig also
represents the creativity, resourcefulness, and delight of Filipino
cuisine, a dish that is
experienced, not just eaten; creative, unusual, rewarding and
food is the new frontier for Kiwis
– and indeed for people
around the world – and it brings challenges that mean it won’t be an
But Kiwis are trying it, Kiwis
are loving it, Kiwis are bringing their
friends to Turo-Turo to try it – and the good reputation is spreading.
They just have to learn to
love that dinuguan …
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