Sunday, March 15, 2015

Creating the Filipino "Kamayan" Eating with Your Hands Experience at Home...


I came across "Kamayan" during my pursuits of discovering Filipino cuisine, and I knew that this was how I wanted to celebrate my birthday dinner with my best friends. Kamayan is the experience of eating with your hands. As Casa Manila restaurant where I had the experience so beautifully describes, "imagine having a picnic in a tropical setting where you're free to taste, touch and savour a feast of textures laid on top of fragrant rice. Picture yourself using your hand to feed yourself from a bed of banana leaves as your plate while quenching your thirst drinking fresh juice from a coconut." And that is the "Mabuhay spirit" of the Filipino islands, which means long live and welcome. Classical family-style home cooking and entertaining is celebrated with unforgettable hospitality and like a fiesta with the freshest quality ingredients.

At Casa Manila, you choose in advance from their menu when you make reservations- one dish from each meat, seafood and vegetable category to build on top of your choice of steamed or garlic fried rice. Several sauces are served to dip the meats and to enhance their flavours. We were encouraged to eat with our hands with wooden utensils at the table should we choose to use them. After such an enjoyable, unique and enchanting evening, I knew I had to recreate this experience for my family in my home. So here were the wonderful dibs at the restaurant, followed with what I did in my kitchen and at my family table... 
And only about $50 to prepare my entire meal with tons of leftovers! 

Feasting at Casa Manila Restaurant last week which inspired this fun way to eat tonight with my family!

House-made deep-fried chicken skin (Chicharon) served with spicy mayo and beef vegetable soup (Picadillo) to start.



My longest and dearest best friends ever!

We had Garlic Chicken Soy Vinegar Stew (Adobo Chicken- Philipine's National dish), Grilled Beef Ribs, Crispy Pork Belly (Lechon Kawali)- my favourite, Grilled Squid and Green Mango Salad for our choices served on top of garlic fried rice. 


To create the "Kamayan" experience, there are five elements to make it authentic: rice, meats and seafood, fruits and/or vegetables, table setting and dipping sauces. Because there were a few preparations on hand, I wanted to make the offerings as simple as possible by grilling with little seasoning. I prepared double the meats so that I can have leftovers for the next night.

Vinegar Soy Dip is perfect with grilled meats. I make this first and let chill before marinating the meats. To make about 1/2 cup, mix the following ingredients together:

1/4 onion, minced
1/4 cup cane vinegar, or white or rice vinegar
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
ground black pepper to taste

For beef, I chose boneless beef short ribs, although I would have liked to use Korean thin kalbi ribs. Mix the following ingredients together and let marinate in fridge for at least one hour to four hours.

1 lb. boneless beef short ribs
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup cane vinegar, or white or rice vinegar
1 tsp. brown sugar
salt and ground black pepper


For chicken, I used bone-in chicken thighs, which I deboned and froze the bones to make soup next time. Mix the following ingredients together and let marinate in fridge for at least one hour to four hours.

1 lb. chicken thighs, boneless
1 tsp. oil
1 clove garlic
1 tsp. tumeric
salt and ground black pepper


I used 300 g medium shrimp, shelled, deveined, washed, drained and patted dry and marinated them in 1 Tbsp. lime juice for 30 minutes.


For pork, I bought 1-1/2 lbs. of my favourite lechon crispy pork belly at FV FoodsFor the rice, I made garlic fried rice with spinach for an added vegetable. I cooked Jasmine rice in advance using 2-1/2 rice cups measure to yield 4 cups cooked rice. I hear that basmati rice is the rice of choice to make this Filipino fried rice.

1 Tbsp oil
2 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups cooked rice
2 handfuls spinach, chopped
salt to taste
1 green onion, chopped 

Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high. Cook garlic until just golden, 1–2 minutes. Add rice to skillet; cook, stirring and breaking up any large clumps, until rice is heated through and slightly crisp in places, 5–7 minutes adding spinach the last two minutes tossing well. Season with salt, add green onions and keep warm in skillet until ready to serve.



You can buy frozen banana leaves at Asian supermarkets. Look for the large packages in the frozen section along with other frozen leaves. You have to let them thaw in the fridge overnight and when you peel the folded leaves, do so carefully as they are wet from thawing and can easily tear. I lay as many leaves I need to cover the family table space we will be eating on. I make sure to take paper towels to wipe the leaves down for debris and moisture.

1 lb. of banana leaves for $1.20 at Al Premium Supermarket in Scarborough.

I cut a large banana leaf in an oval to cover my oval serving platter with two-inches extending on the sides. Again, wiping down the banana leaf to clean it.

In a grill pan over medium-high heat, with 1 Tbsp. oil I cook the beef on both sides until medium done. Then I slice them into thin pieces. The chicken, I cook in 1 Tbsp. coconut oil for added flavour grilling both sides until chicken is cooked and juice runs clear, slicing into small pieces. Shrimps are tossed in 1 Tbsp. oil and 2 minced garlic cloves until cooked about three minutes total and seasoned with salt and pepper.




Now goes the fun part- ASSEMBLY! Place the warm rice in the banana leaf-lined serving platter in the centre and on goes the bevy of meats, fruits and vegetables. I sliced Fuji apples for crunch, cubed juicy mangos for colour and tropical flavour and sliced kumato tomatoes for sweetness!


Feast your eyes on my finished feast for the family! Don't forget to serve crunchy pork rinds on the side.
Serve with dipping sauces homemade vinegar soy and sriracha lime and take-out liver sauce for lechon.

KAMAYAN! Let's Eat!

To make it even more special and to feel you are on the tropical island of the Philippines, serve your meal with coconut juice straight from young coconuts with a straw. Turn on some Caribbean music, eat and sway to the vibe, and let your mind escape to the tropics...


Place your rice and selection of food on the fragrant banana leaves- no plates and no utensils if you like too! Eating with your hands is one sensory experience- to feel the texture in your hands and placing it in your mouth is a very custom way to eat in a lot of cultures. My son decided he would like to eat with a disposable plastic glove! Why not?




YUMMY! Usually I don't allow beverages during dinner but in this experience it's a must!

Halo-Halo is a great way to end a Kamayan meal. This unique dessert is typically made with shaved ice, milk, pandan syrup under layers of assorted fruit, beans, custard and topped with ice cream. I didn't plan to make it tonight and we were totally stuffed anyway. Here is my version of this dessert in my recipe development for Summer 2008 Asian Gourmet Magazine:

Halo Halo at Casa Manila.


One of the best parts, is that cleaning up is a cinch! Remove all your hardware, leave all the table scraps where they are, then wrap, roll and fold. That's it, that's all, and goes right into the compost.


We had such an awesome time trying something new and discovering different foods and serving them in unique ways. I am now more intrigued with Filipino food and will definitely be giving their other dishes a try! Here's to more exploratory eating!



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