Jollibee and Chowking coming to Seattle!

If Filipinos are led by their stomachs, then my belly and the rest of me will be finding its way to Southcenter often. Why? Because Jollibee and Chowking are opening up at the new mega-grocery store/eatery, Seafood City Supermarket, coming to the Westfield Southcenter in Tukwila later this summer.

The murmur that Seafood City would be coming along with Jollibee and Chowking (their Manila website) started on their Facebook page this past winter. As soon as I learned that this new grocery destination would have two of my Filipino fast food faves, I was already anticipating going to Tukwila for some Chickenjoy from Jollibee and Halo Halo from Chowking.

I know what you’re thinking; fast food? Wha? Yeah, it’s a little different from my normal food leanings, but for Filipinos local and from afar, this news is exciting. The Filipino population in the Seattle metropolitan area is large and hungry! We love to eat and having the opportunity to have some food that reminds many of home is always welcome.

In the case of Jollibee they’ll have the standards that have made them in the Philippines a quick eatery. Chickenjoy (a plate of fried chicken), Yumburger (their hamburger), Palabok (a Filipino noodle dish that is an amalgamation of flavors and textures), and a bunch of breakfast options. Yup, I’m looking forward to going and dragging my friends along with for the eating. It may remind you of McDonald’s, but would you see Ronald do this?

As for Chowking (which is actually a subsidiary of Jollibee), I am absolutely excited to have their Halo Halo a short drive away. I’ve shared my love for Halo Halo before, and when I eat at Chowking in the Philippines, it’s one of my favorite things to do while I’m there. It is fast food, but something about their combination is divine. Word off the street is that they have a special formula for their ice. This is the key to good Halo Halo. (ed. note – apparently they’ve already opened!)

Seafood City is opening up next week on July 22. Their Facebook page has been dropping all sorts of information and my friend Nancy Leson is planning on visiting Seafood City soon. The market will have all sorts of different eateries and a grocery store that purports to serve unique food, but I’ll most look forward to going to a couple of places that remind me of eating in Manila. (I’m crossing my fingers that their transition to Seattle is as good as what I have had in the islands.) And for this food loving Filipino, that’s a good thing. I think the thousands of other Filipino and Filipinas in the area would agree. See you in Seafood City in the near future.

UPDATE – Jollibee is opening Thursday September 16!

Seafood City Seattle
1368 Southcenter Mall, #100
Tukwila, WA 98188

The First Chef of the United States of America

In November, the food world was aglow with who Barack and Michelle Obama would announce as the White House Executive Chef. I even pontificated on who it would be and thought of the myriad opportunities available to them. Plenty of folks though it would be a big name celebrity chef, someone who would make a splash. Ultimately it went to the person who already had the job. A Filipina by the name of Cristeta Comerford.

I had no idea that a Filipina was the executive chef to the White House. She has been a part of the food team since ’95 and Laura Bush announced her as executive chef in 2005. So that would make ‘Teta’ the first female executive chef, but also the first Filipina to hold the position as well. How cool is that?!

One of the many things that Laura Bush loved was that Cristeta could handle any type of meal. She was equally adept at cooking for five versus cooking for 500; the ability to adapt her menu and style is a strength. Her background and training was French, but she knew how to adapt, how to coax and make a great meal in any style. Think for a second about who she has cooked for. Bill and Hillary Clinton. George and Laura Bush. And I can’t even imagine who their guests might have been. Isn’t that a bizarre list? Each of the First Families probably had their favorite style of meal, yet Cristeta was able to handle them all! You know that Bill loved southern comfort food (Hillary was probably pro-salad and healthy). While the Bush’s had to be steak and potatoes people. Now Chef Comerford gets to be a part of the food identity of the Obama family.

I love the idea that Barack, Michelle, Malia, and Sasha could be having chicken adobo for dinner. And that the girls will find themselves craving lumpia or halo halo. It’s great that the Philippines have an opportunity to showcase our food. She’ll be able to play with the menu and have new palates to test. Now that there is a bit more spotlight on Chef Comerford, maybe Filipino food can get its due. Filipino’s across the country should be proud that one of our own has made it.

Nonetheless it is exciting that Teta will continue to be the White House chef. Her history and background in food is quite strong and being involved with the White House for 13+ years, she knows what the job entails. And without having to make a splash by naming a big-name chef, the Obamas did make a splash by shining a light on the chef who was already in the house.

When Barack Obama is sworn in as the 44th President of our United States of America during the inauguration, it will indeed be a historic occasion. Most of us will remember that day, much as how we remembered the day he was elected. For another group of us, we’ll shine with pride over a girl from the Philippines, one of 11 brothers and sisters. She learned how to cook from her mother, was able to leave Manila, carve a life on her own in the states, and is the chef for the most powerful man in the world. Congratulations to you Chef Comerford, you are truly an American success story. Historic indeed.

-Update 2/1 – Ok, so it’s been announced that the assistant chef to the White House is Sam Kass. The good folks at Serious Eats dropped the knowledge.

Filipino-style Crispy Chicken Flake

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My appreciation for Filipino food has been documented, but the tough part is Seattle isn’t known for having an abundance of Filipino restaurants. Which is odd when you consider that Filipinos are one of the largest minority groups in the area. The general answer is that the best Filipino food in Seattle is found in homes. That’s great, but how can newbies experience for themselves? I’m going to visit a bunch of the local spots to grab some food and report back. First off, here is a quick dish that is super-easy to make, Visayan in tradition, and Pinoy in spirit.

Here is what you need to make it:

  • About a cup of leftover cooked chicken
  • Minced garlic clove (or 1 tsp garlic powder)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Cooking oil

That’s it! And it’s super easy to make; heat up a pan to medium, and add oil. When the pan is sufficiently heated, drop in the minced garlic (if you’re using the powder, add when you add the chicken). Let the garlic sautĂ© a bit and then add in the chicken. Season with salt and pepper.

When do you know it’s done? It’s up to you! The chicken is already cooked, I like to cook it when the pieces are crisped up and the smell in the kitchen has a nice, nutty aroma. It’ll take about 15 minutes. Feel free to add a touch more oil if it’s stick as this’ll help crisp up the chicken. The big thing about this is recipe is that you want to have the crisp texture to really bite into. This is mainly done with chicken, but beef and pork would work.

And what can you put it on? I like to put it over some rice and some diced tomatoes, maybe some cilantro for color. You could add it to a spinach salad. With eggs would work too.

Masarap! (this means delicious in Tagalog)

Halo Halo Happyness

Chowking Halo Halo

One of the things I most look forward to when I go to the Philippines is Halo Halo. Especially Chowking’s version. Halo Halo is a treat that pulls from different cultures, but is distinctly Filipino. It happens to be one of my favorite things.

First off, Halo Halo is pronounced ‘hollow hollow’ not ‘hey-low, hey-low’. Now that we got that out of the way it means ‘mix mix’. Clever, huh? And it is quite the mix. But what is Halo Halo? We know it’s a dessert, but it has a ton of interpretation. You start with a base of ice shavings, then it’s up to you. I love Chowking’s Halo Halo, because they bring the ruckus with ingredients. Some ube, a couple of scoops of ice cream, a piece of flan, some crushed puffed rice. It doesn’t stop there – there are also garbanzo beans, jackfruit, other candied goodies – and then they drizzle some condensed milk. This is their version, but you’ll find different takes of Halo Halo from most any Filipino food place.

Sounds a little odd but this remix of a dessert is awesome. Tons of flavor, texture and color. Like any good remix it has a lot of possibilities. When eating it, some people do their own personal Girl Talk and mash everything up. I like to do a modest mash, still keeping separation of all the good stuff. I do enjoy Filipino food, now I just need to find a taste of the Philippines in Seattle! Kawali Grill in Columbia City perhaps? Haven’t been to Inay’s in a while, maybe they have it. Of course, there are Chowking’s in California, maybe a field trip is in order.

I do love halo halo, it is a unique treat that is distinctively Filipino. And yes, Filipino food is more than chicken adobo and lumpia.

Going for Seconds in the Philippines

Was in the Philippines for a week earlier this month. Wasn’t able to stay as long as I like, but still had a great time. When I go its several days of eating, shopping and chilling, and more eating, and even more eating. Filipino’s are a food loving people, no wonder where I get it from! Here is an account of my food exploits in the islands of the Philippines. Amid the humidity, congestion, and smog, I was able to find food enlightenment and appreciation.

This trip wasn’t long, but I was able to hit up some spots. McDonald’s. Yup, went to a McDonald’s in the Philippines. You know what? I had fun. One thing that you always gotta do is hit up a McDo in a foreign country. Just to check out the menu. In the PI they have fried chicken (although every place has fried chicken…) and McSpaghetti. Different yes, weird no. When you encounter with culture nothing is weird. Wouldn’t you think it’s weird for a lifelong pizza place to dabble in sandwiches? Go to a Domino’s and you know what I mean.

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