Anthony Bourdain called it “Asia’s most underrated cuisine” back in 2017 and now food critics from New York Times, Vice and Sydney Morning Herald agree. Filipino food is finally having a moment.

A new wave of young Filipino chefs has been credited with introducing their cuisine to audiences in the US, but in Brisbane, the Valley has long been known as a go-to for authentic Filipino food and a place to stock up on pantry essentials.

Warm up your taste buds at Best Friends Kainan SA Valley in McWhirters. The unassuming food court eatery is the spot for an authentic feed of some Filipino staples. There’s the classic adobo – the unofficial national dish of marinated salty, vinegary and garlicky chicken or pork stew – for starters and plenty of other substantial meals and snacks to take away.

Try hearty meat dishes such as pork sisig, a popular minced pork dish; or spicy minced pork bopis; tomatoey beef caldereta stew and rich pork dinuguan and an array of vegetarian dishes such as pinakbet, steamed mixed vegies in shrimp sauce – all served with fluffy white rice. 

For snacks, there’s the familiar-looking entrees: okoy, a shrimp fritter with spicy vinegar dressing; pork empanadas; pork siopao (steamed barbecue pork buns) and chicharon aka deep-fried pork rinds; and unfamiliar such as kwek-kwek, a popular Filipino street food of hard-boiled quail eggs deep-fried in a savoury orange batter.

And you’re in for a treat with Filipino sweets – halo-halo is a fun and colourful concoction of crushed milky ice with purple ube ice-cream and toppings such as jellies, red beans and sweetcorn, while bilo-bilo is a coconutty dessert soup of mixed fruit, tapioca and chewy rice balls.

While you’re in McWhirters, pop into Cafe de Manila for takeaway baked goods with a Filipino flavour. For sweet tooths, opt for the purple yam ube cake, green pandan chiffon sponge cake and pan de coco aka coconut bread. You’ll also find pandesal bread rolls, Spanish bread – a rolled bread stuffed with sweet, buttery paste and pinagong – a turtle-shaped milky sweet bread.

Also in McWhirters, Best Friends Filipino Foods is your one-stop supermarket for ingredients to make your own Filipino dishes at home, or stock up on savoury and sweet snacks. 

We love perusing the aisles for new chip flavours to try, dried fruit (mango and tamarind is a sour-sweet-tangy must!) and the huge variety of coconut water and tropical juices on offer.

There’s also a wide range of frozen veggies as well as hard-to-find ingredients for all types of Asian cuisines.

Be an early adopter and try Filipino food next time you’re in the Valley!

– September 2020