TROPICAL ASIAN – A Symphony of Feisty Flavours from the Far East

November 22 2017

We’ll always have a place in our hearts for Chinese and Japanese foods - they were the veteran tastes of Asian cuisine to be introduced in North America. But then our hearts desired bolder flavours from Eastern Asia. We took our tastebuds on a journey south and found ourselves in the Philippines and Malaysia. The popularity of the food culture, a yearning for travel abroad and a subsequent desire to taste these flavours back at home had our industry insiders at McCormick take wind of this and brings these spices, sauces and cooking techniques to chefs across the nation.

Malaysian and Filipino cuisines are fascinating. As part of our TROPICAL ASIAN trend, they clearly exemplify the influence that other cultures can have on one’s development of a cuisine. We absorb ideas and flavours we like and infuse it into the beating heart of our cherished and long-held recipes. Both offer complex yet accessible flavour profiles simply because they appeal to our senses - touching on sweet, sour, salt, and spice. The masterful interplay of these tastes makes Malaysian and Filipino food unlike any other. The former is a collision of Malaysian, Chinese, Indian, Indonesian and ethnic Bornean (and at times, even dashes of Thai, British, Portuguese) cuisines; the latter sees its mixture through a combination of Indian, Chinese, Spanish and American influences. As a result, there is always a familiar “je ne sais quoi” element involved when enjoying dishes from these kitchens, even for those trying them for the first time. The accessibility and comforting nature of Malaysian and Filipino foods is why we’ve come to crave and adore it in the last few years.

From coast to coast, here are 5 restaurants serving star dishes with TROPICAL ASIAN flair:

  1. Epic Grill Silogs ATBP Restaurant and Catering – The family run operation does silogs in all its glorious manifestations at this local, beloved haunt in New Westminster, British Columbia. For the uninitiated, silogs are the Filipino version of a typical Canadian breakfast of bacon, eggs and toast. But here, replace those ingredients with a rice plate topped with meat of your choosing and eggs on top. With their Epic Silog Combos, a bevy of protein options should perhaps be the new breakfast of champions. It’s a bit of a choose-your-own adventure of eats but winners include deep fried bread chicken wings, sweet pork sausage, tendered deep-fried pork belly. The meats are served with eggs (usually fried with runny centres are best) and garlic fried rice.
  2. Cesar’s Cakes and CafeThis family owned Filipino restaurant, bakery, and cake shop has been serving Saskatoon locals since 1998. Their Arroz Caldo is a comfort classic - the chicken rice porridge sees chicken wings sautéed with onion, garlic, ginger, and fish sauce. Sweet rice and stock is added and cooked until bubbly and rich. It is garnished with green onion, calamansi, fried garlic pieces and hardboiled eggs.
  3. Soos – Profiled and praised by notable publications such as the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star, Soos is the latest ambassador to offer Torontonians a taste of Malaysia. Chef Tricia Soo (originally from Penang), and husband Zenn, from Kuala Lumpur have owned and operated the popular Ossington restaurant since 2014. Laksa is a must-order here. Ideal for a chilly day, it’s like getting a big warm hug; coconut curry broth is enriched with chicken, prawns, Japanese tofu, galangal, mee, herbs and vermicelli.
  4. Mr. Bern’s BBQ on the Run – The quirky name aside (which is an acronym between co-owners Bernard Palparan, Rolly Panaligan, Neil Tantiado and Sonny Tubo) Mr. Bern’s BBQ on the Run in Halifax, Nova Scotia is a Filipino food truck whose aim is to “share authentic food with people.” A passion project two years in the making, the popular outpost serves spring rolls, adobo burgers, and chow mien. But the things that “foodies” crave here most are the BBQ pork skewers: sweet and tangy, the lacquered meat is brushed with Mr. Bern’s Special BBQ sauce that uses garlic, soy sauce, calamansi juice, banana catsup, ginger ale, brown sugar, sea salt, black pepper – and a few other secret ingredients.
  5. RJ Pinoy Yum – Profiled by The Telegram and CBC, this no-frills spot located in a strip mall in St. John’s, Newfoundland is the place for authentic Filipino dishes. Chef Owner Ricky Delacruz offers his rib-sticking RJ Beef Kare Kare dish. Seasoned and slow-cooked beef chuck is served in a peanut stew whose layered depth comes from sautéed onions, garlic, fish sauce, and annatto; it is served with Chinese eggplant, bok choy, and string beans. Typically, it is eaten with bagoong alamang (sautéed shrimp paste) on top for an extra spiced umami kick.

 With our TROPICAL ASIAN trend, we see marinades, glazes, and spices used on proteins, starches and vegetables with potent popularity. Furthermore, Filipino and Malaysian cuisines perfectly encapsulate the ideals of globalization: the exchange of ideas and culture. Then incorporating these insights into one’s way of life and in our case, culinary repertoire; such education and worldly knowledge allow all of us to reap such benefits via the diversity of meals we can enjoy today. 

Don’t miss which past Flavour Forecast trend we spotlight next.