It is fair to say that I think about Filipino food all the time. I can't help it; I was raised on the stuff


Gusto Ko Ang Pulutan! A Filipino Call for Help

It is fair to say that I think about Filipino food all the time. I can't help it; I was raised on the stuff and I'm fascinated by all the cultural influences (Chinese, Mexican, and Spanish, to name a few) that can be found in even the simplest dishes. Also, and I say this as an objective professional taster of foods, it is the most delicious cuisine on the planet.

It's been a good week on the Seattle Filipino food front: Seafood City, a 44,000-square-foot (!!) open-air Filipino grocery store, will open next Thursday at Westfield Southcenter in Tukwila, complete with adjoining Filipino fast food eateries Jollibee (burgers, meh) and Chowking (better; they serve decent Chinese & Filipino fast food like arroz caldo, sotanghong, and shu mai). I also just got word that Georgetown's Manila Cafe, which limited its Filipino food offerings to just weekends about a year ago, is now back (due to customer demand) serving adobo and beef inihaw everyday.

I'm grateful, yet I want more. To be specific, I want sizzling sisig.

My uncle was in town from the Philippines this week, and he brought with him his friend Ray, who happens to be an incredible chef. Ray tore it up on the kitchen, his thick fingers working quickly and methodically to make us kare kare, sinigang, kilawin, adobo, and a few goat dishes (caldereta, kinilaw, papaitan). But what really got me excited was when Ray taught me how to make sisig, a specialty from my dad's province of Pampanga, comprised of chopped up pig's face, liver, kalamansi (Filipino lime), and chilis, often served sizzling on a hot platter. Any Filipino worth knowing will tell you that sisig is the ultimate drinking food, the ultimate pulutan.

Pulutan is the Tagalog word for "finger food" (it literally means "something that you pick up"), little bits (often fried) like chicharron (pork rinds) and lumpia (egg rolls) that you munch on, usually while drinking San Miguel. Pulutan also includes grilled snacks-on-sticks with clever names like IUD (chicken intestines, which, when fitted onto the bamboo skewer allegedly resemble--there's no good way to say this--an intra-uterine contraceptive device), Betamax (roasted blood cakes, rectangular and black, just like the old mini-video tapes , and Adidas (chicken feet, its three main toes resembling stripes).

As I sat with Ray for a few hours, chopping grilled pig ears and jowls, I realized that pulutan is the Filipino equivalent of Japanese izakaya, which is pretty popular here in Seattle. And pulutan and izakaya are just steps away from this gastropub thing everyone is so crazy about.

There's a woefully small number of Filipino restaurants in the area, so maybe it's foolish to ask, but... Seattle, please help: Is there any place a girl can get some pulutan around here?

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