My First ever Filipino Inspired Dessert Dinner experience. Written By Erica Enriquez-Clemente.
Nobody expects to turn up to a Filipino person’s home without the promise of a sweet treat. Yes, sometimes this will come in the form a 4-pack of iced cupcakes (I’ve personally never met a pack I didn’t like), but for most Filipinos, desserts and sweet elements are part and parcel of the Filipino cuisine.
So it’s no great surprise that the Filipino Food Movement Australia (FFMA), with Executive Pastry Chef of Hilton Sydney Miko Aspiras, collaborated on the 4th of the group’s Mabuhay Nights event. Called Alat, Asim, Tamis (Filipino words meaning salty, sour and sweet), it was Sydney’s first ever Filipino-inspired dessert dinner.
Chef Miko is an accomplished chef in his own right. He is of the Philippines’ most celebrated Pastry Chefs, with over 11 years’ experience in the food game, he’s been recognised as Tatler Philippines Best Pastry Chef 2018, Semi-Finalist at the Valrhona C3 Asia Pacific 2018, Forbes Asia Magazine 30 under 30 most influential 2018, World Gourmet Summit 2016, Featured Speaker at Madrid Fusion 2016 and ESQUIRE Magazine Philippines Chef Of The Year 2015.
Chef Miko has worked at Edsa Shangri La, Resorts World Manila, Raffles Fairmont Makati and now brings his expertise to the Hilton, Sydney as Executive Pastry Chef. He also remains Partner and Consultant to the Tasteless Food Group (Philippines).
Chef Miko’s Mabuhay Nights event was to reimagine typical Filipino dessert dishes and present them as mains, showcasing them as stars of the show rather than support acts. It was the first time this was done in Australia, so for foodies and sweet-tooths in Sydney, this was kind of a big deal.
Ovo Boteco in Potts Point was the setting for this event, and intentional or not, the venue’s spirit of celebrating Brazilian food and taking it to the next level, which is similar to FFMA’s mission of doing the same for Filipino Food, made for a nice cross-cultural alliance. Say what you want about 2019, but there is still room in the world for supporting diversity.
I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect from the pop-up experience. I followed FFMA’s Facebook advice earlier that day of leaving room for the event. I made sure I ate light that day – I wasn’t going to make the rookie mistake of thinking I’d walk away from a Filipino meal feeling even slightly unfed.
And I wasn’t disappointed! The menu was imaginative and exciting, using elements a home cook wouldn’t have had the time or the cahones to try. Pork rind and guava? Caramel rice cake? Pili nut milk? Go on Tarantado, give it a try. I’ll wait. So much of the criticism of Filipino Food in mainstream cuisine comes from Filipinos themselves. You’ll often hear this tired argument, “why am I paying xx amount of money to eat food I can cook at home?”. This is an argument that a) makes me feel inis (irritated) and b) only proves to show how narrow-minded some people can be. One of the benefits of dining out is to not only experience a new cuisine, but perhaps to experience familiar elements of a cuisine in a new and inspiring way.
But, I digress (sometimes it’s lonely up here on my high horse). The evening’s menu was adventurous. From the Pili nuts served on arrival (nuts that are native to the Philippines and fairly new to the Australian market) to the reimagined Halo (traditionally a delightful brain-freeze inducing drink), Chef Miko delivered on FFMA’s mission to “create the platform to bring broader awareness, appreciation and investment in the Filipino culinary arts in Australia”.
For anyone who has yet to experience a Mabuhay Nights event, here’s 3 reasons why you should give it a go:
Any respectable Aussie understands that part of a good time involves food. Any type of food. Better yet, all types of food.
You meet a lot of friendly & interesting people from all walks of life at these events. Seating is set up so you’re not just hanging out with friends, but talking to new people. Some are familiar with the cuisine, and some are not. All need a place to unwind, and, with Mabuhay Nights events often taking place on a weeknight, it’s as good a time as any to let someone else think about dinner, and shoot the breeze with friends (the ones you come with and the new ones you make on the night).
Filipino Food is, quite literally, a flavour explosion on the culinary scene. FFMA supports Filipino restaurants, food businesses and chefs of all levels, so a Mabuhay Nights event is a guaranteed straight shot into Filipino cuisine. You can walk away from an event feeling like you’ve just flown back from Manila, and you didn’t even have to leave the Sydney city limits.
I left the event with a belly full of food and a stronger appreciation for Sydney and its residents – the hospitality industry is part of the lifeblood of this city there’s never been a better time to plug yourself into its heart and soul. We live in divisive times, but it’s in these times that we can seek out opportunities to connect to each other, and there’s no better gateway for connection that through a culture’s cuisine.
About Erica Enriquez-Clemente
Erica is a Sydney-based writer covering everything from travel, lifestyle, entertainment and anything in between. She holds a day job in film and television distribution, which means she pays the bills as a couch potato, whilst indulging her love of potatoes and other carbs through her passion projects. Her work can be viewed via www.clippings.me/users/ericaenriquez