Geo, one half of Seattle hip hop duo Blue Scholars, is a fierce lyricist and tireless community activist. The man can also cook.
He and his wife, Chera, have started holding monthly pop up dinners called “Food & Sh*t” at Inay’s Asian Pacific Cuisine. The menus feature inventive riffs on traditional Filipino dishes and other dishes that reflect Geo’s background and his family’s personal tastes.
Other than my mom’s, the sisig lumpia served as an appetizer at the dinner in September may be the best lumpia I’ve ever had. Sisig is a Filipino dish made from pig’s head and liver, or as Anthony Bourdain described it, “the strangely addictive, sizzling melange of hacked up pork face…oh, sweet symphony of pig parts.”
My friend Helen, who is vegan, and I like to joke that Filipino food—the food that I grew up eating—is the least vegan cuisine out there. It’s meat with a side of meat and some rice.
However, Helen remained curious about Filipino food and is a perseverant cook. She surprised me by making her own karioka, which is essentially a set of Filipino doughnuts on a stick. It turns out that karioka is vegan.
That piqued my interest, and I started wondering if there were other vegan Filipino foods. One day Helen and I were chatting on Twitter about a recipe by Astig Vegan for vegan lumpia, one of the quintessential Filipino foods.
I was surprised to find that lumpia wrappers are vegan. I had been sure that there they were made with eggs, but they aren’t. This revelation opened up a world of possibilities.
This is an e-mail forward that I got from my colleague Gene who is Filipino like me.
This is for all the Filipinos out there, and those who are lucky enough to have Filipino friends, those who have Filipino spouses and those who have Filipino next door neighbors. The story goes like this…
The elderly man lay dying in his bed. While suffering the agonies of impending death, he suddenly smelled the aroma of his favorite food, Filipino lumpia.
Gathering his remaining strength, he lifted himself from the bed. Leaning against the wall, he slowly made his way out of the bedroom, and with even greater effort, steadying himself against the walls with both hands he inched his way to the kitchen. With labored breath, he leaned against the door frame and gazed into the kitchen. Were it not for death’s agony, he would have thought himself already in heaven. For there, spread out upon waxed paper on the kitchen table were literally hundreds of his favorite food, LUMPIA.
Was it heaven? Or was it one final act of heroic love from his devoted wife of 60years, seeing to it that he left this world a happy man? Mustering one great final effort, he threw himself towards the table, landing on his knees in a crumpled posture. Painfully, he reached up with his right hand and weakly groped on the table surface until he felt the oily warmth of one of his rolled favorite dish. His arthritic fingers wrapped around one, gingerly picked it up and brought it down. His parched lips slowly parted and as he slowly brought to his mouth, the wondrous taste of that lumpia already overwhelmed him, seemingly bringing him back to life. The aged and withered hand trembled on the lumpia, when he was suddenly smacked with a spatula by his wife.
“Get out of here!” she shouted. “These are for your funeral!”