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Filipino flavors finding itself onto food shows

From PBS: No Passport Required

Views from the Edge

Filipino cuisine got a big boost this month as it is featured in two food-centric television shows, The Great Food Truck Race and No Passport Required.

The food of the Philippines, long overlooked in favor of the food of Asian neighbors, Vietnam, Thailand, China, Korea and Japan, took a big step into American kitchens this month when the food truck Lia’s Lumpia food truck made it into the finals of The Great Food Truck Race and famous chef Marcus Samuelsson checked out Filipino American restaurants in Seattle for the first episode of the second season of No Passport Required.
The Great Food Truck Race, held its finale Wednesday (Dec. 18) with Lia’s Lumpia, crewed by amateur chef Hunter Spencer, his mom Lia Santos-Hunter and friend Tanya Garcia,  during the winter, a far cry from the San Diego, Calif. climate they’re used to.

In the finale, Lia’s Lumpia was squared off against the Big Stuff food truck manned by Brad Brutlag and Eddy Cumming, two professional chefs who work on private yachts for very picky and wealthy clients. They were joined by their marketing whiz friend Mike O’Neill.

They were the final two trucks in the shortened four-episode season which took place in  wintry New England with five-trucks in the competition.

From the beginning, Lia’s Lumpia had to overcome the New England customers’ unfamiliarity with Filipino food by serving up familiar New England flavors, such as turkey stuffing, apple pie  or lobster mac’n cheese in lumpia wrappers.

In the end Big Stuff won the competition, serving up items in tacos didn’t have to explain their food because Mexican-inspired tacos have become part of America’s diverse cuisine.

But because of their efforts to always to proudly present their Filipino heritage through their lumpia and adobo, New England is a little bit richer and little bit more aware even as Lia’s Lumpia introduced their traditional pork shanghai lumpia and chicken adobo.

Lia Lumpia via Instagram

Meanwhile, on the opposite coast, Samuelsson, who made his mark with his award-winning restaurant Red Rooster Harlem, went to Seattle, where he spent time with immigrant and second-generation Filipino Americans who are taking charge of their city’s food scene. 

As Filipino food gains more national, mainstream recognition, members of the community are working to tell the story on their own terms. In this episode, Marcus meets chefs and restaurateurs who have been serving Filipino food in the city for decades, including in Seattle’s iconic Pike Place Market, and also gets to know younger chefs and entrepreneurs to see how they put their spin on their culture’s food traditions.

What I love about the premise of Sanuelsson’s show is he uses food as the entryway to the ethnic community. In the episode, Dorothy Cordova, leader of the Filipino American National History Society headquartered in Seattle, explained the immigration history of Seattle’s Filipino American community. 

Also, activist/comedian Sara Porkalob was able to tell Samuelsson how the ethnic enclave of Seattle’s International District created a mini-UN of different ethnicities and how they were forced to ally themselves with each other to counter the racism they encountered.

From chicken adobo to ube cheesecake, with longganisa, arroz caldo, and lots of lechon in between, the food in this episode represents a community that’s proud of its history and its future.

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