Americans traditionally mark Labor Day weekend with one last summer backyard barbecue with friends and loved ones. I too celebrated with friends, in traditional Queens fashion. That is to say by embracing the traditions of another culture, specifically Filipino. On Saturday my friends Kaori and Stella joined me for a traditional salu-salo sa bilao fiesta at Papa’s Kitchen in Woodside. Salu-salo bilao loosely translates to a gathering over a bilao,or banana leaf-lined basket overflowing with goodies. It’s an informal affair where all the food is eaten with one’s hands.
Chef Miguel prepared quite a spread. One tray held crab; crispy pata, a whole foreleg of pig fried to a shattering crunchiness; the shrimp and veggie fritters known as ukoy; longganisang hamonado, a lovely sweet pork sausage; tuna belly; and Papa’s signature spicy dynamite spring rolls. Everything was quite tasty,but we all agreed the salty, fatty tuna belly was spectacular. Stella, who is Filipina, schooled me in the proper way to eat with my hands. On the few occasions when I’ve eaten South Asian food with my hands I’ve felt self conscious most likely because the food is usually very saucy. At Papa’s I felt especially relaxed, and not just because we had the place to ourselves.
A pam pagana platter laid out with okra, pickled eggplant, tomatoes, cucumbers, jalapeños, mango, and onions balanced out all the meat and seafood. In the center sat a tiny little cup of bagoong, a pungent,salty fermented shrimp paste, great for slathering on the slices of cucumber and other veggies.
As we talked and laughed—eating with our hands the whole time—I couldn’t help but think of Papa’s tag line for this special feast: “Iba’t ibang panlasa, iisang kultura: different tastes, one culture,” just like Queens itself.
Papa’s offers Salu-salo on Saturdays and Sundays with seatings at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. with a minimum of four people per bilao , $29 a head. Reservations are required.
Papa’s Kitchen, 65-40 Woodside Ave., 347-724-9586
Hello from the Philippines!! So glad you like Filipino food! I know our food is great but I’ve always been doubtful if Americans would like it. Thank you for featuring Filipino food and restaurants in New York.
Robin: Filipino food is a big deal in the Little Manila section of Woodside, Queens and lately a couple ofhipfilipino joints like Maharlika have opened upin Manhattan.
Pampagana is one word.
“Gana” is the main word in this long word, which means appetite. The pampagana platter is not an appetizer, it is like a “side salad” that you eat with your meal. Also, this type of “side salad” is not eaten by itself… with the exception of green mangoes and bagoong. Green mangoes and bagoong is like an afternoon snack.
I agree. I have been there three times and had their Salo-Salo twice, I must say the pictures here were more presentable and delectable than that of what we had. Instead of crispy pata they served us lechon kawali (we’re expecting the former) without the owner letting us know that they changed the contents for the latter. But to be fair, the service was good, the place is too small though. Not quite sure if I would want to go back there.
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