Long Beach is long overdue for a taste of the Filipino food movement, the modern efforts by second-generation chefs to re-create, remix and share their country’s fascinatingly complex cuisine. Restaurants like SanTana’s Irenia and LA’s Lasa are on the forefront of this push toward Pinoy pride, which has exposed non-Filipino diners to new takes on classic dishes like pork adobo, pancit, lumpia, chicken inasal and more.
And then, there’s chef A.C. Boral and his legendary modern Filipino brunches, which for the past three years have been popping up under the name Rice & Shine.
“Compared to Chinese and Mexican immigrant communities we don’t have that kind of pride growing up,” says Boral of why it took so long for Filipino food to have its moment. “We’ve always been conditioned to assimilate and do away with our identities. We’re trying to reclaim that and undo that, so to speak. ‘Decolonize’ our diet is what we say.”
Boral is part of a new generation of chefs attempting to present Filipino as they remember it, a communal experience that explores the glorious hodgepodge of cultures and flavors that defines their country’s history and its food.
Though Rice & Shine used to travel around the U.S. as a roving concept, the former graphic designer now lives in Long Beach and will be hosting a two-day, eight-course pop-up brunch this weekend as a kickoff to Dine LBC Restaurant Week, which runs through Aug. 13. Aside from one small event at the now-defunct Brass Lamp Bar, this will be the first full Rice & Shine brunch to happen in Long Beach, a city with a sizable Filipino population (and a shiny new Island Pacific supermarket!).
It’s also the first time Dine LBC has branched out to present a one-off food event, an expansion of its own mission to support Long Beach chefs and restaurants. Hopefully Rice & Shine can introduce more local diners to the fishy, porky, vinegary, spicy, sweet and savory world of Filipino cooking, a cuisine notoriously difficult to describe or pin down.
“The thing is also that most Filipinos are still trying to figure it out,” Boral admits. “Even me, I still don’t know what Filipino food is. I know it’s family and home cooking and I use that as the springboard but we’re never going to make sense of peanut butter stew next to Spam next to a tamarind soup ever. It’s cognitive dissonance.”
Combining the nostalgia for home-cooked comfort food with his strong Filipino-American identity, the self-taught chef invented Instagram mainstays like the longanisa sausage Scotch egg (chorizo-like meat coated and fried with Filipino Rice Krispies and panko) and his signature chilaquiles, heaped with sizzling sisig, a medley of fried pork parts.
Other specialties that have made appearances on Boral’s impressive menus include ube mochi waffles, coconut maja blanca pancakes and various seasonal lumpias, all made using sauces and recipes lifted straight from Boral’s late father, whom Boral says taught him about hospitality and quality from a young age. Boral’s mother, Rose, has her own catering company as well and always makes an off-menu dessert for guests of her son’s brunches.
“Ultimately, I try to make people feel like family,” Boral says. “A lot of people show up as strangers and end up as friends. It’s just what it needs to be.”
For more info on Dine LBC Restaurant Week, visit www.facebook.com/DineLBC.