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Delicious Filipino fast food can be found at Kainan Sa Kanto in Lakewood – Press Telegram

I asked a friend recently if he felt like going out for some delicious Filipino food. He told me, “Sure, I love chicken at Jollibee.”

The look on my face was infinitely sad when he said that. Although Jollibee is from the Philippines, it is not particularly Filipino cuisine. Not even close. So, excuse me if I wore an academic robe for cooking, and did some lecturing:

For the longest time, the remarkably delicious cooking of the Philippines has been something of an exotic among the ethnic cuisines represented here at SoCal. Although there is a large Filipino community – and an area outside downtown Los Angeles that has been designated a “historic Filipino city” – the food has not had a culinary influence on the cooking of, say, Thailand or Vietnam. It has remained an exotic taste beloved by those who crave something…different. But it has stayed a bit far from the mainstream.

It is an education in world geography, and in colonial expansion, to chew the foods of the Philippines. Philippine lumbia can be traced straight back to Chinese spring roll, a dish introduced to the Philippines by the many Chinese travelers who set up trading posts in this chain of more than 7,000 islands. Pansit is a fried noodle dish that is very similar to the fried noodles found in any low-quality Chinese restaurant.

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From Spain, there are asada, escapeche and torta – a type of sandwich in Spain, and omelettes in the Philippines. There is more Spanish in dishes than Chinese, and more Chinese than native Filipinos. The most recent American influence on food is the introduction of Coca-Cola to the islands, a boon of questionable value.

But Filipino cooking is still… Filipino cooking, characterized by the relish of salt and umami in a tart fish/shrimp paste called bajong, and liquid fish patties. There is also acidity from adding vinegar, tamarind, or lemon-like calamansi. You’ll find a lot of garlic in Filipino dishes, and added seasoning from a variety of dipping sauces – Suswan.

We mostly eat Roman Catholic island dishes in the North, rather than the pork-free Muslim South. But San Miguel Pere represents all the islands. What he doesn’t travel is a regional liquor called tuba, which is made from the fermented sap of the palm tree. It is said that one sip is enough to bring an inexperienced tuba drinker to his knees.

A wonderful taste of carrots can be found in Dinner in Kanto, which is located in a small mall known for the adjacent Boot World branch. It’s a casual mix café, with a few tables, and a grocery store, with staff who seem intrigued when a non-Filipino shows interest in any of the many dishes on the steam table. Ask questions and they will give you suggestions. This is how I happily ended up munching on some pork kraclin, while considering a selection of dishes – as many as I could, based on the menu (half and full trays).

Daily combos, of course, are a great way to go, with a choice of chicken, pork, beef, seafood, soups, pancit, vegetables, and “speciality dishes” as the main course, with sides of simpler rice dishes (including fried rice), and more pasta dishes (including That’s Filipino style spaghetti).

The egg rolls are absolutely crunchy, and the empanada and libya are a must too. I have a craving for roast pork. And I dream that one day I will order a lechon, a whole roast pig, which must be pre-ordered a week in advance. I’d like to have it for Thanksgiving. Turkey is fine. But a whole roasted Filipino pig – pure heaven!

Until then, there’s the lumbia, which is filled with ground pork, carrots, celery, onions, and garlic, served with a sweet and sour sauce that can turn into a drink; Besides the taste of pork, sweets are an essential part of the diet. If available, I always get the kinilaw, where tuna is served in large cubes, dipped in lemon, rice vinegar, onion, ginger and jalapeno, along with rice balls. Inihaw may rhyme, but otherwise it’s roast chicken or pork skewers – basically satay, Filipino style.