ULAM: Beyond Rice

ULAM: Beyond Rice

by Primrose Madayag Knazan
Instagram: @PrimroseMK / Food Blog: @pegonaplate

Salt. Vinegar. Garlic. These are the staples of Filipino cuisine. Savoury. Sour. Pungent. These are the flavours that frame the Filipino palate. Our cuisine is exotic, flavourful, and complex, but has yet to reach the popularity of its Japanese, Thai, and Vietnamese counterparts. Whereas Sushi, Pad Thai, and Pho have swept the culinary landscape of North America, can kinilaw, palabok, and lomi achieve the status of their Asian barkada?

The documentary ULAM: Main Dish explores the rise of Filipino cuisine within the New York and Los Angeles food scenes. On February 24th, ANAK Inc. and Baon Manila Nights presented a screening of ULAM and hosted a panel of local chefs to discuss the future of Filipino Food.

In the movie, Nicole Ponseca and Miguel Trinidad of Maharlika Moderno of New York elevate Filipino cuisine with creative plating and upscale ingredients. Alvin Cailan of Eggslut in LA. and Amboy in New York serves modern twists on family classics. In L.A. Johneric Concordia and Christine Araquel-Concordia mash up American smoked BBQ and Pinoy flavours. Yet each of these renowned chefs still ask themselves the question, “What does it mean to be a Filipino chef in America?”

The panel of local chefs at the screening of ULAM discussed their place on the culinary spectrum of Winnipeg. The panel included Alan Pineda and Ejay Chua from Manila Nights, Nikki Mallari from Sugar Blooms and Cakes, Lord Sale from Lolo’s Premium Food Company, Charlie John Villapando from Charlee’s Restaurant, and Roddy Seradilla from Bisita and Pimp My Rice food truck.

The ULAM and Winnipeg chefs each present Filipino food in innovative ways that rise above the foundations of adobo, pancit, and lumpia. However they continue to struggle to not only win the hearts and palettes of the general population, but to also receive support among their own community.

From Winnipeg to New York to L.A., many Filipinos retreat from the new and different, unwilling to pay the prices for nouveaux cuisine. replying “My Lola makes this better.” But isn’t that the reason we have restaurants in the first place? Restaurants cannot complete with your Lola’s tinola but their goal is to create innovative dishes drawing from traditional flavours. Different can still be delicious.

The rise of Philippine chain restaurants expanding to North America has increased the popularity of Filipino food. However in order to feed the momentum of the Filipino Food Movement we must unite as a community to support the creative endeavours of the chefs who lead the culinary revolution.

ULAM: Main Dish is available for purchase from iTunes, Google Play, Amazon, and other streaming platforms.