I was dared to eat Filipino food in NYC by eDreams. And my friends? DARING it was…
I was especially excited when I got this #EATWNYC dare. In my lifetime as a NY-er, I have eaten what seems like every cuisine here in the Big Apple (which I realize is nearly impossible, but it sure felt like close to it). From Indian, Israeli, Argentinian, Venezuelan, Chilean, Turkish, South Korean, Italian, and of course, Spanish (disclaimer- NYC tapas tour blog post to come!)…the list goes on. However, thanks to this dare, I realized I never even thought about eating Filipino cuisine. So, eDreams?
I did some snooping around the Big Apple, hunted down a bunch of born and raised Pinoys (people of Filipino descent) and questioned the ^&*%$ out of them: WHERE can I find the best, most deliciously authentic Filipino food? And this 27-year-old Filipino local’s answer hit home. It’s called Maharlika in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. My new friend described it as
“my Grandma’s Filipino food with that NYC splash of glamour. And when I say glamour, I mean it’s what I grew up eating in the Philippines… but on a much prettier plate.”
After talking with Topher, one of the originals at Maharlika, the story and vision of this 4-year-old undiscovered ethnic gem made me love it even more.
The Filipino founders of Maharlika came to NYC, and realized that Filipino cuisine was highly underrepresented. Sure, there are hidden little spots throughout the city and the 5 boroughs that are authentic, and house the local Filipino population. However, not many people in NYC say, “Hey, let’s get Filipino tonight!” The team of Maharlika decided to change that, and bring a spotlight to not only their food, but their culture, music, and pop-icons. The mission? To not only feed, but educate.
In “Tagalog,” the spoken language of the Philippines, the word Mahalika means “royalty.” In addition, many Asian historians argue that Maharlika was the original name of the 7,107 islands of the Philippines, years and years ago (yes, 7,107!) Thus, the name seemed perfect for the vision of the restaurant: To put Filipino cuisine on the royal pedestal it deserves, by combining the traditional tastes of all the islands, into one adorable NYC restaurant.
Now, what IS Filipino food ?
It’s probably not what you think. But then again, what do you think of when Filipino food comes to mind…?
Is it fertilized duck egg, pig snout, and peanut butter marinated oxtail? ‘Cause if this is what you think of…you’re a really impressive person. And in fact, maybe you should think about starting a food blog? Or taking mine over for me?
Actually, Filipino cuisine is a fusion of flavors from all over the world. From Malaysia and China, to America and…Spain! No wonder I liked it so much; it’s reppin’ my two favorite places in the world! If you look at Filipino menus, you’ll even see the word “tapa” and “torta,” which is their rendition of the Spanish egg omelette. Talk about a “melting pot!” HAH 😉
So, I brought Daddy Halapeño and Barburrito along for the FUNipino ride, as they too were curious about what the heck this underrated Asian food consists of. Halapeño is a huge lover of Asian food (you know, the classic Chinese, Japanese, Thai, etc.) so when I told him I was challenged to go for Filipino, he was all over it. Little did he know, Filipino is way, WAY different…
Here’s how the meal went down. We asked the Maharlika team to bring us the most traditional, iconic Filipino noms. And so they did. Starting off with…
Exactly what it sounds like. Crispy fried chicken skin dipped in white vinegar, topped off with some spicy peppers for those brave ones out there. But the REALLY brave ones try the customary delicacy of..
And when I say fertilized, I’m talkin’ this little baby duck is half developed in his shell.
Uh…yea. So, just watch.
If Daddy Halapeño likes it, any one could! Next up…?!
This beauty is made up of Filipino style fish ceviche marinated in coconut cream and topped with some gorgeous green sprouts. And then we got down to the meaty greedy…
Crispy pork belly with watermelon, sprouts and toasted sesame seeds. YUM.
Grilled pork ribs marinated in soy sauce vinegar with bayleaves and black peppercorn. OHHHHH Yea.
Oxtail braised in peanut butter sauce with grilled bok choy, roasted eggplant and long beans. This was my personal pick, and I kinda fell in love. Maybe ox butt is my new calling? Boyfriends are so overrated, any way…
Crispy pork leg with paprika lardo (yes, lardo is in fact “lard”- pork fat cured with paprika) What could be bad?
Talk about experiential dining, eh?
Time to get foodosophical. My post-Filipino Food for Thought?
They eat every damn thing on a pig, ox, chicken…you name it. And that’s how it should be, if you ask me! While living in Spain and Argentina, I realized that animal waste was a huge problem in the American culture. When us Americans hear that we are eating the butt of an animal, we are immediately grossed out. You tell us, “Oh, do you like it? It’s ox butt!” And next thing you know, there’ a chewed up ball of ox butt being launched across the room. (INCOMING!) However, after observing the culinary habits of other countries, the fact that we waste any part of an animal is quite sad, and, well…wasteful! Like Argentinian, Spanish, and many other cuisines of the world, Filipino cuisine does it right. Take every part of an animal, marinate and spice it up in all sorts of deliciousness (coconut milk, bay leaves, paprika, etc.) and it’s a culinary master piece. So kids? Eat chicken skins, butts, ears, eyes, balls (yes, balls), you name it! The Filipino’s are doing it, and doing it right.
Now it’s your turn to try! In NYC? Here’s how to get to Maharlika.
WHERE: 111 1st Avenue, New York, NY 10003
CONTACT: (646) 392-7880
HOURS: Lunch every day 11 am- 3:30 pm, Dinner Monday- Thursday 5 pm- 11 pm, Friday-Saturday 5 pm- 12 am, Sunday 5 pm- 10 pm
Would you want to try Filipino food? Would you try the fertilized duck egg? Which dish sounds best to you? If you’ve been to the Philippines, how does this food compare? Do you think Filipino food could be the next big thing?