Feast Asia is a declaration of my undying love for Asian food. It may possibly be an acquired thing — a natural offshoot of having been born and raised in Asia. Or, perhaps, the result of more Asian (Chinese, mostly) than less non-Asian exposure. When I was growing up, there was no internet, there were no food channels (there was no cable TV yet, in fact) and things like Texas-style barbecue, jambalaya, burrito, Eton mess, carbonara and aioli were not part of my vocabulary. What pizza (oldies pronounced it as picha) could be had consisted of a dry biscuit-like crust topped with straight-from-the-can tomato sauce, the token slivers of (bad) ham and low-quality cheese. Mozzarella? What mozzarella? Not back then, baby.
In contrast, I knew my Peking duck, my bird’s nest soup, my wonton noodle soup and my Chinese fried rice. My childhood is filled with memories of trips to Chinatown, the large bamboo steamers where my grandfather cooked siomai and the long nights when my father waited for the siopao dough to rise. All that, interspersed with the smell of simmering adobo, the gingery sensation of tinola and the richness of sarciado. In short, I associate Asian food with the warmth and comforts of childhood.
Not that all Filipinos of my generation grew up with Asian food the way I did. My husband, Speedy, had not tasted Peking duck until I introduced him to it. He grew up with steaks and pork chops and burgers. Considering that both his parents and mine belong to the same generation and all of them having been born and raised in a Philippines that was, at the time, an American colony, I don’t know what accounts for the difference in our upbringing relative to food. We’re both from middle class families, we were both born and raised in the city, our families had access to the same markets and groceries, and yet… I ate more Asian food as a child while Speedy was raised with American-style cooking.
Whatever the reason and whatever its ramifications, my love for Asian food remains unwavering. Ask me where I want to eat out and I’ll choose an Asian restaurant — Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean… I don’t remember ever picking out a steak house or a barbecue joint as a first choice. It’s a subconscious thing, perhaps, that shows how deeply rooted my psyche is to Asian food.
And there has always been the urge to dig deeper and explore Asian cuisines to discover more than what I know so far. Every trip to an Asian country leaves an impression that despite growing up with Asian food, I still have a lot to discover. The same can be said about how I feel every time I visit any part of the Philippines for the first time. Regional cuisines are so many and so diverse, and exploring all of them is an endless adventure. And that is what the section Feast Asia is about.