Filipino cuisine is making waves around the globe which makes me proud. Just recently, I wrote a post about a pop-up afternoon stand up event in Sydney delighted the palates of the locals with the introduction of classic savoury and sweet Filipino dishes. There's quite a few of these Filipino restaurants now in Sydney and it's getting a good following from locals, not just fellow Filos or Pinoys as we usually called ourselves.
The well known amongst the community is La Mesa along Goulbourn Street, Haymarket. It has been around since 2002 and previously located in Dee Why. In 2012 they moved to Haymarket and have since created a good following of locals and tourists. The decor is reminiscent of an old fashioned Filipino home - a mix of contemporary and classic Filipiniana decor. The serving platters are all home-grown Filipino vessels flown from the Philippines. Sizzling Fillo in Lidcombe boasts of authentic Filipino dishes served in big portions enough to share amongst 3-4 people. The place invites locals and those who will travel a few kilometres to partake of the generous servings and Saturday night karaoke. Eating and singing - two of Filipinos favourite things to do. Sizzling Fillo also boasts of a regular "boodle feast"- a buffet of selected classics served on "your" table on a bed of banana leaves.
My favourite is Cafe Manila in Kirribilli - a small cozy cafe serving traditional Filipino dishes suited to the western palate - leaning away from traditional starchy dishes and the portions are just right. The interior is very minimalist and the tables are quite small creating an intimate experience for the diners. Chef Ricky Ocampo is always in the house serving up dishes with a smile as if you are a guest at his home. The menu is lean and the food is well presented on the plate. Chef Ricky is one of local Filipino featured in the SBS Food Safari Filpino Food.
Another one in north shore is Pamana Cafe and Filipino Restaurant in Chatswood. The place is cafe style with tables for two, up to ten. The menu is more extensive with a range dishes from breakfast to dinner, entree to desserts - a variety of traditional Filipino dishes both savoury and sweet. They also offer "boodle feast" on select days. Although the location is quite away from pedestrian traffic, it has since opening in 2013 gathered a local following.
Now this dish is not something you'd see in any of the menus from these restaurants. This is a super simple dish that's not worthy of a restaurant feature but definitely worth the 30 minutes that you spend to cook it. The thing with Filipino dishes is, if its easy enough to cook at home, you won't find it at restaurants. We (Filipinos) when at these restaurants, usually order dishes we seldom cook at home, or not at all.
Bottle gourd is an indigenous vegetable in the East Asian region. It is commonly called "upo" in the Philippines or calabash in some western countries. The bottle gourd has a lot of health benefits and in some countries, they juice is used to encourage weight loss.
I love the simplicity of this dish. Almost pedestrian. You only need 5 basic ingredients. And can even make it vegetarian by omitting the pork.
250-300 grams pork, cut into cubes
1 piece bottle gourd, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, sliced
2 tomatoes, sliced
1 cup water
1 tablespoon cooking oil
salt and pepper to taste
fish sauce (optional)
In a medium sized skillet, heat the oil and cook the pork pieces until crispy. Set aside.
In the same pan, saute the onions and garlic and cook until fragrant, not burned.
Add the tomatoes and stir until soft.
Add the bottle gourd slices and water and bring to boil.
Season with salt and pepper, or fish sauce is using. Season to your taste.
Turn down heat and simmer until the goured is soft and cooked.
Add the crispy pork slices on top.
Disclaimer: The feature on the mentioned restaurants is a simple feedback from the writer's experience dining at these establishments. Dining at the restaurants were to the writer's own expense. This is not a paid feature. The feature is written to assist locals and tourists who may be looking for Filipino restaurants within Sydney metropolitan.