Filipino foods completely won me over during a 3-day trip to Manila and the Taal Volcano. During those72 hours, I happily downed chicken adobo on rice, halo-halo and fresh seafood from the live market, cooked in the restaurant next door. So, naturally, I jumped at the invite for an evening of Filipino food and fun with the Philippines tourism board in Canary Wharf.
Upon exiting the tube station, traditional Filipino dancing caught my eye. A crowd of bystanders gathered around to watch, and a few chatted with cheery tourism board representatives. Backdrops for photo opportunities drew more people over, and I snapped a quick photo on the paddleboard before dashing into Smollensky’s for delicious Filipino dishes.
Drinks & Nibbles
At most socializing events, attendees stand around with drinks and grab a canapé or two from passing trays. A tourism board rep informed me that their intention was to let attendees sit down, relax and enjoy the Filipino foods. (The glutton in me thanked her profusely.) Guests plucked bottles of Red Horse Beer from a bucket and pulled up a chair next to tables with pork scratchings and what I’d call the Filipino version of the American beer nut. I actually opted for the wine, and can vouch that the nibbles were good “wine snacks,” too.
Chicken & Pork Adobo
I was ecstatic to revisit one of my favourite Filipino foods: chicken adobo piled on top of white rice, but this time with pork. And, after scoping out the short ingredients list, I am tempted to cook the savoury dish for dinner. The tender meat was only flavoured with onion, garlic, granulated sugar, malt vinegar, soy sauce, chicken stock, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Although I’m a kitchen disaster, that sounds manageable! Once I add the hearty chicken and pork adobo to my repertoire, it will be my go-to comfort food.
See the full album of delicious Filipino food.
Skewers were the first items snatched off the giant silver platters. The masses dove in for the lightly charred Filipino BBQ pork skewers, which were eaten along with the bowls of chicken and pork adobo or bowls of traditional Filipino pancit noodles. Guests also favoured the Pinoy tempura fish skewers with chunks of vegetables. The tempura batter was softer and thicker than Japanese tempura, encasing fish and large vegetable chunks. The sweet and sour sauce really ramped up the flavour.
As more participants joined games and belted out karaoke tunes, the sit down diners ventured towards the outdoor bar area. Here, a trio of colourful Philippines-inspired cocktails were served, all containing Don Papa Rum. Manila Magic with orange bitters, ginger beer, lime and mint was unofficially voted the strongest drink. Banaue Burst, mostly comprised of cloudy apple juice, made a nice late summer cocktail; and Boracay Breeze brought all the Traverse influencers to the yard. (Please, let me know in the comments if you caught the beverages Kelis reference.) The tropical green mixture was described as a twist on a piña colada with ingredients such as pineapple juice and coconut syrup, but the bartenders added lime juice for an extra kick.
Filipino Style Canapés
The appetizers, like the platter dishes, were served with a variety of sauces. A sweet chilli sauce mixture accompanied mini Shanghai spring rolls; deep fried fish balls came with a traditional dip; and deep fried calamari were dipped in banana ketchup. The mashed banana with sugar, vinegar and other spices was also slathered on top of a mini hamburger. However, my favourite appetizer was the succulent beefsteak mini skewer, which was perfect on its own.
Although my beloved purple ube ice cream did not make an appearance, the two Filipino dessert canapés were both pleasantly creamy. The leche flan, known as the Filipino version of crème caramel, contains both evaporated and sweetened condensed milk. The steamed dessert was so rich that I was very content with the one giant spoonful. The buko pandan shooters were also made with the two milks, but the tapioca pearls and young coconut give the sweet treat a nice bit of texture.
More Filipino Food & Fun
Londoners, who want to get in on the fun, can stop by the Philippines Tourism stand in Canary Wharf through Sunday, 6 August. You can join a competition to win a holiday to the Philippines grab a complimentary tote bag, which proclaims #itsmorefuninthephilippines. And, most importantly, if you stop by during lunchtime, you can sample delicious Filipino ice cream.