Though swamped with sweet restaurants of all sorts, Santa Barbara rarely cuts any ambitious ethnic cuisine edges, which is why there’s no Filipino café on Carrillo Street yet. But lumpia lovers can stop holding their breath, at least for this weekend, as the Getty Center’s renowned Filipina Chef Mayet Cristobal will prepare examples of Manila’s hottest street food (paired with Doug Margerum’s wine) at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 18, at the Bacara’s 2nd Annual Food & Wine Weekend. See bacaraculinaryweekend.com for details and tickets. She answered a few of my questions last week.
With so many ethnic cuisines now popular, is Filipino food also seeing a surge in interest? Filipino cuisine is definitely getting a lot of buzz lately. It’s exciting. Lately I’ve seen L.A.-based Filipino chefs getting more and more recognition.
It’s a new flavor profile to most people. I think that many people aren’t really familiar with Filipino food and those who are probably associate the cuisine only with adobo, pork lechón, lumpia, and, of course, balut. But there are many other classic Filipino dishes that are delicious with more mainstream flavor combinations like vegetable laksa, kinilaw, and braised oxtail in peanut sauce.
I’ve done a couple of Pinoy restaurant pop-ups in Culver City, where I featured classic Pinoy dishes with a Californian twist. They were very well received. I think the key is to make sure that the ingredients are fresh and that dishes taste good.
What can California cuisine integrate from Filipino cuisine? Sustainability is present in both cuisines. I have lived the farm-to-table food philosophy all my life, both in the Philippines and in the United States. Growing up in the Philippines, my grandmother shopped for fresh ingredients for our meals daily. She went to the market every day and bought seafood that was so fresh that they were still swimming in their bags when she got home. She only cooked vegetables that were in season: corn, tomatoes, radishes, long beans, and eggplant in the summer; hard squashes in the winter or during the colder months, when the temperature actually got below 85 degrees.
My Filipino cooking is influenced by the abundance of fresh produce available all year in California. There is a lightness and brightness to my recipes that is a bit unusual for traditional Filipino cooking.
I have been with Bon Appétit Management Company at the Getty Center for 14 years, and I have been cooking using sustainable and local ingredients for all those years.
Your presentation is about the Flavors of Manila. What do you plan to show off at the Bacara? I am presenting a fresh take on Filipino classics. I will be preparing albacore tuna kinilaw, an all-time favorite of mine. It’s our version of a ceviche. I am using palm sugar and fermented palm vinegar.
I am also preparing an adobo dish. Chicken and pork are the traditional adobo proteins, but I will be using fresh octopus.
Does Filipino food pair well with wine? What is the typical beverage served in Manila? I think that the dishes I’m preparing will pair well with wine, but, like most Filipinos, I like a nice cold beer with my Filipino foods.