Many mark October as a month for pumpkin spice and candy corn. For me, it is also a month for sinagang, kinilaw, and all the ube desserts I can find. That’s because October is Filipino American History Month* – and one of the easiest ways to dive into Filipino culture is to taste it. While I’ve always casually sought out cues of my Filipino heritage in my community, I’ve been even more diligent in my search since my daughter was born. Fortunately, Seattle’s Filipino culinary scene seems to have exploded in recent years providing plenty of great opportunities to prime her tastebuds to her heritage.
Hood Famous Cafe + Bar
My daughter affectionately calls this “The Ube Shop.” If you’re not yet familiar with ube, it is a subtly sweet, naturally purple yam used as a staple ingredient in Philippine desserts. Founder Chera Amlag’s Instagram-worthy, ube cheesecakes may have been what put them on the map, but everything they serve is simply delightful. My daughter devours their ube cookies and I can’t turn down their buko (coconut) pie or handcrafted pandan lattes with Philippine Kalsada Coffee. (Fun Fact: Hood Famous Bakeshop is the first business in the U.S. to feature a single origin coffee from the Philippines.) During the day, they function as a bakery/cafe, but in the evenings they transition their menu to cocktails and Filipino bar food.
Musang Terrence Jeffery Santos
Walking into Musang is like being on the receiving end of a warm hug. Set in a home-converted-to-restaurant on Beacon Hill, Musang is “a community-driven restaurant focusing on the education of Filipinx cuisine.” This is not lip service—this is a restaurant truly created of and for the community it serves. While Chef Melissa Miranda is the heart and soul of Musang, their rotating menu often features creations from her staff, seasonal dishes and cocktails inspired by childhood memories of beloved Filipino dishes. It is not uncommon to discover pop-ups from visiting chefs under Musang’s roof as they make space for and uplift others within their community.
Archipelago Kristin Gillespie
Archipelago is small restaurant in Hilman City south of Seattle, servicing just 10-12 people at two evening seatings. Their cuisine is Philippine-inspired but their ingredients are exclusively sourced from the Pacific Northwest, creating some really innovative flavors. But while the cuisine is innovative and flavorful, the magic of Archipelago is in the storytelling and the experience. Chef Aaron Verzosa and Amber Manuguid form a husband and wife team who infuse significance into every detail, using their craft as a form of activism. They are passionate about not only sharing delicious meals, but also an understanding of its roots—literally through the farmers and purveyors they use, figuratively through the inspiration for each dish, and culturally through the history and tradition upon which those flavors are built. They are driven by identity, culture, and empowerment. You walk away from each experience realizing that you fed not only your body, but your mind and your heart as well.
I Am Filipino ongoing exhibit at The Wing Luke Museum Kristin Gillespie
Of course, Philippine culture can’t be told through food alone (although, even as I type this I am still fighting the urge to deny it—it’s such a big part of it!). The Wing Luke Museum has a wonderful ongoing exhibit called I Am Filipino which shares the complex layers of Filipino American history, experience, and identity. The idea stemmed from encounters with Filipino American students from a local high school who identified as Filipino, but didn’t have a real understanding of their heritage. As an American-born, mixed-race Filipino who can’t speak Tagalog, I was drawn to this exhibit the moment I laid eyes on it. That was me. I’d been seen. My place in this story had been validated.
Okay – back to food… if you’re looking for more Filipinx deliciousness to satisfy your tastebuds, check out ILAW Coalition’s Hella Sarap Map. Kain na!
*On May 7, 2019, SB 5865 officially declared every month of October Filipino American History Month in Washington State, respecting the long standing impact and influence of the Filipino community on the history of the state of Washington and the United States of America. Much of the effort was led by the Filipino American National History Society, which was founded in 1982 in Seattle, WA.