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.
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…)
Sisilog is an offal lover’s dream breakfast. Photo: Sherri Tiesi
There’s nothing quite as satisfying as good breakfast, whether kari laksa or straight up all-American eggs and bacon. Filipino breakfast though, with its catalogue of silogs takes the morning meal game to a whole new level. Silog is a portmanteau of sinagang (fried rice) and itlog (egg). Thus longsilog is sweet pork longanisa sausage and eggs and dasilog, stars dried mikfish. The latter was my favorite until I discovered sisilog, which takes the porky offal extravaganza that is sizzling sisig and turns it into breakfast.
“Breakfast Served All Day!” exclaims the menu at Woodside’s House of Inasal. Scanning the list I immediately knew I was going to order the sisilog ($15.95). After all, why settle for pork sausage and eggs when you can have a fry-up of pork belly, liver, onions, and green chilies? (more…)
Ube ice cream topped with crunchy beaten rice and coconut all in a warm roll.
The pandi-ice cream ($5.50) at House of Inasal is surely the most elaborate pair of ice cream sandwiches to ever be served under the 7 train. I haven’t been this excited about an ice cream sandwich since the Chipwich.
A friend has been encouraging me try to this dessert in the Little Manila spot for months. Yesterday it was finally hot and humid enough. “Ube ice cream sandwich with halaya, coconut, and pinipig,” read the menu. Despite the menu language pandi-ice cream turns out to be two—not one—sandwiches each served on a warm pan de sal. (more…)
The peanutty pride of the Philippines Meycauayan City.
When my Filipina pal Stella sang the praises of Lily’s Peanut Butter to me a year or so ago I remember thinking, “Wow, it’s just peanut butter, how good can it be?” Recently while checking out Phil-Am Market in Woodside’s Little Manila, I found myself in the spread aisle. There next to the Kraft Cheese Spread and Star Chocolate margarine were rows upon row of green and white labeled Lily’s. One word on the label struck me, “Natural.” It conjured up images of oil slicks and sand, or at the very least grittiness. (more…)
On a wintry night Filipino balut double as hand warmers.
By the time we got to the balut man on the corner of 69th Street and Roosevelt Avenue we’d trekked across two continents and eaten through four countries all without ever leaving the shadow of the 7 train. “No holds barred means balut,” I tweeted to my pal Elyse Pasquale, aka Foodie International, the impetus for this impromptu Queens food tour, several hours earlier. I am not sure of the balut vendor’s hours so I was quite glad he was there. I hate to disappoint a lady, especially when fertilized Filipino duck eggs are involved. (more…)
Lechon from Engeline’s will be just one of the items on offer.
Tomorrow night a bonanza of Pinoy food from balut and pork sisig to lechon and bibinka comes to Brooklyn for a Foodraiser for the Philippines hosted by the Gastronauts and Food Curated. Woodside, Queens, aka Little Manila, will be represented by Engeline’s, which is generously donating two roast pigs and a mess of balut to the cause. In addition to traditional Filipino fare, there will be novel dishes like venison adobo and bone marrow fried rice from Ain’t2Proud2Brunch.
The event is being held from from 7–10 p.m. at The Woods (48 South 4th Street Williamsburg), and features a complimentary bar. Advance tickets are $50, or $60 at the door. Money will benefit the victims of the typhoon in the Philippines, give relief, and help devastated communities recover and rebuild. A large portion of the funds will go to Rose Charities, which is currently carrying out medical relief along the north coast of Negros Island. Missions are also being carried out by them in Cadiz City, as well as some of the small isolated islands which to date have had almost no relief.
Do they know they’re standing in the epicenter of ethnic food?
I am more street food connoisseur than street art aficionado. That didn’t keep me from jumping on the Banksy bandwagon though. No, I was not fortunate enough to purchase a $60 “spray art” canvas in Central Park. When I read on Monday that the British street artist had put up a piece in Queens as part of his monthlong New York City residency I hastened to a block of 69th Street in Woodside’s Little Manila not far from the rumbling 7 train. I couldn’t help but wonder whether the crowd of camera toting street art fans had any idea they were standing at the epicenter of ethnic food in New York City.
“What we do in life echoes in eternity,” it read in Banksy’s signature stenciled script. Well, almost, that last word was cheekily in the process of being obliterated by an old-timey looking character. (That’s a quote from the film Gladiator, by the way.) Having partaken of some culture in the form of art—and Instagrammed, Tweeted and Facebooked it—I took off in search of food culture.
Papa’s Kitchen uses recipes from the family patriarch.
I’ve been meaning to try Papa’s Kitchen for quite some time. So the other evening I stopped by the cozy spot tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Roosevelt Avenue’s Little Manila. Papa wasn’t in the house that night but his daughter, Mabie was. As I perused the menu she eyed a microphone on the table and asked me if I liked to sing. Like many Filipino spots Papa’s functions as something of a karaoke clubhouse.
A generous serving of pancit palabok.
After dodging the karaoke bullet I settled on pancit palabok ($8.95), a classic Filipino noodle dish. I also got an order of the steamed cakes known as puto ($3.50 for 10). The only other pancit palabok I’d had was at the fast-food joint Jollibee. Mabie feigned shock and chuckled when I told her. I was looking forward to a home-cooked version. It soon arrived at the table smelling of smoky fish and topped with hard-boiled eggs and green onions. (more…)