I have done my fare share of travelling, all over the place. From The States, all over Europe, India and Southeast Asia, Australia and even Fiji. Therefore I have sampled lots of different cuisines. I was surprised at many, such as in India where the food is very different to our India restaurants in the UK, meat is very rare and dahl is used a lot.
One place that has always had a bad rap for their national cuisine is the Philippines. It tends to get compared to nearby countries like Thailand and Malaysia, which have much more spicy dishes with very flavoursome sauces. The food in the Philippines is a more subtle blend, with influences from various places like Spain. Complainers say it is too sweet, too salty or too bland.
I must admit that street food in the Philippines is not my favourite thing. I generally disliked the local cafe's food, whereas in Thailand it was usually very good wherever I went. But a mid-range Filipino restaurant was always very enjoyable in my experience and I soon got some preferred dishes.
Actually I would say the Philippines have two dishes in my top 10 dishes in the world ever- the delightful Bacolod Chicken and the spicy and creamy Bicol Express. Bacolod Chicken is barbecued with garlic rice on the side and a dipping sauce of calamansi (mini limes), soy sauce and chilli. I have tried the best Piri Piri barbecue chicken in Portugal, which is superb, but the Filipino marinade is the best for me.
Bicol Express is more like a curry, the sort of dish you imagine would be cooked in Asia. Small pieces of pork are cooked in coconut milk, ginger, garlic and chilli. The one ingredient which takes this dish to another level is bagoong (fermented shrimp paste). It adds an amazingly salty and fishy level of taste. This dish is cooked until almost dry and then simply served over plain rice.
There are some excellent soup based dishes in Filipino cuisine too. These include Bulalo- very slowly cooked beef on the bone with bone marrow, which is simple and delicious. Nilaga is a pork one with cabbage and green beans, again quite simple but very tasty. Tinola is another favourite which is chicken in a ginger broth. Sinigang is the one that really stands out as being very unique. It features tamarind and other strong flavours. At first I hated it but soon learned to love it, Sinigang is quite bitter (or something) at first, it is usually served with large shrimps.
There are lots more Filipino dishes and many of us have wondered why there aren't many Filipino restaurants. Especially in a city with many thousands of expats from the Philippines like London. I have a feel that Filipino food could well be the next big thing for world cuisine. As long as care is taken the food can be delicious.
Anyway the reason for this post is to spread the word about the newest Filipino restaurant in London. LUZON Restaurant is the creation of someone I have known for many years. She is the biggest foodie that I know and a perfectionist when it comes to hosting. We visited her home last year and tasted the best Pork Binagoongan ever. Then one night we had a formal dinner in an awesome dining room, with everything perfect from the candle to the serving etiquette to the lovely crockery and silverware.
Our friend is not cooking at the new restaurant, that is being left to head chef Rex, who will surely be excellent. A few of his dishes can be seen in the photo below. Anyway they will be opening at first for 13 weeks starting 6th August 2015 on Thursdays and Fridays. Visit www.luzon.co.uk for bookings and more details. It is located in Russell Square, London. I have seen photos of the interior and it looks stunning,