Lincoln Tan is the New Zealand Herald’s diversity, ethnic affairs and immigration senior reporter.

Ethnic Auckland: Filipino food finds friends

Restaurant owner Gie Balajadia is keen to introduce Pinoy cuisine to Kiwis.

Restaurant owner Gie Balajadia. Photo / Natalie Slade
Restaurant owner Gie Balajadia. Photo / Natalie Slade

The problem with Filipino cuisine is not its taste but the fact that it is still relatively unknown in New Zealand, says 3 Kings Filipino Restaurant owner Gie Balajadia.

"Mention Japanese and you think sushi, Indian and you think butter chicken, but ask about Filipino food and the average Kiwi will just draw a blank," says Mrs Balajadia.

Starting a Filipino restaurant and catering business in Birkenhead, Mrs Balajadia sees it as part of her mission to help Pinoy food take off in the same way as the other migrant-introduced cuisines.

"Some of what we eat is very similar to Polynesian food so, in theory, it should go down very well with the locals," she said.

Popular Filipino dishes include crispy pata (deep-fried pig's leg), afritada (chicken and pork simmered in tomato sauce) and lumpia (spring rolls), but Mrs Balajadia believes pork adobo (braised pork in garlic, vinegar, oil and soy sauce) is a dish that could go down well with the Kiwi palate.

Despite the significant number of Filipinos living in Auckland, there are only about half a dozen restaurants serving Pinoy food which doesn't help to boost its popularity, she says.

Mrs Balajadia is quick to point out that sauces and marinates for Filipino cooking can be bought from any supermarket, removing the hassle for shoppers of making a trip to an ethnic grocery store.

Pork adobo is her home country's most popular dish and some would even regard it as its national dish, she says.

The dish, along with crispy pata, is among the best-selling items on her restaurant's menu.

Although there are many regional variations to cooking this dish, a common version involves marinating the meat, mixing it with pepper corn and dried bay leaves, and simmering it.

Vinegar and salt is then added to taste.

Chicken can also be used instead of pork, and it can be prepared either as a stew or "dried" by simmering till the sauce becomes a concentrate.

"It's got to be eaten with rice, because for Filipinos, we don't consider that we've eaten a meal unless there is rice."

Pork Adobo

Chef: Gie Balajadia, 3 Kings Filipino Restaurant, Birkenhead.

What you need:

* Pork belly, crushed garlic, dried bay leaves, vinegar, soy sauce, pepper corn and salt.

To cook:

* Marinate pork belly with soy sauce and garlic for an hour.
* Heat pot, cook marinated pork belly for a few minutes.
* Add water, pepper corn and dried bay leaves and bring to boil, then lower heat and simmer for an hour.
* Add vinegar, and salt to taste.

- NZ Herald

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