The Filipino food movement is something that has been gaining speed and attention lately all throughout the U.S. and the world. Here in Los Angeles, home to an already large population of Filipinos, there has been a boom of food and culture appreciation lately. I was excited to hear through Filipino Food Movement about the many establishments that will be celebrating the month sharing our culture in the best way we know how to do — feeding everyone! It is a worldwide celebration with a directory of events found here.
As half of WILD, I’m a proud pinay born in Iloilo City, partly raised in Barotac Nuevo before moving to Atwater Village in Los Angeles, at six years old. It’s been interesting watching Atwater Village grow to what it is today. And while my journey has led me away from Los Angeles for years, coming back home has been sweet as we not only are amongst friends and family (Matt grew up in West Covina) but moving back to Atwater Village has been a bit of a homecoming for me.
(Interesting sidenote: while I was but a young, super green cook hopeful, I tried to get my foot in the door at the restaurant that preceded Canele, pleading with the management that I’d work for free washing dishes, bussing tables, whatever they wanted. I lived down the street so it would have been a five minute walk. They told me no. That restaurant is long gone but being inside the space now is deeply redeeming for me.)
In observance of Filipino-American History Month this October, I’ll be making two specials all month long. Two dishes that hold a special place in my heart, that oddly enough I got wrangled into helping prep for – mostly against my will. As a kid, I wanted to run around outside and play with my siblings and cousins, not make hundreds of dumplings or babysit slowly caramelizing coconut milk.
That being said, the two dishes I’m proudly sharing are two of many that my mom and dad have taught me over the years: pancit molo and suman.
Growing up, we went out for batchoy but we always made pancit molo at home. Contrary to the name, pancit molo doesn’t have pancit which means noodles, unlike other dishes of the genre – but rather it is the offspring of a marriage of cultures, Chinese immigrants in the port town of Molo otherwise known at one point as the Athens of the Philippines. Apparently it is called pancit because of the nearly identical ingredients in the dumpling wrapper that’s also used to make noodles. You could even say that it came from Chinese wonton soup. (I would put money on that). A rich chicken broth studded with succulent pork dumplings, shredded chicken and topped with lots of scallions and fried garlic is as homey as it gets.
Suman will be the month long special sweet on our menu as well. Preparing this dish as a child wasn’t close to being as bad as sitting still making dumplings but it also meant staying still and making sure the coconut milk caramelized evenly and the bits didn’t burn which meant constantly stirring it in the wok. Of course it paid off once it was caramelized just right, and the steamed glutinous rice and brown sugar was added and mixed in well. I didn’t have the arm strength I do now to stir everything in, so that was when mom or dad stepped in and I was relieved of my “babysitting” duties. I always did get first taste for putting in the work thougb. In a way, it inadvertantly taught me a lot about patience and diligence — and the great payoff that comes from it.
I am brimming with anticipation at the thought of sharing these childhood specials with everyone. So tell your friends we’ll be dishing up pancit molo and suman as WILD lunch specials all month long in October!
With warmth and grattitude,
Ria Dolly Acanto Barbosa Wilson