The first time I ever savored the smoky sweet porcine marvel that is Filipino BBQ was at Ihawan in Woodside, in the shadow of the 7 train in the neighborhood known as Little Manila.
Last week I ventured out in the bitter cold to try some pinoy style grilling that’s as good as and perhaps even better than Ihawan’s. It was grilled on the street by Bad for Business Popups, brainchild of journeyman Chef Francis Maling. The street in question none other than Roosevelt Avenue hard by the 61st Woodside subway stop on the mighty International Express, aka the 7 train.
I’ve been meaning to try Francis’ BBQ for quite some time and I’m glad I finally made it. His pork BBQ is decidedly cheffed up, benefiting from a marinade in soy sauce, banana ketchup, and vinegar followed by a three-step process: an initial grilling, a quick steam in banana leaves, and a final kiss of the flames as he brushes on his homemade sauce. I didn’t try the chicken, but I’m sure it’s excellent. I did however grab a duo of ruddy hued hot dogs capped off with marshmallows, which Maling says is a nod to Filipino birthday parties for kids. The day’s special was his twist on Peruvian anticuchos, grilled beef heart in a bulgogi marinade.
Maling has been operating his fly by the seat of the pants popup since January of 2021. Much as I like to joke that his promotional strategy of announcing each popup a day or so beforehand via Instagram is the reason behind the name “Bad for Business Popups,” Maling said there is a deeper meaning coupled with a mission to build awareness for street vendors who can’t get licenses.“I came up with the name cos when it comes to business a lot of people look for profits before people [but] I’m trying to think about the community,” he said. “I’m trying to think about the safety of the workers, people’s livelihoods not just the money aspect of it.”
As I am writing this I received a notification on my phone that Maling’s little BBQ stand will be open today Feb. 1 from 1 p.m. until he runs out and Thursday from 1 p.m. This week’s special is a burger from Burger Machine, BBQ on Foccacia by @nextlevelpizza.
“It’s barbecue for the community,” Maling said. “This is essentially barbecue for Woodside, I grew up here.” Oh, and in case you are wondering Maling’s favorite Filipino BBQ is the O.G. Ihawan.
It’s been a while since I logged on . . . by that I mean posting on C+M, but more specifically filing a dispatch about Filipino breakfast. Many restaurants in Woodside’s Little Manila and elsewhere in Queens offer various silog platters including longsilog, which features sweet and fatty pork longganisa sausage, and tosilog, which highlights sweet cured pork. Today was the first time I saw tinapsilog ($11.20) on a Filipino breakfast menu though.
“It’s a smoked fish,” the waiter informed me. “Is it like dasilog?” I inquired further. “Yeah, but smoked,” he responded.
Not entirely sure what to expect, I decided to give tinapsilog a try, if only to better understand how they arrived at the price $11.20. I was absolutely floored by what landed on the table. I’ve seen plenty of whole fish before, but this milkfish was absolutely beautiful. A thin sheet of golden amber skin stretched over the flesh. Best of all, that skin was shatteringly crunchy and smokey, almost like a fish bacon. The platter came with two sunny side up eggs; some Chinese eggplant; tomatoes; the requisite sinangag, or garlic fried rice; and some vinegar to dip the fish into.
I’m not quite sure of the prep beyond the smoking, but I’m going to guess it was fried because every bit of skin and bone including the head and tail was super crunchy.
A lot of people ask what inspires me when it comes to food writing and my stock answer is usually something like: “Look, if I eat something absolutely amazing, I’m almost physically compelled to write about it immediately.” In case you are wondering today’s breakfast met that criteria.
Back in October I created a breakfast sandwich called the Filipino Elvis. It consisted of Lily’s Peanut Butter and bananas on toasted péigēn miànbāo, or “bacon bread,” from New Fully Bakery. Sadly that Elmhurst bakery no longer makes the wedge of spiral bread filled with bacon and slightly sweet pork floss. The sweetness of the Filipino peanut butter and the smokey, salty bacon and sweet pork floss made for a great start to the day.
I’ve been eating bananas and Lily’s on white toast for breakfast for months, but it’s just not the same sandwich as the Filipino Elvis. And then I came across some Bolivian beef floss, and thus was born the Bolivian Elvis. The crunchy salty strands of meat play very well with the banana and peanut butter. They also make a great topping for congee, another of my favorite breakfasts.
By now you’re probably wondering where I happened upon Bolivian beef floss. First of all I should point out that it’s called charquekan. It’s made from beef that’s dried for three days, boiled, beaten with a mallet until it frays, and finally crisped up in a hot pan. I owe this discovery to fellow food nerd and ace Instagrammer snackwithsue who turned me on to Puerta Del Sol, a Bolivian restaurant in Woodside this past weekend.
The restaurant’s owner Jose Sanchez told us that Bolivians from as far away Virginia come to at the delicacy. It is a veritable mountain of meat floss atop hominy corn kept company by two hard boiled eggs, two wedges of quesillo cheese, and a potato. I enjoyed the dish but there was so much of it, that I took the better part of the plate home. Somehow, I knew I’d find a use for it. I’m glad my hunch was right!
Puerta Del Sol, 67-03 Woodside Ave., Woodside, 718-685-2087
Clockwise from bottom left: Southern fried chicken at Dylan’s and two ways of serving Papa’s bird.
Yesterday was National Fried Chicken Day, which as best as I can tell is an Instagram Holiday. The occasion got me to thinking that for someone who doesn’t cook I sure know a lot about fried chicken. I blame my parents who used several different recipes. My favorite was one with a craggy crust à la Kentucky Colonel as my father called KFC, but they also used a smoother buttermilk batter, and even experimented with cornflakes.
All of which brings me to the subject of today’s post: my two favorite new fried chicken spots in Queens. The first comes from Dylan’s Forest Hills. By all appearances it’s pretty traditional in its takeout box with a lovely biscuit and corn on the cob. A closer look reveals a uniform crunchy crust and a slightly smaller bird. Dylan’s uses flavorful free range fowl that’s encased in a corn flake crust to great effect. (more…)
The more austere lugaw (left) and golden yellow arroz caldo at HOI with crispy tofu.
My mother is from the Philippines, which is why my family called rice porridge lugaw when I was growing up. Even my father now calls rice porridge lugaw even though he grew up in Taiwan calling it mai. The lugaw we made at home was usually a bland rice-and-water-only affair, without even salt. Occasionally, my mother would make chicken lugaw by braising drumsticks in the simmering rice, a rudimentary version of the chicken porridge known as arroz caldo.
On the all-day breakfast menu at the House of Inasal in Woodside, you’ll find both lugaw and arroz caldo. (If you order before noon, they come with free taho, Philippine-style dòuhuā, extra soft tofu topped with sago pearls and arnibal, a syrup made from brown sugar, ideally muscovado.) (more…)
HOI’s fish fryup feeds two normal eaters, or one very hungry blogger.
I count myself a big fan of Filipino breakfast and I was pleased to see a rundown of it on Saveur recently. When it comes to Filipino food, I’m usually all about the pork, but not when it comes to breakfast. When I find myself at a Filipino restaurant in the a.m. I forsake my affections for crispy pata and lechon kawali. At the Filpino breakfast table my heart and stomach belong to dasilog, a fried dried milkfish, served with sinagag—garlic fried rice—and itlog—a sunnyside up egg. Or at least they did until recently. (more…)
Sariling’s belly lechon is only available on weekends.
Yesterday an article by food writer Ligaya Mishan positing that bagoong—a funky fermented shrimp paste—and other Filipino foods have entered the American mainstream dropped in New York Times Food. No doubt Mishan, who cut her teeth on Filipino food, knows more about it than I ever will, but bagoong being mainstream is a bit of a stretch. As for me, I’m still far too distracted by all of the cuisine’s glorious pork dishes. Which is exactly the position I found myself in on Sunday at Sariling Atin, a Filipino turo turo in Elmhurst.
My jaw dropped when I saw the twin cylinders of porcine goodness—encased in burnished crackling skin—sitting above the steam table. “How much,” I asked once I’d regained my composure. “Sixteen a pound,” the gal behind the counter responded as I stared transfixed at the rolled belly lechon whose inner folds held lemongrass and other aromatics. After forking over $15 for a combo platter—I chose laing, or taro leaves, from the steam table—I took a seat. (more…)
Crispy ukoy, just one of many dishes that will be served at Tito Rad’s.
I first started to explore Woodside’s Little Manila neighborhood when I moved to Queens in 1998. It started my love affair with Filipino food, though I must admit that sometimes it’s just a lust for crispy pork. This month Queens Dinner Club presents a very special family-style Filipino feast on Sept. 27 at Tito Rad’s. I can’t wait for this one kids. To find out when tickets go on sale, be sure to watch our Facebook page.(more…)
The Filipino affinity for crunchy pork crackling—whether in the offalpalooza that is sizzling sisig; sheets of crunchy lechon (suckling pig) skin; or chicharron bulaklak, flowers of pork fat—is legendary. This is perhaps best seen by the vast selection of pork crackling on offer at Filipino markets like Phil-Am Food Mart in Woodside’s Little Manila. The shop contains at least a half dozen varieties many in clear packaging bearing names like “Tito Al’s” and “Elena’s.” Sucker that I am for commercial junk food from other cultures I opted for a jaunty looking package of Chicharron Ni Mang Juan on a recent visit. It’s quite possibly the strangest Filipino chicharron I’ve ever had for one simple reason: It contains no pork whatsoever. (more…)
The bánh mì, a study in textures—cool pickled veggies, crunchy bread, and caramelized pork—and flavors—savory roast meats and charcuterie, and perhaps pate; hot peppers; and Asian mayo—is one of my all-time favorite sandwiches. So much so that a lifetime ago when I was a line cook at Jimmy’s No. 43 in the East Village, I took it upon myself to add it to the menu while the chef was on vacation. We had charcuterie, pickles, pork, fish sauce, and chilies in house, so I figured why not run it as a special. Chef was not pleased with my addition of what I called the Banh-Jimmy to his menu. (more…)