Padma Lakshmi features Pinoy food in 'Taste the Nation' on Disney+


Posted at May 09 2023 06:24 PM | Updated as of May 09 2023 06:58 PM

Screenshot from 'Taste the Nation' season 2 trailer.
Screenshot from 'Taste the Nation' season 2 trailer.

Host and author Padma Lakshmi featured Filipino culture in the United States in the episode "Ube in the Bay" in season 2 of her series "Taste the Nation," which streams on Disney+.

Lakshmi started her Filipino journey in Daly City, California and the Filipino fast food icon Jollibee.

She also talked to Ginger Lim-Dimapasok, who owns Cafe 86, which has seven locations.

Lim-Dimapasok said they wanted to educate people about Filipino food like ube.

"When we opened Cafe 86, our intention was to educate people, non-Filipinos, on what ube is, and hopefully take it to the mainstream where not just Filipinos are making ube desserts but everyone else," she said.

"Halo-halo is more than a dessert. It's a map of Filipino history in a glass. Taiwanese boba, Indian jackfruit, Filipino ube, and let's not forget the colonizers -- Spanish flan and American cereal. A sweet treat that represents a not-so-sweet past," Lakshmi noted.

For Lim-Dimapasok, Filipinos have a tendency to conceal their local roots in order to blend in the Western culture.

"Our people have finally accepted and loved it for what it is. There's a lot of self-hate with Filipino food. We'll look at our own food and say, 'That's kinda brown and ugly and oily and not healthy,' instead of us talking about how healthy Filipino food can be," Lim-Dimapasok said.

"Coming to the United States when I first moved here, I met all these Filipinos, and they'd say, 'Join this community' I would tell my husband, 'Why would I have to? I mean I know who I am' I'm Filipino, I was born and raised there, and then I had kids," she added.

"All of a sudden, I have everything to prove because they're not just American-born kids, they're Filipino-American. So, I have to work extra hard now to make sure that they know their roots, that they know that ube was my vanilla, how much it meant to me, and now that we're proudly establishing a business and that it's deeply rooted in culture and that's something that they can be proud of and that they can talk about with their kids," she said.

"I take pride in being able to showcase Filipino culture and now I want them to learn that they can be different, they can be weird, they can be loud, they can be proud, and that's what we're about," she added. 
Meanwhile, James Zarsadiaz of Tselogs showcased kare-kare and how various cultures have influenced the cuisine.

"With Filipino food, I say the flavor profile is oftentimes, it's sour, savory, and funky. It's in calamansi, soy sauce, vinegar, lots of garlic, bay leaves, as well. You know, a lot of Filipino food has a variety of influences," Zarsadiaz said.

"But why a lot of Filipinos move directly from the Philippines to the suburbs is because they'll watch American movies made from Hollywood, and the suburbs provide that opportunity to live out the American dream," he explained.

Zarsadiaz also noted how Americans still influence the culture of the Philippines.

"You have like condensed milk is a good example of a processed food, Spam of course right, but also kind of mash-ups right, like Filipino spaghetti. You know, putting their own twist with banana ketchup. And then, usually, hotdogs also," he said.

"It's not just food but just culture in general. One of the official languages of the Philippines is English. Many of them are Christian, they're Catholic. A system of education there that's very similar to the American system of education." 

While showing how to cook sinigang, critical care nurse Leslie Solorzano shared how Filipinos are under-appreciated in the service industry.

"In the Philippines, people would go into these certain professions, so that they can go out of different countries and then help bring back money to their families in the Philippines," Solorzano said.

"I've seen people passing before but to actually know that families are calling every hour because they want to be there and to know that we were given to represent those families, it was hard," she added. 

"The Filipinx culture doesn't get the recognition it deserves, especially in these service industries because we don't tell our stories. We all need to speak up, but we need to do it together." 

Ruby Ibarra of the group The Balikbayans also highlighted how her music pushes for bayanihan and community.

"Me and my family moved here and I had all these images of what America was from Hollywood films. For the longest time, I tried to diminish that Filipino side of myself. I would even re-record a song until I felt my accent was gone. I thought that, if I'm Filipino, people aren't gonna like it," Ibarra said.

"For Filipinos, it is a very patriarchal society. I saw it also reflected in our religion that we practiced. Catholicism is definitely also patriarchal. Thinking more deeply about it, I think that it really is rooted in history also. The Philippines was colonized several times. Having that sense of identity has not only been rewritten, but a lot of it has also been erased. I knew I had to carve out space on, on the record. Basically, tell people that we're tired of being invisible," she added.

"Bayanihan definitely plays a large part in my music. You need to have that sense of community, especially a strong sense of community, to even start a revolution. I think that we have a sense of bayanihan here in America as Filipinos because the immigrant experience is not a singular experience. You need to have, you know that sense of community to be able to make sense of who you are, and how you fit into this puzzle called America."

With their initiative during the Yolanda crisis, chef Francis Ang, along with their sisig and New York Times-recognized restaurant Abaca, hopes that Filipino cuisine will be all over the world.

"Everybody was so proud. We got to showcase our cuisine, you know, the culture and the food that we grew up with," he said.

"The idea is to open the door to younger Filipino chefs saying, Filipino food is here and is here to stay."


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