Book Review: In Print

Karen Hulene Bartell

In Print

Fine Filipino Food

by Karen Hulene Bartell

Hippocrene Books, 248 pp., $24.95

Karen Hulene Bartell is a resident of the Driftwood area and a technical writer who lived in Taiwan for five years. She was introduced to the cuisine of the Philippine archipelago by Filipino friends in Taiwan and was encouraged to travel throughout the Philippines, where she collected these 200-plus recipes.

Bartell's introduction covers the basics of the historical influences and the development of the cuisine and is followed by a description of the 19 basic Pinoy cooking methods. She then launches into a very complete cross-section of Filipino cuisine, starting with salads (vegetable and fruit) and continuing through the entire range of dishes, ending with the lush tropical desserts of the islands. Her recipes are concisely written, well-organized, and easy to follow.

We love seeing authentic hybrid dishes, such as the chicken adobo made with Coca-Cola, which is excellent, by the way: tender chicken in a rich and dark garlicky sweet-sour glaze. Many of the recipes found here are dishes that you'd find in homes and not restaurant versions; this is the real food of the islands, the Pinoy food cooked by the moms and grandmas.

For the uninitiated, a sample meal of spicy green papaya achara salad; a rich beef adobo in coconut milk with vinegar, peppercorns, and garlic; a tart squid adobo with tomatoes; oxtails simmered in a peanut sauce; and some egg rolls stuffed with minced meat and raisins should convince you that this is food that is adventurous and unique. Simple and fast dishes such as cabbage stir-fried with sausage and tomatoes, or an eggplant omelet with pork and potatoes, topped with a tomato and radish salsa will surprise and satisfy with their unique flavor profiles.

Now that Austin has plenty of Asian and Philippine markets, which stock all of the supplies you'll need, there is no reason not to begin to explore the dynamic foods of the Philippines. It's a cuisine that embraces elements of South Asia, China, Spain, and the New World, in a fresh way.

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