September 23, 2021

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This New Filipino-American Food Cart Is “Not Your Tita’s Cooking”

4 min read
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In 2019, Ethan Leung was a person of Seattle’s “next scorching cooks,” a sous at the sizzling Ben Paris inside a modern new downtown hotel. A few several years previously, he experienced bailed from the fiscally safe earth of his family’s dreams:  engineering. Monotonous, he named it. Soul-draining. In cooking, he uncovered issues that drew him to breakdancing—creativity, self-expression, camaraderie. He discovered the fundamentals on YouTube and on the work. At Ben Paris, he was a soaring talent headed for the prescriptive food items planet route. 

But Ethan, who retains a diploma in physics, and his wife Geri, a tech-planet digital promoting professional, had other ideas. In the course of the pandemic, the Leungs test-drove a Seattle pop-up referred to as Baon Kainan, melding their moms’s Filipino cooking, breakdancing philosophy, some cheffy procedures, and a really like of American rapid meals. Client feedback ranged from “amazing” to “why doesn’t this style common?” In a town like Seattle, with a big, recognized Filipino neighborhood, they puzzled where by their personalized type fit. 

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One particular diner adjusted every thing: Richard Le, the Vietnamese-American food items explorer and chef of Portland foods cart Matta. Le, a b-boy like Ethan, frequented Baon Kainan previous summer season on the recommendation of mutual friends in their breaking crews. 

As Le tells it, “Filipino food stuff is 1 of my top rated five cuisines. I have experienced all these dishes before, but not like this. I was blown away by his presentations, but it was the very little issues. Like the cucumber tomato salad with very little lime jellies in there. I stated, ‘Yo, what the fuck is this? Bro, what are you doing? You require to open your own company.’” 

Le made the case: Portland, with its supportive food stuff cart local community and nascent Filipino meals scene, was the position for Baon Kainan (pronounced BAH-ohn cah-e-nahn). “Baon” interprets to foodstuff you’d choose on a journey, or for lunch or to work “kainan” indicates eatery. Right after a couple of nicely-gained pop-ups at Matta, the pair moved to Portland in April. Baon Kainan ideas to open August 7, ways away from Matta at Metalwood Salvage, 4311 NE Prescott St. Opening several hours will be Thursday–Monday, 4 pm to 7 pm. 

The cart’s tagline? “Not your tita’s cooking”—no disrespect to the aunties meant. 

“We want to tell our tale by means of food,” suggests Geri. Ethan was born in the Philippines prior to transferring to Washington. Geri grew up feeding on Italian meals in Italy. Southern foodstuff is also component of her tale, far too, immediately after her spouse and children moved to the South. And the two are influenced by their mom’s regular cooking. “What you ate at tita’s bash, you would not uncover it in this article,” Geri states. “But it will remind you.” 

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My first style of Baon Kainan was a dish of kare kare for the duration of a spring pop-up. Alternatively of the traditional oxtails stewed in peanut sauce, to be eaten with bites of rice, Ethan conjured a variety of Filipino poutine, heaping peanut-sauced braised limited ribs in excess of french fries sided by dwell-wire wallops of bagoong (shrimp paste) and pickled chiles. I wolfed it in my automobile with abandon.  

Kare kare seems to be to be a spotlight of the menu together with rooster (or mushroom) adobo and dinuguan (pork stomach in pork blood stew). I am eager to test the Filipino spaghetti flashing homemade banana ketchup, a condiment ordinarily bottled. Meanwhile, I am praying that tomato and cucumber salad—a Filipino side dish essential—will even now have those lime environmentally friendly jellies that transfixed Le. “It’s a cheffy contact,” confides Ethan. 

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Desserts could be the cart’s sweet location. The couple’s karioka are a treat—subtle, delicately deep-fried coconut rice balls that soar to life when plunged into the thick, coconut caramel glaze. Also in the works: turon, a burro banana and jackfruit lumpia glazed with banana caramel sauce, and bibingka, a coconut rice cake baked in banana leaves and topped with a Baon Kainan twist of coconut crumble.

And as soon as it settles in, Baon Kainan hopes to bust out a brunch menu: biscuits and longganisa sausage gravy to breakfast sandwiches on Geri’s cart-made pandesal rolls, backed by mayo, American cheese, and a fried egg. The strategy also contains a vintage Filipino breakfast and champorado, a full-on chocolate rice porridge. 

In the long run, they hope Baon Kainan will be about a little something extra than food, as the cafe environment seems for new types of thinking and being and a route forward. 

“Unfortunately,” suggests Ethan, “terrible truths [in the industry and beyond] have took place and will go on. I’ve confronted not getting paid out the identical total as cooks with the same encounter, confronted some racist comments and discrimination. My persona is pretty reserved it truly is difficult for me to speak up. Now, with Baon Kainan, we have a voice.”

Stick to Baon Kainan on Instagram @baonkainan 

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