Zagat: Pinoy food is becoming increasingly celebrated in the US

By Don Tagala, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

Feb. 11, 2014

Jersey City, NJ – Zagat says Filipino fare has become increasingly celebrated around the United States because of its melting pot of flavors.

From adobo to pancit, Zagat–the influential travel and food guide–recently listed “9 Filipino Dishes You Need To Know,” and where to try them.

First on their list is lechon.

“Celebrations in this pork-loving country call for lechon,” Zagat wrote.

When it comes to lechon, the best place to get one is from Legal Beans Barbeque in Jersey City, NJ.

Bizarre Foods host Andrew Zimmern recently discovered this authentic Cebu-style lechon.

Zimmern said, “If you don’t have crispy skin, you’re customers are going to walk away.”

Zagat says lemon grass and scallions give this Pinoy favorite a distinctive Southeast Asian flavor.

Legal Beans owner Mimi Escudero says, Cebu lechon is becoming one of the most popular foods among non-Filipinos in Jersey City.

“I think it’s about time because our food is very very good, and as a testament to that in my store I have a lot of non-Filipino customers,” Escudero said. “It’s not a far stretch of imagination to think that everybody soon would be really interested in our food.”

Also included in the list are the following:

Zagat says lumpia, the Filipino version of spring rolls is best to try at Lumpia Shack in Brooklyn’s Smorgasburg and at Milkfish in New Orleans.

A modern version of slowly braised oxtail or kare-kare is found at Top Chef finalist Dale Talde’s new restaurant called “Talde” or Isla Filipina in Chicago.

Maharlika’s favorite silog breakfast, cured sweet pork tocino, also made it on the list. Zagat suggests to try them at Isla Filipina in Chicago or at Maharlika in Manhattan.

Another favorite Filipino pork dish, sinigang na baboy is definitely a must on the list.

Boiled, chopped and braised pig parts, from ears to snout, sisig is becoming a favorite for non-Filipinos especially in the East Coast.

Andrew Zimmern’s recent visit to New Jersey featured this sisig at the Philam Cafe in Jersey City.

Zimmern said, “Sisig is one of the stalwart national dishes of the Philippine culture and one of my favorite foods period.”

Finally, the list is not complete without balut. Zagat says this boiled fertilized duck egg is not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach, but it has a rich, ducky flavor and a yolk that is custard-like.

“Its got delicious balut flavor,” Zimmern said. “That roast duck hard-boiled egg yumminess, I love it!”

Philam Cafe owner Erwin Santos says a spotlight on Filipino food, whether it’s a Zagat review or from celebrity foodies like Zimmern, helps Filipino business owners like him.

After Zimmern featured his business on the Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods, Santos says he saw an increase in new walk-in customers.

Santos said, “The effects is everything that I’ve dreamt of–a lot of these customers today I have never seen them in my entire whole life. It’s talagang, you know, curiosity factor na.”

And when you have all nine dishes in one party, it’s called a Filipino fiesta.

You may contact Don Tagala at don_tagala@abs-cbn.com for more information.

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