It's hard to believe that a cuisine eaten by nearly 100 million people could fly under the radar, yet that's exactly what Filipino food has done. But thanks to two critically acclaimed restaurants that opened in New York City in the past year and the fanatical enthusiasm of celebrated chefs like Minibar's José Andrés, that is changing fast. "With its many influences—Malaysian, Polynesian, Hispanic, Chinese, American—the variety of flavors and techniques that you find in Filipino cooking is exceptionally rich," Andrés says. The results can be spicy, sweet, or bracingly tart—or all of the above. And trendsetting chefs are reinventing the cuisine while keeping it rooted in the country's traditions.
Where To Eat It Now
Clockwise from top left: pork-belly adobo, crispy pata, halo halo, and sizzling sisig at Pig and Khao.
Pig and Khao
New York City
Drawing inspiration from a stint living in Asia and her own Filipino heritage, Top Chef alum Leah Cohen has created a pork-centric menu that melds the eclectic flavors of her travels with crowd-pleasing bites like fried pork rinds (with five-spice powder and coconut vinegar) and a genre-bending quail adobo that is fried and slathered with soy sauce and vinegar. The sizzling sisig is the perfect share plate for packed communal tables at this Lower East Side spot.
Packed with off-duty chefs, this tiny pop-up tucked inside an Italian restaurant in the Central Business District serves surprisingly refined interpretations of Filipino classics, including chef Cristina Quackenbush's specialty—a stew of seafood in ginger and coconut milk that she deconstructs using freshly caught milkfish and shrimp and local, seasonal southern vegetables like okra and bitter melon.
Chef William Pilz, who worked in the Michelin-starred kitchen at nearby Manresa, gives Filipino food a farmers'-market-driven spin from his haute-food truck. He serves organic flavor bombs, including lechong kawali (slow-roasted and deep-fried pork belly) and pinkabet (a vegetable stew).
To The Jeepney Truck
Named for the exuberantly painted vehicles used for public transport in the Philippines, this can't-miss food truck serves gourmet takes on Filipino street food like pancit—pan-fried noodles with Chinese sausage and seasonal vegetables—and succulent marinated barbecued-pork skewers.
New York City
Filipino flavors meet elevated pub grub at this East Village hot spot, where cross-cultural comfort food includes a burger made with longanisa, a garlicky sausage, and bicol express, roasted pork shoulder slow-braised in coconut milk and shrimp paste. Drink enough and you may work up the courage to try the Filipino delicacy balut, an embryonic duckling inside an eggshell.
Deciphering the Menu
A sweet condiment made from bananas, vinegar, salt, and sugar.
A fresh raw-fish salad, like ceviche.
The Filipino take on the egg roll can be filled with meat, seafood, or vegetables.
A soulful, sour soup often flavored with tamarind and simmered with meat or fish and vegetables.
A mix of pig jowls, ears, and cheeks seasoned with vinegar, kalamansi juice, onions, and chicken liver.
A condiment made from fermented coconut sap—a spicier version of coconut vinegar.
Smoked milkfish, sold as a street snack and used in noodle dishes.