Memories of Philippine Kitchens

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There are the two restaurants I want to feature in the US, one is Cendrilon (www.cendrillon.com) in the Soho District and Bistro Luneta (www.bistroluneta.com) in San Mateo, California. I’m curious that a few readers recommend these places as a must try in the U.S.

So for now, I’ll be contend with reading a book by the owners of the Cendrillon restaurant. I’m intrigue by this book ($23.11 in Amazon) and so far, a perfect 5.0 rating among 9 people in Amazon…

Delicious memories, January 15, 2007
Reviewer: G. Mariano “Indio” (USA)

This book brings about a sense of nostalgia that is very pleasing. The variations in the classic recepies are most welcome and they do work for me. This book is very much worth it even if you do not know how to cook because the stories and history lessons make a great read. It is very well researched.

Excellent!, January 10, 2007
Reviewer: Jerwyn B. Austria (The Castro, San Francisco, CA)

I bought this and have found it an excellent cookbook for those interested in cooking the “greatest hits” of filipino food. More “home cooking” than “haute”, it contains excellent recipes from all the different regions of the Phillipines. In addition, it does a great job of educating new cooks on the different varitions of bottled ingredients and fresh vegetables.

Brings me back to the homeland, January 10, 2007
Reviewer: Agnes Punsalang “Good Eater” (New Jersey, USa)

There isn’t a book that explains Philippine cooking as comprehensive and interesting as this. Recipes are very good. I tried making the pan de sal and it came out delicious. I am looking forward to trying some more of the recipes. Everyone who has had Philipine food and enjoy it should read this.

Awesome pictures!, January 9, 2007
Reviewer: Evan Gluck (Brooklyn, NY)

This book is coffee table style, meaning it is large and has very big dazzling photos to go along with the recipes. If you want a filipino cook book that can double as a conversation piece, this is the book for you. Not sure how well the recipes compare to those of other filipino cook books though.

Excellent Study and Memoir of Filipino Cuisine. Buy It., December 18, 2006
Reviewer: B. Marold (Bethlehem, PA United States)

`Memories of Philippine Kitchens’ by husband and wife restaurateurs, Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan is, with a few important differences, cut from the same mold as the two latest books from another husband and wife team, writer Naomi Duguid and photographer Jeffrey Alford. The major difference is that while Duguid and Alford are exceptionally talented journalistic `outsiders’, Besa and Dorotan are writing from well inside the Philippine cuisine, both being natives of the Philippines, albeit now working in a Manhattan restaurant specializing in Philippine cuisine.

I’m especially interested in this book, as I lived and cooked in a Philippine household for almost three years, with my first experience being that old war-horse, `The Philippine Cookbook’ by Reynaldo Alejandro, from whom I got my first adobo, pancit, lumpia, and sinigang recipes. This period in my life also rekindled my interest in cooking, and my first impressions of the Philippine cuisine compared to those of France, Italy, China, India, and even Mexico and Thailand is that it seemed a bit monochromatic. Oddly, I felt the same way about Irish cooking. This may not be as odd as it seems, as both cuisines are heavily based on a white starchy food, rice for the Philippines and the potato for Ireland. The centerpiece of our Philippine kitchen was a rather large hamper for dispensing rice which could easily hold 50 pounds of rice, which we bought in 25 pound bags, three to four at a time. And, one bag generally lasted about three weeks, as a rice cooker full of rice was made at virtually every meal. This impression of low variety was reinforced by visits to Philippine restaurants in New York and San Francisco. It is no surprise that our favorite restaurant was not Philippine, but Korean. Philippine cuisine almost seems like the anti-Mediterranean cuisine, with no cheese, wine, citrus, or tomatoes to speak of, and little wheat based culture. And, the primary vinegar seems to be apple rather than grape.

Like the dozen or more Irish cookbooks I have reviewed, this title goes a long, long way to dispel the notion that Philippine food is uninteresting. Not only do the authors give us a great selection of recipes and heartfelt, firsthand stories of their Philippine families, friends, and sources, the book is organized in exactly the right way to best refresh my memories of this cuisine and introduce the cuisine to people who may have not yet experienced it. It is far, far better than the Alejandro volume and the other Philippine source I have reviewed, `Filipino Cuisine’ by Gerry Gelle.

In spite of the differences, it is no surprise that all three books begin with recipes for adobo, the one Philippine dish that is known around the world. It is no surprise that Raymond Sokolov, the eminent New York culinary journalist, who also did the Introduction to this book, put chicken adobo as one of his 101 most important recipes in `The Cook’s Canon’. Fortunately, Besa and Dorotan give us a whole new approach to chicken adobo. Unlike Gelle, Alejandro, and Sokolov, who all treat it as a simple chicken braise, Besa and Dorotan begin prep for the dish by doing a two hour to overnight marinade. I immediately guess that this will go a long way to making a tenderer dish, as it will have almost exactly the same effect as brining the chicken, due to the high salt content of the soy sauce.

Another thing all three authors have in common is their story of the influences on Philippine cooking. While all touch on the subject, I give the highest marks in this area to Besa and Dorotan, as they do the best job of associating specific dishes and techniques to sources. The discussion of the Mexican influence is especially good, as the authors give us Philippine versions of empanadas, escabeche, Rellenos, and menudo. The Spanish influence is also felt in the Filipino love of canned meats such as Vienna sausages and corned beef and custards such as the Spanish caramelized flans plus Spanish paellas

They even go so far as to discuss the rather unfortunate influence of American culture on Philippine cuisine, which is all to heavily weighted toward the `fast food nation’ end of the spectrum, just as we Yankee homies are weaning ourselves away from slavish adulation of the golden arches. On the positive side, the Yanks did imbue the Philippines with a love of chiffon cakes and cream (banana, of course) pies.

While the authors make no attempt to make this a complete study of regional differences, there are several regional highlights in many chapters.

The only thing I miss in this book is a good recipe for the Chinese speciality, dumplings with barbecued pork filling. The empanadas come close, but they are not the same as the soft, bready Chinese style our Filipino household would buy from the local Filipino / Asian market, frozen.

I always love a good bibliography, and the authors have given us one, including a number of more obscure Filipino sources. It also has a wide selection of books on the cuisines of countries which have influenced Filipino cooking, such as `My Mexico: A Culinary Odyssey’ from Diana Kennedy and most of the works by the Duguid and Alford team.

If you are looking for a Filipino cookbook, this should unquestionably be your first choice.

Not just a cookbook, November 30, 2006
Reviewer: R. Liguidliguid (Oakland, CA United States)

This is also a memoir cum history book of this undiscovered cuisine and its evolution. The pictures and the text together puts this as one of the better recipe books on Philippine cuisine. I especially love the update/twist that Romy Dorotan made on the traditional everyday food.

impressive surprise, and a cool gift, November 29, 2006
Reviewer: N.B. (New York, NY USA)

By far the best Filipino cookbook I’ve seen — it’s a a wildly useful cookbook, a gorgeous coffee-table book, and a fascinating cultural course, all in one. The authors show both love and deep knowledge in describing the specifics and regional idiosyncrasies of a cuisine that’s far too often reduced to tired versions of a few signature dishes. If you’re not familiar with Filipino food, get with it – it’s an incredibly flavorful combination of sour, salty, sweet, and meaty, and, with its Spanish and Mexican influences (as well as Chinese, Indian, Malaysian, and others), it really stands apart from other Southeast Asian cuisines. In the last two weeks alone, the beef tapa, adobo, pancit, and bibingka have gone into my ‘permanent’ recipe file.

Garlic & Nostalgia, November 28, 2006
Reviewer: PLY (Lexington, MA) – See all my reviews
Memories of Philippine Kitchens is “the” new book to add to my Filipiniana library- sautéed with spicy trivia, this compilation of recipes and personal recollections is an easy read. Scrumptious pictures to boot. I tried the “bringhe” recipe (poor man’s paella) and I was a hit at Thanksgiving! Interesting to know how “halo-halo” (native ice frappe) came about, and did you know the “puto” (steamed rice muffins) was an upshot from an Indian influence? You learn something every day…seriously!

A beautiful inspiration for foodies like me., November 28, 2006
Reviewer: Beaumont Martin (BELLAIRE, TEXAS USA)

My Filipina wife of 34 years looked at the photos and was inspired to try dishes like the black-rice paella that she has never tried before. She also remembered other dishes she has forgotten over the years and made a list of those to cook. The book is an oversize coffee-table book with many beautiful photos to tempt your tastebuds. Many cookbooks of Filipino recipes are listed on Amazon and are in my wife’s library, but this one is the best of the lot and is only a little more expensive than the others but darn well worth it.

Press Release:

Owners of the popular New York City restaurant Cendrillon, Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan, have dedicated years to tracing the native traditions and outside influences on the food of the Philippines. In MEMORIES OF PHILIPPINE KITCHENS: Stories and Recipes from Far and Near (Stewart, Tabori & Chang; November 2006; $35) they present the results of that research, documenting family recipes from throughout the Philippines, capturing and preserving traditional cooking methods, and presenting Romy’s acclaimed versions of Filipino food.

While other Asian countries established a formal cuisine through palace kitchens that trained chefs and passed cooking techniques and traditions intact from one generation to the next, the essence of Filipino cuisine lies in the simple kitchens of Filipino homes. In providing the book’s narrative, Amy Besa (who Peter Kaminsky has called “the heart and the soul of New York’s Asian food community”) traces the history of this Filipino home cooking, from native dishes (“Food That Was Always Ours”) to dishes that show the influence of the Chinese, the Spanish and Mexicans, and the Americans (“Food that Was Borrowed and Made Our Own”), with her recollections of growing up in the Philippines interspersed throughout.

Besa’s husband and the chef of Cendrillon, Romy Dorotan, complements her narrative with his breadth of culinary knowledge. From Adobo to Kinilaw, Lumpia to Pancit and Lechon, the art of the well-roasted pig, the authors record regional dishes and culinary methods deeply rooted in Filipino history some of which may soon disappear if not properly documented. In MEMORIES OF PHILIPPINE KITCHENS, the culture of the Philippines is brought to life for the reader. With over 100 recipes and 200 full-color photographs, it is the most comprehensive guide to the history of Filipino cuisine and Filipino cooking methods ever compiled. Complete with Dorotan’s updated versions of classic Filipino dishes that have made Cendrillon restaurant a favorite among food connoisseurs, MEMORIES OF PHILIPPINE KITCHENSwill appeal to both Filipino and non-Filipino audiences alike.

4 thoughts on “Memories of Philippine Kitchens

  1. I finally got my hands on this book…very much awaited as there was some delay in availability. I was a regular at Cendrillon in the 1990’s but I have moved to another state and the last time I was there was 2003. The food has remained consistently delicious and unforgettable. I’m proudly recommend this restaurant to friends going to the Big Apple. The book is beautiful. I already gave it to 2 friends and plan to give out more.

  2. I would just like to tell everyone that Cendrillon will be launching their book “Memories of Philippine Kitchens”in Northern California at Bistro Luneta in San Mateo CA this coming February 20-22, 2007. If anyone is in the vicinity or in the USofA by those dates please feel free to make reservations at 650 344 0041. Limited seats are available.
    http://www.bistroluneta.com

  3. panalo si romy dorotan at amy besa. cendrillon rocks. not traditional pinoy but exciting and quality food nonetheless. love your blog, by the way. just got to it (sorry mejo huli ako sa blogosphere). =) margaux
    ps aside from the amazing food (review at http://www.inquirer.net/globalnation/sec_fea/2004/may/06-02.htm) cendrillon also has the amazing artwork of pinoy artist perry mamaril. (http://www.inquirer.net/globalnation/sec_fea/2004/apr/22-01.htm). if you do ever visit, look him up for a feature as well. he rocks =)
    pps. amy besa has another memories launch on the 27th, 5 pm at powerbooks greenbelt. for those who missed the first two launches, here’s your chance. and get there early, the books sell out fast!

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