Monday, July 14, 2008

New Felipiniana - Filipino food

A lot of Filipinos and a Buffet

I had never tried Filipino food. Although I usually do not like buffets, there is no better way to jump in the deep end of a cuisine than with an $8 buffet with more than 50 dishes.

The New Filipiana Restaurant, 9671 Bissonnet, is in the same strip center as La Sani. On Sunday at lunch -- as on weekdays -- New Filipiana serves an enormous buffet. On Sundays, it costs around $8.

On this Sunday at noon, it was packed with Filipinos. They had filled every table and a crowd of at least 30 was waiting for tables.

Fortunately, I had arrived earlier, just before the crowd. Apparently, I stood out. One Filipina woman asked me incredulously, "Do you like Filipino food?"

Do I like Filipino food?

I do now. But Filipino food was not what I expected.

Before Spanish colonization, the indigenous culture in the Phillipines was Malaysian. I knew Filipino culture has a broad mix of influences. But I expected the food to be a Malaysian/Asian blend, much like the food in Hawaii.

Instead, the dishes I tried reflected more a mix of European cooking techniques with island ingredients. The food resembled more than anything else the food of Cuba, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico.

Still, there is no question that this food was diverse. Many meats were braised or stewed, including goat, beef, and oxtail. There were adobo preparations, tomato sauces, and peanut sauces. Some seafood items such as calamari were lightly fried, but many were cooked in a stew. A few dishes included dried fish. Many dishes included fruits, such as coconut, bananas, mango, and currants, plus a lot of sweet potatoes.

Only a handful of dishes had much Asian influence. These included a popular but unappetizing batch of chopsuey, tiny fried spring rolls, at least one dish with tamarind sauce, and a dish called sweet bananas, which included firm bananas, sweet potatoes, and coconut milk.

It was hard to know exactly what I was eating. Only a few dishes were labeled, and about half the labels were in Spanish. I had heard that Filipino cuisine tends to use more of the animal than American cuisine. So I would not be surprised if I ate some unusual animal parts.

One of the more interesting dishes was dinuguan, a stew made from pork blood. Although the sauce had a blood-brown color and a slightly gritty texture, it tasted like a traditional European stew. Another stand out was kare-kare - 0xtails and vegetables in a light peanut sauce.

In short, I like what I tried. But there were so many items on New Filipiniana's buffet that I did not try even a third of them. The experience whet my appetite for more Filipino food. But perhaps next time, I will eat Filipino food off a menu -- so I know what I am getting.

What it looks like

17 comments:

justin said...

I've never been to New Filipinana, but Gold Ribbon is another place to check out for filipino food, which I think is pretty good (again, with nothing to compare it to) They do a huge take out business and I believe have a buffet as well. I'll check out New Felipiniana and check back on the comparison.

sheeats said...

This entire post is making me leave a puddle of drool on my desk. Wow. Especially at the idea of both braised oxtails and peanut sauce under one roof.

Man.

neverfull said...

damn food blogs. i'm standing in a pool of drool.

the only filipino food i've had is homecooked stuff. i have 2 filipino friends w/ moms that always think i'm hungry for some reason ;-) the stuff i had was very similar to asian food, moreso than island food. i'd like to give this place a try. my flip friend from LA is also coming to houston for a visit next month and i'd be interested in taking her there to see what she thinks.

houston chowhounds also has 1 filipino member that i know of. i'll see if she would like to escort a group to this place. she hasn't attended any events yet.

foodprincess said...

Thaks for the review and pictures.

I also have had Filipino food before - since I went to school recently with some people from the Philippines. I know I had Kare-kare and deep fried thin egg rolls. It would be fun to try more dishes with a bigger group.

Anonymous said...

gold ribbon and godo's are both filipino restaurants within spitting distance of the medical center- i haven't tried their buffets but the baked goods are quite delicious.

Anonymous said...

was there any dog?

anonymouseater said...

Last comment: I didn't see any dishes labeled asocena -- a famous Filipino dog-meat preparation. But many dishes were not labeled.

Like I said, I couldn't identify many of the meats.

I do know that when I went home and lay down on the sofa, my dog laid on top of my chest for about an hour. She would not have done that if she had smelled any dog meat on me.

Anonymous said...

Boy, do I miss Southeast Asia.

The "fried spring rolls" you discuss are probably a variety of 'Lumpia.' The type you ate may be 'Lumpia Prito' which is translated as "fried spring roll." My favorite is Lumpia Shanghai,made with ground pork and onions, with spicy sauce (though sweet and sour ain't bad either).

Boy do I miss Southeast Asia. Lumpia, pancit, adobo, a few San Miguels...

Bebett said...

It is unfortunate that Philippine (spelled with 1 "l" and 2 "p") food is probably the least known of Asian cuisine. Most Filipino restaurants in the US are either buffet or "turo-turo" (literally, "point-point") style -- perhaps to best entice people to try the different dishes. I would, however, prefer ordering from a menu. I am only able to identify the following dishes from your pictures: #1) Pork Tocino (if this is fried and sort of sweet) #3) Kare-Kare (peanut stew) and #6) Guinataan (a dessert/snack with coconut milk and some root crops).

Bebett said...

Oops, I meant picture #2 is Pork Tocino. #1 is obviously some squid dish but am not familiar with that.

jio said...

The squid dish in the picture, I think, is the calamari - Filipinos also have that squid dish version battered in flour, salt, and pepper and some spices and deep fried.

Anonymous said...

check out www.jonathansgrillhouston.com ive been there and its the best so far in town. been to filipiniana and gold ribbon but seriously have had stomach aches after. this new place in town has met my high standards. you dont have to worry about left over buffet or food sticking to the bottom of the sheet pans. its fresh food when you order it and its good. the bbq is best and its BYOB!

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Anonymous said...

Yes there extremely alike like Biko (sweet rice with a coconut taste) and "Arroz con Dulce" are exactly the same thing but with different name (I saw the process and I have a large book of Asian cooking).
Pluss here in Puerto Rico, we have many people with Filipino ancestry.(Like me, my last name is Aquino, this seems to be a really common last name in Philipines).
And I read in a book I was reading this "Puerto Rico and her sister Philipines". Saying that they were really alike.
Pluss sweet potato,rice and beans,adobo,plantains,bananas and many things are used the same way.
But obviously Philipines will have their weird animal in cuisine and different styles coming from the Malaysian part and Puerto Rico from the African part.