Fresh Filipino: Sariwa Pop Up

In a blog post I wrote a few months ago, I talked about the unbalanced meal I had from a Filipino restaurant. Vegetables may have been on one dish they served. I was interviewed by a friend of mine for a project she was working on for a class that dealt with food problems in public health. The outcome of the course was a lovely event called Sariwa or fresh in Tagalog.

Sariwa was a Pop Up dinner that occurred last Saturday at Cafe La Pena in Berkeley serving Filipino food. Ironically, the center pieces at the table were a variety of fresh colorful vegetables typically used in traditional Filipino foods.

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There were two choices of main plates to choose from which worked out perfectly for my friend and I to be able to try both.

Bicol express was the vegetarian option with mushrooms with sliced green beans, lemongrass, chili, crisp tofu, and coconut sauce. I was impressed by how delicious and flavorful this vegetarian dish could be.

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Bicolana adobo was tender chicken and kabocha simmered with a tangy sauce of coconut, chilies, vinegar, and tamari. This tasted like no chicken adobo I have ever had. I could taste the California freshness brought out in this dish.
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Both dishes came with brown turmeric rice and a fresh salad of grapefruit, orange, radish, jicama, tomato, baby greens, and tamarind vinaigrette. These sides balanced the dishes very well.

There were two choice of dessert which we were able to enjoy.

One dessert was the chocolate bibingka with strawberries from Salinas. I was pleasantly surprised by the chewy consistency.
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The cashew calamansi cheesecake was the second dessert and a vegan option. This was the one thing I didn’t enjoy from the entire meal.

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Aileen, one of the students and also the chef, came out to thank everyone for coming. I was appreciative of the great food, company, and experience.

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Trending: Filipino Cuisine

I like Filipino food, but it’s not one of my favorite foods. However, I have seen several Filipino restaurants pop up in the East Bay in the past year. I pass Kainbigan whenever I take 14th Avenue to get home. Speaking of pop up, Kainbigan started out as a weekly pop up before it moved to its current location in East Oakland. Last week I picked up some food from Kainbigan for dinner for myself.

I recently had bistek fried rice for the first time and liked it. It was on Kainbigan’s menu so I ordered it. It is essentially a fried rice with beef sirloin and onions flavored with soy and lemon. The dish was very flavorful, but a little bit on the greasy side.
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I also wanted to try something different so ordered the garlic noodles topped with crispy adobo. Another very flavorful dish. The noodles and the pork together had a nice mix of textures. The portions of the fried rice and the noodles were very generous. I barely made a dent in either of them.
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When I checked in at Kainbigan on the yelp app on my phone, I was able to redeem an offer for three free Shanghai lumpia. I easily polished these off dipping them in a Thai chili sauce.
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My friend who also lives in the neighborhood happened to text me while I was waiting for my food. She is Filipino, a vegetarian, and a big fan of Kainbigan. She asked me to order her usual which is the fried chicken-less nuggets (made with soy) with rice and two fried eggs. It comes with a garlic sauce. The reason she likes Kainbigan is that this Filipino restaurant offers a couple of vegetarian options that other Filipino restaurants don’t.
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I enjoy a balanced diet and realized that my dinner had no vegetables. I ended up having to make myself a side salad. It would be nice to see more vegetable options in Filipino cuisine.