International Kid-Friendly Food:
The Philippine Islands were originally a U.S. territory from 1898-1935 and a U.S. commonwealth from 1935-1941. The Japanese occupied the islands during the second World War, but General Douglas MacArthur took the land back in 1945. On year later, the Philippines were granted independence on July 4th. The holiday was first celebrated as “Republic Day,” but later celebrated the friendship between two peoples as “Philippine-American Friendship Day.”
As of 2014, the New York City / New Jersey / Long Island statistical area was home to 262,375 Filipino Americans. Woodside, Queens is known as one of America’s most prominent “Little Manilas,” but you don’t have to visit Papa’s Kitchen, Ihawan, Tito Rad’s Grill, or Maharlika to get a taste of authentic foods like chicken adobo, kare kare, or lechon. You can introduce your children to these traditional favorites right in your own kitchen.
Oxtail Stew in Peanut Sauce (Kare Kare)
From the “I Am A Filipino Cookbook” by Maharlika Owners Nicole Ponseca & Miguel Trinidad, Courtesy of NYT Cooking
This is a great dish to work on with older children who express an avid interest in cooking, as there is a lot of vegetable chopping and stock making. If your kids love vegetables and nutty sweetness, they will love this dish. Honestly, there are a few tricky ingredients in this recipe, but you can pick up oxtail from Esposito Meat Market or the International Meat Market in Astoria, and Whole Foods will have the achiote paste. Johnny Air Mart in the East Village will have a fish paste condiment called bagoong, “the secret stinky weapon of Philippine cuisine,” which adds depth to the flavor if you’re adventurous.
From Amy Beso and Romy Dorotan, owners of The Purple Yam in Brooklyn, courtesy of NYT Cooking
We’d be remiss if our Fil-American recipe list didn’t include some form of chicken adobo! This version comes os part of what made The Purple Yam in Brooklyn so famous. The thick coconut milk tames the pepper’s spice and the tangy vinegar down a notch. With just eight ingredients, you’ll find a considerable depth of flavor here, though it’s oh-so-easy to make. Add fragrant jasmine rice for the perfect complement to the golden sauce.
Note: Every part of the Philippines has their own version. In the northern part of the Philippines, they omit the coconut milk and chilies in favor of ginger root, whole pepper corns, garlic, and bay. Get the recipe for that version done up in slow-cooker here.
Filipino Egg Rolls (Lumpia)
From Tomas & Yvonne De Los Reyes, owners of Jeepney in Brooklyn
Lumpia is a traditional “comfort food” appetizer served at house parties. Kids will enjoy wrapping up ground beef or pork, onion, carrots, sprouts, and green beans into an egg roll wrapper. Fry for five minutes into a crispy roll and serve with a vinegar dipping sauce. Joey Fatone, former singer with N’Sync, danced when he tasted this recipe and called it “a party in his mouth.”
Pancit Canton (Filipino-Style Lo Mein)
From Frances Tariga, Chef at MEGU at Dream Downtown
According to Pint-Size Gourmets, Pancit Canton is one of the 10 most kid-friendly Filipino dishes. Served at family gatherings as a symbol of health and longevity, this savory and satisfying dish wins for diversity of color and presentation, though it’s not exactly “health food.” Filipino Lo Mein noodles make the perfect quick dinner, says Chef Frances Tariga. “They’re simple, easy, and everyone will like them,” she explains. This recipe uses chicken marinated in corn starch, egg whites, and soybean oil, pan-fried with garlic and scallions, served over al-dente lo mein noodles with soy sauce and topped with bok choy, carrots, cabbage, green beans, lime, and fresh cilantro (if you please).
From Los Angeles Chef Isa Fabro, Adapted by Ligaya Mishan for NYT Cooking
What could be easier to whip up with the little ones than a no-bake dessert? The deep honey flavor of mangoes naturally goes over well with the kids, as does the creamy texture. Add graham crackers, butter, and cream, and you’ve got one sweet summer treat. If you can’t get ahold of Manila mangoes, you’ll need to remove the excess fiber and add lime to Kent or Haden mangoes, but either way, your dessert will turn out delectable. Opt for over-ripe mangoes if you can find them. If not, try ripening the mangoes overnight in a brown paper bag, or you can even use defrosted frozen mango in a pinch.
Cooking is an ideal way to bond and share culture with your children. For other experiences: take a visit to the roving Filipino-American Museum (currently on display in Midtown’s Ace Hotel); check out the Fil-American Day Parade in Jersey City the last weekend of June; keep an eye on the Filipinos of NY events calendar; take a day trip to Seacaucus, NJ for the annual Fiesta in America in August, featuring Filipino dance, food, storytelling, and crafts; or contact Shine to learn about our multicultural programming and kids’ cooking classes.