Filipino food is emerging in the national spotlight and reports from Campbell’s Culinary & Baking Institute (CCBI) Culinary Trendscape 2015 and Sterling Rice Group (SRG) 2015 Annual Trends Report share that Filipino Food is the No. 1 trend. In the chef world, today’s international culinary equivalent to a G8 summit, Madrid Fusion, selected Manila to be the location for the April 24–26, 2015 event. Additionally, the Filipino food movement began gaining awareness in starting in 2012 when celebrity chefs like Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern began broadcasting delicious Filipino food flavors.
Ramar Foods, the leading producer of Filipino food in the United States, shares reasons why Filipino food has finally arrived.
First, Filipino cuisine has been underrepresented in the U.S. in proportion to the Filipino-American population for decades. Over the past 50 years, the Filipino-American population has grown to over 3.4 million and represents the fourth largest immigrant group in the U.S. by country of origin behind Mexico, China, and India, according to the U.S. census.
In the highest populated state California, Filipinos are the largest Asian group by population, and Tagalog is the third most commonly spoken language after English and Spanish.
Secondly, the fact that Filipino food has not been assimilated into mainstream American culture is unusual. Filipinos are historically assimilating into other dominant cultures through centuries of colonial rule. Many dishes can be linked with a colonial period or foreign occupation, lumpia and pancit from China, adobo and empanadas from Spain, biko and suman from Indonesia and Malaysia. Other influences come from foreigners using the sea access the Philippines provides: Mexicans brought chocolate and chiles through the Acapulco-Manila galleon trade routes; and the American military brought hot dogs, spam, and spaghetti. The current Filipino-American population of 3.4 million is revealing itself to be the right number for assimilating Filipino culinary influence to mainstream America.
The cultural diversity of the Philippines also influences the thousands of regional differences in recipes. With 7,000 islands, there are many interpretations of what authentic adobo or sisig are. Over the past five years, Filipino-American chefs have been working together to unify recipes and dining experiences to best introduce Filipino food to a mainstream audience. The nonprofit, Filipino Food Movement, is a collaborative organization of chefs, academics, students, restaurateurs, and food manufacturers for a team effort to build awareness and understanding for Filipino food and culture. Filipino Food Movement board chairman Primo “PJ” Quesada says, “The movement is more than just food, the mission is to create a community around the appreciation of Filipino Culinary Arts through education and empowerment. We look forward to the day when Filipino food can become part of the regular diet, and Filipino culture is experienced firsthand, at the dinner table.”
Furthermore, 2012 was the first time Filipino food became available for purchase in mainstream American grocery stores with the introduction of Kusina by Ramar Foods. Ramar Foods is a Filipino-American family company and the largest producer of Filipino food in the U.S. Their first trial run of family recipes made with health-minded, all natural ingredients for a mass American palate was a success. So in 2012, Kusina (Taglog for kitchen) launched in grocery markets in California and New York. Ramar Foods president, Susie Quesada says, “Our grandparents founded Ramar Foods nearly 50 years ago. For Kusina, we are honored that people enjoying Filipino food for the first time are enjoying our grandmother’s recipes for adobo, lumpia, pancit, sisig, and empanadas. The kitchen is the heart of the Filipino home, and our grandmother’s legacy lives on by sharing her love through food.”
Lastly, Channel Host Andrew Zimmern says, “People keep wondering, what’s the next thing after the thing we’re in? But I don’t think they’ve properly acknowledged that the thing we’re in right now is this incredible love affair with Filipino food.” “Everybody loves Chinese food, Thai food, Japanese food, and it’s all been exploited. The Filipinos combined the best of all of that with Spanish technique,” Zimmern adds. National exposure, especially video, has done an excellent job of sharing what Filipino food is: a new flavor experience, within the familiar.