Filipino cuisine might not be that well known in Australia, but a beautiful new cookbook by Filipino cooking expert Yasmin Newman is hoping to change that. 7000 Islands – A Food Portrait of the Philippines will appeal to both foodies and armchair travellers, and features over 100 authentic Filipino recipes including adobo, lumpia spring rolls, and leche flan. We chat with Yasmin about her favourite dishes, which ingredients she can’t live without for cooking Filipino dishes at home and why she thinks Filipino cuisine is going to be the next big food trend.
What is a classic dish that’s an easy introduction into Filipino cuisine?
Adobo all the way. This vinegar and soy braise is the Philippines’ national dish, so simple to make and adored by everyone who tries it. Its flavours are both quintessentially Filipino and accessible to a non-Filipino palate.
What are your tips for preparing adobo at home?
It’s all about the vinegar, so get your hands on native varieties (sugar cane, nipa palm and coconut) from Filipino food stores or use the best organic or unrefined rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar you can find.
Why do you think Filipino cuisine isn’t more popular in Australia?
There are a number of theories – a largely educated middle class migrant group in Australia; the peoples’ love of home-cooked Filipino food; and Filipinos’ adaptability to new cultures when migrating overseas, to name a few. Sensationalised media reports have affected the Philippines from a tourism point of view, which has also played a part. But things are definitely changing; there are now more and more Filipino food ambassadors and the country’s popularity as a tourist destination is growing exponentially. I think we’re going to be hearing, seeing and tasting a lot more of the Philippines from here on in!
What is your favourite Filipino snack?
Filipino love to snack – they even have a whole category of food called merienda dedicated to the cause! As a result, my list of favourite snacks is long, from sweets of turon (caramelised banana spring rolls) and halo halo (shaved ice dessert) to savoury chicken empanadas and lumpia singkamas (fresh jicama spring rolls).
Which 3 Filipino ingredients can’t you live without?
Kalamansi, green-skinned native Filipino citrus about the size of a 10-cent coin with an irresistible lemon-meets-lime-and-mandarin flavour, suka (native Filipino vinegar – nipa palm is my favourite) and pork – Filipinos have mastered pork in every shape and form, from lechon, whole-roasted suckling pig to crispy pata, deep-fried pork hock.
What are your favourite grocery stores for stocking up on Filipino ingredients in Australia?
Filipino cuisine has strong historical ties with Spain, China, Mexico and the US, meaning many ingredients are already widely available in Australia at supermarkets and greengrocers. Native Filipino ingredients are stocked at dedicated Filipino food stores or pan-Asian food shops. If you live outside of metropolitan areas, they may be a little harder to source, but you’d be surprised how many Filipino food stores exist – there are Filipino communities hidden just about everywhere! I head to Manila Sari Sari Store in Chatswood, Pasalubong in Mascot and V Plus in Erina. I have plans to sell selected Filipino products online in the future, so keep your eyes out!
Can you recommended any Filipino restaurants?
Sadly, there are currently few Filipino restaurants in Australia. In Sydney, where I live, try La Mesa in the CBD, Sizzling Filo in Lidcome or head to Blacktown where there are a number of authentic turo turos (casual eateries).
Make Yasmin’s Lamb Adobo recipe from 7000 Recipes here!
What’s your favourite Filipino recipe?
Julia has lived and worked in London, Amsterdam, and New York, and is obsessed with food. She's either cooking or thinking about what to eat next. Follow Julia on Twitter.