BOOK REVIEW: FILIPINX – Heritage Recipes from the Diaspora

by Rose Churma

This book contains recipes that Filipino immigrants brought with them when they left their country of birth to be part of the Filipino Diaspora. Usually, these dishes are prepared from memory and passed on to their children.

As Chef Angela Dimayuga says, “Writing this book has been a form of coming home a way to get to know my family better and have them get to know me.”

The recipes that comprise this book speak of the heritage that the authors share with more than four million Filipino Americans.

Originally from California, Angela Dimayuga is a chef, creative and cultural tastemaker who has been named to Zagat’s “30 Under 30” list and honored as James Beard Rising Star Chef finalist. She was also awarded Best Chef by New York Magazine.

Co-author Ligaya Mishan was raised in Honolulu and graduated from Punahou School. She writes for the New York Times and T Magazine. She was a finalist for the National Magazine Awards and the James Beard Awards. She has also written for the New York Review of Books and The New Yorker.

Ligaya dedicates this book to her Filipina mother and writes: “For my mom, who waited so patiently for me to find my way home.”

Although touted as a cookbook of heritage recipes, the book is also a socio-cultural commentary on the journey of growing up Filipino in the Diaspora. It also provides historical nuggets that describe back-stories to how certain dishes evolved.

Although Angela’s voice and culinary perspective provide the basic framework for the book, this is the collective story of the Filipinx the gender-inclusive term for people of Philippine descent, who are American-born and raised, but whose knowledge of Filipino cuisine and culture was not directly experienced from the Motherland but secondary sources, from parents and grandparents, cousins, titos and titasninongs and ninangs who left home for economic opportunities elsewhere.

The recipes are grouped into nine chapters starting with “Turo-Turo” specialties; soup and vegetables; rice and noodles; merienda items; breakfast things; dishes for celebrations; condiments (sawsawan); kakanin and pastries; and cold things (such as halo-halo) and drinks. Pretty comprehensive.

All the dishes have spectacular photos you want to reach out and pull a piece from the page and taste them. The ingredients are readily available and the instructions for preparing the dishes are detailed and described lovingly like a ritual.

The segment on how to make chicken relleno tops them all. It includes a very detailed step-by-step narrative on how to debone and stuff the chicken, accompanied by photographs of the chicken as it gets trussed up.

The biggest surprise was the recipe for homemade Spam. I had to do a double-take. What? a recipe for making Spam? This food item is a staple in Hawaii pantries a versatile protein that can be an ingredient for anything by just opening a can. But, I guess it is good to have a healthy alternative to the can even if it takes more effort.

As we approach the holiday season, this is a good book to acquire or to give as a gift. It can serve as a roadmap to a Filipino-inspired all-day feast, or as a collectible to have around, to skim through when one is homesick for anything Filipino. It is available at Amazon.com.

ROSE CRUZ CHURMA is a retired architect who now has the time to do the things she always wanted to do: read books, write about them and encourage others to write. Her online bookstore, Kalamansi Books and Things (facebook.com/kalamansibooks), promotes Filipiniana books and publications by Filipino-Americans. Email her at kalamansibooks@gmail.com.


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