Click photo to enlarge
Kelly Degala, executive chef of Pres a Vi, shows off two small plates: crab avocado lumpia and pork belly lechon, just days before the restaurant's opening in Building D of the Letterman Digital Arts campus in the Presidio of San Francisco.
One of the first employee meals Kelly Degala dished up for his staff at Va de Vi in Walnut Creek was pork adobo, a long-braised Filipino stew spiked with vinegar, garlic and soy. The manager liked it so much, he suggested Degala add it to Va de Vi's hip menu of global small plates.

"This is really country-casual kind of food," said Degala doubtfully. But Degala, a Filipino-American, gussied it up a bit, grilling the meat first to inject some smoke, sweetening it with mirin, and serving it with fried garlic jasmine rice.

"Before I knew it," Degala says, "it was extremely popular."

The best-known Filipino dish is probably lumpia. A popular party and wedding dish in Hawaii, where Degala was raised, lumpia is a kind of egg roll stuffed with pork, shrimp, bean sprouts and snow peas. It's a formula Degala found easy to upscale. He brought a version to Va de Vi and, when San Francisco's grand Pres a Vi opened in December, lumpia was prominently featured -- stuffed with rock shrimp and avocado, wrapped in flaky pastry and served on translucent seaweed.

Perhaps Degala's most impressive ode to Filipino cuisine is a take on lechon, a national dish. Rather than cooking a whole suckling pig, Degala poaches pork belly in an aromatic bath for hours, roasts it and, finally, fries it when he gets an order. The crispy, luscious block of Pork Belly Lechon is reminiscent of the classically spit-roasted, coal-fired pig. He serves it with another Filipino favorite --pickled vegetables -- at Pres a Vi.

"This is our 'lechon,'" Degala says.

Filipinos have been immigrating to California for more than a century. In fact, Filipino-Americans comprise the second largest Asian-American ethnic group in the state (1.1 million, according to 2005 U.S. Census figures, just below those of Chinese descent).

Yet the popularity of Filipino cuisine has lagged far behind that of Chinese and Japanese, and even that of much newer Asian immigrants, Vietnamese and Indian.

Part of the reason is that many small Filipino restaurants cater to their own. "Unfortunately, the mom-and-pop style tends to be a little greasy, and I think that's why we get a bad rap," Degala says.

Finally, the time has come for this underappreciated cuisine, with its tart, sweet, salty, vinegary and pungent flavors, and its blend of Chinese, Spanish and Malaysian influences.

Bay Area diners are even warming up to the idea of tripe and other formerly taboo Filipino ingredients, as Italian and French chefs showcase peasant fare. "Only in the last two or three years have innards become popular," Degala says.

In the same way that San Francisco's Slanted Door modernized and popularized Vietnamese food to attract a wider audience, a new crop of Filipino and pan-Asian Bay Area restaurants is poised to follow suit in elevating Filipino cuisine.

Patio Filipino in San Bruno, which touts Filipino-Spanish specialties, has been packing in the crowds since it opened two years ago. An expansion next month will nearly double its seats. The owners are even contemplating opening a restaurant in Las Vegas.

Bistro Luneta in San Mateo, opened last year by a local Filipino-American couple and the former chef of the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Manila, has won accolades for modern Filipino fare such as seared black cod in tamarind soup and grilled flat-iron steak with citrus soy sauce.

So, too, have the hip Poleng Lounge and stylish Pres a Vi, both established in San Francisco in the past year by chefs of Filipino ancestry. And in August, Red Lantern will open at 808 Willow St. in Redwood City to serve up Southeast Asian dishes, including at least five Filipino ones.

While the East Bay is still limited to more traditional Filipino restaurants, chains such as Concord's Goldilocks, with their quick-casual dining and enticing selection of baked goods, are establishing a cuisine of the Philippines.

In subtle ways, Filipino influences are making their mark. At the Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton in San Francisco, Filipino-American pastry chef Alexander Espiritu has started working with ingredients from his heritage, including kalamansi, the tart, fragrant Philippine lime, which he uses in place of lemon in curd for desserts. At the French Laundry in Yountville in April, the chef's tasting menu for the first time featured pili, a Philippine nut similar to a Brazil nut. It starred in a rich Bavarian cream dessert.

Presidential chef

These days, even the highest chef in the nation -- the executive chef of the White House -- is Filipino-American. Cristeta Comerford, the first Filipino-American -- and the first woman -- in that vaunted position, recently took a rare break from cooking for the Bush family to demonstrate the preparation of arroz caldo (a sprightly chicken noodle soup) and other traditional dishes at a Washington restaurant.

"When you went to a Filipino restaurant before, it was almost like going to someone's home," says Tim Luym, executive chef of Poleng Lounge. "I don't think anyone thought it could be more, that they could make it grander, that it could appeal to the general public.

"It's an exciting time now. There are a lot of pioneers, and their hard work and efforts are paying off, and paving the path for a new wave of Filipino chefs and restaurants."

In the past, the average diner's road map of Filipino cuisine pretty much began and ended with lumpia, adobo and pancit (noodle dishes). Many diners also were stopped in their tracks by certain potential culinary obstacles: the cuisine's perceived heaviness and its shocking technicolor desserts (many of them purple from the similarly tinted ubi yam).

Indeed, Filipino-Americans roll their eyes in disbelief whenever fine-dining restaurants are labeled daring for serving avocado or corn ice cream -- treats Filipinos have eaten for generations.

Filipino cuisine is a mix of its country's history, geography and culture. With the Philippines made up of more than 7,100 islands, seafood is a major component -- from fresh fish to bagoong, the powerful fermented shrimp or fish paste used to season so many dishes. Because of its tropical climate, coconut and rice also are big staples.

Chinese traders introduced ducks, pigs, soy sauce, fermented beans, egg rolls, fried rice and fried noodles, according to Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan, chef-owners of the pioneering modern Filipino restaurant Cendrillon in New York. Their cookbook, "Memories of Philippine Kitchens: Stories and Recipes from Far and Near" (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $35) this year won an International Association of Culinary Professionals award for its research and presentation.

Additionally, Spanish colonizers contributed ham, chorizo, rellenos (stuffed dishes) and afritada (dishes fried and simmered in tomato sauce). The Mexican influence can be readily seen in tamales, menudo and empanadas. And during the first half of the 20th century, after the Philippines became a colony of the United States, canned goods such as evaporated milk, Spam and corned beef hash were embraced.

With all those familiar touchstones, why haven't Filipino restaurants popped up in every neighborhood the way Chinese restaurants have?

At the turn of the 20th century, Filipinos began moving here in large numbers to work on farms, according to Dawn Bohulano Mabalon, an assistant professor of history at San Francisco State University. The 1965 immigration act allowed even more Filipinos to come, many of them highly educated nurses, doctors and lawyers.

Unlike many other Asian immigrants, Filipinos came here with a distinct advantage, Mabalon says. They were fluent in English.

"Cambodians opened doughnut shops. The Vietnamese opened sandwich shops. They did this because they didn't speak English, though they were highly skilled in business," she says. "Restaurant work is incredibly hard work, and if you could do something else, you would."

Mabalon should know. Her grandfather had what may have been the longest-running Filipino restaurant in the United States -- the Lafayette Lunch Counter, a Filipino working-class diner that operated from 1931 to 1978 in the Little Manila section of Stockton. It closed after he retired because nobody in the family wanted to take it over.

Filipinos also grew up taking pride in the fact that the best Filipino food was cooked at home, Mabalon says. But when hardworking, middle-class Filipino-Americans found themselves too tired to cook for themselves, more Filipino restaurants began to open to sate their appetite, especially in the large Filipino-American enclaves of Daly City and Vallejo.

New demand

When a new generation of Filipino-Americans with greater buying power and a more sophisticated palate wanted to introduce their non-Filipino friends and co-workers to the cuisine, they were disappointed to realize that an elegant equivalent of a Straits or Tamarine or Amber India for Filipino food was nowhere to be found. Enter Bistro Luneta and Patio Filipino, whose owners opened their restaurants precisely to fill that void.

Even so, Filipino-American restaurateurs like these have been a little wary about how much of the cuisine to introduce to a mass audience. They fear that some traditional dishes such as dinuguan (inky-hued pork stew thickened with tamarind and pig's blood) or sisig (finely chopped fried pork cheek, snout and ears, flavored with lemon juice, vinegar and chiles) might be a hard sell.

That's why at Bistro Luneta, the kaldereta of grilled beef tenderloin or lamb on the menu is described as being in a "pate de foie sauce" rather than the beef liver sauce that it is. It's become one of the restaurant's most popular dishes, but Jon Guanzon, co-owner of Bistro Luneta, wonders if it would be without the more majestic name. That's also why at Poleng Lounge, you can go to town on sweet-tangy, crispy adobo chicken wings. But for more exotic dishes featuring parts of the pig head, you'll have to ask your waiter; they're available, but not advertised on the regular menu.

In the Bay Area, where braised duck feet abound on dim sum carts, fermented fish sauce is savored in Vietnamese and Thai dishes, sweetbreads can be found on fancy white-tablecloth menus and Italian restaurants promote special events where every part of the pig is served, perhaps it's no surprise that this new awakening over Filipino cuisine has happened here.

"Filipinos need to regain their self-esteem about their food and their culture. California will lead the way," says New York's Besa, who is mulling opening a restaurant in the Golden State. "It's a more Asian-centric culture that will be kinder and more accepting of this cuisine."

Kelly Degala of Va de Vi created a modern version of dinuguan when he oversaw a hotel restaurant in Hawaii, only he called it pork belly adobo with "black risotto." It was a hit. And he may add it to the fall menu at Pres a Vi.

"People freak out when they hear the phrase 'pork blood,'" Degala says. "I say I use pork sauce or pork stock. I don't want to shock people at the start. I would rather they understand what I'm doing and experience the flavors first."

Reach Times Food editor Nicholas Boer at 925-943-8254 or nboer@cctimes.com. Reach Carolyn Jung at cjung@mercurynews.com or 408-920-5451.

Common dishes

  • Adobo: A vinegar-tart stew of meat, seafood or vegetables flavored with garlic and soy sauce.

  • Dinuguan: A pork stew thickened with pig's blood and flavored with tamarind.

  • Halo-halo: Meaning "mix-mix," it's the traditional icy dessert of the Philippines. Served in a parfait glass, the layers usually consist of sweetened red beans, fresh fruits, ice, ice cream, whole milk or condensed or evaporated milk.

  • Kakanin: A generic term for all native desserts. The word is derived from the word kanin, which means cooked rice. The majority of native desserts are made with rice, but cassava, saba (a cooking banana similar to plantain), taro and sweet potato also are used. These usually are eaten as a snack, seldom for dessert after meals. They are steamed, boiled or baked.

  • Kare kare: A stew made with oxtail or calf's feet with a sauce thickened with ground rice or peanuts. It is eaten with fermented shrimp paste.

  • Kinilaw: Similar to seafood ceviche with vinegar, lime or other citrus juice.

  • Lechon: A whole roasted pig with crackling skin.

  • Lumpia: A fresh pancake wrapped around vegetables and/or meat; or a deep-fried egg roll-like treat filled with ground pork, shrimp or vegetables.

  • Pancit: Noodle dishes with shrimp, fish, meat or vegetables; noodles are made with egg, rice, mung bean, wheat or whole wheat.

  • Sinigang: A soupy mix of seafood or meat and vegetables soured with tropical fruits.

    Common ingredients

  • Bagoong: Fermented shrimp or fish paste. A little goes a long way.

  • Balut: Boiled fertilized duck egg.

  • Bangus: Milkfish, a very spiny fish like pike. It can be found frozen or preserved in oil in cans like sardines.

  • Buko: Young coconut used for making pies and salads.

  • Kalamansi (also sometimes spelled calamansi): Indigenous to the Philippines, this tiny lime, with usually a deep green or orange-colored peel, has a flavor a little like Japanese yuzu -- tart lime mixed with mandarin orange. The juice is used in lemonade, dips, sorbet and marinades. Find it sold in cartons like limeade-like juice, and frozen. Costco also sells a shelf-stable drinkable juice.

  • Pandan: Screwpine leaf used for flavoring desserts, juices and water.

  • Sili: General name for all chiles.

  • Ube (or ubi): Purple yam used for jams, ice creams and sweets.

    -- Sources: "Memories of Philippine Kitchens: Stories and Recipes from Far and Near," by Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan, and Kristine Keefer, public relations coordinator for the French Laundry

    Restaurants -- traditional

  • Choko's Cuisine: 1511 Sycamore Ave., Hercules, 510-245-3511.

  • Goldilocks: 1050 Contra Costa Blvd., Concord, 925-681-1888.

  • Maynila Bakery: 1245 International Market, Richmond, 510-234-8966.

  • Manila Garden: 20500 Hesperian Blvd., Hayward, 510-670-0727.

  • Marylou's Homemade Delights: 1572 Sycamore Ave., Hercules, 510-245-1100.

  • Max's of Manila: 3555 Sonoma Blvd. Vallejo, 707-643-9600.

  • Sulo Filipino Food Center: 1518 Webster St., Alameda, 510-865-7889.

  • Taste of Manila: 2619 Oliver Drive, Hayward, 510-783-6737.

    Restaurants -- upscale

  • Bistro Luneta: Chef Emmanuel Santos, who cooked at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Manila, reinterprets Filipino cuisine in contemporary dishes such as bangus maki (milkfish with tomato, onion and salted egg, all wrapped up in a maki sushi roll), mushroom afritada and seared black cod in tamarind soup. The restaurant also features a nice selection of wines. 615 Third Ave., Unit D, San Mateo, 650-344-0041, http://www.bistroluneta.com.

  • Patio Filipino: This pretty and bustling restaurant specializes in modern Filipino-Spanish cuisine. That means you'll find plenty of tapas and paella (more garlicky than the traditional Valencia-style, with less saffron, and with the addition of hard-boiled eggs), as well as crispy fried chicken, kare kare (oxtail cooked in peanut sauce) and milkfish served on a sizzling platter with onion and jalapenos. 1770 El Camino Real, San Bruno, 650-872-9888, http://www.patiofilipino.com.

  • Poleng Lounge: This hipster spot, with its premium tea blends, creative cocktails and eclectic live music, features Asian street foods. Among its Filipino offerings are crispy adobo wings, lumpia Shanghai (fried egg rolls filled with shrimp and pork), and seared beef tenderloin salpicao with poached marrow to spread on outrageously good coconut breadsticks. 1751 Fulton St., S.F., 415-441-1751, http://www.polenglounge.com.

  • Pres a Vi: This is Filipino-American chef Kelly Degala's second Bay Area restaurant. You'll find French, Italian, Latin American, Spanish and Filipino flavors. Among the Filipino specialties are fresh lumpia, Kurobuta pork belly lechon and prawn adobo. 1 Letterman Drive in the Presidio, S.F., 415-409-3000, http://www.presavi.com.

  • Va de Vi: Degala's first restaurant is all about small plates and wine. There are more than 100 wines by the bottle, and 49 by the glass. Among the Filipino-inspired dishes are rock shrimp-avocado lumpia, Kurobuta pork ribs adobo and warm mango empanadas. 1511 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Walnut Creek, 925-979-0100, http://www.vadevi.com.

    Markets

  • Seafood City Supermarket: 3495 Sonoma Blvd., Vallejo, 707-642-4400; also 3065 McKee Road, San Jose, 408-240-4980.

  • Manila Oriental Market: 2812 S. White Road, San Jose, 408-414-9000.

  • Manila Oriental Foods: 179 W. Calaveras Blvd., Milpitas, 408-945-7711.

    -- Carolyn Jung

    ROCK SHRIMP & AVOCADO LUMPIA

    Serves 6

    Lumpia wraps come either square or round, refrigerated or frozen. The square shape is a little easier to roll up. Lumpia wraps are very much like filo leaves; fresh are easier to work with than frozen. When frozen, they may be difficult to separate. Save any torn sheets; they work well as a second wrap to use over one that tears while rolling it up. To ensure wraps don't dry out, cover them with a moist towel while working. Lumpia may be prepared ahead, covered with a lightly moistened towel and refrigerated. They should be fried as close to serving as possible.

    2 tablespoons olive oil

    1 pound rock shrimp

    Salt and pepper

    1/2 cup finely chopped red bell pepper

    1/4 cup finely chopped red onion

    1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper sauce, such as Tabasco Sauce or Sriracha

    1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

    1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic

    2/3 cup mayonnaise

    1/2 teaspoon sea salt

    12 Lumpia wrappers (6- or 8-inches square or round)

    2 avocados, peeled and thinly sliced

    1 egg mixed with 1 teaspoon water, for wash

    Cornstarch

    Rice or vegetable oil for frying

    FOR PRESENTATION:

    Ponzu (citrusy soy sauce available at Asian markets)

    Wasabi Orange Cream (see recipe)

    Pickled Cucumbers (see recipe)

    Furikake (Japanese condiment)

    1. To make filling: In a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat, heat oil until hot. Add shrimp and saute until cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Drain in colander in sink until cool. Coarsely chop into large pieces.

    2. In a large bowl, stir together bell pepper, onion and shrimp. Stir in pepper sauce, mustard, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt and pepper. Add garlic and mayonnaise; stir to combine.

    3. To wrap: Carefully separate 12 lumpia wrappers and lay them out on a work surface. (If using square wrappers, place them in a diamond shape with a pointed edge toward you.) Place 2 thin slices of avocado in the center. Top each with 1/4 cup shrimp filling. Brush egg wash over top half of wrapper. Fold bottom edge over filling; pull it towards you to tighten the filling into a log shape. Fold sides over filling and roll into a tight log. If the lumpia tears, reroll in a second wrapper. (Don't add a third wrapper; it will be too thick.) Pour some cornstarch into a pie dish. Roll each lumpia lightly in cornstarch and place on a baking sheet. They may be refrigerated up to 4 hours covered with a damp towel.

    4. To fry: Fill a deep fryer or Dutch oven with several inches of oil. Heat to 360 degrees. Lumpia will need to be cooked in batches. Carefully add to oil without crowding; leaving enough room to turn them. Fry, turning with tongs until golden brown on all sides, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove to a baking sheet lined with paper towels.

    5. To plate: Using a serrated knife, cut ends off lumpia. Cut each lumpia into quarters. Stand 8 pieces on plates, filling side up. Place ends next to rolls. Lightly sprinkle tops with Ponzu. Spoon a dollop of Wasabi Orange Cream next to rolls. Sprinkle with Furikake if using.

    Per serving (not including sauces): 600 calories, 24 g protein, 43 g carbohydrates, 38 g total fat, 6 g saturated fat, 170 mg cholesterol, 830 mg sodium, 4 g fiber. Calories from fat: 57 percent.

    -- Times analysis

    WASABI ORANGE CREAM

    Makes 1 cup

    1 cup mayonnaise

    1 tablespoon orange oil

    2 teaspoons wasabi paste, or to taste

  • In a medium bowl, whisk mayonnaise, orange oil and wasabi. For a spicier sauce, stir in more wasabi. Sauce may be refrigerated up to 1 week.

    Nutrition essentially the same as the mayonnaise used.

    PICKLED CUCUMBERS

    Makes 21/2 cups

    1 bottle (12 ounces) unseasoned rice vinegar

    3/4 cup superfine sugar

    2 teaspoons sea salt

    1 hothouse English cucumber, very thinly sliced

  • In a bowl, stir together vinegar, sugar and salt. Stir in cucumbers. Make sure they are immersed in liquid. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or until soft. Cucumbers may be refrigerated indefinitely as long as they are submerged in the liquid.

    Nutrition essentially the same as pickles.

    Baby back ribs adobo

    Serves 4

    1 cup organic apple cider vinegar (preferably aged in wood)

    1 tablespoon soy sauce

    3 small bay leaves

    1 or 2 large jalapeno chiles, left whole

    1 side of baby back ribs (about 2 pounds), cut up into individual or 2-rib portions

    2 teaspoons rock salt

    6 garlic cloves, peeled

    2 teaspoons Tellicherry peppercorns

    Steamed rice, for serving

    1. In small bowl, combine vinegar, soy sauce, bay leaves and jalapeno. Arrange ribs in baking pan and season with salt.

    2. Using a mortar and pestle, gently pound garlic cloves and peppercorns until they are combined and coarsely ground. Rub spices into the pork. Pour vinegar mixture over ribs, turning meat to coat evenly with the liquid. Cover pan tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to overnight.

    3. When you're ready to cook ribs, transfer ribs and marinade to large, heavy saucepan. Bring mixture to boil, then reduce heat, cover and cook until meat is tender and falling off the bone, about 1 hour. Transfer ribs to a plate.

    4. Increase heat to high and cook marinade, uncovered, until reduced to a medium-thick sauce, 5 to 10 minutes more. If sauce is still thin, simmer for a few more minutes until thickened. Discard bay leaves and jalapeno.

    5. While you're reducing the sauce, preheat broiler. Transfer ribs to a broiler pan lined with foil. Pour sauce over ribs.

    6. Broil ribs until nicely browned, 3 to 5 minutes on each side. Serve with steamed rice, if you like.

    -- From "Memories of Philippine Kitchens: Stories and Recipes from Far and Near" by Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan

    Per serving (not including rice): 660 calories, 40 g protein, 3 g carbohydrates, 54 g total fat, 20 g saturated fat, 175 mg cholesterol, 910 mg sodium, 0 fiber. Calories from fat: 73 percent.

    -- Times analysis

    Kalamansi meringue pie

    Makes one 9-inch tart

    Kalamansi lime juice can be found frozen or in cartons in Filipino groceries.

    FOR PIE PASTRY:

    21/4 cups all-purpose flour

    1/2 teaspoon salt

    1/4 teaspoon baking powder

    1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled

    4 to 6 tablespoons ice water

    FOR CURD:

    3/4 cup granulated sugar

    1/3 cup kalamansi lime juice

    8 egg yolks, lightly beaten

    3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

    For the meringue:

    4 egg whites, at room temperature

    1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

    1/2 cup superfine sugar

    1. To make pie dough: Sift flour, salt and baking powder into a large bowl. Cut butter into flour using your fingertips or a pastry blender (or pulse in food processor) until texture resembles coarse meal with visible bits of butter. Drizzle 4 tablespoons ice water evenly over mixture and gently stir with fork or pulse until incorporated. Pinch off a small handful of dough; if it doesn't hold together, add more water, 1/2 tablespoon at a time, stirring or pulsing after each addition.

    2. To make pie: Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface. Divide ball of dough in half, and pat into disks about 1/2-inch thick. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour or up to 2 days.

    3. On lightly floured work surface with a lightly floured rolling pin, roll dough into a 14-inch circle about 1/8-inch thick. Transfer to 10-inch tart pan with removable bottom, pressing dough into pan. Trim away excess dough from edges of pan. Cover tart with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight.

    4. While dough is chilling, make kalamansi curd filling: In metal bowl (or the top of a double boiler) set over, not in, simmering water, whisk together the sugar and kalamansi juice. Do not let water come to boil. Whisk until sugar completely dissolves, about 3 minutes. Take bowl off heat and keep pot of water at steady simmer.

    5. In separate, heatproof bowl, whisk egg yolks. Whisking constantly, slowly pour a small amount of the hot lime juice mixture into yolks, gradually adding more juice until all of it has been incorporated.

    6. Using rubber spatula, scrape tempered egg-lime mixture back into metal bowl, and set bowl over simmering water. Add butter and whisk constantly until thickened, about 10 minutes. (The temperature should be 130 degrees.) Take bowl off the heat.

    7. Strain curd through fine-mesh strainer into bowl. Let cool slightly, then place a piece of plastic wrap directly onto surface of filling, and refrigerate until ready to use. The curd can be made up to 1 day in advance.

    8. To bake crust, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove plastic wrap from tart shell and prick bottom of pastry all over with fork. Line tart shell with enough parchment paper to cover bottom and come up sides. Fill bottom of pan with pie weights or dried beans so dough doesn't puff during baking.

    9. Transfer tart shell to oven and bake until set and lightly browned around edges, about 15 minutes, removing parchment paper and weights about 3 minutes before pastry is finished baking to ensure that pastry is evenly browned. Transfer shell to wire rack to cool completely. Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees.

    10. Make meringue: In clean bowl of an electric mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat egg whites on medium speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add superfine sugar and beat on high speed until glossy and stiff, but not dry, peaks are formed.

    To assemble pie, spread kalamansi curd evenly over bottom of cooked pie shell. Cover with meringue, smoothing it with a rubber spatula and making sure meringue touches edges of tart shell. Transfer tart to a baking sheet and bake until meringue is golden brown on top, 10 minutes. Transfer to wire rack to cool. Refrigerate for 20 minutes to allow curd to set before serving.

    -- From "Memories of Philippine Kitchens: Stories and Recipes from Far and Near," by Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan

    Pato sa gata (duck breast in spicy coconut sauce)

    Serves 4

    2 tablespoon vegetable oil

    8-10 garlic cloves

    1 small yellow onion

    1 bay leaf

    6 whole peppercorns

    2 serrano chiles, cut in half, plus extra chiles for garnish

    2 teaspoons Thai chile flakes, plus additional for garnish

    3 tablespoons fish sauce

    24-32 ounces Thai coconut milk (2 larger cans or 4 small ones)

    Salt and white pepper

    4 all-natural White Pekin duck breast halves, skin on

    1. To make sauce: In saucepan, heat oil over high heat. Add garlic, onion, bay leaf, peppercorns, serrano chiles and Thai chile flakes and saute until onion becomes tender. Add fish sauce and reduce fish sauce until almost evaporated. Pour in coconut milk, lower heat to simmer, and cook 15-20 minutes, until slightly thickened and reduced. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Using a fine strainer, strain sauce and discard vegetables. Set sauce aside.

    2. To cook duck breasts: Preheat oven to 500 degrees. In ovenproof saute pan, heat oil until it smokes. Score skin of duck breasts and season with salt and pepper. Sear duck breast skin side down until golden brown. Turn and sear other side. Repeat with all duck breasts. Place saute pan with duck breasts in oven, and bake 8-10 minutes for medium, adjusting time for desired doneness. Remove duck breasts from oven and set aside for 2 minutes to rest.

    3. To serve: On each of four plates, ladle 3 ounces of sauce into center. Slice duck breast thinly and arrange in center of plates. Garnish with Thai chile flakes and serrano chili arranged around the edge of each plate.

    -- From Chef Emmanuel Santos of Bistro Luneta in San Mateo

    Portobello mushroom afritada

    Serves 5

    5 portobello mushrooms

    4 tablespoons olive oil, divided use

    1 red bell pepper, cut into 3/4-inch dice

    1 green bell pepper, cut into 3/4-inch dice

    1 medium zucchini, cut into 3/4-inch dice

    1/2 globe eggplant, cut into 3/4-inch dice

    1 medium yellow onion, cut into 3/4-inch dice

    1 tablespoon chopped garlic

    1/2 teaspoon Thai chile flakes

    2 tablespoons soy sauce

    11/2 cups tomato sauce

    Salt and pepper

    15 won ton wrappers, fried until crisp and golden

    1. Remove stems and gills from portobellos. Brush portobellos with 1 tablespoon olive oil. On outdoor grill or stovetop grill pan, grill portobellos for about 4 minutes until cooked; set aside.

    2. In hot pan or wok, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil until it smokes and saute red and green bell peppers, zucchini, eggplant and onion for about 2 minutes, enough to heat the vegetables but keep them crisp. Add garlic, chile flakes and soy sauce, and cook 1 minute. Add tomato sauce and season with salt and pepper to taste. Heat until warmed through.

    3. To serve: Spoon some of the vegetable mixture into the center of each of 4 or 5 plates; top with one won ton wrapper. Repeat process, layering vegetables and won ton wrappers like a lasagna. Grilled portobello should be the top layer. Serve.

    -- From Chef Emmanuel Santos of Bistro Luneta in San Mateo

    Tortang talong (stuffed grilled eggplant omelet)

    Serves 4

    Kristine Keefer, public relations coordinator for the French Laundry in Yountville, left her native Philippines after college to attend the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. This omelet can be enjoyed with the accompanying recipes for mango salad and garlic fried rice for a complete meal for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

    2 Japanese eggplant (the narrower the better, as they will cook faster)

    Vegetable oil or extra virgin olive oil, as needed

    1 medium onion, cut in small dice

    10 ounces ground pork

    1 large plum tomato, cut in small dice

    1 tablespoon fish sauce (Keefer prefers the Thai brand Tiparos)

    4 medium eggs

    Salt and pepper, to taste

    1. On a grill or open flame, scorch eggplant skins until blackened. (Using stem as handle, try to turn eggplants on every side to char as much of the skin as possible.) Place them whole in a heatproof dish and cover with a tight-fitting lid or plastic wrap. Let eggplants steam in the residual heat until they turn limp. Once they have had a chance to cool, gently peel away skins and discard. Set peeled eggplants aside.

    2. In large pan, heat about 1 tablespoon oil until a smoky haze appears. Add onion and saute until softened and caramel in color. Mix in ground pork and saute until cooked. Add diced tomato and cook until softened. Add fish sauce and cook until it evaporates or until the sharp fish smell disappears and is replaced by a more mellow aroma. Remove mixture from flame and set aside to cool until needed.

    3. In medium bowl, whisk eggs until frothy. Add both eggplants, laying them side by side with stem ends sticking up and out of the bowl together. Using a fork, mash eggplant meat until flattened. Add pork mixture and make sure it and eggplant are well-coated with beaten eggs. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

    4. In 8-inch nonstick skillet, heat about 1 tablespoon oil until a hazy smoke appears. Carefully slide eggplant and egg mixture into pan, once again with stem ends sticking up together. Lower flame to medium heat. Once egg mixture looks opaque around edges, cover pan with a large plate (should be at least 1 inch bigger than pan circumference) and quickly turn pan upside down so the eggplant mixture lands on the plate (the cooked side should be on top). Return pan to stove, add a little bit more oil and heat until a hazy smoke appears. Carefully slide the torta, uncooked side down, into the pan. Lower heat to medium and cook until eggs are cooked through. Transfer to a serving dish immediately and serve with mango salad and garlic fried rice if desired (see accompanying recipes).

    -- From Kristine Keefer, public relations coordinator for the French Laundry in Yountville

    Ensaladang mangga at kamatis (mango salad)

    Serves 4 as a side dish

    1 large unripe/green Kent mango (usually found in Asian groceries), peeled and flesh diced into 1/2-inch cubes

    1/2 pint Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

    1/4 of a large red onion, cut in small dice

    Jarred sauteed shrimp paste, to taste (Keefer prefers the Filipino brand Barrio Fiesta)

    Cilantro leaves, plucked from stems (optional)

  • In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients; toss well and season to taste with shrimp paste. Keep chilled until ready to serve.

    -- From Kristine Keefer, public relations coordinator for the French Laundry in Yountville

    Sinangag (garlic fried rice)

    Serves 4

    6 large cloves garlic, minced

    Extra virgin olive oil, as needed

    1 tablespoon fish sauce

    3 cups steamed jasmine rice, cooled

    Salt and pepper, to taste

  • In large nonstick skillet over medium heat, saute garlic in about 1 tablespoon oil until fragrant and lightly golden in color. Add fish sauce to pan and cook, stirring, until liquid evaporates and the sharp fish smell turns more mellow. Using spatula, stir in rice and let cook on medium-high until a slightly crunchy bottom is achieved. Toss rice once again and keep repeating until all the rice has had a chance to crisp. Add more oil if needed. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper if needed. Transfer to a platter and serve.