BARCELONA - When one visits Plaza Real in Barcelona, one cannot help but notice a long line of people, mostly tourists, waiting to get inside a restaurant famous for its Mediterranean cuisine.
The restaurant Les Quinze Nits known for its paella and tapas now offers lumpiang sariwa, tinola, kaldereta and other Filipino dishes.
Their menu "Es más divertida la comida Filipina" (Filipino food is more fun) may sound very Spanish but it offers a four-course meal entirely Filipino.
For starters or pulutan, one can order either lechon kawali or lumpiang sariwa. For appetizers, the three options are tinola, ensalada or pancit canton. For the main course, one can choose adobo with mashed potato or kaldereta with sinangag, while for dessert, leche flan is served.
“This is to promote Filipino food in Barcelona and Madrid,” says restaurant co-owner and current Philippine Honorary Consul Jordi Puig Roches. Another restaurant of his in Madrid, La Caña, also features Filipino cuisine in their menu.
The whole idea came from Philippine Ambassador to Spain Carlos Salinas to promote Filipino cuisine in line with the "It's More Fun in the Philippines" campaign.
Filipino food has been practically ignored as compared with its Southeast Asian counterparts. It may not be as popular or as well-marketed as Thai or Indonesian cuisine, but for Heico Oosting, a Dutch tourist in Barcelona who tasted the Filipino meal, thinks Southeast Asian cuisines are a bit similar.
“Sometimes it’s hot, sometimes it’s sweet. I like it a lot”. It was also his wife Adriana’s first try, who chose a Filipino meal over Spanish. “We have more Spanish food in Holland so this is new for us. I would like to try it and I like it very much because of the meat and the vegetables, also the sweet and sour sauces.”
“The taste was adapted, not too salty or too strong like in the Philippines. Same with paella in the Philippines, we have to adapt the paella to the Filipino palate,” Puig explains.
Nonetheless, the sweet-sour-spicy-salty taste Filipino food is known for is still there as the dishes are prepared by Filipino cooks and the ingredients used are easy to find in Barcelona.
There is a huge market for Filipino seasoning and food products in Barcelona as there are more than 25,000 Filipinos residing in the Catalonian region.
Louie Hechanova, a Filipino based in Paris who frequented Barcelona and Les Quinze Nits, is excited about this initiative.
"It's about time. I've been searching for a really good Filipino restaurant in Europe not only because I want to eat Filipino food but also for someone to showcase Filipino cuisine to the Europeans. Our food is so underrated which is a pity because it tastes so good," he said.
However, the Pinoy meal will only be available in Les Quinze Nits and La Caña for the whole month of June. A recently-opened Philippines Club, also in Plaza Real and managed by Puig will take their place in serving Filipino dishes all year long.
Puig has also started exploring the idea of offering something bigger and more attractive to tourists and locals alike. “I’ll see if we can offer lechon, with barrio fiesta atmosphere, Filipinos dancing, singing while enjoying lechon.”