Getting the Filipino food movement moving

Not too long ago, my cousins and I got together for dinner at Pig & Khao, a Filipino/Thai fusion restaurant in the Lower East Side. Filipinos are a proud bunch, so we jump at the chance to support one of our own – provided, of course, it comes with a discount (thanks Google Offers!).

Our conversation quickly turned to Filipino food, specifically its lack of presence in the food world. Many other Asian cuisines have hit it big – Thai, Malaysian, Vietnamese, etc. – and our food is way better than theirs! Why isn’t the Philippines sharing in the limelight? Here’s what we came up with (then the rebuttal, because there should be no excuses!):

1. Lack of presentation. Most existing Filipino food establishments are “turo-turo” style, which is basically cafeteria style service. You get in line, grab a tray, pick your carb of choice and 2 viands to go with it, the server slops it onto your Styrofoam partitioned plate, and shoves it to you across the smudged plexi-glass window. Sound appetizing? Only if you know what you are ordering. The food is just sitting there in steel vats with liquid fat skimming the tops of all of them. You can’t tell if it’s pork, chicken, beef, or just vegetables because it’s all some kind of shade of brown and goopy looking – and it’s not even labeled! (Fish is served whole so no problem identifying that one.) It all looks too intimidating to the untrained eye. One theory we came up with is that non-Filipinos are hesitant to just try Filipino food because of the way it is presented.

The Rebuttal: Filipinos are everywhere. Seriously, check your surroundings. I have 2 within 25 yards of where I am sitting right now. We are so prevalent that we’re sure most non-Filipinos (in this example, I’ll use a white man) have at least one Filipino connection. And if the white man ever visited his Filipino friend’s house, Mama Filipina surely force fed the white man some Lumpia Shanghai. And he loved it. They always love it.

Conclusion: There are plenty of Filipinos out there to introduce non-Filipinos to our food. Regardless of its looks, the taste alone should keep people begging for more.

2. Filipinos want comfort food, not fine dining. Like most home-cooking, everything is the same but different. You and I grew up on chicken adobo, but yours tastes slightly different (aka, mine is better). Why should I go to a fancy restaurant and pay big bucks for home-cooked food, when I can just make it at home!

The Rebuttal: This might be a valid argument for someone who actually knows how to cook Filipino food. Of the three of us sitting at P&K having this discussion, not a single one of us cooks Filipino food. And even if we tried, the sad truth is it always tastes better when Mom (or Yaya) makes it.

Conclusion: Mom and Yaya, open a restaurant!!

3. Filipino food is too fatty. We ordered only the Filipino dishes at P&K and this is what we had: fried pork skin, sizzling pork head and ears, and pork belly.

The Rebuttal: Pork has been enjoying a glorious renaissance ever since hipsters started eating it. People will now eat almost anything with bacon in it – bacon ice cream, bacon donuts, etc. Hipsters also made popular the concept of “nose-to-tail” eating, which means it is very cool to eat every part of the pig, even his ears. And because hipsters are usually so trim in their skinny jeans, nobody ever questions their cholesterol levels.

Conclusion: The more fat, the better.

4. The last and most reasonable explanation – Filipinos have tried to open nice restaurants, but they quickly fail because all their patrons are their friends and family who expect – you got it – a deep discount. We didn’t have a rebuttal to this one.

In the end we decided that with all it has going for it, (plus the universal appeal of Manny Pacquiao) it is just a matter of time before the rest of the world discovers that Filipino food is a worthy cuisine all on its own. We tossed around the idea of starting a Filipino food truck to drum up some buzz. Between the three of us, we could handle the accounting, marketing, and IT needs of our little business. Now just to find someone who actually knows how to cook…

Rumble in the Concrete Jungle

I have a NYC bucket list.  It’s a list of fairly touristy activities in the city that most residents take for granted and sadly, never get around to experiencing.  I actually got the idea from an ex-coworker who tried to get her entire bucket list done in one weekend before she moved home to Florida.  I can’t imagine it was a success.  So I created a spreadsheet of all the things I want to see and do before I bid farewell to this great city.  I don’t know when that will be, or where we are going, or if we are even ever going to leave…but it’s good to be proactive, right?  This weekend we got to cross off one of the big ticket items: the Bronx Zoo.

Sidenote, since I have a bucket list, Mr. S also has a bucket list by default.

I wanted to go to the Bronx Zoo last year, but last year’s August was brutally hot and Mr. S refused to take me.  Mr. S is ter-ri-ble in the heat, so I settled for the Central Park Zoo instead.  It was ok…small as far as zoos go and it didn’t have the more exciting animals the Bronx has, but it sufficed.  Best part about the CP Zoo is that it is like stepping into the Madagascar movie (you know, before the animals get lost in Africa).

This year I had a strategy: early May.  Not too hot for Mr. S, and since I knew that he knew that I was super disappointed last year, he could not say no.

Me: Can we go to the Bronx zoo this weekend pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease!!!
Mr. S: Ok, fine.

I wish there was more enthusiasm there but ill take it.  On to step 2 of the planing process: visit the website.  By getting our tickets online, I saved 20% (told ya I never pay full price) and the zoo has a fun interactive trip planner.  Basically I was able to select all the animals/exhibits we wanted to see and the planner would tell me the best route and how long it would all take.  Genius!  Great news for me, bad news for Mr. S.

Me: So I did something today but I don’t want to tell you because you might not take me to the zoo anymore.
Mr. S (sternly): What did you do?
Me: I used this planner thingy on the zoo website and it said we would be there for 5 hours.
Mr. S: WHAT?!?!?
Me: But we’re gona get to see everything! Lions, rhinos, polar bears–
Mr. S: We saw polar bears last year!

Either he knew he wasn’t going to win this one, or he was already plotting how to speedwalk through the zoo, but he said “Ok, fine.”

On Saturday I woke up excited at 9:06 am.  This is impressive because we went to bed at 3:00 am.  I know Mr. S was excited too because it didn’t take too much whining to wake him up, he just keeps it cool better than I do.  Getting to the zoo was easy enough, just one stop on the express bus.  The trick was to actually make the bus.  I decided to sacrifice a stop at Duane Reade to buy tissues just to be sure we wouldn’t miss the bus.  Very bad idea. I have mentioned before I am allergic to dogs…I should have known I would be allergic to the zoo.  Not to mention spring had sprung this past weekend. Hello pollen!

Nonetheless, the Bronx zoo is beautifully done.  You completely forget you are in the middle of a bustling city, until you stumble upon the rare spots at the edge of the zoo where you can see the top of a high rise building or hear the block party going on just on the other side of the fence.  Besides the animals, one of my favorite features of the zoo was the “eco-friendly bathroom.”  Instead of flushing with water, the toilets “foam away” your waste.  I personally only had to go #1 while we were there, but I wondered how the foam would fare against a #2…

According to our planned route we started with the bison, saw the sea lions, then headed towards the aviary birds.  Up next were Madagascar, Tiger Mountain, big bears, and the African Plains. We did make it to every exhibit and saw every animal on our list, but the day was looooooooong.  We got lost somewhere between the Himalayas and Asia when I started to lose steam.

Me: I’m sleepy I’m sleepy I’m sleepy
Mr. S (very calmly): Come on, we’re almost to Asia, and then the Congo, and then we can go home and you can take a nap.

This is why Mr. S will make an excellent nurse.  I would’ve said, “Shut up kid, this was all your idea.  You’re gonna see Asia if it kills you.”  But then again, I’ve given Mr. S plenty of practice in dealing with difficult patients.  (I have already resigned myself to the fact that if we have children, I will have to be the bad cop and Mr. S gets to be the good cop).

Good thing he kept us going because the gorillas at the Congo were the highlight of our trip.  And it turned out 1.5 chicken fingers and a coke were all I needed to get my second wind.  And just like the website planner promised, we were ready to head back home 5 hours after our adventure had begun.  I checked my FitBit pedometer when we got home. 22,764 steps and 8.77 miles walked. I decided I had earned my nap.

Epilogue: Mr. S woke me from my epic nap at 10:30 pm with the promise of udon noodles.  While we ate we debated if it was better to be a rhino or a gorilla, I forget which one I voted for.  I was asleep again by 11:30 pm.

The old farty couple

I have spent 42.86% of my life as Mr. S’s girlfriend. Don’t try to back into the math — it’s a long time. And as most seasoned relationships go, we spend most of our nights cozied up at home rather than out and about. What that really means is, we spend most of our nights sprawled out on the couch arguing over who is taking up more space.

“Get back on your side of the cushion!”

“Stop touching me with your feet!”

“Ok, get off, you’re making me hot.”

Don’t worry. I assure you the romance is still alive.

Our normal routine generally consists of ordering in dinner, watching what’s in the DVR, and farting. Really. I always assume that most serious couples are comfortable with each other’s gas, but lately, I feel like Mr. S and I have taken it to a whole new level.

In the beginning it was the courtesy, “I’m going to fart.”

Then it became, “I farted.” Followed by the sometimes obvious response, “I know.” Less courteous, but still ok.

Now it’s more like, “I farted. It felt hot” or, “I farted. Save yourself!!” or, “I farted. HAHAHAHA!!”

Do I think this is weirder than it really is? Is it the truest testament to our love for one another or does it just prove we are both equally disgusting? Oh well, at least we have each other…and Thai take out, episodes of “The Voice” in the DVR and… o_O

#1

Welcome to the urban rice ball, my first foray into the wonderful world of blogging.  I’m very excited about this — more so for recording all the abnormal events of my very normal life.  I’m not sure I expect anyone to really read this (other than those that I threaten with “Read it, or else…ROAR”).  First thing’s first — an explanation of the blog name:

urban – I live in NYC.  I also like zippers…they seem innately urban to me.
rice ball – I am Filipino, we love rice in all its forms (ball, pyramid, cube, just plain grains, etc.)

Also for a short period of time Mr. S called me “my little rice ball” as a term of endearment.  As most terms of endearment go, it lost its luster and/or is used only in times of desperation.

I just told Mr. S my clever blog name and he said “Sounds like a food blog.”  Crap.  Well that was not my intention.  I do love food, so while it may have a co-starring role on this blog, it will definitely be part of an ensemble cast, not the diva star of the show.

What else is typical first blog fodder besides my geographic location and race?  … … …  Huh, this could be harder than I thought.  How about one of those “25 things you don’t know about me” lists (a la Us Weekly) to break the ice.

  1. I’m allergic to dogs  This is problematic because I really like them and want one really badly.  I scour petfinder.com frequently for my future pup.  Last month I fell in love with Tommy the Brown Pitbull, but he was recently adopted (still bittersweet for me).  During my searches, I always forget that I am allergic to dogs. 
  2. I only like big dogs.  Small dogs just don’t do it for me.  I’d rather have no dog than a small dog.  When I am on petfinder.com, I always pretend I live in a 2,000 square foot loft penthouse apartment.  I rarely pretend that I am not allergic because I forget that I am allergic. 
  3. I really live in a”2-room studio.”  This is a NYC real estate/Craigslist marketing ploy.  We (Mr. S and I) live in a studio, period (definitely < 500 sq. ft).  Granted, it has a sort of archway delineating the bedroom area from the living room area, but no actual door separating the two “rooms”.  Despite this, I love our studio.  Except for it’s “No Pets” policy.  Bah humbug.
  4. By day, I am an accountant.  BO-RING.
  5. By night, I am a zumba freak, or
  6. By night, I am a artiste (oil paints are the current medium of choice), or
  7. By night, I am a couch potato
  8. This goes without saying — I love living in NYC.  Sometimes when I’m walking down the street I think “I can’t believe I really live here it’s so amazing and fun and exciting and perfect and alkdjfaoeijafskdlf!!.”  When people say, “NYC’s fun, but I can never see myself living here,” I re-evaluate our current/future friendship.  
  9. I get high off of bargain shopping. I despise buying full price.  Loehmann’s is my mecca.  
  10. I truly believe in “the more you buy, the more you save.”  Case in point — during a trip to SYMS (rest in peace), I found a coat that retailed for $1,000; SYMS price $400.  If I buy the coat, I save $600, but if I do not buy the coat I only save $400.  Seems like a no-brainer to me.
  11. I like ramen, all kinds of ramen — cheap, expensive, and anything in between.  Exception: for cheap ramen, I only like beef flavor.  The color of chicken flavor is too radioactive for my liking.  

How about let’s stop at 11 and just say we really did 25?  New Girl is on and I have to watch it.