This New Filipino-American Food Cart Is “Not Your Tita’s Cooking”
In 2019, Ethan Leung was a person of Seattle’s “next warm cooks,” a sous at the sizzling Ben Paris inside a smooth new downtown lodge. A couple of yrs before, he experienced bailed from the fiscally protected entire world of his family’s dreams: engineering. Monotonous, he called it. Soul-draining. In cooking, he discovered matters 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 expertise headed for the prescriptive foodstuff world route.
But Ethan, who holds a diploma in physics, and his spouse Geri, a tech-planet digital internet marketing professional, had other tips. Through the pandemic, the Leungs take a look at-drove a Seattle pop-up termed Baon Kainan, melding their moms’s Filipino cooking, breakdancing philosophy, some cheffy techniques, and a adore of American rapid food stuff. Customer comments ranged from “amazing” to “why isn’t going to this style conventional?” In a town like Seattle, with a significant, proven Filipino group, they puzzled in which their private design and style in shape.
Just one diner altered almost everything: Richard Le, the Vietnamese-American food stuff explorer and chef of Portland food stuff cart Matta. Le, a b-boy like Ethan, visited Baon Kainan very last summer months on the suggestion of mutual pals in their breaking crews.
As Le tells it, “Filipino food is just one of my prime 5 cuisines. I have had all these dishes ahead of, but not like this. I was blown absent by his shows, but it was the tiny things. Like the cucumber tomato salad with minimal lime jellies in there. I claimed, ‘Yo, what the fuck is this? Bro, what are you doing? You need to have to open up your individual organization.’”
Le built the circumstance: Portland, with its supportive food stuff cart community and nascent Filipino foods scene, was the place for Baon Kainan (pronounced BAH-ohn cah-e-nahn). “Baon” interprets to foodstuff you’d take on a journey, or for lunch or to do the job “kainan” implies eatery. Immediately after a number of effectively-gained pop-ups at Matta, the few moved to Portland in April. Baon Kainan ideas to open August 7 at Metalwood Salvage, 4311 NE Prescott Ave. Opening hrs 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 notify our tale through food stuff,” suggests Geri. Ethan was born in the Philippines before shifting to Washington. Geri grew up taking in Italian food stuff in Italy. Southern foodstuff is also section of her tale, as well, after her family members moved to the South. And each are affected by their mom’s regular cooking. “What you ate at tita’s celebration, you won’t locate it right here,” Geri states. “But it will remind you.”
My very first flavor of Baon Kainan was a dish of kare kare all through a spring pop-up. Rather of the common oxtails stewed in peanut sauce, to be eaten with bites of rice, Ethan conjured a kind of Filipino poutine, heaping peanut-sauced braised small ribs more than french fries sided by live-wire wallops of bagoong (shrimp paste) and pickled chiles. I wolfed it in my auto with abandon.
Kare kare appears to be like to be a emphasize of the menu alongside chicken (or mushroom) adobo and dinuguan (pork stomach in pork blood stew). I am keen to try the Filipino spaghetti flashing home made banana ketchup, a condiment ordinarily bottled. In the meantime, I’m praying that tomato and cucumber salad—a Filipino aspect dish essential—will nonetheless have those lime inexperienced jellies that transfixed Le. “It’s a cheffy contact,” confides Ethan.
Desserts could be the cart’s sweet spot. The couple’s karioka are a treat—subtle, delicately deep-fried coconut rice balls that soar to lifetime when plunged into the thick, coconut caramel glaze. Also in the will work: 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 when it settles in, Baon Kainan hopes to bust out a brunch menu: biscuits and longganisa sausage gravy to breakfast sandwiches on Geri’s cart-built pandesal rolls, backed by mayo, American cheese, and a fried egg. The prepare also consists of a typical Filipino breakfast and champorado, a comprehensive-on chocolate rice porridge.
In the long run, they hope Baon Kainan will be about some thing additional than meals, as the restaurant world seems for new products of considering and becoming and a route forward.
“Unfortunately,” suggests Ethan, “terrible truths [in the industry and beyond] have happened and will continue. I’ve faced not receiving compensated the identical sum as cooks with the exact same expertise, confronted some racist responses and discrimination. My persona is very reserved it really is hard for me to talk up. Now, with Baon Kainan, we have a voice.”
Stick to Baon Kainan on Instagram @baonkainan